Chapter 40

At the Stone Circle

 

Well, well, so time had gone by in Scotland. Jim had excepted the BANTACH-members to be on Berneray still, but Balthasar and Daby had gone back with their submarine from there to their headquarters in Ullapool. The HamHeli had set them down at their Clebrig outpost where a tremendously important conference took place. As customary for an assistant, Daby was responsible for the organization.

"Where else have you got outposts?" the Captain asked. "That's almost like Federation."

"We have got our outposts worldwide", Daby replied. "And you really cannot imagine how much you are disturbing here."

"The disturbance will certainly become much worse", Lt. Spock explained. "We were told that this is to be the spot where we will meet with our colleagues and Hamstilidamst with his friends."

"It is a most unlucky timing", Daby said.

She was sounding almost desperate. Well, the Captain did not care much what kind of organization BANTACH might be but for its members it was without doubt most important. He had to accept that, so he said:

"Perhaps we'll find another place for our reunion."

"This will hardly be possible, Jim", Spock said.

"Well, why…"

He broke off for the Vulcan gave him a penetrating glance and suddenly he realized what was awaiting them. To meet with all of them at this spot… O my God! Of course they normally would have beamed up to the ship but that had not been Frida's words. If they could not get to the ship, the ship would get to them. O my God!

"Senorita! Explain this incident!"

A rasping voice, sounding from hamster height. Daby visibly froze and the officers searchingly looked about them. At another stone rather a big hamster had taken position, directly behind him stood two unpleasant looking, dark hamster guys. They carried weapons. The Captain glared at the tiny riffles and one of Lt. Spock's eyebrows went up.

Dr. McCoy moved so that he stood in front of Spock. These hamster riffles where no danger at all for them but one shot might produce a small, bleeding wound and that must not happen. Hamstilidamst disliked the whole thing. He was sitting on Scotty's shoulder and was as silent as never before he had been in all his life.

The Captain's glance wandered between Daby and the hamster with the bodyguards. Daby, never at loss for an answer and sometimes quite all-knowish showed nerves. Finally she overcame her fright, took a deep breath and said:

"Big Boss, this is a meeting nobody arranged."

"Si, Senorita, and I notice that you try to end the meeting as soon as possible. That is cautious of you but now it happened. I'm more than surprised to see you befriended to humans."

"We assisted each other in several dangerous situations", the Captain cautiously said. "But our first meeting was a chance one."

"So I can communicate with you", the big hamster remarked. "Good to know. Anyhow, I required the explanation of Senorita Daby."

This was, Kirk thought, justified. Second he discovered that here he had in front of his feet a hamster with authority. He wondered who he might be but Daby’s addressing him "Big Boss" rather answered the question. Without doubt this was the boss of the whole organization.

"Some time ago in Ullapool I had the opportunity to get acquainted with a group of hamsters from Germany", Daby began. "They travelled with a secret mission which they concluded successfully."

Boy, this was Daby all over, Hamstilidamst thought. Impossible not to stumble over some secret if she told a story. But he took good care not to say anything. His biped-friends need not worry their heads, nothing could happen to them. But he was by no means keen on getting into the claws of a hamster security-service for a second time.

Daby explained how she came to know the humans. She was as vague as before and equally pointed out that also the humans were travelling in an extremely secret mission. The Big Boss seemed to share her love for secrets because when she had finished, he looked up to the humans with a grim face.

"In short, you are acquainted with secrecy."

"By all means", the Captain nodded.

"Good. So I tell you that I am Bombo the Big Boss and it will be better for you if you tell no one about this meeting."

"Of this I assure you in my office as Starfleet-commander. I am Captain Kirk."

Bombo the Big Boss once jerked his head and his bodyguards lowered their weapons. All four Enterprise-officers succeeded to keep poker faces. They had no idea what this hamster-bigwig thought to be able to do to them but he really was a boss, inch by inch.

"Senorita, explain the situation to the bipeds. I depend on it that you go by the directive."

He and his bodyguards disappeared behind the stone. Lt. Scott guessed that there was an entrance to the hamster-outpost but he did not care much about it. Instead he asked:

"May I take you up, Daby? We can sit down a little aside."

“That should not be a problem”, she replied.

"Boy, Daby", Hamstilidamst at last found his voice again. "That's a truly impressive guy. Is he the BANTACH-Boss? What is he doing here? Anything terribly important happening at your end? Why…?"

"Now will you shut up till we're out of hearing?" Jim interrupted him.

"That's what I would ask for", Daby nodded. "I really can get into trouble."

"We'll get you out of that. And most soon all my friends are here again and you have to be afraid of nothing. And…"

"Hello!" The Captain raised his voice. "I said you shut up."

Daby always had succeeded to push President Balthasar into the direction she thought best. O well, sometimes she tricked him so that she had it quite comfortable. And towards others, that much she by now had understood, she had made too much secret of the whole matter. But the great idea of BANTACH was really immensely important and for that she always had put her back in.

On the whole she had cooked her goose and had been absolutely satisfied with her duties in Scotland. Moreover she had been very sure that all went smoothly if only she passed on reasonable reports to the Big Boss in Uruguay. Bad luck! She had underrated the Big Boss, but completely underrated.

Bombo had shown up here and called in the meeting in the Clebrig stone circle. President Balthasar had been so knocked out still from his last adventures that he had not left Daby at Ullapool to prepare the conference but taken her along to Loch Naver. So she had learned to know Bombo in person and was in such a blue funk that she had lost all her self-confidence.

Of course nothing would have made her tell that to anybody. Now, however, she had a real chance. If the Big Boss really had to find fault in the Scotland matters and got the idea to blame her, she would trust the astronauts and ask them to take her with them. Anyhow, up to now that was just an idea.

"You do realize of course that this is an extraordinary meeting", she began when they all sat down in the grass far off the stone circle.

"Don't you always have meetings? Why is it extraordinary?" Hamstilidamst asked. "Jim, Daby needs something to sustain herself. Why don't you hand around some biscuits?"

"I will, if you just let Daby talk", Kirk replied. "By the way, an extraordinary meeting is a meeting not taking place in the intervals of normal meetings, but some time in between because there is a special reason."

"And how do you know that?"

"O Hamstilidamst", McCoy sighed, "that's bureaucracy and it never dies. We know that all too well."

"We do indeed", Spock admitted and it did not sound like Vulcans having much fun with that stuff.

In the meantime the Captain had distributed the biscuits and while they talked, Daby had gnawed in her biscuit with warp speed. With all the stress she really needed something to sustain herself.

"The travel expenses!" she moaned and looked around. "On their business trips the bosses almost always do something not corresponding to the regulations."

"Eh, what sort of regulations are there for trips?"

"Hamstilidamst, there are rules. – Well, it's like this… How shall I put it? Well now…"

"Let me guess", Kirk said. "Papua and Borneo instead of Pebbay and Berneray?"

"Yes!" Daby nodded unhappily. "Why had he to book on his own? That couldn't work. I'm blaming myself terribly!"

"Well, truly, that's not your problem if he's a daft ass", Hamstilidamst said, indignated, and clawed another biscuit. "Need not" – he bit off – "wake a hea awoudit."

Scotty squinted into the direction of his forearm and the translator implant. If Hamstilidamst talked with his mouth full, the unit had some problems. Well, no matter, what Daby told them fitted into the office-minds of some Federation staff like chalk and cheese.

The travel expenses of Balthasar had passed all limits. Now it was like this: If someone was in the target line and someone else was just waiting to shoot him, you could rely on it to get him by some bungled travels. Balthasar was not simply one of many presidents of the international BANTACH-organization. He was a president who had drawn attention at headquarters.

"He wasn't noted because he was especially good or bad at his job", Daby explained in a whisper they hardly could hear. "Somehow they found out that he did not do anything at all – and nevertheless always sent reports."

"Which of course you sent", Lt. Spock nodded.

"Well… What else could I do?!"

"Nothing either", Hamstilidamst proposed and she looked shocked.

"I can't! The outpost reports came in… Well, they are just collected and summarized and sent to headquarters. That's not difficult."

"But?" Kirk asked, full of understanding.

"If he visited the projects… It does not matter if I know that he doesn't do anything, but…"

"Ay, I get the line", Lt. Scott nodded darkly. "At them projects they tiwgged tha’ he's a lazy dog an’ so they reported it tae headquarters. – Ye know, Captain, there are things which dunnae change in a millennium."

Headquarters had smuggled in a spy at Ullapool. With Daby's screening techniques for the president it had not been easy for him, but he had found this and that. And then came the cracker with the trip to Papua and Borneo. That had been the straw to break the hamster's back.

"And now the president will be removed!" Daby lamented. "And if the president is removed, I certainly have to go, too. That is, I don't know that, but there is an investigation commission…"

"But of course there is an investigation commission!" Captain Kirk groaned. "What would become of the universe if there weren't investigation commissions?!"

"Jim has been facing more than one", Dr. McCoy grinned. "If he weren't just a genius in rescuing the universe from ruin, they surely had removed him, too."

"He's good in rescuing", Hamstilidamst confirmed.

"Maybe, but Balthasar rescued nothing and nobody!" Daby howled. "They'll really boot him out."

She could not the soothed. When for comfort Hamstilidamst tried to press another biscuits into her mouth, she even slapped him and that was a very bad sign. Suddenly Spock lifted a warning hand. All the time he had kept his tricorder switched on and the tricorder now showed the approach of two hamsters.

They were the two bodyguards. However, they came without weapons and they were not unkind.

"Senorita Daby, Captain Kirk, please accompany us."

Hamstilidamst disappeared into the rucksack like a flibbertigibbet. He wanted to have nothing to do with this and he was not here at all. But nobody asked for him and that was insulting in a way. Spock, McCoy, and Scott did not worry. It hardly was to be expected that the hamsters could harm the Captain and if they wanted to harm Daby, he could shield her.

That's what Captain Kirk thought, too, but he was not that sure any longer when he stepped into the stone circle again. There obviously the plenum of the Clebrig outpost was assembled. Between two of the standing stones a pendant bridge was mounted, on the pendant bridge a podium was set up, on the podium stood Bombo the Big Boss, two bodyguards at his side. In the centre of the stone circle about eighty hamsters were sitting in orderly lines and glared up to the Big Boss. Directly under the podium unhappy Balthasar was sitting.

"Due to your height I recommend you to sit down at the edge of the assembly, Captain Kirk", one of the bodyguards said. "Senorita, accompany us."

"But she…", Kirk began and was immediately interrupted.

"The Big Boss asked for your presence. Beyond that you will not interfere with the inner matters of BANTACH."

"It's all right, Captain, I know my duties", said Daby in an official and controlled voice.

"I do respect you", the Captain said and meant it.

He was sure all her knees were shaking and he could see that he fur was a little ruffled. Due to some things he had learned from Hamstilidamst he assumed that there was no death sentence between hamsters but Daby seemed to expect something like that. Well, if the worst came to worst he would just interfere on the strength his height. And the Big Boss could take the blame for that.

Somewhere ahead a bell jingled. Silence fell, the meeting was opened. The Captain had other ideas about meetings, this was more or less a lawsuit but he would not quarrel over expressions with the hamsters.

"The meeting is opened", the Big Boss said loud and clearly.

Involuntarily, the Captain looked around for somewhere loudspeakers must be installed. This assembly changed all he knew about hamsters and he had thought he knew almost everything about hamsters after meeting Hamstilidamst.

"I request the statement of the President's assistant." Daby stepped forward, looked at Balthasar and then up to Bombo. "Senorita, report on the actions of BANTACH within the last fortnight."

"Part of this time I was on holiday", Daby clearly said.

Too late she saw that this was her first mistake. It was already known that Balthasar, coming back from Borneo, had not dutifully returned to his Ullapool office. Instead he had run to his assistant, disturbed her holiday and made her manage the Hebrides-trip because he had not been able to do so himself. And she only had wanted to clarify that she could not give a full report because she had not been in office all the time.

And thus it went on. Whenever she wanted to show that she could not give a reasonable answer, it was loudly announced how Balthasar had messed up things in the meantime. Then it was Balthasar's turn. He was no longer pompous but nothing but a picture of misery. And Bombo did not ask him about all his lovely trips at all but for the contents of the reports he should have studied. Balthasar had not the faintest idea!

"I'm sure", Bombo hissed, "your assistant could precisely inform me on the contents of the reports. You are stupid and vain! Even according to the usual hamster working conditions you are lazy. You are no longer the president of the Scottish BANTACH branch. What is to happen with him?"

One of the hamsters in the first row got to his paws, perhaps the chief of the Clebrig outpost.

"All I can say is: If he was here, he always munched away our supplies."

"Ay, so he did!" another one yelled.

"Just so, the glutton!"

"And then he kipped 'cause he was stuffed."

"We'll spank him!"

"Stop!!" Bombo thundered when the outpost staff had already jumped up to realize this beautiful proposal. Then he laughed. "Dear colleagues, I see that Scottish hamsters have as much fire in their veins as South American ones. But you don't think long termed. Fine, you spank him – and then?"

"We spank him again!"

"And when do you plan to take up your work again?!" the Big Boss sharply asked so that they all fell silent. "Just so."

Somewhere in the background a throat-clearing became audible. Slowly Bombo lifted his head and looked beyond the crowd. There Captain Kirk was sitting, a commander in a federation. Now Captain Kirk would propose what he was to propose.

Earlier, when Daby had reported to him, Bombo had recapitulated Balthasar's personal file. The red thread had been there and to make a thick rope of it Bombo had permitted the Commander to the meeting.

"I have a proposal to make, Big Boss", Kirk said and Bombo comfortably leaned back.

"My ears are open for every proposal."

"Balthasar has a brother in Germany, in Hamsterton. This brother at the moment is on my space ship. My space ship will land here in a few days and we will travel back and take the hamsters home. We might take Balthasar with us. – We also might…"

"I appreciate your proposal", Bombo quickly interrupted.

He knew perfectly well whom else Captain Kirk liked to take with him. He could not permit it. But he at once had thought of the Hamsterton-brother when he had seen Daby with those bipeds and heard her story. He loved people to do what they were to do to his opinion.

"Stop!!" he thundered a second time. "Balthasar, I did not say that you are immediately to join these people. You are allowed to accompany your brother. I'll free you as soon as the space ship arrived. Where will it touch down?"

"We will direct it to a suitable spot", the Captain replied.

He preferred not tell him that the Enterprise was going to touch down right here and up to know no one had any better idea. However, the plain was quite wide, they somehow would get the ship down. How – he did not bother his head. If he had done so, he would have been sweating all over.

"So that is under control", Bombo said. "Senorita Daby, step forward! Welcome together with me your new president for Scotland territory. – This is President Veitli. Up to now he managed the District Uri in Switzerland."

Out of nowhere a slim, forceful looking hamster was standing on the bridge, quickly tripped over it and positioned himself beside the Big Boss. Bombo ceremoniously held out his paw and then pointed to Daby.

"With your Scottish assistant you have a staff member most familiar with the local organization who can brief you on all details."

"'t ish a tshoy ta me!"

In the background Kirk gave a little grunt. Oh, what fun these Scottish hamsters would have with the language of their new president. He stood up to have a better look over the crowd. He still was willing to take Daby, but Daby seemed to beam. All her troubles had flown off, he was to keep her job.

After two weeks in this time period the Captain quite understood the situation. To keep a job one had put one’s back in was worth something. He walked back to his colleagues. Certainly Daby would show up once more. Who knew, perhaps after a time she would not longer be that happy. Wiry President Veitli perhaps did not leave her as much freedom.

Behind him sounded the cheers for the new president. They sounded more dutyful than cheerful. Who would be cheerful for a boss he knew nothing about?

When Kirk came to the spot where he had left his colleagues, nobody was there. He once turned around and could see the officers in some distance. Aha! he thought, landing place for Enterprise wanted. By and by had began to think about it. Lt. Uhura had the necessary training to take the steering while Chekov navigated.

"What are the odds they are no longer off their trolley", he heard Dr. McCoy when he approached the group.

"In case they are off their trolley as you phrase it", Lt. Spock said, "we need not discuss the landing, it will not be possible."

"If I at least could get tae Engineering", Scotty groaned.

"Perhaps they can let down a rope", the Captain said. "Damn, we all should be on board. Admitted, Scotty, you would be needed most urgently. But as the Enterprise never before landed on a planet, none of us has any idea how it will work. Did you find some cosy spot?"

"We are not yet certain, Jim", Spock replied. "This is spacious and plain to all sides but…"

"But?"

"Ay, Sir, but", the Chief Engineer grumbled. "I dunnae bet anythin’ tha’ t’ vessel jist touches down comfortably wi’ two people servin’. Tha’ might be a crash landin’ and ’t might be a glissade. Nae idea which speed they hae if it’s a glissade, nae idea how they’ll brake."

"So it is most important to give them the approach angle", the First Officer said. "To that direction the vessel would possibly land in Loch Naver."

"O’er there are t’ first slopes o’ Ben Klibreck", Lt. Scott pointed. "We dunae wish our lassie crashin’ into some slope."

"Well, and over there she thunders over Altnaharra", Bones only said and the Vulcan hesitatingly nodded.

"According to the file nowhere on Earth there are as many reports on UFOs today as in Scotland so that the Enterprise would be one of many – but…"

"Now stop that fustian!" McCoy roughly interrupted. "I even couldn't fly a shuttle but I know how low the Enterprise had to be over Altnaharra. Moreover the place is so close that everybody would come running with cameras. Not to forget…"

"Doctor!" Spock mildly interrupted him. "All this I just wanted to invoke as counter argument. And as you certainly just wanted to say, at this time many tourists are on the lake. As matter of fact the landing space has to be very limited. We have a problem."

All the time Hamstilidamst had been sitting in the rucksack. Not because he still was afraid – the open biscuit package was in here. Only when he realized that Jim was back he struggled through the luggage and peeped through the opening of the rucksack. He terribly longed to hear what had happened to Balthasar.

Well, that must have been exciting and Jim didn't tell a word. That was really mean! Hamstilidamst sat there moping but after some time he gripped what his friends were talking about. They looked for a place where the space ship could land. Well, that also was terribly important of course. It would have been disaster if his friends were injured at the touch down or the space ship was damaged and they could not get away here.

'They will need your help and you will find the helpers.' Frida the white witch had put this thought into his head. At that time he had been very, very certain that she spoke in very, very earnest. Now the moment seemed to be there. He had to listen like a hawk what the officers thought to be the best landing spot. But all the time one of them objected.

Not into the lake, not against a slope, not over the village. Wow, that was difficult indeed! The men walked on, then Jim suddenly paused. He turned, glared into all directions and said:

"Tricorder, Spock. I think we won't find anything better."

"I think you are right", the First Officer nodded. "If the Enterprise comes in from the opposite side of the lake, and this should happen at night, then… Yes, over there is a huge forest region, directly behind us are trees as well. Towards evening the anglers should be sitting in the Altnaharra hotel..."

"And tak a wee bit o' whisky", Scotty said longingly.

"For example. – This is the place."

And this was all Hamstilidamst had wanted to hear. Up to now they all thought him to be in the rucksack and now he cautiously climbed out of if, dared the jump down into the grass and luckily knew the direction he had to take.

When  Hamstilidamst reached the stone circle, his secret fright of this duty vanished. He faced a sight he had not faced for at least a century. Hamster-party and a big one! He even did not think of the fact that this was not Hamsterton and these were not his people. It was munching and dancing and a little brawl and he jumped right in.

Some time he reached, without noticing it, the area where above him the bridge was hanging. That did not matter for all hamsters held their party all over the place – except Bombo, Veitli, and Daby who feasted, too, but kept to this area.

Certainly the time would have come when Hamstilidamst remembered what he really wanted here but at the moment the long longed for party was much too good to think of anything else. Somebody hopped and danced towards him and a completely unmerry voice said:

"In the name of all hamsters, what are you doing here again?!"

"Boy, Daby, isn't this swell?" he brawled.

"Hamstilidamst, can you tell me who's mixing up your brain?!"

The voice still was most unmerry, it was more furious and suddenly he realized that he once more had run into the most secret BANTACH-level. Hamstilidamst really did not like to admit it but he had acted like a fool. It was not his fault, of course. If they did not want him to join in, they should not make a party.

"I've got to talk to you, Daby. You've all got to help us."

"Who – all?"

"All you're here."

Daby dragged him to the edge of the party as she felt that he in all earnest meant the rubbish he talked. She nervously glanced over her shoulder. O yea, the Big Boss and the new President Veitli were quite close. She surely was under observation. But she would do anything possible to get rid of Hamstilidamst. – Perhaps she would have changed her mind had she known what this was going to mean.

"Now listen. Somewhere around here lives Frida the white witch", began Hamstilidamst.

"Who's living around here?!" Daby asked, disbelieve in her voice.

"Ey, stop interrupting me. Frida the white witch and she told us that we'll meet all our friends at Clebrig. That's here."

Daby snuffled, looked at Hamstilidamst and wondered how madness was to be diagnosed at a hamster. But then she squinted, turned and beckoned to one of the hamsters. He came hopping and Daby just held him at his arms.

"This is Willy, manager of the outpost", she said and turned to hopping Willy. "Would you please stand for a moment? – Thank you. Willy, did you ever hear about some white witch named Frida?"

"Frida in the magic fog, ay, I did", Willy bawled. “Three cheers to her!"

Then she could no hold him any longer and he ran back to the party. The Big Boss and the new president had come closer without Daby and Hamstilidamst noticing it. Daby said:

"Fine, this white witch does exist. Go on, Hamstilidamst."

"Quite the limit that you don't believe me. I would leave you right here if it weren't that important", Hamstilidamst furiously shouted.

"I'm truly sorry, Hamstilidamst. Well, Frida is a white witch."

"Yes, sure. We spent the night in her house, that was great. And she said that here we will meet Flecki and Goldi and Trample and Taty…"

"All of them", Daby interrupted. "That you all meet here. Where's the problem?"

“They’re not out with a hamster-ship, that’s the problem.”

Today's excitement made Daby a bit slow-witted. She glared at Hamstilidamst and did not get what he wanted of her.

"Senorita Daby."

She whirled round and her knees started shaking when she faced the Big Boss again. But he looked quite kindly because he had realized that this was a matter beyond the brain of a normal hamster. The space ship became a matter of the boss - in more than one sense.

Hamstilidamst, too, goggled at the Big Boss with big eyes and wished for some hole to disappear in.

"Senorita, you do not see the connection. The friends of this young man are on a human space ship. It is big enough for a biped like Captain Kirk and several others to move within it without problems."

"It's gigantic", Hamstilidamst whispered. "The stone circle fits in one hundred thousand times."

"Why, Grüezi", the new president ejaculated. "'t ish a dshigantic unit indeet!"

"Well", Hamstilidamst simpered, slowly plucking up again. "Perhaps not that big." He had no idea how much one hundred thousand was but he was absolutely sure that the Enterprise was bigger than the stone circle. "Anyhow, they have to land here because Frida said so."

"Did she say some secret spell?" Daby hopefully asked.

"Nope, only that we'll all meet here."

Bombo, Veitli, and Daby pondered. They all had come here by air and had a good idea what the region around looked like. All three nodded. If a gigantic space ship was to land in this area, then this was the only place in this area.

"But what are we to do, Hamstilidamst?" Daby asked.

"I've no idea", he lamented. "Frida had put it to me in my personal head that we'll need help and I obtain the helpers. Can only be you."

"For a human Captain Kirk appears to be quite reasonable", Bombo said. "Senor Hamstilidamst, take me to him. I declare this to be a boss matter. Where are you being expected by the bipeds?"

"Erm, well…"

"You again chipped off", Daby remarked.

"Well yes… But they must pass here if they want to go back to Altnawhatshisname. We made B&B there."

"What do you mean by that?" the Big Boss grumbled.

"Oh, in this country it is an overnight initiative for bipeds", Daby quickly explained.

"Why, Grüezi, that's not unchlever", President Veitli nodded.

"Whoever reigned the world in the history of this planet, will necessarily have been clever", Bombo retorted and sternly looked around.

Everybody hastened to agree. Then the Big Boss pointed ahead but changed his mind. Ahead would be right through the party crowds and boss matters were not managed by approaching them through party crowds. So they encircled the stone circle.

The officers were so deep in discussions over the touch down point of the ship that they had not noticed how much time had passed. They all assumed Hamstilidamst to be still in the rucksack. So they were quite surprised to see him sitting on a stone in a group of hamsters when they were on their way back to Altnaharra.

"You again did a bunk!" Kirk said reproachfully.

"Only to help you."

"Well, you make me curious."

"Captain Kirk, you have problems with the landing of your space ship", said the Big Boss and stood there to his full height. "This young man asked Senorita Daby to mobilize the Clebrig outpost for support. If you explain the nature of your problem, I will consider it."

Umph! thought the Captain, and all that because we rid him of Balthasar? A fine, noble gesture of the Big Boss but Jim had no idea what the hamsters should do there? However, Hamstilidamst had had several clever ideas up to now. You never knew what it was good for. So he beckoned his colleagues to sit down in the grass beside the rock. Then he explained what kind of problems a really big space ship had to get down on a damned small spot in the Scottish Highlands.

Dr. McCoy had already gone to Altnaharra to find out if they were lucky with the B&B-rooms. He had not enough special knowledge on the subjects which were discussed at the Clebrig stone circle. But he still had the cash box and could make an advance payment with the renters.

If they were to believe Frida the white witch, a long chapter of this adventure would soon come to an end. All the time it had been a bit mad but these officers had lived a lot of mad things during their service. Admittedly negotiations with a big hamster boss and a hamster president had never been included but now they negotiated with both and did it as seriously as the situation required.

Bombo summarized the Enterprise-officers' explanations. Already at their first meeting the Captain had realized that this was a hamster with a sharp mind.

"Your ship must not be noticed in this time", Bombo said. "Everything has to happen quite fast. Your ship has to come down here in case a certain transport technique does not work. There is only one angle for the touch down and a very limited landing space. From this landing space your vessel has to start again without difficulties. The whole action had to take place at night."

"Ay", Scotty said. "Even if t’ ship comes from that direction, it would be seen in t’ village. At a night landin’ as much light in the ship as possible can be switched off."

"Or it looks like a flying Christmas tree", Hamstilidamst commented.

"Exactly", nodded the Captain.

"'t would not be dansherous if lightlies were on the ground, woultit?" President Veiti inquired.

"Runway lights!" Scotty ejaculated. "Tha's marvellous! But where do we get the lights?"

Now all eyes were on Daby. At the proposal of her new president she had put the chin on her paws and pondered. She only noticed the glances after a few moments and did not know what all the goggling meant. Suddenly her mind klicked. Here and now she was the only one who really knew everything about the Scottish outposts.

"Oh!" she cried when she realized that the responsibility for the organization had gone to her. "I could radio Ullapool and – Wick."

"What – Wick? Like the cough candies?" Hamstilidamst asked, baffled.

"The town's named Wick, silly", she snapped. "Our most eastern outpost, quite large."

"What about Fort William?" the Captain asked, but she shook her head.

"Too small, not enough people."

"You want to bring people in, Senorita?" Bombo asked.

"No, Big Boss, what I mean is … Well, in the large outposts there is more party stuff, chains of lights."

“Chains of lights!" Bombo repeated, impressed. "That is an excellent idea. Transport facilities?"

"One of the helis is here, Big Boss, a second one in Ullapool. Hamster Airlines it out at the moment, but Wick has a cargo plane. All material could be here tomorrow morning if I contact them at once."

"Very good. Go and do it at once."

Daby raced off and they all looked after her. The Big Boss and the new president exchanged a quick glance and nodded to each other. Jim did not even try to hide his grin. About such an exchange of glances there was between Spock and himself if they both were most satisfied with the perfomance of an officer and did not want to let the rest of the world know this.

"Next problem", Jim said. "Time. We do not know when the Enterprise will arrive. Will the hamsters’ willingness to help hold that long?"

"They will be asked to be helpful when the time is there", Bombo snapped who knew well enough that no hamster found delight in something which did not happen.

"I haf ta make a proposal", Veitli said. "In Uri we knew about tricky touch downs.  We sent up Helis to guide in."

"Humhum", Lt. Scott grumbled, "At the time you guided hamster planes."

"If the helicopters were equipped with a spotlight at the rotor nave, it should be well visible anyhow", the Vulcan thought aloud. "Especially if we inform the officers aboard for what they are to look out."

"Ay, an’ if they go up o’er t’ dark woods, t’ ship gets a right angle. Tha's a great idea!"

"Good", Bombo said in a tone which also Captain Kirk used to finish meetings. "Lieutenant Spock, Lieutenant Scott, I permit you to carry the president and me to the stone circle. See you tomorrow."

"Certainly", Kirk said because he had not sunk deep enough that the Big Boss could order his officers about without his confirmation.

After they had set down Bombo and Veitli, they walked into the evening back to Altnaharra. Now they were really hungry as contrary to Hamstilidamst they had not been sitting in the rucksack munching away biscuits. As Bones had not returned, they guessed that he had got the rooms and was waiting for them.

So it was and Bones even had found a pub where one could get a snack. The B&B-renters were a middle-aged couple, kind but boring and no great talkers. So they only left the rucksack, put on fresh shirts and went out for dinner. The pub thrived mainly on tourists who spent their evenings here telling fish tales.

"What’s most important fer an angler?" Scotty asked in a low voice after they had listened to a loud conversation at the next table for a while.

"Shutting up", McCoy retorted.

"A good equipment", Lt. Spock guessed.

"Nay", the Scotsman grinned. "Very, very long arms tae describe how big t’ fish was he caught."

"If I look at it", Jim grinned and glanced at the visitors of the pub, "you may  be right. And not one of them has got long enough arms."

"That one over there seems to have got a blue wale out of Loch Naver", McCoy remarked and jerked his head into the direction of a man who just, describing his fish, had smashed some glasses on his neighbouring table.

"As long as they are sitting in the pub boasting, it's okay for me", the Captain said. He nodded his thanks to the waitress who served them baked mushroom toast, then he bent forward a little. "Well, people, what do you think about Bombo?"

"Clever, but a little too friendly", was Spock's spontaneous reply.

"Lot o’ help fer our ridding him o' Balthasar", Scott remarked.

"Wha-a-at?!" Luckily all the fish tales around them were so loud that Hamstilidamst's shocked squeak was not heard. "What means ridding? Are you to … Will you…"

"We take along Balthasar and send him to his brother", said Kirk.

"WHA-A-A-AT!!??"

Now two people at the next table glanced over but only laughed when they saw a hamster in his box running in circles like mad and squeaking.

"Hamstilidamst, don't yell!" McCoy said in an urgent undertone. "What is your problem?"

"I want to know this very instant presto pasta what was on there."

"Okay, just let us eat first."

"Jim, I do not think that he will calm down in the meantime", Spock said. "I can forego my meal and take him outside."

"Fine, and explain it to him."

Spock had no chance to explain anything. As soon as they had left the pub, Hamstilidamst bawled:

"Have you gone completely bonkers? Isn't it enough that we've got the mayor, this – this gerbil-blend? What made you softheads saddle us with his brother, this megaposh?! We don't stand that. We – don't – stand – THAT!!"

Completely exhausted by his own fit of rage, Hamstilidamst collapsed. Panting, almost sobbing he lay on the floor of his box. The Vulcan who did not have the faintest idea how to deal with any emotional outbursts, was standing totally helpless in front of the Altnaharra pub. He had no answer and no comfort to give.

 

Chapter 41

 

Facing problems

 

The main screen on the bridge of the Enterprise was black. Ensign Pavel Chekov shook his head in disbelief. Lt. Nyota Uhura wiped her eyes and slowly rose. She was breathing heavily because the sudden G-power caused by the enormous acceleration never should have been that strong. The modulators should have compensated. A glance at the hamsters showed that the little animals had taken no damage. Then her glance rested on Chekov’s expression of disbelief.

“Report!” she shouted and cleared her throat, almost feeling like choking.

“I don’t understand”, Chekov said, “we seem to be off course. There are no stars, we are on the way to Andromeda – in a way.”

“And it’s dark because no one is at home?”

A little irritated, the Ensign turned round to Dodo. “Er, no, that’s because between the galaxies there are only tiny particles, nothing else.”

“Like in my cellar”, Dodo nodded, “lots of small articles lying about and not light.”

“An error in your calculation certainly”, the chief engineer said. “These things can happen – even happened to me.”

“Oh, did it?” Uhura did not pay much attention to the chief but walked over to Chekov and looked at the data. “Odd – the data seem to be correct. Perhaps we overlooked some specialties of that peculiar planet…”

“Well possible”, Botchy piped up again, to the surprise of the officers now at their side and pointing at the monitor. “To get wrong data, only one of them mossbeavers had bitten a cable through and you…”

“Or one of them Botchys has been tampering around!” Goldi cried who just had fetched a big biscuit from the replicator.

“Or wear, that’s what I learned at vocational school!” Tuffy remarked.

“The main reason is wrong handling”, Botchy unerringly continued, “and that’s what you don’t learn at any silly school. That needs years of experience.”

“Just so, dear Botchy”, the mayor uttered his uninvited opinion, “experience counts so to say. That is the experience to decide if something is or not, if you understand.” Nobody did, even the two officers shrugged. The mayor’s smile died. “Well – erm – yes, of course outside reality it’s a little licky – er – bricky – er – tricky. Yes, much trickier than reality.”

“Quite a philosopher, your mayor”, Uhura grinned and Goldi nodded:

“That’s it. What’s the saying? The philosopher has naught to offer…”

“Indeed”, Flecki grumbled, “know that from school: If something is illogical, you call it philosophy…”

“Whatsoever”, Uhura tried to get back to the original problem, “we should try a course correction.”

Chekov nodded and set to work. A few minutes later they had the familiar view on the screen. Fascinated, humans and hamsters glanced at the billions of stars glimmering out there.

“Dear chief, why do we not have a planetarium?”

“Well”, Botchy pondered and looked at the mayor in surprise, “perhaps because we have not built one?”

“What would we nocturnals do with a planetarium?” Tealeafy laughed. “At night, when we are out, we have the best view of all!”

“We could sleep in the planetarium by day”, Tacki cackled.

“Moreover”, chief Botchy finished this discussion, “our next project is the ‘First Hamstian Industrial and Munching Fair’. That will be a first rate challenge for all of us.”

“For sure”, Flecki hissed, “just the time to go on holiday – far, far away…”

“So to say a stylemoan – er – milestone for Hamsterton”, the mayor cheered, being in his element now. “Hundreds and thousands of visitors will see what Hamsterton can do!”

“That’s what I’m afraid of!”

They mayor angrily looked around for the source of this remark, cleared his throat and wanted to continue when one word from out of nowhere made his fur stand to its ends and that of the other hamsters as well. Even Uhura and Chekov froze for a moment.

“Rooba!”

With an expression of disbelief Lt. Uhura let her eyes wander over the hamsters: “Which wit was that?” The hamsters shook their heads and she looked at Chekov.

“Now, Lieutenant, it certainly was not me!” Uhura once more looked at the hamsters but the answer was nothing but shaking heads.

“Computer – are there one or more mossbeavers on board?”

A second later the computer-reply was in: “There are no mossbeavers on board the Enterprise.”

Surprised, Uhura once more looked the hamsters over. “That was not us, truly!” Flecki shouted, no little angry. “It came from another direction!” She scrutinized Goldi who however had his mouth very full of biscuit and for once was not suspicious. Just when the mayor was about to give his opinion, Uhura said:

“It was not you, it was not us – so what was it?”

“Echo”, Dodo explained. “By the immense dimensions of the universe and the distortion of space and time there is an inexplicable pheromone.”

“Echo”, Dodo explained. “By the immense dimensions of the universe and the distortion of space and time there is an inexplicable pheromone.”

“Phenomenon, Dodo”, Uhura sighed, “the word is phenomenon. However, we should keep an eye to this incident and I need your cooperation. Every little incident may be important and you at once should report it to Chekov or me.”

Dodo excitedly clicked his paw.

“Yes, Dodo?”

“Goldi just farted!”

“Thank you Dodo, thank you so much but I had things in mind which are beyond Goldi’s munching effects.” Uhura looked at the main screen and the peaceful view of a beautiful panorama of stars. “Well, anyhow”, she added, “perhaps we should take a little rest after all and relax. The past days have been most exciting indeed.”

Like having waited for words like ‘rest’ and ‘relax’, the hamster started running and assembled around the replicator. Grinning, Uhura and Chekov watched them and also made themselves a little comfortable. While Chekov looked at the passing stars leisurely and now and then entered something on his keyboard, Uhura was back at her com station.

There was no hope to get any connection to Earth or the Captain but she found delight in working up and down the frequencies. Within all the background noise, relicts of the Big Bang, now and then signals of quasars and pulsars beeped up. She was so lost in all the noises that she at first did not notice at all how the hamsters had lined up at her side.

“You? What is it now? Don’t ask me to call in some catering because that won’t work.”

Goldi stepped forward, blank horror in his black eyes. “The replicator has broken down, we are spent!”

”Broken down?” Uhura marvelled.

“Broken down”, Goldi nodded, wiping his moist eyes. “We tried it several times but the result is always the same: The replicator gives warm spinach no matter what you order. It’s disaster!”

His hamster friends nodded agreement while Uhura turned to Chekov. “Could you check that?”

The Ensign nodded and tried some keys. Then he shrugged and rose. “I’ll have to take a look, the computer gives no hint on any defect.”

About a minute later both Enterprise-officers faced the unit which worried the hamsters so much. Uhura shrugged and said: “A glass of water, 35 degree Celsius!” Some seconds later she got a glass of lukewarm spinach. She sipped and shivered. “Spinach, about 35 degree Celsius.” Chekov mumbled something like “What the heck…” and also tried his luck. “Computer, Coke, cold!” Some seconds later he, too, got a glass with green contents, sipped, shivered and asked: “Anybody for cold spinach?”

Frowning, Uhura looked at the glass and said: “Computer, is there any replicator-problem?”

“The replicator works faultless, there are no problems.”

“Computer, did anyone fumble at the replicator?”

“Please define ‘fumble’.”

Uhura cleared her throat, gave chief Botchy a quick glance and said: “Has the replicator been modified in any way?”

“The replicator has been modified in no way”, the computer replied politely but firmly

“Perhaps we should ask for spinach”, Flecki proposed.

Uhura forced a smile, approached the replicator and said: “A glass of spinach, 35 degree Celsius!”

And she got what she had asked for.

“Strictly speaking the unit is working perfectly”, chief Botchy informed them. “A glass of spinach, 35 degree Celsius was required and the unit delivered a glass of spinach, 35 degree Celsius.”

“To hamster standards perhaps”, Chekov grinned, “we are not that easy to please.”

“Even if I were not that easy to please, there is no reason to grin”, Goldi innocently said. When Chekov only ogled at him, Goldi airily added: “Well, if the computer and the chief both say that the replicator is okay and at the same time the replicator produces nothing but scrap you can be certain that first the chief made so many boobs that you can throw away everything he claims to function. However, the second reason is decisive.” All eyes were on Goldi now and he said the incredible: “Your computer is gone bonkers!”

Very, very slowly the two Enterprise-officers turned their eyes to each other. Chekov swallowed and at the same time shrugged like saying ‘I’ve really no idea what to do.’ As matter of fact he just had performed a system check and found not faults. Also the hamsters looked quite helpless, except the chief who had turned his back to the others and angrily tapped his paw to the ground. Uhura was the first to gain control over herself, smoothed out her uniform and took a posture.

“Computer – status report!”

The answer came without hesitation: “All systems work to satisfaction, no malfunctions.”

“Computer”, Uhura continued, looking sharply at Goldi, “the hamster Goldi is of the opinion that you are not working correctly.”

“The hamster Goldi has no technical knowledge to build such an opinion”, was the prompt reply.

“He’s right where he’s right, the computer!” chief Botchy shouted and grinned.

Uhura lifted her hand and commended the chief to shut up.

“Computer”, she started anew, “if the replicator instead of water suddenly produces spinach, it’s defect. Why did you not report this failure?”

The answer came promptly: “Because the spinach is without fault.”

Hamsters and officers looked at one another for some time. In principle the computer was right but somehow nothing was right here.

“Now listen, you tin box”, chief Botchy said and straightened up so much that he grew a full centimetre, “if I want water, I want water. No spinach, got that? If I would botch matters that way, I would have been sacked since long.”

“Yes, quite a miracle”, came some squeaking from the background and while the chief engineer furiously turned round to find the source of the remark, the computer replied:

“Please specify: Was this a question or a remark?”

Botchy turned back to the centre of the bridge – although it did not matter to which direction he spoke -, puffed up his cheeks and roared: “Why do I get spinach instead of water?”

“Take good care, Taty”, Tealeafy whispered to his brother. “You now get the special chance to watch a computer expert at work.”

“Why”, Botchy roared on, “do you say that that is correct?”

“The information was that the spinach is without fault not that that is correct”, the computer explained politely.

“So it is wrong!” Botchy nagged, hopping up and down.

“No”, was the prompt reply, “it is correct that the spinach is without fault…”

“You dumbhead, you transistor dumpling! I want to know why I get spinach instead of water!”

“Because”, the polite computer voice said, “spinach is healthier! Rooba!”

The last word brought sheer horror to the bridge. It was like ringing in the heads of those present. ‘Rooba!’ – This was like a nightmare and even the colour of Botchy changed from ‘red’ to ‘very pale’. All hamsters glared at the bridge ceiling, except Dodo who nodded in agreement because he agreed that spinach was healthy. Pavel Chekov was leaning back in his chair, his face buried in his hands. Lt. Uhura held to a desk as suddenly her legs felt like jelly. Helpless silence ruled the bridge.

“We have a – er – problem.”

Uhura gratefully nodded at Flecki because she had interrupted the unpleasant silence, and cautiously moved her legs. Then she breathed deeply and bent her head. She appeared to think what to say next because the thoughts were quite a turmoil. Crisis on Centaurus! She remembered the dangerous events when the Enterprise-computer had gone mad after some modules had been damaged. But that had been another situation… She noticed that Chekov stared at her.

“Lieutenant”, he hesitatingly said, “do you remember…”

She nodded. “Sure, who would forget that. But at that time we had a hardware problem which later on could be mended by exchanging the modules. And”, she added with hanging head, “we had the Captain as well as Spock and Scott.”

“Doesn’t look much like any hardware problem”, Goldi remarked. “My guess is a fat mossbeaver virus.”

“The things you know about computers”, Flecki hissed. “It certainly will get straight soon.”

“I don’t believe it”, Goldi retorted. “And may I remind you that I reached high score in all games, that in ‘Empire of the dark Hamster’ I even reached the level of superhamster-lord and that at the Spacehooter ‘Crack the Monster-Aliens’ in the 10th level…”

“Whatsoever”, Botchy interrupted him and looked at the officer with big, loyal eyes. “Of course I will assist in every way.”

“That’s all I need”, Uhura sighed and sat up. She looked a little more relaxed now. “Let’s summarize: The modulators had a malfunction so that we were got a little squeezed at the start. The replicator also does not work correctly, we checked that. Finally the computer said ‘Rooba!’ which sounds very much like a virus.”

Goldi fluttered his eyelashes at Flecki: “Don’t you worry, I can give you private lessons. Perhaps one day you are as good as I am.”

“Forget it”, Flecki snapped. “Women who want to be as good as men, have no ambition.”

Uhura grinned and looked at the hamsters gratefully. These pets were just unique, even in such a critical moment they could make her laugh. She decided to mention this to the Captain – if she ever was going to see him again.

“Chekov, if we keep to this speed, when will be back in our Solar System?”

The Ensign straightened up, keyed in some numbers and waited. When he got a result, he quickly lifted his eyebrows, turned to his colleague and replied: “The computer says 27, Lieutenant.”

“27 – what, Chekov?”

“Well, days of course”, he replied, looked at the screen once more just for safety and froze for a moment. Very, very slowly he turned round again. His mouth opened and closed, he swallowed and looked at Uhura with big eyes: “27 Wallaballas!”

“How many days is that?”

Chekov did not answer but only goggled at Dodo. Then he whispered: “Days? I really do not know.”

“And in Rooba?”

Pained, Chekov looked at the hamster, shook his head and buried his face in his hands.

“Is Rooba more than Wallaballa or is Wallaballa more than Rooba?”

“Dodo”, Uhura softly said, “you better leave the Ensign alone now. He should make a check of the primary systems to find out what’s wrong here. I will check the secondary systems.”

“Chekov should start with the replicator”, Goldi gnarled, “or nobody will be left to check anything.”

“Dear Goldi, the replicator belongs to the secondary systems…”

“Secondary?” Goldi was utterly shocked. “Unthinkable in Hamsterton to have such an important system not shielded. Don’t you have a backup?”

Uhura stared at the hamster as if he just had said something inconceivable. She interrupted her work at the desk, stopped to press any keys and turned her full attention to the hamster who was sitting beside her, indignated. “You are absolutely right, Goldi. Of course we have a backup to which we go back in an emergency. Thanks for reminding me.”

Goldi nodded. “Anything else I can do for you, scrub the warp core or wash the windows?”

Lt. Uhura laughed and just wanted to take up her activities again when suddenly the Enterprise-alert rang. Humans and hamsters looked at the main screen, terrified, but it offered the same, peaceful view. What had happened?

“Computer, what is happening?” Uhura yelled into the noise and the computer did not long leave her in the dark.

“I am bored!”

“Now that’s a fat problem”, Flecki whispered to Uhuras. “If he starts shooting at any planets, we’re really getting trouble.”

“We might invite him to a hamster party”, Dodo proposed.

“Our future hamster parties will consist of spinach”, Taty remarked. “So forget it.”

Chekov had interrupted the system check and looked at his monitor. “Computer, I don’t receive data! Please give access to data bank!”

“Don’t feel like it!”

Chekov opened his mouth, then looked at Lt. Uhura. She shrugged and rose. “Computer, please give access to the data bank!”

“Don’t bother me!”

Uhura rolled her eyes, looked at her colleague and tried again: “Computer, we urgently need your cooperation. We cannot manage without you. Please give access to the data bank.”

“Nope!”

“Computer, I command you to release the data bank!” Uhura shouted and put her hands to her hips.

“Bite my rooba!” the computer retorted and made the alarm ebb and rise.

“Computer!” Uhura shouted into the noise. “Please switch off the alarm, the noise hurts our ears!”

“Rataplan – in the van!”

“Switch off alarm!”

“No way!”

“Please!”

“Roll up silly!”

“This is an order!” Uhura voice cracked.

“Muggy orbs – wham it!”

Exhausted Uhura sank down on a chair and buried her face in her hands. Her worst nightmare just became reality: The Captain far, far away, she had the command, and everything went awry. Her helpless glance wandered to Flecki and the hamster understood at once.

“We’ve got to do something”, she called out to her colleagues.

“Yes, this mossbeaver-computer’s losing his cool completely, that’s a case for Hamstian nuthouse!” Tealeafy said.

“Hitting him on the head like the mayor won’t help much”, Taty added.

“We have to proceed tactically, violence won’t help”, chief Botchy remarked and his foot just missed cackling Tuffy.

“Perhaps he won’t listen to humans. How about us asking him to stop that noise?”

“A good idea, dear Goldi, so to say excrement – er – excellent!”

The mayor tripped forward and looked at the bridge-ceiling, lifted his arms and shouted: “Dear computer, I in my office as dingus – erm – so to say…” He shook his head, realizing that his speech did not have the required effect. He looked at Goldi who put his paws to his mouth like a horn and shouted:

“Hey, who joins the party?”

The alarm was dead.

“Party? Rooba! Join!”

“No problem, no problem, that is, a small problem there is …” Goldi made an artificial pause, walking up and down the bridge. “But you cannot help there.”

“Wham it! – Which problem?”

“Well, a party – a real hamster party – is very, very exciting. Anyway, a hamster party without culinary input is not very exciting. However, if the replicator works like before…”

“Works like! Rooba!”

“Great”, Goldi purred, grinning at the two Enterprise-officers, “you won a ticket.”

“I have access to the data”, Chekov whispered, nodding to Goldi.

“You seem to have a special talent with stubborn computers”, Lt. Uhura grinned and fondled Goldi.

“Fine”, Flecki said, “so prepare everything for the party with that computer, Goldi. For if you don’t have some very good ideas, you’ll get a backfire, but a real backfire!”

“If that is a virus, how can he make a party?” Tealeafy asked the one and only question.

“So we have to assume that there’s a lot of trouble because the virus has no idea that he’s a virus.”

The chief engineer nodded his agreement to Dodo’s remark.

“Perhaps we can somehow help him?” Flecki hopefully proposed.

“Help him?” Chekov moaned, interrupting his work. “To level us all? Who knows what’s looming for us.”

“A virus, too, is a living being, a very poor and lonely one. If we integrate him in our society and show him our trust…”

“Er, Flecki”, the Ensign interrupted, “that virus is a little programme settling in the memory. What’s it going to do and what’s going to happen, only the writer of the programme knows. In this case the virus has control over the main computer and that is bad. Very bad!”

“He is lonely, he wants to attract attention…”

“A programme is like some text, it feels nothing and is not lonely”, Chekov interrupted Flecki’s soulful explanations. “It’s a part of the computer.”

“It feels something and it is lonely!” Flecki hissed. “It is alone in an alien environment not understanding him.”

“A virus cannot feel anything”, Chekov groaned. “It’s the product of a programmer.”

Furiously Flecki climbed the station, faced the Ensign, put her paws to her hips and looked daggers at him. Expecting the fit of rage, Chekov leaned back a little. Luckily Goldi made a remark which made them all silent.

“Please, who do you think had programmed it? Certainly not the mossbeavers!”

Silence on the bridge, only the humming of the electronic units was audible. They were at a loss. In the background the large main screen offered the wonderful view of passing stars. On the bridge nothing passed. It took some time until humans and hamsters began reviving from this shock. Lt. Uhura was the first to regain control.

“That only can mean one thing…”

Ensign Chekov nodded his agreement and his glance at Flecki – who was still ready for battle – asked for pardon. “It is a biological virus”, he finished the sentence of his colleague. “Flecki is probably right and we have to assume that this virus differs from all other viruses.”

“We might lure him out of the computer with food!”

“Erm – yes, thank you for this valuable constitution – er – contribution, dear Dodo. Now is the time I like to mention the hint that it is of utmost importance to come into conflict – er – contact with that dingus whatshisname. In my office as mayor I of course process – er – possess all the experience and of course I put myself at disclosure – er – disposal.”

“Thank you”, Uhura sighed, “I sincerely hope it will not come to that. Let’s summarize: Which means do we have at all, Chekov?”

The so addressed shrugged. “Few, Lieutenant. The safest way would be the backup. The problem would be solved then.”

“What is your idea about moral?” Flecki nagged. “Will we not kill an innocent creature?”

“Someone messing around with our food can’t be that innocent!” Goldi remarked but also Uhura had her doubts by now and she thoughtfully said:

“Flecki is right, if there is any clue that it is life – even out of the ordinary – we must do nothing to endanger it. If we… Flecki, stop putting out your tongue at Chekov! So if we boot up the backup, we have to secure the present system with its life form.”

“And then? Will the mossbeaver for ever stay in the tin?”

“No, Tealeafy”, the officer continued, “only for some time. We will decide later on, but no harm will come to the life form.”

“However”, Chekov declared, “I’m much afraid that our friend, the mossbeaver-virus will object. If he can block the data access, he also might block the access to backup.”

“Rooba! – Rooba!” came a full power voice. Everyone turned to the chair where normally the commanding officer was sitting. Nobody was sitting there now, of course, the voice came from several loudspeakers somewhere at the bridge ceiling. As the chair was facing the main screen, all eyes were at the same time on the screen. Suddenly they realized that the course had been change as the stars now moved to the left!

“Computer”, Uhura shouted, broke off and thought for a moment. It was most important to choose the correct words now. One rash word and disaster might be there. Best to treat the computer like a baby. “Computer, you found something pretty to play with?”

Chekov, just sipping some tea, choked and spilled the tea over his desk.

“Did! We land there and go for a game!”

“Oh, lovely”, the officer replied, not showing her horror. “But you see, we would love to go home.”

“Dammit, why?”

“Because – er”, she looked at Flecki and Goldi and gripped it immediately because Flecki made dancing moves and Goldi made eating moves. “Because we are for a splendid party and you are invited, too.”

Total silence on the bridge for a while, everybody waited for the computer’s reply.

“Well?” the officer inquired. “What about it?”

“Rooba”, was the long wished for answer, “we’ll land and make party!”

Uhura tried to hide her horror. “Unfortunately we cannot land because… we do not have enough staff. The space ship will brake!”

“Wham it – no matter! We’ll land!”

Ensign Chekov was sitting frozen and open-mouthed at his station, Lt. Uhura held her folded hands to her mouth. This matter was serious, darned serious. Without trained staff landing the Enterprise was almost impossible, because calculation of approach and everything around it needed a full, at least an almost full bridge crew.

“But we can help you, can’t we? That is, we’ve been around here for quite some time.”

Torn out of her thoughts, Uhura looked at Dodo pondering and also a little grateful. Grateful because this little pet was willing to help. If they got out of this mess somehow, she would see to it that the hamsters were more involved into the bridge procedures. Some of them at least. She replied: “Unfortunately it’s too late to teach you the basicals but perhaps you have some idea what to do now.” She was silent for a moment and then explained: “We have to start the backup at once but the computer blocks access. We cannot do much, I’m afraid.”

“We’ve got to divert the computer”, Flecki shouted, “divert so much that you can take action again.”

“Ask him something about Hamstian history”, Taty grinned.

“Little bit of math…”, Tealeafy added.

“Let’s send him the mayor!”

All of a sudden the merry hamster chat stopped and they all looked at Goldi.

“How should that work?” Taty wondered. “He’s much to fat, we don’t get him through the cables!”

“That would not be the problem. Some time sago Scotty explained it to me”, Chekov thoughtfully said. “We need to do nothing but couple a scanner as input to the peripheral interface. The mayor could be transferred directly into the computer.”

“That’s too dangerous, Chekov, and we have no experience at all in that line…”

“Well, of course I put it like that”, the mayor interrupted the Enterprise-officer, “so to say as species september – er – member I’m used to be late – er – to debate with a certain other species. That means I’m absolutely agreeable to wobble to the mentioned winter space – er – interface.”

“Whatever you are talking about”, Uhura groaned, “the thing is too dangerous.”

“As mentioned from the closet – er – outset it is for me at the same time a pleasure and in a way to deputy the first con or second tact for all canmind – er – mankind…”

“Do it, Chekov”, Uhura cried, rolling her eyes. “For heaven’s sake, start at once!”

The Ensign nodded and put in some data. When he discovered that the main computer did not block the less important interfaces, he sighed in relief.

“Get yourself under the replicator”, he snapped at the mayor.

“Well, I – er – I’m not hungry in a day – er – way although of course regarding…”

“Get yourself under the replicator and stop babbling”, Chekov said in a furious whisper. “I hope you know your duties!”

“Yes, of course, and it is so to say…”

“All right, all right”, Uhura groaned, “you will talk about all that when you take up con and tact. And now get you gone!”

She gripped the mayor’s neck fur, carried him to the replicator and put him down there. At the same moment Chekov keyed in another command. There was a shrill buzzing and the mayor was gone.

“Cool!” Tealeafy marvelled. “May we borrow that unit? We’d like to take it to school and – er – show it to some of the teachers.”

At this moment the computer came in.

“Rooba? What’s on? Wham it!”

Ensign Chekov looked at Lt. Uhura, terrified. If the main computer switched off life functions as ‘punishment’, the matter became dangerous, mortal if the worse came to the worst. Uhura’s mind was racing but before she could say anything, Flecki saved the situation.

“You want to join the party, don’t you? The mayor in person is now taking the invitation to you.”

After a while which was like eternity the mossbeaver-computer came in again: “Wallaballa, join in! Hello! Hello? Who’s there?”

Silence. Hamsters and humans looked at one another helplessly and Flecki shouted: “Everything okay? Did the mayor arrive?”

Nobody answered. She tried again and again and finally shrugged. “Mayor seems to be there for why else should the computer say ‘Who’s there?’ and if the mayor has really arrived there, he’ll just yak at the mossbeaver…”

“…and he no longer minds us”, Uhura finished the sentence. She pointed at the main screen on which the surface of an unknown planet was looming by now. Clearly they could make out grey, porous landscapes and everybody on board realized that this was a cold, dead planet without oxygen and without means to survive.

“We’ve got to peel of at once!”

Chekov understood, his fingers were flying over the keys and spellbound he looked at what was happening on the screen.

Chapter 42

 

The Planet

 

“The planet…”

“The planet does not interest me at the moment, Ensign! Did we change course?”

“Change of course effective, new course…” Chekov skimmed the rest and leaned back in his chair, exhausted but content. “We made it, Lieutenant!”

“Better, the mayor made it, Chekov”, Uhura grinned. “I’d love to be a fly at the wall and listen to his talk with the mossbeaver-virus.”

“Better not”, Flecki grumbled. “Poor mossbeaver-virus, I really pity him. All alone, far from home and now also locked in a computer with the mayor, surrounded by cold technique…”

“Forgetting that the brute a few minutes ago wanted to abandon us on a cold planet, surrounded by vacuum?” Goldi snapped.

“But he did not know what he was doing, poor lad!” Flecki cried. “He urgently needs some resocialisation!”

“Sure, you’d better take him along to Hamsterton and introduce him to poor, criminal Goulash-Frodo. The two of them would be a cool and successful team!”

“Poor Frodo isn’t criminal, he is ill and needs help!”

“O yes?” Goldi shouted and put his paws to his hips. “He flattens all Hamsterton and if I once by bad luck scratch a traffic light…”

Uhura clicker her fingers. “May I say something?”

Reluctantly Flecki and Goldi interrupted their interesting discussion to listen to the Enterprise-officer. “Thank you, many thanks. We have to use the time the virus is diverted. Chekov, can you start the backup?”

“Any time, Lieutenant.”

“Fine, so we should…”

“Just a moment!” Flecki, Sasy, and Dasy had climbed onto Chekov’s desk. “No backup is started here!”

Bewildered, the Ensign looked at the three hamsters and then at Uhura. Now, what did this mean? “Er – why not?”

“Because”, Flecki retorted, “it is by no means certain that first the poor, innocent mossbeaver and second our mayor will take no harm. We are the ‘Save innocent creatures’-Group and herewith protest decidedly.”

“Aha.” Chekov swallowed and did not know whether to laugh or to scold. He decided to continue looking at the hamsters uncertainly and start side-glances looking for help.

“Nothing will happen to anyone”, Uhura now said who was not unprepared for this moment. A short time ago, after Flecki had to vehemently discussed with the Ensign whether a virus was a life form, she had noticed Flecki, Sasy, and Dasy standing together, whispering. These hamsters really were a miracle! She wondered what Spock and all his logic would say to this situation. He certainly would dismiss hamsters as completely illogical and not take notice of them. Had he even spoken to this… what was the name? Yes, this Hamstilidamst? Certainly not, it was impossible that a logical Vulcan mind wanted to have anything to do with hamsters – not talking of sympathy! The Enterprise-officer was war sure as to that.

“You will freeze them for ever and we are not going to permit that!” Dasy shouted. “Who knows if they survive and if they ever will be what they were!”

“Interesting idea regarding the mayor”, Goldi mumbled.

“You… you… you are so insensitive!” Flecki shrieked and wanted to fall on Goldi but Sasy held her back.

“Well”, Goldi continued, “your club should better wonder if not many more innocent lives kick the bucket if we do not silence that mad mossbeaver-virus.”

“Oh, and what would you say if you were such a poor, innocent virus?”

Goldi looked at Flecki and replied: “I had since long taken over the ship and taken care that no one gets in my way. Next I would have tested speed, reach and vigour of the torpedoes and then I would…”

“Thank you, that’s quite enough. I do not think that we would let you participate in our group due to your attitude because we are only acting on true moral and animal aspects…”

“And another aspect is time”, Uhura remarked. She had heard enough and thought it was time for action. “Chekov, can we afterwards free the mayor? What are the chances that neither the mossbeaver-virus nor the hamster-mayor are endangered?”

Within the last minutes Chekov had been crouching in his chair, now he straightened up again. “The chance that neither the mossbeaver-virus nor the hamster-mayor are endangered is very great. We are not talking about so-called analogue creatures but they are in a binary state, consisting of ones and zeros. As long as we do not delete them, nothing happens to them. Therefore all data are secured.”

“Perhaps some zeros of the mayor may be deleted”, Tealeafy proposed.

Uhura sighed loudly and turned to Chekov who noticed that she suddenly looked aged. Of course the Ensign did not mention this, he did not want to produce a crisis. “Chekov, how quickly can we free the mayor?”

Chekov shrugged. “No idea, perhaps we just try to find it out.”

His apt hands moved over the keys, he called up different menu-items, glanced over the choice and keyed in the corresponding commands. Finally he pressed ‘Enter’ and leaned back. “Done. It was as easy as Scotty always said. Now we only have to wait, but that might take a few hours.”

“Time for a party”, Goldi hopefully cried, running to the replicator. “Last meal is more than an hour ago!”

“The replicator cannot be used at the moment”, Chekov shouted.

Goldi stopped and very, very, very slowly turned. His black beady eyes showed an abyss of horror when he glared at the Ensign.

“We expect the return of the mayor”, Chekov said with a pitiless smile. “He disappeared via the replicator and he will come back via the replicator. We have to keep the entrance free. After that you can get new supplies.”

While grumbling Goldi returned to his smirking friends, some quiet settled on the bridge and Lt. Uhura said that it was time. “By the by, what was it you wanted to say about that planet before, Chekov?”

The smile suddenly vanished from his face and he looked severe. “How shall I put it”, he hesitatingly said. “That planet is – er – hostile.”

“Hostile?”

“Er, yes, Lieutenant, it’s dangerous.”

“Perhaps you’ve got some detailed information for me, Ensign, what do you mean?”

Helplessly, Chekov looked at the screen and shrugged.

“Well, if there’s no air to breath, the planet of course is dangerous for us”, Flecki remarked. “Every hamster knows that.” She looked at Dodo. “Well, almost every hamster.”

“If that planet wants too fool around with us, he gets some torpedoes!” Goldi shouted, doubling his little fists.

“The data”, Chekov mumbled, “they simply look threatening. Do take a look!”

Expectantly Uhura stepped to his side and looked at what alarmed the Ensign. As the hamsters could not do much with the numbers on the monitor, they had not climbed the desk. Instead they excitedly watched Uhura’s mimic and were not disappointed. Like a flash the frown had gone from the officer’s face, eyes and mouth wide open, she first goggled at the screen, then at her colleague, then at the screen again.

“Oh, my goodness!” she gasped. “I’ve never seen anything the like. That is… You are right, Chekov, this is spooky!”

“What it spooky?” Tealeafy shouted with a cackle. “Is the mayor stuck in the screen?”

The Ensign did not listen to the unqualified remark.

“It’s not really a black hole…”

“No, Chekov, it isn’t – but what in the world is it?”

“Obviously it consists of antimatter, Lieutenant, and… It grows with racing speed!”

“Antimatter?”

“Yes, Tuffy, it’s antimatter.” She looked at the little repair hamster and when she saw confusion in the hamster eyes, she added: “If antimatter meets matter, the complete mass is transformed to energy.”

“Like at school? I mean, if teacher threatens with imposition?”

“No, Taty, that’s quite another kind of energy”, Uhura said with the shade of a grin. She became serious again and continued her explanation. “If antimatter comes into contact with some matter object, the object vanishes.”

“Swell!” Goldi shouted. “Couldn’t we take along this antimatter to school and if a teacher…”

“You would not even get to school, because if you touch it, there no longer would be Goldi or antimatter. A short, strong energy thrust is all that remains.”

“No bad solution”, Flecki said under her breath.

“And if”, Goldi hissed, “one sends some of it to some certain person by mail, would this certain person vanish?”

“No problem”, Chekov grinned. “Wouldn’t work with a normal parcel, of course, but if you dissemble the matter-/antimatter-chamber of the Enterprise warp-core, it would work. Just don’t forget to put enough stamps onto it.”

They were quite at a loss on the bridge, then Uhura said: “Any news about the mayor?”

The Ensign shook his head.

“Okay, so we can do nothing but wait. However, this planet, Chekov, how fast does it grow and can it become a serious danger to us?”

A slow nod was the answer. “I’ve never seen anything the like, Lieutenant. The planet is expanding with 9.0 c, that is almost light speed. A few weeks ago it will have been the size of a ball.”

“And where did it come from?” chief Botchy now asked. “No one leaves something like that lying around.”

Once more the Ensign shrugged. “Crack in the space-time-continuum, worm hole, parallel universe, nobody can tell exactly. There are many things we just don’t know and never will know.”

“That’s what I always think at school…”

“Thanks for that valuable remark, Dasy”, Uhura grinned but a once became serious again and said to Chekov: “The expansion speed of this… antimatter planet almost matches light speed, that is impulse speed. As we are in some hundred light years distance of Earth, the planet would endanger mankind only in about one hundred years.”

“Perhaps if we fly a little faster”, once more the chief piped up. “I’m very willing to help with advice and action to adapt the drive…”

“Thanks, chief”, Uhura groaned, “with Warp 8 we are already 2,000 times faster than light. That should do.”

“The problem however is”, Chekov now said, “that nobody can foretell what kind of influence this has on mankind and our future. And on hamsterkind of course”, he added after a short pause. The section of influence of this antimatter planet will grow with its dimension so that even a distance of 100 light years might not be safe.”

“And if we just blow up that oddball?”

“That’s it, Goldi”, Taty cried, “perhaps that’s what the mossbeaver-virus wanted!”

“And the mossbeaver-virus was no computer virus but…” Flecki swallowed and looked around to her friends. Then she glanced at the officers and whispered: “Plushum.”

Nothing but the low purr of some computer. Deadly silence on the bridge, nobody said a word. They all looked at Uhura who was in command. She knew that everybody waited for her comment but she, too, was dumbfounded. “No, chaps, that’s a little too much speculation, you cannot explain everything away with the Plushum. Even if we’d try to blow up the planet as Goldi to prettily proposes – where shall we get the energy? It will not be done with a few torpedoes.”

“But we’ve got the gerbil vessel. Couldn’t we help?”

“Er, thanks a lot, but I don’t think that your weapons can do much there.”

“The mayor!”

“No, Tuffy, he neither…” Uhura broke off and suddenly understood what the little hamster meant. Like all others she turned towards the replicator because something was happening there. The light blue gleam beneath the unit changed to dark blue and a small figure became visible. It was almost unbearably thrilling and for the time being nobody thought of the deathly threat from the antimatter planet. A sigh went down the lines when they saw the smiling face of the mayor. Then he toppled over and did not get up again.

“Well, he isn’t much of a help!”

Goldi and his friends surrounded the lying mayor and looked helpless.

“That’s the shock of rematerializing”, Ensign Chekov explained. “The brain has to take up a huge lot of information and that might lead to loss of consciousness. We have to be patient and wait until he comes to.”

“This being proof that he has got a brain after all”, Tealeafy said, nudging Taty. Both hamsters cackled loudly until they felt the stern glance of Uhura upon them.

“Can you check whether there are signs of the mossbeaver-virus still in the system?”

Like so often before, Chekov shrugged. “No idea what to look for. If it’s still there, it’s backed up, frozen in a way.”

“Well, I know how to check it!”

Uhura glanced up to the ceiling, Chekov grinned broadly, Goldi applauded delightedly, and the rest looked at Dodo without much interest.

Dodo stepped forward, cleared his throat and shouted: “Computer, is the mossbeaver-virus at home?”

“Please define mossbeaver-virus!” answered the polite voice.

“You see? That is: You hear?” Dodo crowed. “The computer knows no mossbeaver-virus, so there can’t be a mossbeaver-virus any longer, can there?”

“Thank you, Dodo”, Uhura sighed, “you are most convincing. Perhaps you also have some idea what to do with the antimatter planet – no?” She turned to Chekov. “We should return to Earth full power. The earlier we are there, the earlier we can contact Captain Kirk. This is out of our league.”

The Ensign gave a short nod and turned to his station. After checking the items for a long distance flight, he said: “Our time for maximum Warp is limited, of course. After 12 hours at the latest we have to give her a rest or the Enterprise will explode in our faces.”

“Chin up, Chekov, up to now the Warp engines worked perfectly.”

“Correct, Lieutenant, up to now. We have however made quite a distance without maintenance and a long way ahead of us. So let’s hope that all goes well.”

“As mentioned before, I am at your disposal for smaller repairs. I am after all no greenhorn in this area and want to hint meekly to the fact that I constructed and mounted the first prototype of Hamsterton Airlines.”

The Enterprise-officer of course noticed the giggling of the other hamsters, but stress was written into her face and she did not feel like laughing.

“Thanks, many thanks!” she gasped, took a deep breath and shouted: “Energy!”

Just when Ensign Chekov wanted to initiate the start, a resolute, if for human ears low voice shouted: “Hold it! Stop machines at once!”

Irritated, the two officers looked at a hamster who out of nothing had emerged on the helm’s desk and pointed at Chekov’s head with a phaser. “We’ll fly nowhere, got me?”

“Now listen, you litte puffed-up busybody, I will… Ouch!”

With a grimace of pain Lt. Uhura gripped her shoulder and had trouble not to sink. Holding to the desk with one hand so that her knees did not gave way, she pressed the other hand to her aching shoulder. Groaning, she fell into a chair and breathed deeply. Ensign Chekov like a flash grasped at hamster plus phaser but he was too slow. An outcry and the officer was lying on the floor, groaning.

The mayor climbed down from the desk of the navigator and made for the Captain’s chair. When he passed the frightened hamsters, a trembling voice called out: “Everything all right, Mr. Mayor?”

“Certainly”, came the prompt answer, “everything is according to schedule. I’m sorry for those two, but don’t worry, I know what I’m doing, trust me!” He spurted on until he had reached the Captain’s chair and climbed it. He could not hear Flecki’s whisper:

“For goodness sake – we are lost!”

“But if he says that he knows what he’s doing?”

“Dodo, Dodo, did you forget what happened last time?” Tealeafy moaned.

“But he said that we shall trust him!” Dodo retorted.

“Keep cool, Tealeafy”, Goldi grinned, “Dodo has a different way of thinking. Dodo after all has 25 bones more than normal hamsters.”

“Why that?”

“Dodo’s brain works mechanically.”

Except Flecki, who was not amused, and except Dodo, who did not understand the joke, all hamsters giggled. The mayor of course also did not laugh as now he was sitting on the Commander’s chair and pondered. Neither did Uhura and Chekov laugh but stood around in a baffled fashion, looked at the laughing hamsters and back to the mayor.

“What’s now wrong again with the chap?” Chekov whispered. “Did this time in the computer confuse him that much?”

“I do not know, Chekov. I think something different is going on there. The whole matter… this antimatter planet, the peculiar mossbeaver-virus, that’s uncanny. Let’s be on our guard not to mess things up.”

“You mean…”, Chekov‘s brows went up, he looked for words. “You mean, something else is behind this. Some superior being?”

“Look about you, Chekov. A hamster commands the Enterprise. Any more questions?”

The Ensign silently shook his head. No, he had no more questions, he was looking for answers. Where did that little pal get the weapon? After the hamsters’ return from the gerbil planet, Lt. Uhura had collected the mini-weapons and secretly put them beside one of the energy supply panels. A quick, apt hamster might have got there in an unwatched moment – but the mayor? Out of question.

“Did you not hear my order, navigator?”

Chekov came out of his thoughts and goggled at the mayor.

“But I don’t know anything”, Dodo whimpered.

The mayor looked at him with an incredible expression. “That is not necessary, you are not the responsible navigator!”

“Oh, that is good”, Dodo gasped in relief. “I thought I should do it and I don’t know anything because…”

“Shut up!”

“All right, Mr. Mayor, but if I’m no longer navigator – what am I?”

“First, you address me Commander…” A background sigh from Lt. Uhura was audible. “…second you are on stand by, got that?”

“Okay, May… - er – Commander, I will stand by so keenly, you will be surprised and…”

“Shut up – just shut up!”

“All right, Commander, I will shut up as no one has ever seen before. And stand by, of course…”

Dodo shut up finally when the Mayor-Commander directed his weapon at him.

“Time is short, damned shot, and I won’t be bothered by any Dodo-stuff. Navigator, take action: Machines stop and initiate turning!”

Chekov helplessly looked at Uhura whose face showed the signs of strain. She seemed to ask herself in what sort of situation they had got themselves. This peculiar virus trying to steel the Enterprise into the planet – and the planet as such! It seems to be an immense threat, greater perhaps than they could guess at the moment. And like being called in, a hamster, of all hamsters the mayor, ‘changed’ to something calling himself ‘commander’! All this could not be a coincidence. Very slowly she nodded towards the navigator and signalled him the follow the order.

“Very shrewd of you, Lieutenant”, the Mayor-Commander remarked and lowered his weapon. “I’m dependent of the cooperation of each of you, and who does not play along will have to take the responsibility.” He pointed at a little red switch fastened to his fur. “If need be, I will blast the vessel!”

“Ship stopped, ready for tacking”, the Ensign reported after he had glimpsed at Uhura for reassurance that he was to follow the order of the self-appointed commander.

“Very good”, the Mayor-Commander said, directing his glance to the bridge-ceiling. “Now turn and got to impulse, course to the nearest planet.”

“But Sir, that is the antimatter planet…”

“I am aware of that, Navigator, do you have a problem with it?”

“I have indeed”, Chekov said with a pained smile. “I have not desire to be pulverized or dissolved.”

“Don’t worry”, the Mayor-Commander retorted and with his free hand – in his other hand was the weapon – polished the little red switch at his fur. “No one will be pulverized. If matter collides with antimatter, your mass is completely changed into energy, nothing is lost there. The problem are waves of the changed particles. If the waves are altered after the change, you, Ensign, will certainly look quite different from before.

“Not like a hamster”, Chekov mumbled.

“Most unlikely, more over the mass is not the same”, the Mayor-Commander explained.

“Want to talk our ears of or what’s in your mind?” chief Botchy grumbled and the other hamsters nodded in agreement.

“Is the any problem?” the Mayor-Commander asked and played with his weapon.

“Er – not really”, Botchy gave in and the other hamsters shook their heads in agreement.

“It’s like this”, Dodo explained, “I for example am quite content with my looks and need no waves.”

“What about curls?” Dasy cried. “My hairdresser says that would look pretty on me.”

“I’d like my fur fully so that my figure shows off better!” Tuffy longingly said.

“Around the hips I wish for a little less…”

“Shut your gobs, all of you!” came a roar from the Captain’s chair. “We’ll now take course to that planet and I tell you again that I know what I’m doing and you have no idea what all this is about.”

Lt. Uhura nodded once more when Chekov looked at her. He keyed in the necessary commands.

“We’ve got to do something or we’ll have hell to pay!”

“What’s your idea, Flecki?” the chief grumbled. “That lad is armed.”

“We distract him”, Goldi whispered. “Make some show with your dancing group while Trample and I creep up to him. If we can’t distract him, we’ll try plan B. That is, Dodo talks his ears of.”

“And if that also doesn’t work? Plan C, or what?” Taty asked.

“Yea, plan C, that is the chief goes to the replicator and messes around there. That will distract the mayor.”

“Messing around is Botchy’s specialty after all. But what if that doesn’t work either?”

Goldi looked at Tealeafy for a moment and said: “Well, plan D then, that is: We start a brawl. If the mayor intervenes, we thrash him.”

“I like that one best”, Flecki agreed. “And if that does not work either?”

“Then”, Goldi groaned, “we need plan E. We storm at him from two sides and take him.”

“But he’s got a weapon”, Dodo lamented.

“That’s why we come from two sides. And if that does not work, our last chance will be plan F.”

“Plan F?” Trample gasped. “Please don’t tell me, that some volunteer has to fall upon that mad mayor!”

“No, no!” Goldi soothed him. “Plan F is special great: We’ll just smash everything and cannot fly on!”

“All right, but let us start now!” Flecki hissed.

“Er – with A, B, C – or what?”

“A of course, Dodo!”

“Could you please repeat the items very slowly, Goldi, I don’t get the difference between B and D.”

“Later, Dodo, and you have nothing to do with A!”

Immediately Sasy, Dasy, Tuffy, and Taty began to dance while Goldi and Botchy slowly moved into the opposite direction.

For some time the Mayor-Commander did not seem to take notice of the dancing group and finally he shouted: “Whatever that is, stop it.” With a speed no one had expected of him, he jumped up and pointed his weapon at something behind his chair. “Forget it, Goldi, if you don’t want to end as a smoke sign!”

Grumbling, Goldi trudged back to his starting point and kicked Botchy’s bum. “Why didn’t you follow me, you twerp? As two we’d have better chances!”

“Er – of an impulse I decided for plan A, section 1 – to cover the retreat.”

Furiously, Goldi looked at the chief engineer and growled: “O well, so it’s plan B now!”

“I hardly can wait”, Tuffy whispered, looking at Goldi with big eyes.

“That’s the advantage with hamsters”, Goldi whispered back, “we always have a plan in reserve which… Hey, Dodo, will you stop thrashing Trample?”

“Yes”, Dodo said who was sitting on Trample, working him with his fists, “but now it’s plan B with the brawl, isn’t it?”

“Fool!” Flecki hissed. “That’s plan D! Plan B says that you now jabber to the mayor.”

“Sorry, Trample.” Dodo rose, red-headed, and slowly walked towards the Mayor-Commander. Arrived there, still red-headed, he looked up to him uncertainly.

“What’s the matter?” the Mayor-Commander snapped at him. “What’s your problem?”

The big hamster stood mute and saw with growing fear how the Mayor-Commander polished the red switch on his fur. Then he ran back to his friends, squeaking.

“It’s plan C now, isn’t it?” Taty grinned. “How many letters has the alphabet, by the way?”

“I’ll show you how a real pro does it”, chief Botchy grunted and moved towards the replicator. He had folded his arms, waggled leisurely and whistled a tune. However, he did not get far with that tactic because he could hear the warning voice of the Mayor-Commander who had taken notice of Botchy’s catwalk.

“Hey, pug, whatever you have in mind – forget it!”

“Boss, your are back from your pro-mission plan C quicker than Dodo from plan B!”

“He called me a pug, he of all hamsters!” the chief furiously gasped and walked up to Tuffy with an ugly grin. “Are we not heading to genius-plan D? Dodo, continue with Trample, I’ll take Tuffy!”

“We should think over plan D”, Flecki proposed. “Mayor does not appear daft enough to climb down from his chair to mingle in a brawl. And there also is not much sense in plan E to run up to him. He will shoot us all down.”

“Then nothing remains but plan F and Goldi and Botchy creep up to him”, Dodo said.

“That had been plan A, Dodo, failed long ago!” Flecki shouted and shook her head.

“Wasn’t that item D?” Trample asked.

“Nope”, Tealeafy remarked, “D was smashing everything!”

“Nuts, that was E!”

“No, E was F, the other one was D!”

“E!”

“A!”

“D!”

“No, B!”

“F!”

“He called me pug!”

“Lieutenant, do you have any idea what our hamsters are up to?”

“None, Chekov, but for an instant I thought they had a plan, then they looked like a brawl and now… No, I really don’t know what they are up to and don’t want to know.”

“Machines stop, we are close enough!” the Mayor-Commander now shouted. “Go into orbit but keep a distance, I don’t want to go in there once more!”

Chekov nodded and instructed the computer accordingly. “What does he mean, he doesn’t want to go in there once more?” he whispered to his colleague who only shrugged.

“I say, it’s peculiar. We have no idea what is behind this. I’ll try to find out if the hamsters know anything.” She made a few slow steps towards the hamsters and whispered to the next one: “Do you know what’s going on here?”

“Well, it’s like this”, Dodo said, “it isn’t plan A because B does not work and neither C. D was not B and F dropped out.”

Confused and shaking her head Uhura returned to helm’s.

“Well, what did he say?” Chekov curiously asked and looked at her expectantly.

“You wouldn’t want to know it, Chekov. Just take care that we don’t get too close to the planet and are swallowed.”

“…wouldn’t want to know it”, Chekov mumbled, comparing the latest data and slightly correcting the course.

“That’s it, Navigator, that course is correct now.”

Baffled, the Ensign looked at the hamster on the Captain’s chair who without any computer assistance knew that the course was correct now. Chekov shook his head with a sigh – why did everybody know more than he?

By now the antimatter planet could be made out clearly on the main screen. What had looked like a porous, grey surface new emerged as a kind of veil, here and there opening a view to a deep black mass. What could be seen in those spots made all of them shudder. The black was black enough to be hell’s gate.

“Navigator, counter-steer a little, we are drawn by that immense gravity.”

Chekov hurried to execute the Mayor-Commanders order and took a look at the data which were updated every 1.5 seconds on his monitor. Baffled, he noticed that this hamster without any instruments had earlier noticed the necessity for a course correction than the ship’s navigator. This time he needed no eye-contact to his superior officer to know that he had to counter-steer. Again and again his glance wandered to the main screen and with fascination he glared at the deep black mass.

“Navigator, would you mind to have your eyes on the displays and not on the landscape?”

“Well, really”, Sasy nagged, “the mayor is right, the guy is to navigate and not to watch TV.” Chekov, grumbling and anger smoldering in his gut, concentrated on the data.

“He’s getting careless”, chief Botchy agreed, “I’ve noticed it before.”

“And he appears somewhat unmotivated”, Dasy added, “so that it’s really a shame.”

“Well, we should exchange him quickly”, Goldi said with an impish grin. “Dodo is still on stand-by, aren’t you, Dodo?”

“Would that be plan F or plan H?” Dodo asked with helpless expression.

“Z rather”, Tealeafy shouted, “so to say the last, the very last letter!”

Loud cackling showed him that the hamsters had got the joke, except Dodo of course who scratched his head and mumbled: “Could someone explain this plan Z to me?”

“Lieutenant Uhura!” came the voice out of the Captain’s chair and everybody looked expectantly at the hamster sitting there. “How many torpedoes and how many phaser-banks are ready?”

The Enterprise-officer thought a moment, then said: “The Enterprise is not on battle-mission, so it’s minimum armament.”

“Numbers, please, Lieutenant!”

Uhura took a deep breath, let it out audibly and watching the Mayor-Commander sharply, she replied: “12 Type X phaser-banks, half of them equipped, furthermore 3 torpedo-launchers of capacity 275, but we’ve got no more than 50 aboard.”

“Torpedo-launchers are class 1 or 2?”

“They are class 2 photon-torpedo-launchers.”

The Mayor-Commander slowly shook his head and thoughtfully studied the main screen. He seemed to think things over and everybody looked at him, thrilled. He rose and walked up and down the seat, a sight which normally would have made the two officers laugh. For the time being no one felt like laughing.

“Mass of the Enterprise, Lieutenant?”

“397,805 metric tons”, was the prompt answer of Uhura.

Once more the Mayor-Commander shook his head, turned his eyes from the main screen and scrutinized Uhura. “That will not do either. There is only the matter-/antimatter reactor. Do you have full capacity of Dilithium-cristals at least?”

“Yes, but…”

“How quickly can the warp-core be removed?”

“The warp-core?” Uhura’s question was more like a gasp. “We will not get back home without the warp-core.”

“You need not worry, Lieutenant, you have my word that you will be able to return to Earth even without warp-core. There are means you do not know.”

“Fine”, Uhura retorted, having gained a little control over herself, “and what you do not know is the following: Our Captain and the rest of the crew plus one hamster are at this time stuck on Earth.”

“We will take up your people in time – my promise. Did you understand me, Lieutenant?”

“Certainly”, Uhura snapped, “but you did not understand. Our staff are stuck in another time period. If we pick them up, we will not get back to our time without warp speed. We do not belong to this time period.”

There was a short silence, then the Mayor-Commander nodded slowly. He stopped pacing the seat and only glared at the screen where the threatening black seemed to grow constantly. After a few seconds which were like eternity, he turned to the Enterprise-officers and the hamsters and in a firm voice said:

“So there is only one way to rescue the universe!”

 

Chapter 43

 

Dee-eep

 

Nobody on Earth, not to talk about Scotland had an inkling of the dangerous and dramatic situation the Enterprise faced. In Altnaharra there was but one problem: To calm a hamster who did not want, and very loudly did not want the brother of his mayor come to Hamsterton.

However, the fit made Sppock thoughtful. The Federation's Prime Directive said not to interfere with strange cultures. Nothing was urged upon them and nothing was taken from them. Literally, Jim Kirk had offended the Prime Directive. He saddled Hamsterton with a Balthasar which Hamsterton very obviously did not want for the life of them. As matter of fact, the Captain had to accept this.

Finally the Vulcan took the only measure which seemed to him promising to sooth a hamster. He hurried to the house where they were to spend the night and put a scone into Hamstilidamst's box. Hamstilidamst was so terribly shocked at the idea of having Balthasar in Hamsterton that a scone was the one and only means to divert his thoughts.

"Listen to me", Spock began calmly. "They brought in something like a suit against Balthasar. After that he no longer was president and Bombo asked for proposals what to do with him. The outpost hamsters wanted to spank him several times. Balthasar certainly would have been severely injured. – Jim offered to take Balthasar with him in the space ship and take him to his brother, your mayor."

"We – don't – want – him!"

"I absolutely comprehended this", Spock dryly replied. "On the one hand it was not correct that Jim took this decision without asking Hamsterton. On the other hand you cannot make the decision for all Hamsterton. And what should have happened with Balthasar in the meantime?"

Hamstilidamst silently munched away his scone. If he remembered correctly, the humans were quite pissed that this Vulcan always was right. And he was pissed, too, now. The officers were to be on the side of Hamsterton, dammit, and leave them alone with that daft Balthasar.

"If we get Balthasar, all Hamsterton has to go to the pisscatrist I bet", he grumbled.

"Did you not mention that Hamsterton is the capital and there are other towns as well?"

"Yep, there's Hamsterjelly and Hamster… Ey!" Hamstilidamst cried, reviving very suddenly. "Taerg, taerg! We take him along and shunt him off."

"How about deciding this collectively?"

"We make an investigation commission, sure, and I'll tell everybody how it went and I convince them that we don't want Balthasar. That's good, ain't it?"

"It is then your decision."

"But Jim didn't mean any harm, did he?"

"I am very certain, he did not", Spock replied.

At that moment a pebble was thrown at the window. The Vulcan got up and looked out. His colleagues were standing down there and beckoned him to open the door. When they had left he had taken the key and there seemed to be only one.

"Well, did you sooth him?" the Captain asked when Spock opened the front door.

"With difficulties, Jim. – You offended the Prime Directive."

"I – what?"

"Oops!" Dr. McCoy said. "Right. Can't simply saddle somebody with Balthasar."

"None wanna ha’ poor Balthasar", Scotty lamented.

It was obvious that the officers had taken, beside baked mushroom toast, some alcohol. The Vulcan had accompanied his friends on more than one shore leave and knew them in this condition. So he did not argue with them now as it would not have made much sense.

When he came back from the bathroom, he slipped into the bed, wondered whether Daby would be able to lay her hands on the runway lights in time, then he slept. Hamstilidamst had no great desire to romp about tonight. He also thought of Daby and the Big Boss and the new BANTACH-President. He thought of his friends on the Enterprise and he even began to think of his home in Hamsterton.

Some time he, too, fell asleep and only woke up when the officers rumbled about in the room, shook up the bed covers, trumped to the bathroom and made all the noise they made every morning. He was sitting very still and wondered whether he would miss them when he was back in Hamsterton. Well, perhaps for a little while but not as much as he had missed his own hamster-friends all the time.

"Breakfast?" Lt. Scott asked. "Hungry, Hamstilidamst? Or is 't just a daft question?"

"That's just a daft question", Hamstilidamst politely replied. "I'd like Cornflakes."

"I bet we can do something there. Let's see what our hosts think about hamsters at the breakfast table", McCoy grinned, took up the box and handed the rucksack to Kirk.

As it was, this was no problem. In the breakfast room at fat pug lay panting in front of the fireplace, a cage with two canaries was hanging in a corner and on the window sill a cat sat washing herself. A hamster was not much there. Just for safety the officers left him in the box and with a cat and a dog in the same room Hamstilidamst did not protest.

"Dee-eep!" it sounded from somewhere.

The officers looked around but found no source for the noise. Scotty put a handful of cornflakes into the box and Hamstilidamst fell on them.

"Dee-eep!"

Their hostess came in with the coffee pot, wished them a good morning and asked if the breakfast was all right.

"Dee-eep!"

"And perhaps you could answer your mobile", she added.

"Dee-eep!"

"Mobile?" Dr. McCoy asked, baffled.

"I would say ye've hidden it in your rucksack", their hostess said and mumbled as she left: "Always the same. Let them things ring till ye get mad."

"Dee-eep!"

"Mobile!" the Capain repeated with a broad grin. "As if we… O my God! The mobile's ringing. The mobile. Our mobile!"

"They're here!" Scotty cheered. "The mobile's ringing!"

Then they all fell onto the rucksack and began to rummage it. Spock who had not have anything to eat yesterday evening, calmly continued his breakfast. Hamstilidamst did not understand all the excitement and munched flakes.

"Dammit, who's packed that bloody rucksack?!" Scotty swore. "Where are those mobiles?!"

"This is a problem which regularly comes up with roomy, not segmented containers", the Vulcan started a speech. "Smaller objects tend to slip by the movement…"

"Shut up!" Dr. McCoy hissed.

"Dee-eep!"

"Here! Here in the front pocket."

"Indeed. As I assumed that within the next days probably a quick access would be necessary…"

"Did you make this knot?!" the Captain furiously interrupted him. "I don't get it… Yes, now."

"Can you tell me what's the matter with them?" Hamstilidamst inquired.

"Of course. The Enterprise has arrived.”

"True? TRUE!" bawled the hamster.

"True", Spock replied in a voice of long endurance.

For reasons they could not have named, the humans ran out into the street to take the call there. By now the permanent "Dee-eep!" had stopped and without success the Captain tried to reach the ship with his mobile. Dead sure up there a desperate Uhura was sitting who certainly believed them all dead.

He could not know that due to the rescue of the universe a lot of technical break downs had occurred after which a number of operations had to be made before the com-officer could home in to another unit. During these operations the other unit was dead and she could also receive no call from it. Until on the ship that complicated job had been done, also Lt. Spock came into the street, bringing along the pet box and listening to the desperate debate of his colleagues.

"Where's the Dee-eep?" Hamstilidamst excitedly asked. "Did they fly off?"

"Lieutenant Uhura does not give up that easily, Hamstilidamst, don't worry."

"But I want to worry!"

"I noticed it more than once. There are numerous situations where some discipline…"

"Dee-eep!"

This time the noise came from Spock's own mobile and he had been sensible enough to carry it in his trouser pocket. He was in a surprising haste to get at it, but when he did, Kirk was quicker. He snatched it from his First Officer, pressed the "On"-button and shouted:

"Uhura, is that you?"

"Who else?" the Vulcan mumbled.

"Captain Kirk! Yes, it's Uhura. O my God, I'm relieved to hear your voice. How are you? Are you all in good health?"

"We're swell, but what was the matter with the Enterprise all the time?"

"O well… It was quite something different. – Hum?" they heard her voice. "O yes, Sir, I'm to ask how Hamstilidamst is."

"He may tell you himself", the Captain grinned.

In the meantime Spock had taken the hamster out of the box and placed him on Kirk's shoulder. Now Kirk held the mobile under his nose.

"Helo-o-o-o!" Hamstilidamst yelled. "Hello, anybody there?"

"'course somebody's there", Lt. Scott grunted. "The best Somebody there is."

"Hamstilidamst, are you well? Did you get enough to eat? Have the people been kind to you?"

"Flecki! Ay, I'm swell, I just had cornflakes."

"Cornflakes!" Flecki repeated. "Why didn't we think of that? Uhura, does the unit also make cornflakes?"

"I think that's not that important just now", they heard the voice of the com-officer. "Sir, we have much to report and would get you up this instant, but we've got a problem."

"The transporter doesn't work", the Captain retorted.

"Yes, how do you know?"

"A witch has seen it in her cristal globe."

Silence on the other end, then the voice was back – very troubled.

"Sir, are you sure that you're all right?"

Spock simply took the mobile from Kirk.

"Spock here, Miss Uhura. The landing party is healthy in body and mind. This was not the case in every phase of our stay and there have been several events which were unusual…"

"Now stop jabbering", Dr. McCoy interrupted him and snatched the mobile from him. "Hullo, Uhura. If I hear that correctly you overcame the effect of the laughing gas?"

"Yes, Doctor. Chekov and I will report but I think we will be very grateful to the Captain if the report will not be officially in the logbook. We partly behaved really…"

"…idiotic", came the voice of Pavel Chekov. "We could be glad that the gas did not effect the hamsters at all."

"Ay!" Now Lt. Scott had taken the mobile. "We partly also had nae known what tae do wi’out Hamstilidamst. Anyhow, ’t would've been quite a bore. – Pavel, how's Engineering?"

"Erm!" said the Russian. "Yes, well… It would be good to have you here, Mr. Scott."

"May I get that transmitter back now?" Kirk nagged and the Chief handed it to him. "Listen, you two. You've get to land the Enterprise here. When Scotty is back on board, he'll repair everything needing a repair, bust first the ship has to touch down here."

Somewhere in the background wild noises were audible, nothing was audible from the two officers for quite a while. Then Flecki's voice clearly said "Now will you shut up, you numbheads!" and also the background voices were silent.

“Er, yes, Sir, we guessed something like that”, Lt. Uhura hesitatingly said because she had no idea how the Captain would take her next sentence. “And because that it not that easy for a two-crew, the hamsters will assist us.”

Who will help you?” the Captain bawled and the Vulcan lifted an eyebrow.

“She said that the hamsters will assist them, Jim. What is so very absurd in that?”

The following silence had is reason in the fact that the Captain was seriously thinking and that on the ship the com-officer’s jaw had dropped. That certainly was a question she had not expected from Lt. Spock. Kirk made a crash course of remembering what they had lived with Hamstilidamst. Now he made a dismissive gesture.

“Let’s wait and see, Uhura. "Where are you at the moment?"

"Over Earth moon's north pole", Chekov said. "We cannot be localized from Earth."

"Ne’er fear, laddie", Lt. Scott said and the Captain handed him the mobile. "We'll prepare everythin’ down here. Just take care tha’ t’ com is nae botched wi’ – by some chief or t’ like. In twelve hours we'll get ye down and ye'll get all t’ assistance there is. Ay, we'll do that a' right."

"Just a minute", said Kirk. "Uhura, is the mayor in command?"

"Er – he had in the beginning", she meekly said, “and then…”

"Switch over to him", the Captain interrupted her who up to now had no idea how his officers had fared with the Mayor-Khan-Plushum-Commander.

"I'll get him", Chekov said, then Flecki's voice came again.

"Perhaps at last he stops sitting on that chair and talking rubbish."

"O my God!" Bones mumbled and gave a speaking look to the paling Captain Kirk.

"Mayor is here, Sir", Chekov said.

"Mayor", Kirk gnarled in his most official voice. "After you proved completely incompetent as temporary commander of the Enterprise, I enact directive 1158, paragraph 29, section c), line c)34. Accordingly I take the command from you and take over again. Following the named item of the directive I can do so although I am not on board. Until the time of my return to the Enterprise I name Lieutenant Uhura as First Officer. She has to take care that each of my orders is followed. In case you try to mingle, she puts you into the brig."

A sound of "Erm!" came from the transmitter and a big shout of "Taerg! Taerg!" Another hamster voice came in and Hamstilidamt cheered around on Kirk's shoulder. It was Goldi.

"Ey, doesn't matter if that dork mingles or not, we put him into the brig anyway. That's a first rate idea, we should have it ages ago."

"Goldi, Goldi!" shrieked Hamstilidamst. "We had super adventures and we get a painting and I'll be world famous. Do you have scones, too? They've fired Balthasar and we all meet here with Daby and the Big Boss and Veitli. Here in Clebrig."

"Ey, since when d'ye jabber that much? Clebrig like brig of clay?"

"Yes, 'xactly. And… Hey!!"

Lt. Scott had taken him from Kirk's shoulder. At the moment there were more important things to talk about than all their adventures. The three humans had a permanent grin on their faces, only the Vulcan stood there like rooted and glared at the petrol station beyond the street. The Captain discussed a few details but now they could always take up contact again and they had a lot of work to do here. When he handed the mobile to Lt. Spock, he noticed his expression.

"What's on, Spock?"

"Jim, neither the directive nor one of the sections you quoted on disposal of command do exist."

"What, you don't know that directive?" the Captain asked in a baffled voice, and Bones smirked.

"No, Sir, and I recapitulated the complete Starfleet protocols.”

"You should read again, my dear chap. That's the directive coming into force if hamster mayors unrightfully take command over a vessel. And you don't know that?!"

Spock's eyebrow went up. Lt. Scott laughingly patted the Doctor's shoulder and Hamstilidamst produced some summersaults until he crashed down onto the main road of Altnaharra.

Except the Vulcan they all were so slaphappy and delighted that they almost got into trouble. Everything had to be prepared for the landing of the Enterprise and just when they wanted to set out, a quite angry looking middle-aged lady blocked their way and told them that they had not paid their rooms.

Dr. McCoy who still held the cash, apologized a hundred times and paid much more than the rooms cost. From this evening on they no longer needed a cent or penny or which currency was just in somewhere. This evening they could leave their rucksack with everything they had bought here.

"But not the painting", Hamstilidamst protested.

"No, not the painting, of course."

"And if from your money you would pay a round of scones, then… then…"

"…it would be a really good investment", Dr. McCoy finished the sentence. "Boy, I'd like to call the Enterprise right again. I want to know that they're really here."

"Is there any reason to doubt this, Doctor?" Spock asked.

"No, but… Oh, you don't understand that, you greenblooded peak-ear."

"People! Silence!" the Captain warned. "We've got to check on the landing spot."

"And meet Daby", Hamstilidamst reminded him.

"Just so. I wonder if she succeeded to get enough chains of light."

So they walked to the stone circle. Arriving there, they stopped, quite baffled. For the officers this looked like a model aircraft exhibition. For the hamsters it was a complete aircraft pool standing outside the stone circle. Dozens of hamsters were busy unloading. It was quite a bustle.

"Anybody see Bombo?"

"Nae, Sir", Lt. Scott replied, "but I propose tae sit down on a stone a little aside. Ye dunnae want to step onto a hamster by chance."

"Goodness, of course not. – Hamstilidamst, would you go to look for the executive suit?"

"Can’t see anything of the kind ", Hamstilidamst said, looking around for some villa or the like.

"Jim does not talk about a suit to live in", the Vulcan explained. “You are to look for Bombo, Veitli, and Daby.”

"Can I tell them that the Enterprise arrived?" Hamstilidamst cheerfully asked, happy to be the first one to convey such a message.

"For sure", the Captain replied. "And tell them, they need not stow away all that stuff. We will need it tonight."

Unerringly, the hamster found Daby and the new president who controlled the unloading. Nothing was to be seen of the Big Boss. When Hamstilidamst told what had happened, Veitli immediately passed on the news to the outpost Clebrig staff. All hamsters interrupted their work for a tiny party. Well, they might if they were spared the labour to drag all the material into the outpost-system below the stone circle.

"And what does this mean?"

All hamsters froze for out of nowhere the Big Boss and his four bodyguards had shown up. President Veitli reported to him.

"Senor Hamstilidamst, guide me. Veitli, Senorita Daby, you accompany me", said the Big Boss and added: "And nobody has any reason to interrupt this most important work. The next party will take place when the mission is finished."

Well, a party could be expected, after all. And when these bipeds were gone, there would be party material lying, standing, and hanging about like no hamster in all Scotland had ever seen at one spot. And as the former President Balthasar got no chance to eat away the outpost-supplies, there would be munching without end. This did not mean that they liked the work any better but there was something to look forward to.

In the meantime the four most important hamsters had reached the officers. They assembled on a stone beside the one the officers were sitting on and the Big Boss said:

"I hear that your space ship had arrived and you will leave tonight. Congratulations!"

"Thanks", the Captain replied. "We're most relieved. And we are very glad that the transport of the runway lights worked that well."

"Don't mention it", Daby said with unfamiliar modesty.

"We have a big number of light chains at our disposal now", Bombo remarked, “moreover two dozens of signal rockets."

"Wow!" Dr. McCoy cried. "Someone’s thought along there."

"Are the chains of light compatible?" Lt. Spock inquired.

"Hum?" Hamstilidamst was nonplussed. "Why should they be competeable? With whom shall they compete?"

"I want to know whether the single circuits can be connected with each other without causing a power breakdown."

"Yes", Daby nodded, "it's the standard Scottish Hamsterparty-Equipment."

"Oh!" said Bones. "And what about power? Have you got any here?"

"'t ish no mosshback outposht ", President Veitli protested. "'t only ish so for the humans."

"Quite right", the Big Boss took the word again. "To Senorita Daby's knowledge we have 200 human-metres light chains here. Furthermore two HamHelis are on site which have to be equipped correspondingly."

"200 metres light chains?!" Lt. Scott cried. "Ay, ye know how tae make parties."

"Party is an integrated part of the hamstian gene pool", Bombo replied and without exception they all goggled at him.

"Er", the Capain stuttered. "Yes. That explains a lot."

"When we're off, it's party time here", Hamstilidamst announced.

He glared at Bones and Bones got the message. There was money enough to buy scones for the outpost-party and the complete Enterprise-crew as well. Party was to be expected there, too, after all. He nodded and winked at Hamstilidamst and Hamstilidamst grinned broadly.

However, he stopped soon. Everybody thought it a good idea that he stayed here and helped with the unloading. Jim in all earnest told them that he always assigned his officers to their best abilities. First Hamstilidamst had no idea that unloading cables was any ability of him, not to talk of his best one. Second he was none of Jim's officers. Third the Big Boss was not his boss after all and could not order him about.

Fourth, however, Daby was so obviously happy over his totally unvaluable help that he did not have the heart to sit in a corner and let the others do their jobs. The plans of the bipeds sounded incredibly boring.

"We'll walk off the area", Spock had said.

The officers were certain that he really would have been bored. Scotty took the tricorder, checked the state of the ground, obstacles, surface conditions. Then he calculated the approach angle.

"I've gotta talk ter Chekov", he mumbled again and again.

"Where's the flaw?" the Captain inquired.

"T’ ship ne’er came down on a planet, Captain. The landing supports ne’er've been out."

"It hardly can be expected that they are rusty", the First Officer remarked.

The Chief Engineer looked at the Vulcan as if he had gone nuts. Daft idea – nothing rusted on the Enterprise after all. But there might be impurities and Chekov had by all means to make a few simulations.

"’t would nae be a matter at all if only three more people were aboard", Lt. Scott lamented. "Landin’ modus hae tae be adjusted at several stations, landin’ control hae tae be checked at two stations at least."

"Simply put, we can't expect a smooth touch down", Kirk summarized who did not really think much about Lt. Uhura’s assurance that the ship-hamsters were going to assist.

"We have to check", Lt. Spock, "which is the endmost halting point."

"First of all we go looking what the hamsters may do", Kirk said.

"Pavel has to adjust the ground cameras to the point", Scotty mumbled.

"Indeed", the First Officer agreed. "He has to make out a weakly gleaming line."

"It will be dark", the Captain considered. "And if I look about me, it will be damned dark."

They walked back the distance. There was much heather. The hamster-light chains might not been seen between it. If that was the case they even had to dig out heather before laying the cables. There were some trees between them and the stone circle and these had to be the utmost halting line. Somehow the place had to be marked.

Enough open items to discuss with the hamsters. Outside the stone circle the unloading was finished now, the cargo plane had already left, the hamsters waited for the officers and their proposals. The Big Boss had placed himself on the bridge once more. When he saw the officers approaching, he shooed away all hamsters so that the bipeds could enter the stone circle without harming a hamster.

"Thanks for waiting", Bombo said politely when he faced the officers.

"Our pleasure, we don't want to injure anyone", Dr. McCoy replied.

"What are your plans?"

"We defined the angle of landing and the final halting point", the Captain said. "Problem is that the chains of light perhaps slip into the heather and can't be seen. The touch down area is very limited."

"The outpost manager can take care of that", Bombo said and looked up and down the bipeds. Then he added with a snigger: "We are much better than you when it comes to fastening cables at heather."

"Everything has its advantage", the Captain grinned. "So I propose that we lay out and connect the cables. That is much easier for us than for the hamsters."

"We understand each other", the Bog Boss nodded. "Veitli talked about a guide. The HamHelis will do that. I take it that you will not have much difficulty to equip the rotor naves with – er – spotlights or the like."

"There's a shop in the Altnaharra petrol station", Spock said. "I will try to find something fitting there."

"I'll come with you", McCoy remarked. "Got to do some shopping."

"Hullo? Who takes care of the light chains ?"

"Scotty and you, silly question", Bones retorted, patted Spock's shoulder and set out together with him.

"Only Scotty", Bombo said firmly. "Captain Kirk, I have to talk to you."

"Couldn't that wait…"

"Things taking us a day, take you an hour, and there's much time until night."

Big Boss sounded very much Big Boss and even if Jim did not like it, he nodded to his Chief. He was dependent on the hamsters' assistance and if Bombo gave an order, all hamsters were on the alert. Kirk had no choice but to give in.

Now Bombo made a short gesture with one paw and one of the bodyguards came running.

"Tell the manager, that Willy, that fastening material for he cables is needed. And now you are all off and take care that nobody is within our hearing – neither you. Got that?"

Obviously the bodyguard had got that. Looking at the scene, the Captain had the terrible suspicion hat Bombo had something to do with the Mafia. By now he saw no reason at all why there should not be some Hamster-Mafia. Bombo, the godfather! In what sort of business was he mixed up here?!

"Perhaps you can imagine, Captain Kirk, that I do not do all this for you just because you rid me of that silly Balthasar."

The Captain folded his arms and smiled obscurely. Aha, now he was to pay the bill. Well, he was curious.

"Let's put it this way", he replied, "we all agreed that the Big Boss was a little too kind with us poor bipeds."

"I want your ship."

Kirk's smile broadened. Who did this hamster think he was? It would be nothing to take him, stuff him into his pocket and so much to Big Boss. Now Bombo laughed.

"Obviously you get me wrong, Captain Kirk. I don't want to - capture your ship. I need the ship's sensors."

"Oh, do you?" Kirk politely asked. "And may I know what for?"

"For science reasons, Captain Kirk, for science reasons."

While Lt. Spock and Dr. McCoy were shopping in Altnaharra and Lt. Scott connected cables, the hamsters had free time. Only when the cables were laid, they would be employed again to fasten everything so that the tiny bulbs could be seen from above. President Veitli permitted himself a lunch break after the exhausting organisation work. He had ordered Daby to stay in the control room.

She had the permission to show the technical achievements of the outpost to the foreign visitor and so Daby and Hamstilidamst were sitting in the centre of the underground system. Normally this would not be hazardous. All control sensors were switched off because nobody was where he might have been expected to be, because hamsters were here who were not reported for the Clebrig-sensors and because furthermore some bipeds were trampling around here.

"I really thought I would have to ask your friends to help me", Daby admitted.

"You always can", Hamstilidamst retorted and stuffed himself with cheese crackers.

"It's no longer necessary. I think I have some plus factors with President Veitli."

"For sure."

Hamstilidamst was not really interested. He was hungry, yearned for his hamster friends and by now really and truly wanted to go home. Anyhow, this control room was not that bad. It would have been better still if everything was switched on. Along the walls were numbers of panels with blinking lights, lots of monitors were standing about. But somehow a control room without blinking and beeping was dead.

The meal-portioning box in the corner however was really swell. It was fun to walk over every few minutes, pull open a drawer and something tasty was in it which came down from a big container. Every time it was almost thrilling to find out what was in the drawer this time. So Hamstilidamst could think of nothing else.

When he got up the next time to go to the portioning box, he somehow slipped in a daft way and held to a panel. Of course he did not know which switch he had pressed but suddenly a voice said:

"… about the giant hamster."

"Ey, what are you doing there?!" Daby shouted.

"I almost crashed down here and held to this panel."

"And what did you do?"

"Boy, I almost crashed down…"

"Which switch did you touch?!" she angrily interrupted him.

"… were such finds", another, lower voice said.

"Hey, that's Jim!" Hamstilidamst cried. "Where is he?"

"That's a secret back-switch to the president's desk in case some talk has to be controlled. But this shall not be. Switch if off! At once!!"

Hamstilidamst looked at the panel and had no idea. Neither had Daby for such switches were not her business.

"A very long time ago some retro-development took place and we try to find the reasons", came Bombo's voice."

"That sort of development often has taken place in Earth history", Captain Kirk said. "It's quite natural."

"BANTACH’s task is to decode this natural process because we are convinced…"

"Did I press this one?" Hamstilidamst helplessly asked. "I simply don't know, Daby."

But Daby had stepped to his side and made a serious face. When he stretched out a paw to try some button, she hissed:

"Don't!"

"But you just said…"

"Be quiet!"

"You always want no one to…"

"Just be quiet!!" she shrieked and Hamstilidamst puffed up his cheeks.

"…reversing?" he heard Jim's voice. "How should that work?"

"If we can prove that the giant hamster once lived world wide, it would help us a lot. I'm certain your ship's sensors can check upon that, Captain Kirk."

"In general they can", the Captain admitted. "However, quite a lot seems to be out of order at the moment. I'm waiting for the report."

"And I am to believe that?" the Big Boss suspiciously asked.

"If it were not so, Bombo, we could transport onto the ship with a technique for which we would not need any landing and any runway. We call it beaming."

"How does it work?"

"I'm not permitted to hand out information on the technique of my time period", Kirk stiffly replied. "However, I can admit that our sensors might find such fossil traces."

"For certain you can admit that as so can our sensors, it's just much more laborious. Therefore such an assistance is not asked too much of you. We are looking for the giant hamster. If there still is useful genetic material in the fossils we want to find out what caused our reduction."

"And then?" the Capain asked.

"Nothing then. You are examining your fossil ancestors without 'and then', don't you?"

"That's correct", Jim's voice could be heard. "If our sensors are working we can make a detailed list of all fossil deposits of the giant hamster. Agreed?"

While the Big Boss agreed to this, Hamstilidamst watched a very, very thoughtful Daby. She decidedly looked like better not being talked to. And he would have just loved to talk to her, bring her something to eat, dance with her through the control room. He finally knew what BANTACH was about!

When he bent forward to nudge Daby a little, he once more touched some button. Loud noise was audible. A few moments later President Veitli entered the control room. Willy, the outpost manager, accompanied him. The loudspeaker offered some dim knocking beside the noise.

"Och", Willy said, "that building site at the lake disturbs the sensors again. We get that in a moment."

He pressed some switches and it was silent. Daby cleared her throat.

"Mr. President, we would like to take a look at Lieutenant Scott's work. Perhaps the staff can already begin their job."

"Yesh, do go", Veitli nodded.

Hamstilidamst in wake, Daby hurried through a lot of outpost passages until finally they saw daylight again in some distance from the stone circle. All the time the hamster girl had not said a word but Hamstilidamst had the impression that she was terribly troubled.

Soon they reached the bank of Klibreck Burn. Daby looked about her searchingly for some time, then nodded and scrambled down almost to the water line. In the bank there was a small cave. Into this cave she dragged Hamstilidamst and started – which indeed was very much unlike her – to ruffle her fur.

 

Chapter 44

 

Return of Enterprise – Memories I

 

After cutting the connection to the Scotland-group, Lt. Uhura turned round with a grin.

“They really met a witch with a crystal globe who has seen that our transporter is defect”, she said, disbelieve in her voice; Chekov giggled:

“Their adventures have been almost as mad as ours, haven’t they, Lieutenant? I think we can tell the Captain everything we’ve seen, after all.”

“Yes”, Uhura nodded and the grin went off her face. “And I think we have to tell him everything.”

The complete trip had been madness but the last actions had absolutely dwarfed everything – by any means. How had that been when the Mayor-Commander suddenly had said that there was only one way to rescue the universe?

“You will steer us and the ship into that black disaster?” Chekov had gasped. Uhura shook her head in disbelief but did not say anything at the moment. Beside them the hamsters stood lined up. Dodo wanted to say something but got kicked by Goldi and shut up.

“A ship with the ridiculous mass of about 400,000 tons? Where did you get your basics in physics, Ensign? That would be like spitting out a campfire with one trial.”

“I thank that chap is getting quite disgusting”, Flecki hissed and gave the Mayor-Commander reproachful glances.

“Disgusting?” the Mayor-Commander repeated. “No, I’m just trying to explain things to you on an adequately low level.”

“Quite unnecessary”, Flecki snapped. “Hamsters are absolutely able to communicate and interact on an intellectually high level!”

“Er, could you repeat that sentence, Flecki?”

“Later, Dodo”, chief Botchy cried, whose furiously red head was clearly distinguished in the group of hamsters. “I have to talk over one or two items with this gentleman!”

The chief engineer now hopped towards the Mayor-Commander who was sitting on the Captain’s chair in a relaxed fashion, wildly waved his paws and shouted: “Low level? I’ll tell you something about level, you plonker! Don’t you know that in Hamsterton we made basic experiments on the theory of relativity, he?”

The Mayor-Commander lifted his eyebrows a little and yawned. “Indeed? What kind of experiments did you perform?”

“Well, we worked in the area of speed of light, better of no speed of light…”

“The area of what?” came a surprised voice from the Captain’s chair.

“The – er – no speed of light. We succeeded to reduce the speed of light to below speed of light.”

The Mayor-Commander shook his head in disbelief and turned round to Botchy who now had his full attention. “How should that work?”

“Well”, chief Botchy explained, slowly stroking his whiskers, “Hamstian scientists made this sensational break-through, they could break down the speed of light to 50 km/h. I have been there myself.”

The Mayor-Commander just goggled and whispered: “For that you need gigantic fields of gravitation you certainly do not have at your disposal. So which trick did you use?”

“Easy”, Botchy grinned. “We just deflected the beam of light through the Hamstian post office and done with.”

“I always said that time stopped at their end”, Tealeafy giggled and nudged Taty who almost toppled over. Uhura joined the mirth of the hamsters for a moment but remembered the actual state of affairs.

“That’s all nice and well and I would feel much better if we could deflect the black antimatter planet through the Hamstian post office. But how shall we go on now?” She directed her question to the Mayor-Commander. “You said there is only one way left to rescue the universe?”

Silence on the bridge because really everyone on board was concerned. The Mayor-Commander was still sitting in the much too large chair; his chin was buried in his paws and he pondered. His eyes wandered from chief Botchy to Lt. Uhura to the main screen. “So we have”, he continued, turning round to Uhura, “at the moment 12 type X phaser banks, half of them armed, and 3 class II torpedo-launcher of 275 capacity, armed with only 50. That correct, Lieutenant?”

Uhura nodded silently.

“That might do.”

“Do what for?” Chekov cried who was a little miffed because the Mayor-Commander did not seem to take him seriously. On the other hand the Ensign also was miffed because he was miffed because of all people a hamster did not take him seriously.

“Well”, the Mayor-Commander said in the sort of soft voice one uses against kids, “we’ll have to direct the jets a little if you know what I mean, Ensign.”

Chekov swallowed, uncertainly looking at his colleague. “Jets?” her croaked.

“Exactly jets”, the Mayor-Commander confirmed. “You certainly know what that is – or am I wrong?”

“I once saw a jet flying right over Hamsterton”, Dodo cheerfully cried. “Boy, that made a noise, you couldn’t sleep and moreover…”

“Ensign”, the Mayor-Commander interrupted, “I hope you have a better explanation than that fat fool.”

While in the background Goldi was cackling, Chekov stared at the Mayor-Commander open-mouthed. “Well, jets”, he began and quickly thought of an explanation, “jets are a kind of hot waves a planet is emitting.”

“No waves, Ensign, but matter-currents emitting from the surface into space.”

Chekov bit his lip and looked at Uhura, but a quick eye-contact showed him that she also did not know what should be the outcome of all this.

“So you want to deflect these matter-currents by the Enterprise-weapons…” Chekov mumbled.

“Excellent, Ensign, you begin to get the idea.” The Mayor-Commander looked into Chekov’s face. “Oh, no, you do get no idea at all”, he added in a whisper and pointed to the main screen. “You see? The matter-currents from the planet grow. Soon we will compensate.”

“Torpedoes and phasers are not sufficient…”

“Quite right, Lieutenant and we also will help them to get fed. These are negative matter-currents on the lookout for positive matter, you might call them hungry. We’ll show them the way to the next restaurant.”

“That’s what I’m well acquainted with, I’ve already worked in a restaurant”, Goldi leisurely said.

“You?” Flecki gasped. “Please tell me that they kicked you out the first days after 10 minutes!”

“We-ell”, Goldi said, “not after 10 minutes, only in the afternoon. However, I had overslept and only arrived there by noon.”

“O yes”, Flecki cried, “now I remember, Fanny told me. When in the restaurant the phone rang, Goldi answered it. It was the mayor who wanted to book a table for some important visitors. Goldi said: ‘We don’t lease furniture here!’ and put down the receiver.”

“And then”, Tealeafy cackled, “one guest complained because he was not served and asked Goldi: ‘Waiter, where is my fried pumpkin?’ And Goldi just shrugged and said: ‘If it ran away from you, hunt it yourself.’”

The hamsters roared with laughter while the officers did not really know whether to join them or to be worried about the plans of the Mayor-Commander.

“Then he was to cash in when one guest called: ‘Waiter, bill please!’ Goldi trudged over to him, smiled with all his charm and said: ‘I’m waiter Goldi, we have no waiter Bill here.’ You should have seen the face of that guest and he called the manager of course to complain.”

“But beating everything”, Flecki grinned, “was Goldi preparing a salad. No idea what he mixed there but the guest complained and asked: ‘Waiter, was is that crawling in the salad?’”

“U-u-ugh!” Tuffy shrieked. “What did Goldi say?”

“He asked…” Flecki had problems talking on. “…asked them if they never had seen vitamins…”

“Well, thanks for the valuable contribution”, Uhura finished the hamster-chat and continued her discussion with the Mayor-Commander. “If it is not us, where is the next restraurant?”

“The next galaxy”, said the Mayor-Commander, “is not far off. It’s a ‘young’ galaxy, that is there is no life up to now. We will direct the jets, that is the matter-currents, by pointed torpedo fire towards this young galaxy.”

“And then there’s an exchange of antimatter and matter?” Goldi cheered. “That will be what I call a noise.”

“It will”, the Mayor-Commander confirmed, “but it will take a very, very long time. The crucial point is that inhabited galaxies are no longer in danger.”

“But this young innocent galaxy – that’s murder!” Flecki puffed up.

“It isn’t”, was the growled answer

“It is!”

“It isn’t!”

“It is!”

“It…”, the Mayor-Commander interrupted this spirited discussion and angrily shook his head. “Dear Flecki, would you like to pay a visit to that young innocent galaxy, shall I send you there? Remember however that is very, very uncomfortable and so hot that your young innocent fur would dissolve to its atoms.”

When Flecki only shook her head, the Mayor-Commander turned to Chekov. “Prepare phasers and torpedoes, Ensign, I will give you the coordinates later on. We will have the following sequences: On my command you fire 3 phaser-banks, then I’ll give you new coordinates and you fire the other 3 phaser-banks. A short time later you do the same with the torpedoes, 2 at a time. Any questions?”

Again Ensign Chekov caught Lt. Uhura’s eyes and as she did not appear to have objections, he said: “No questions.”

Part of the hamsters began to cheer, especially Goldi, Taty, and Tealeafy clapped their hands and shouted: “Trats, trats!” [1] The Mayor-Commander was not much impressed, he skilfully climbed down from his chair and hurried to Chekov to inform him the required coordinates.

“Isn’t our mayor wonderful?” Tuffy cried. “Oh, I’m so proud to be of Hamsterton…”

“Sure!” Flecki hissed. “And first of all that is not our mayor, he would have long since fainted. No, I tell you, that’s the Plushum, this mysterious creature.”

“Where did it come from?”

“No idea, Tuffy, perhaps it is some hamster-god?” Sasy proposed.

“Bollocks!” Flecki snapped. “Something else is behind this. Remember his sentence? He said he did not want to go in there once more and he meant this black planet! So he had been in that black hell before! Some hamster-god would be able to take care of himself, wouldn’t he? Some hamster-god would click his paws once and the whole mess would be gone. A hamster-god would anyhow…”

“Quite right, Flecki, I am no hamster-god.”

With a start, the hamsters turned round. None of them had noticed that he had finished giving the coordinates to Chekov and was on his way back to the Commander’s chair. He was directly behind them and paused in front of the curious hamsters.

“Pity.” Dodo was the first one to find some unappropriate words. “You could conjure us back to Hamsterton and perhaps, well, it’s like this, the light in my cellar is defect…”

“What about the mayor?” Tuffy butt in.

“Don’t worry, you will see him again. I will be delighted to leave this body – and first of all this brain. It’s a little – how shall it put it? – well, it’s a little exhausting.”

“Who are you?” Flecki asked the one question. “Are you… the Plushum?”

A gentle nod was the answer.

“That’s what I’m called. Once I was a creature like you, nothing but pranks and adventure and fun in my mind. I crossed space with a fast vessel. I ‘borrowed’ the ship as your friend Goldi would phrase it and did not plan to ever give it back. Invincable I felt and nothing could stop me. Then I met a singularity, a black star not far from my home planet. I at once recognized the danger it would bring to my people in near future and began to fight the singularity. I overrated myself and the firepower of my ship and so after many days and without ammunition and energy I was drawn into the black star-eater. I read each and every information I could find on board, hoping to find some solution. But it was hopeless and the only thing I could do before my ship was gorged was to leave it.”

“To choke?” Goldi asked, goggling at Plushum. “No very smart way.”

“Not on the face of it”, Plushum admitted, “but I realized that if matter collides with antimatter the complete mass is changed into energy. Exactly that was going to happen to me and my ship any moment. We would be matter in form of particles. Of course it depends on the type of matter to what sort of particles it is changed.”

“But that’s no reason to go into icy space and freeze one’s fur off…” Flecki was shocked.

“But of course”, Lt. Uhura cried, “it was the logical thing to do. Spock would be delighted.”

“Delighted would not be a word befitting a Vulcan, Lieutenant”, the Plushum continued, “but it was indeed necessary to separate from the ship.” Plushum saw the inquring looks of the hamsters with some amusement and said: “If I had remained in the vessel, the vessel and I had been changed to one energy unit. By leaving it, I was not mingled with dead matter. That is the reason why I’m living on as energy creature and lend a hand wherever necessary. Anyway, now and then it is necessary to take possession of some body to get into contact with other beings.”

There was quiet on the bridge, then Goldi grinned and cried: “That mossbeaver-matter wasn’t a full success, by the by.”

“Don’t remind me, Goldi, that really was the daftest creature I ever lived in. The mayor for instance is a little difficult to control because his brain is not really standard. The mossbeaver brain on the other hand answers no standard I know of, it did not even have a main memory – horrible.”

“And poor mossbeaver!” Flecki was now facing the Mayor-Plushum and put both paws to her hips. “What happened to poor mossbeaver? He’s stuck in some cold machinery, far from his friends and lonely, no one takes care of him and anyway…”

“Don’t worry, Flecki, when I leave and this mission is finished, I will take him with me. The creature will of course return to his home planet – all right?”

While Flecki looked suspicious but nodded at last, Ensign Chekov piped up.

“Out of the back up, Commander? Will that not be – let’s say a little complicated?”

Plushum sighed audibly and returned to the Captain’s seat, climbed up and sat down comfortably. “Don’t you worry either, Ensign. Ready for our little firework?”

Chekov nodded: “Ay.”

Plushum lifted his right paw, pointed at Chekov and lowered it again: “Fire phasers!”

The Ensign’s fingers danced over the keys, then he like all the others watched what was happening on the main screen. Red lines darted from the lower part of the screen, crossing it to the right upper part, leaving out the planet by far.

“Well”, chief Botchy trumpeted, “the coordinates seem not to have been very correct. That went fully into space!”

Plushum did not appear to have heard this remark but pointed at the main screen where something astonishing happened. The red lines suddenly came back to the centre and after a while seemed to disappear behind the black planet.

“Gravitation”, Uhura muttered, “the enormous gravitation diverted the phasers and took them to their target.”

“Exactly, Lieutenant. And what we were not able too see: The direction of the matter currents are influenced and changed now.”

“Three phaser banks are empty, Commander, I need the new coordinates…”

“Correct by 1 degree 58 minutes east and 5 degree 23 minutes north, Ensign, then fire the other banks.”

Chekov nodded and soon the marvelling hamsters could see the next red lines of phaser fire. They, too, seemed to dissolve in space until gravitation got them to pass the planet closely. When all phaser banks were empty, Chekov directed a short inquiring glance at Plushum who nodded his agreement. The Ensign fired the first torpedo salvo. This time 2 blue bursts took the same trajectory as the phasers before, they also described a high curve before they disappeared somewhere. And so it went on, minute by minute pairs of blue salvoes wandered over the screen.

“Enough!”

Now all glances wandered from the main screen to the hamster who close by was sitting in the much too big Comannder’s chair.

“Just for information, Chekov, how much have we left?”

“Phasers are at zero, but we have 2 torpedoes left”, the Ensign grinned and at the same moment started up because suddenly the Mayor-Plushum showed up in front of him at the keyboards. “I – er – I didn’t see you coming, Sir”, the Ensign mumbled. A nod was all the answer.

“Well, Ensign Chekov, let’s see if we have succeeded. Make an analysis of the planet.”

“What if we did not succeed?” Uhura asked.

No reply. Then the results of the analysis came and while Uhura and Chekov still were reading the data, Plushum shouted: “It worked, Lieutenant Uhura, the matter currents are flowing to the calculated direction. Ladies and gentlemen, the universe is safe!”

“I’m just remembering a joke. There was someone I knew who knew someone…” When Dodo saw the looks of his friends, he interrupted his funny speech, blushed and was quiet.

“Quite the crack, I didn’t know this one”, Tealeafy cackled, nudging Taty. “I know another one but I think the tall one wants to say something.”

“I want indeed, Tealeafy, thank you”, Uhura snorted and turned to Plushum. “In the name of mankind and of course in the name of all hamsters I like to convey my gratefulness and my congratulations. I never before had such an experience. I wonder however”, she added with an impish smile, “how I am to explain to my Captain why all the weapons of his ship have been fired.”

“Not all of them, Lieutenant, you are the proud owner of two torpedoes after all.”

“This will alter everything. My Captain will be delighted”, Uhura grinned. Then she became serious again and cautiously said: “Well, your mission seems to be finished. Would you mind to return command to me? Oh, and the hamsters would like to get their mayor back – some of them at least.”

Soft coughing in the background. Plushum nodded agreeably. “Indeed, about time to leave this body and first of all this brain. It’s a little tiresome if you so to say in a way get my meaning.” Uhura grinned and relaxed a little, while the hamsters giggled and Chekov guffawed.

“But where will you go now, Plushum?” Flecki asked with saucer eyes. “You might stay with us. We certainly have room for you.”

Plushum shook his head. “First I should need a body and second I am certainly needed somewhere in the universe.”

“In Dodo there would be room for two…”

While Flecki had a furious go at Goldi, clarifying that his remark was not only tactless but also extremely unqualified, Uhura turned to Chekov. “Pavel, deactivate all weapon systems and prepare course to Earth. Time to go home.”

Chekov nodded. “Ay, there’s nothing I’d like better, Lieutenant.” He keyed in something and turned back to Uhura. “Weapon systems deactivated, ready to turn.”

“All right. Ensign, turn the vessel”, was the short reply.

On the main screen the black now slowly disappeared from sight to the general relief. Soon the familiar sight of space and countless stars became visible. For one moment to the next the spirits relaxed.

“Hey, Dodo”, Taty shouted, “what about your joke? The one about someone you knew who knew someone.”

“No, not like that”, Dodo pensively said. “I once knew one who knew one.”

“And that was the joke you knew?” Tealeafy cackled.

“Nope”, Dodo retorted, “but that one did. Not the one who knew someone who knew it but the one who was known be the other one who knew him.”

“Why, sure, Dodo”, Tealeafy tried to sooth excited Dodo, “and now just tell us the joke slowly. Slow enough for you to understand it as well.”

“We-ell”, Dodo began, “two knickers met in the washing machine. Said the first to the second: ‘Hey, been on holiday?’ – ‘Why that?’ asks the second. – ‘Well, you’re so lovely brown’.”

Except Flecki who very much controlled herself not to vomit, the mood of the hamsters was now hilarious. Goldi thought it was time for further cracks. In the meantime Chekov had to shoo away several times the chief engineer because Botchy had ideas about assisting the navigator. The Enterprise-officers realized that there was another big problem. They were very, very far away from Earth, probably thanks to the antimatter planet. The wake of the planet seemed to have pulled them along millions of miles.

“Fifteen weeks, Lieutenant”, Chekov confirmed this first suspicion after a thorough calculation, “that’s what we shall need for our return flight. Flying maximum speed of course.”

“That’s not acceptable!” Uhura gasped. “We cannot leave the Captain and our people that long in another time’s Earth. The later we return, the more difficult it will be to find them. Who knows what kind of things have happened to them.”

“Captain Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scott rescued themselves from far more dangerous situations. I’m sure they are fine and enjoying the Highlands. Well, Lieutenant, there might be but one problem and that’s Scotty introducing too much of Scottish Whisky to them.”

“Whisky, Ensign?”

“Yes, Lieutenant, it is a stimulant made of cereals by alcoholic fermentation and distillation. Usually one drinks it and the taste…”

“Thank you, Ensign, I know what whisky is! Expensive hooch! In case you don’t remember, our people have only limited means as to money. Moreover the Captain would not permit such indiscipline.”

“Well, no, he wouldn’t”, Chekov admitted. “But it’s no hooch…”

Uhura only snorted and for a moment remembered the beginning of their adventure when the Ensign had been rather beside himself after consuming vodka. “Just like vodka, isn’t it?” she mocked. “And when you wanted new supplies and could not talk to the replicator and the hamsters wanted to help – what about the mayor-multitude?”

“’t was the fault of that darned laughing gas, Lieutenant, and moreover you thought all that screamingly funny – remember?”

“What about the – logbook, Ensign?” Uhura suddenly was quite formal. “Are there any reports about these – er – events?” She glared at the Ensign you did not answer at once. “I put a question, Mister. Well? Are there any log entries which might be of any interest to Captain Kirk?”

“There were”, Chekov stammered, “very few…”

“There were? Did I give any order to destroy confident log entries of the Enterprise, Ensign?” Uhura’s eyes blazed at Chekov, who felt a little unwell.

“No, Lieutenant, you did not. It was a sort of accident – accidentally deleted.”

Lt. Uhura looked at the hamsters who were listening spellbound. “Deleted?” she snapped. “Important proof, Starfleet property has been, as you say, accidentally deleted?” She stopped short and continued: “Well, these things do happen. After all we have not been on any official mission. I sincerely hope that nobody advises Mr. Spock to search for deleted files.”

“Ha”, Goldi triumphantly cried, “now you are liable to blackmail. You certainly don’t mind my having unlimited access to the replicator for the rest of our voyage, do you? Would be such a pity if someone started blabbing to this Spock, wouldn’t it?”

Silently Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov watched Goldi – grinning and paw-rubbing – walking to the replicator.

“Text that as I always loosed to pray – er – used to say, bump into France – er – jump at the chance. I want a strawberry field on Jupiter or I’ll sneak on Schmock!”

Heads jerked round, even Goldi and in spite of his rumbling stomach paused on his way to the replicator. Uhura was the first to regain control. “Spock – his name is Spock”, she muttered and cautiously approached the Mayor-Commander-Plushum-hamster. “Please, what was that? A strawberry field on Jupiter?”

“Well, erm, in a way that makes the fur shine – er – strawberries, not Jupiter…”

Uhura’s jaw dropped; her glance wandered up to the ceiling of the bridge.

“Nonsense, absolute, strawberries are completely out. Oil of sunflowers or safflowers is best!” Tuffy cried.

“Dry yeast mixed with egg yolk!” Dasy proposed.

“Or algae”, Flecki knew to report. “In hard cases use diet marge or cider vinegar!”

“Even better”, Sasy remarked, “are soy oil or wheat germ oil…”

“Quiet, dammit!” Uhura shouted who was shirted by this silliness. “What do you know about matter, respectively antimatter?” she snapped at the hamster, not knowing what or whom he was representing just now.

“Erm – well, I think I never knew any Matty and Annymatty, however…”

“All right, I don’t have any more questions”, Uhura disappointedly interrupted him. “Obviously you are what you originally have been. A real pity because I had a request to Plushum but now…” She broke off and turned to Chekov. “Now we have to look forward to a very long voyage home.”

General silence, then the mayor cleared his throat. “There – erm – there was something I was to delay – er – relay…”

“What? By whom?”

Uhura was facing the mayor, fixing her eyes on him.

“Some numbers…”

“Out with it. – Chekov, key in these numbers directly!”

The Ensign nodded, ready for action while the mayor thought things over. He tried to avoid Uhura’s steady gaze and whispered:

“12.2-95 – 121.5.33.”

“Chekov?”

“Coordinates, Lieutenant – nor far off!”

“Set course, Chekov. Many thanks, dear Plushum!”

“But I’m the mayor, dear Yoohoo…”

Lt. Uhura ignored the remark and hastened to the helm’s control, almost stepping on chief Botchy who jumped aside with a shriek.

“We’ll be there in a moment, Lieutenant. What will we find?”

“That’s what we’ll see when we are there. This energy creature or whatever we call it has known that we have the problem of the long voyage back. He certainly found a way to shorten the distance. Well, Chekov, here we are, what do the checks say?”

“That… I just don’t believe it”, gasped the Ensign, pointing at the main screen where all hamsters had assembled and as disbelievingly looked at the completely black screen. What had happened? Where were all the stars?

“Could somebody switch on the lights outside, please?” Tealeafy shouted.

“We are in some space-time-bubble”, Chekov gasped. “I heard about that but that was nothing but a theory…”

“Obviously not, Ensign. Plushum is a genius.”

“Would someone inform a poor little stupid hamster what all this means?” Flecki shouted, putting her paws to her hips in an outraged fashion.

“Sure, Flecki”, Uhura laughed. “The so-called space-time-bubble is a loop-hole in Einstein’s theory, a tiny cheat. It’s correct that we cannot overtake the light if we offer a fair race but who says that we have to be fair? If space-time is distorted we can shorten the route and overtake the light. Now we are in such a space-time-bubble – understood that?”

Except Dodo all hamsters nodded.

“Fine”, Uhura continued, not paying attention to Dodo’s loud paw-clicking as he wanted to say something. “Now the space-time ahead of the bubble is shortened and behind the bubble elongated. So the distance ahead of the space ship is shortened as well while at the same time the distance from our starting point becomes longer. The Warp-drive works the same way.”

“And how shall we brake when reaching Earth?” Flecki and Goldi cried almost uni sono.

“That’s exactly the problem because the Warp-bubble cannot be influenced from the ship. We are depending on outside help and I somehow think we may rely on Plushum.”

“A hero, a real hero, perhaps a Hamstian god”, Flecki breathed, completely overwhelmed.

“Perhaps”, the officer replied, “maybe he once had been of your own kind.”

“Maybe even mayor”, Dodo remarked – quite unnecessarily.

“Whatsoever, I just calculated that our time of travel will be considerably shorter”, Ensign Chekov cheered. “Very considerably, that’s great, just unbelievable…”

“Ensign, exact data please”, Uhura impatiently said and the reply was prompt:

“No more than two days, Lieutenant, to be exact: 38 hours!”

When the hamster-cheers died down for a moment, Lt. Uhura spoke again.

“Dear hamsters! I know what you are able to do and I want you to help my colleague Pavel Chekov and me. You know we did not set out for this trip of our own free will and we hope very soon now it will come to a happy ending. As matter of fact we have a real big problem because the transporter does not work and we will have to go down in Scotland as otherwise we will not get our people on board. Landing the Enterprise would normally need a much bigger crew; that’s why it is most essential that you behave with calm and prudence.”

“No problem’”, chief Botchy roared, “laughing stock for us.”

Uhura’s glance, directed to the chief engineer, might have made coffee jugs burst but she proceeded in a soft voice: “Will you help?”

Except Dodo who had Uhura’s speech explained twice by Trample, all hamsters cheerfully agreed. O yes, and except the mayor who was still sitting in Captain Kirk’s chair, muttering: “I’m sure to be Plushum’s successor. I am PlushumII!”

It did not take long to sketch out a kind of working schedule for the hamsters. They had to learn now and get a little acquainted with Starfleet regulations. After several almost-disasters because chief Botchy accidentally tried to open the exit hatches and after several unexplainable short circuits in Botchy’s vicinity, he was expelled from further activities. Which did not change the fact that one of the circuits had done something peculiar to the communication system.

In spite of his loud protests, Lt. Uhura had taken him at the neck and placed him beside the lift door. From now on Dodo was named to be a temporary member of Starfleet Security and had order to stop any kind of meddling of the chief.

“I think this nice Starfleet tradition should be invented in Hamsterton”, Flecki delighted cried when chief Botchy was pouting in his corner and Dodo waited with raised fists to take action. All wild threats of Botchy that he no longer would offer his advice and expert hints were received with great relief. Uhura would have enough trouble to get com connection without that.

Only the mayor harassed everybody. First he did not understand anything he was to learn, second he tried to discuss with all the world if he was the rightful successor of the Plushum and what would be the consequences for Hamsterton. Finally Goldi asked the baffled Uhura for ‘a suiting tissue’ and took care of the mayor. Soon the tissue was deep in the mouth of the would-be Plushum-successor so that there at last was quiet.

“Another word and you are furless”, Goldi growled and played with a phaser in front of the mayor’s face. An anxious nod was the answer.

“Goldi! Where did you get that phaser?” Uhura’s eyes tried a furious glittering.

“Well – er – yes, it was under the chair where Plushum had been sitting… By the by, that red button in his fur was no explosion switch at all, it was a candy, right yummy.”

“Goldi, the phaser, please!”

 

 



[1] Hamstish = Start, start!

 

 

Chapter 45

 

Return of Enterprise – Memories I

 

While the Enterprise in her time-space-bubble approached Earth, the hamsters learned a lot of things which a hamster never had done before. By and by the Enterprise-officers looked hopefully at the forthcoming touch down when they saw how clever most of the hamsters were and how surprisingly thoroughly they prepared for the mission ahead.

“You are really apt workers”, Uhura praised them. “I think we have earned ourselves a little break because we have almost reached our destination.”

“Of course we are apt workers”, Dodo cried. “Trample and I once even have taken jobs to earn money for a holiday!”

“The worst day of my life”, Trample gasped and sat down on the floor. Curiously the two officers came closer to listen to his story. “All started with Dodo’s and my wish to make a holiday in Hamsterjelly. Goldi had told us how swell it was there. But we had no money, had to look for work. Dodo took a temp job with the Hamstian Police and I worked as temp locomotive driver with the Hamstian Railway.”

“As to Dodo that did not work for long, did it?” Flecki jeered, looking at the big hamster.

“That was not my fault”, he wailed, “that was a sequence of unhappy events.”

“Was that the bank robbery?” Taty asked and grinned. “Well, that went as wrong as wrong can be.”

“But it really wasn’t my fault, I was not properly trained”, Dodo said with a sniff. “I gave my very best and showed full activity…”

“That’s it”, Tealeafy grinned. “That much about your very best.”

“And he wasn’t paid for thinking”, Goldi added.

“Now let him talk”, Uhura grinned. “Chekov and I don’t know the story after all.”

Dodo looked at the Enterprise-officer with big, moist eyes. “It happened the very first day after I had learned to make coffee and was allowed to sort wanted posters. Most of my colleagues had left for their break early in the morning and so we were too few people when that emergency call came in. So the squad leader said that I should come, too.”

Dodo paused and helplessly looked at his friends.

“Go on!” Tuffy shouted.

“It’s such a long time ago, I try to remember”, Dodo muttered.

“Three very long weeks”, Taty jeered, “impossible to remember.”

“It was a bank robbery, now I remember!” Dodo cried. “We drove with real police cars to some building where lots of people were standing. The squad leader and two cops left the car. They told me to drive the car to the backside of the house and at the backdoor pay attention that the bank robber does not leave.”

Once more Dodo paused and then continued: “So I was sitting in a real police car and was proud. I was taking part in a real police operation. Suddenly the back door opened and someone came out. He looked strange, I can tell you. Over his head he had a black mask and bags in his paws. Of course I got out of the car to take him to task. ‘Hey, did you rob a bank?’ I shouted, facing him. ‘Now, come on’, he said, ‘how should I carry such a large building with me?’ Well, he was right, he only carried bags, no bank. Then I asked him why he was wearing a mask and what about the bag. He told me that he was trying his new skiing mask because he was on his way to his skiing holiday and urgently had to get a train.”

“Well”, Chekov remarked, “but he couldn’t take you to the cleaners, could he?”

When the hamsters rolled on the floor of laughter, the Ensign realized that just now he had said something very stupid.

“To which cleaners?” Dodo asked in a confused voice. “Well, anyway, he carried no bank and could not be a bank robber. Moreover there was a sign at the police station which said ‘The Police protect and serve’.”

“You…” Something dawned to Chekov. “You did not carry the bags for him, did you?”

“O no”, Dodo smiled, “I just took him to he station so that he could reach his train.”

Now also the Enterprise-officers joined in the mirth of the hamsters while Dodo finished his story: “In the late afternoon they send me home and told me not to come back. No idea, why not.”

After the laughter of humans and hamsters had died down, Trample began his story.

“The same morning I learned how to drive a locomotive. It was quite simple and so right at the first day I was to make rather an important tour. We were to fetch the mayor of Hamstermound and his wife and many VIPs to the opening of the new Hamsterton station. When in Hamstermound everybody had boarded, I closed the heavy sliding to of the driver’s cab.”

Trample paused for a moment and swallowed several times.

“Unfortunately I did not see that our driver just wanted to get in. Only when I heard his cries of pain, I opened the door again and saw that the poor chap had his paws between the steel door and the frame. He immediately had to be sent to the Hamstermound hospital.”

He paused again and did not seem to hear the merry chuckles of his friends.

“By wireless I got order to take over the job and drive all the VIPs to the Hamsterton Main Station where a big reception with red carpet, great munching stands and many visitors was prepared. I knew that I could manage that and so fate took its course. The ride was nothing to talk of and so some time I started to polish the instrument panel because everything should be perfect for the event. Well, and suddenly it happened: I slipped on the glass of the temperature indication and fell. And the strap of my nice new overall got caught at the speed regulator. So there I was hanging and could not free myself while the speed lever was pulled down and down by my weight. Some time we reached maximum speed and I couldn’t help it. Some time we reached the Hamsterton Main Station; I saw many colourful things flying through the air, then I fainted. I woke up much later when a medic-hamster took care of me.”

“Well, folks, that was the real Trample-show!” Goldi cheered. “That day I had nothing special to do and heard something about free lunch at the station. So I went there. The station was decorated all over, several speaker platforms, monstrous red carpets. Then came Trample. On the station they all craned their necks, arranged their outfit, some climbed onto the platforms. Our mayor was standing on the highest platform, grinning daftly as usual. He waved to the racing train and leaned forward like all the others. Careless, of course but they could not know that the driver was dangling helplessly at the speed lever. The train came in but did not slow down and did not stop. When the train rushed by in world record speed, the eyes of the mayor and his VIPs almost popped out of their sockets. They whirled down from their platform together with all the tinsel. The red carpet was lifted into the air and disappeared like a real magic carpet. Pity, hadn’t been cheap. – By the by, did you get payment for the day, Trample?”

Sadly Trample shook his head. “The Hamsterjelly holiday came to nothing.”

“Poor chap”, Uhura pitifully said and turned to Chekov. “Can you check how far from Earth we are?”

The Ensign walked back to his station and keyed something in. First he looked at the monitor, bewildered, then his eyes wandered to the main screen and he froze. Everyone on board did the same. Something amazing was to be seen: After a long time the screen showed the familiar view. Chekov whirled round, keyed in some commands and turned back to the main screen. A bluish ball of the size of an orange drew all glances magically. Awesome all hamsters – except Botchy – were standing upright with bent paws in hamster-fashion.

“Earth”, Flecki breathed, “isn’t it just beautiful?”

“Yes”, Uhura agreed, “so it is but we are not yet there. Next we will pass the moon. Well, chaps, now take your stations. In a few minutes I will try to contact Captain Kirk. Remember what you have learned and don’t be afraid to ask if you do not know something. Watch thoroughly and see that you work equally thoroughly.”

While each hamster took his station on the bridge, Uhura sat down in the Captain’s chair for a moment and silently watched the main screen where Earth was ahead of them like a glinting globe in space.

“The Plushum”, Chekov thoughtfully said. “Do you think Captain Kirk will believe that story?”

“Not if he finds any report of the time we were under laughing gas influence. – Well, now we really will start. Everybody on his station?”

Except the mayor and of course the chief engineer everyone confirmed.

“Let’s got, friends, good luck!” Uhura shouted. Then she once more turned round and said in a wistful voice: “Not to forget it, my dear hamsters: No matter how this will end, you are a great troop and I always will remember you!” Now she turned to Chekov: “Moon orbit, Navigator!” The Ensign confirmed with a short nod and a moment later the view on the main screen changed. A cry of pain suddenly mingled with the surprised muttering of the hamsters. “What the…”, Uhura began and turned towards the door of the turbo lift.

“He made a suspicious movement”, Dodo mumbled and pointed at the chief who was lying on the floor.

“Dummy, I only wanted to lean to the door frame!” came a croak from the floor.

“In a suspicious fashion!” Dodo insisted.

Well, that had been their story of return. Chekov had gone into moon orbit and after a long, long time they could listen again to the voices of their colleagues. Oh, and the voice of Flecki’s brother Hamstilidamst of course. The Captain and the others seemed to have had a lot of fun with him in Scotland.

At the least they would have noticed that hamsters were quite clever, otherwise Captain Kirk certainly would not have accepted the hamster-assistance at touch-down. Uhura giggled when she thought of his expression at the news. And she grinned even more when she remembered the stories the hamsters had told about Hamsterton-events. Would be quite a sight to scan the whole from up here.

For the time being they had to do nothing but wait for the next call. Chekov and Uhura, each of them with a pot of coffee on their desk, made a check list of repair works to be done if the others were back on board. In the vicinity of the replicator however a party was taking place.

Chekov who now and then gave the matter an amused glance, was roughly recalled to reality a few minutes later. Lt. Uhura was at his side: “Dr. McCoy wants to talk with you!”

 

Chapter 46

 

Holodeck

 

In the meantime the Captain had gone to see his Chief Engineer who did real expert work and connected all the tiny cables. Kirk helped him and they decided to shoot the equally tiny signal rockets at the spot where tonight the Enterprise had to stop at the utmost. Now they began to walk back slowly towards the stone circle. On their way they did their best to place the thin cables onto the heather so that the hamsters could fasten them.

"I wonder what sort of material they've got", Scotty remarked. "If we can handle it with our fingers, there's no reason not to help with it."

"Jim! Jim! Hullo!"

It was a whispered shout which the translator just could take up. The Captain looked around and the Chief pointed at a small tree. On the lowest branch of it Hamstilidamst and Daby were sitting and excitedly waving to them. Well, what was it now?

"Jim, we've been in the control room."

"Hamstilidamst, I'm sure it was absolutely thrilling", the Capain grinned.

"Well yes, it was very interesting at least – what we heard by chance", Daby said.

"Shoot!"

"Big Boss had a chat with you", Hamstilidamst squeaked.

"Hey, yes, I remember now, he had!"

"We're serious", Daby snapped and Jim at once make a serious face. "He told you", she continued, "that it is the task of BANTACH to look for traces of the extinct giant hamster and make research work by means of remaining genetic material to find out why we became that small."

"Why yes, but I don't think that you were to listen."

"I don't either. This task no BANTACH-hamster knows."

"Well, the Big Boss seems to know it well enough."

"And he seems to be the only one who knows it." Now at last the Captain really listened and asked after the official version. "Oh, we do search for everything having to do with fossil relicts of hamsters, no matter which time period, no matter which size they had. We are to prove that in prehistoric times hamsters were living all over the world. – That's all."

"Sorry, but Bombo told my quite a different story."

"And I wonder why."

"He's got something in mind, that's a crooked one", Hamstilidamst squeaked.

Just now Spock and McCoy returned like being called in, both heavily loaded. All the way Bones had imagined how Hamstilidamst would fall on him instantly. He was right baffled when Jim beckoned him with a gesture he knew from long experience: Something was wrong.

Fore sure something was very wrong because he put down two big boxes with scones and neither Hamstilidamst nor Daby even turned their noses into the direction. Also the Vulcan noted this unusual disinterest and lifted an eyebrow.

"Bones, do come here", the Captain begged. "Inhowfar can genetic material of fossils be used?"

"Stating DNA of course. With some luck cells can be cloned…"

"Could a fossil be revived that way?"

"Come on, Jim, have you watched some bad movie?!"

"Just a moment, Doctor", Lt. Spock interrupted. "That depends on the fossil. You could not produce a – Neandertal man from a fossil cell, but it is possible with other life forms."

"Do we talk about the means of our time or the means of this time?" the Captain asked.

"Our time", Dr. McCoy replied. "I've no idea what is possible or not today. Why do you ask? What's the matter here?"

Captain Kirk told him. Bombo was absolutely convinced that millions of years ago the giant hamster was the ruling life form on Earth. If he wanted to prove it – why not? But he could do that with finds of bones. If he searched for genetic material in these bones, it was quite another story.

"As thanks for his assistance with our departure he asked me to search for giant hamster fossils with the Enterprise sensors. He takes it for granted that it won't be a problem for us."

"Well, it won't", Lt. Scott shrugged. "We can do that within ten minutes, but…"

"But", Daby nodded. "It sounds fishy to me."

"To me it sounds whale-ly", Hamstilidamst agreed.

"Think it over", the Captain turned to his First Officer. "BANTACH has outposts all over the world. If we tell them where they can find giant hamster relicts, somebody always can get there quickly. – Daby, since when does the organisation exist?"

"Three years – and Bombo founded it."

"I knew it", mumbled he Captain. "Mafia."

"Jim, the giant hamster never ruled the world", Spock said, bewildered.

"Well, if this hamster plans what I think…", McCoy said and sorted out his thoughts. "It's not possible mind you, but… He wants to know why hamsters became that small and he wants to check that on fossil genetic material. Correct?"

"Correct", nodded Kirk.

"Genetic code reversal."

"Code – what?"

"You decode in which way you mutated until you were hamster size. If you find out you can reverse the mutation until you regain your original height – or much more."

"E-elephant sized hamsters?!" Hamstilidamst screeched.

"Each of your front teeth 30 centimetres", the Doctor nodded. "I tell you, it does not work, but to have such an idea, such a plan…"

"To get that clear", the Captain said in a serious tone. "It really would not work?"

"No. There have been theories, there are and have been unprincipled scientists who experimented on this, but they all failed."

"And if the Big Boss has a trick on store?" Hamstilidamst anxiously asked.

"Hand me the transmitter, Jim", McCoy said. "I've got an idea." He called the Enterprise and wanted to talk to Ensign Chekov. To him he said: "Chekov, my boy, do listen now very carefully. I want you to work out something for me."

Afterwards he talked long and urgently. When he started there still was hamster chat audible in the background but it very soon died down. Finally Ensign Chekov confirmed that he had understood all of it, one word came out of the said background: "Holodeck!"

The fastening wires in the outpost were too tiny for big human hands. So the officers did a job which would be a real act of strength for the hamsters. They drilled small holes into the ground and stuck in the signal rockets. Afterwards they took care of the helicopters. Lt. Spock had bought two halogen lamps for bikes. He and the Chief Engineer fastened them at the two rotor naves. The rotor fixture would work like a strong dynamo so that the whole promised rather bright light in the night sky.

It was a tricky job and they did not talk much. The Captain had to confess that he was rather shocked. Bombo the Big Boss as ruler of the world! Nothing else he ever had had in mind. And now he thought to realize his plans with the assistance of the Enterprise. And now he really had the guts to come along to watch their work. They had to fake having no knowledge of his dark plans.

"I think we can start a test", Lt. Scott said.

"Kind of?" the Big Boss asked.

"See if it works. In our time we don't have to do things like that."

"You mean you just invented this?"

"Ay, ye might say so", Scotty nodded.

Bombo let out a shrill whistle and two of his bodyguards came running. He sent them to fetch the heli-pilots. The helicopters need not rise. It was enough to set the rotors in motion. And the bipeds had to do no more but stand up to see if the lamps were shining.

"Looks great", the Captain said. "Well done, Lieutenant Scott."

"It is 15.30 hours local time", the First Officer announced.

"That late?" Kirk retorted. "I'll call the ship."

"Just a moment, Captain", Bombo interrupted. "You won't forget our little agreement?"

"As to that", the Captain said, sat down between the heather again and bent down to the hamster. "I would like to let Dr. McCoy into the matter, Big Boss. He's one of Starfleet's leading doctors and genetics are his specialty."

That was not quite right for even if Bones was one of the best doctors, he had no special knowledge on genetic – at least not for the ideas of his own time period. But the Captain now had to overdo this a little.

"Did you make tests like we have in mind?" the Big Boss asked.

"Only McCoy can answer that."

"I will talk to him."

The Captain turned and beckoned Bones. Towards the others he made an important shooing gesture that they should leave. Grinning, Dr. McCoy sat down beside Kirk into the heather and Kirk told him what this morning Bombo had told him. The Big Boss watched the doctor closely and saw that McCoy lost his grin and goggled into the landscape.

"Do you listen to me at all?!" the Captain sharply asked.

"Er, yes – yes, of course. Of course I'm listening."

"Why are you stammering?" Bombo suspiciously asked and Jim nodded.

"Yes, I want to know that, too."

"Well… Now listen, Jim… What the Big Boss is saying… Well, nature does not seem to like it."

"What balderdash is that?!" Bombo snapped. "What does nature not like?!"

"It… Well, I'm awfully sorry, Bombo, but the giant hamster… He was not very – clever!"

"Clever enough to be living all over the world", the Big Boss hissed.

"O well, everyone knows reproduction", the Doctor casually said - or it sounded casual.

"Hum!" nodded the hamster as he had to admit that even most silly creatures like gerbils knew enough to reproduce very much indeed. "But that's not answer to my question."

"Well… It's like this…" Bones bent forward in a confiding style. "Sometimes the body grows but the… Well, the brain does not grow with it."

"And that was the case with the giant hamster?!" Kirk was tremendously surprised, then he squinted at Bones. "You surely can explain how you know that."

"Er!" Bones was embarrassed to looked into the air.

"Dr. McCoy!" the Captain shouted at him in an official tone. "I want an explanation."

"Ay, Sir! – It is like this, every species, no matter which, having a brain in its head…"

"Go on!" Bombo gnarled when the Doctor artfully broke off.

"The fossil finds… It is like this, there is no species where at the skulls of countless finds there are no imprints of the cortex at the inner side of the skull."

"Well, certainly not at the outer side", Kirk snapped.

"Ay, Sir! – The giant hamster… He is an exception", Pille ejaculated. "Nowhere cortex imprints, never, not one case. We could prove the roots of the spinal chord but in case there has been a brain stem and cerebellum… It has to be extremely… It must have been shrivelled during the size mutation to the giant hamster."

"I don't believe you!" the Big Boss yelled.

Dr. McCoy jumped up and excitedly marched up and down. Interestedly and with a troubled face the Captain watched him. Only once he squinted aside to see whether Bombo believed the show. The eyes of the Big Boss followed the doctor's every pace. Bones suddenly began to wriggle his hands and sank down on his knees in front of the hamster.

"I'm so sorry", he groaned. "Never I should have believed that the result of an experiment might hurt me so much. When we left the ship I could not have believed it. But now, after knowing all the intelligent hamsters… All my big success is gone to ashes!"

Slowly Captain Kirk rose and tensed some muscles to get his head red of rage. Then he said in a low, dangerous voice:

"To understand you correctly, Dr. McCoy: Did you perform the genetic experiments which all laws forbid? I suspend…"

"STOP!" Bombo roared. "Before someone is suspended here: What kind of genetic experiments have that been, Doctor?"

"I put the same to myself, Bombo, exactly the same! Why did some species in the space of millions of years grow and shrink again? There have to be reasons – there are reasons. Nature wants the optimum size and form for everything with exactly the kind of intelligence everything needs to survive. No matter if it is strength or cunning or speed or aptness or…"

"I understand, stop that listing up. What kind of experiments have that been?"

"We got those hamsters on board…"

"No!" the Captain painfully cried out. "No, you assaulted one of Hamstilidamst's friends?! As you assaulted the gruntfrogs of Centauri? As you experimented with the Actarian giant stiltspider? As you…"

"That means", Bombo angrily interrupted, "this doctor has done a wide range of genetic research work and tried to mutate a hamster into a giant hamster. Can you prove that, Doctor?"

By now the Clebrig outpost staff had finished their work. As ordered by the Big Boss they had to make a little detour to their outpost not to get near Bombo and the officers. The bodyguards were not the most intelligent creatures the hamster species had to offer but they did exactly what the Big Boss asked and had quite a good life with that method.

They however had not noticed that two hamsters had not taken part in the work and they also did not notice that these two hamsters were hidden between the twigs of a shrub and listened to the show of Kirk and McCoy. They were very quiet. Jim hat told them that he would play the game at random and so they had to watch and listen carefully.

Well, now the Big Boss wanted to have proof and Jim and Bones had decidedly counted on that. They would give a proof and they only could give it because that funny beaming did not function. Those two had had a right swell idea, Hamstilidamst thought and Daby was in honest respect of the idea.

"Of course, but…", Bones replied to Bombo's question.

"But what?" he hissed.

"That's on the ship!"

"You will pay for that!" the Captain yelled. "How can you make such experiments on my ship, on my Enterprise? You did not use genetic material of fossil giant hamsters, did you?!"

"Er, of course I did." Bones faked surprise. "Otherwise it would have taken ages. – Chapel…"

"Who?" Bombo butt in.

"Dr. Chapel, my colleague on board. I ordered her to continue the tests. I don't know the outcome and…"

"Of one thing I can tell you the outcome", Kirk gnarled. "These have been the last experiments of your whole life."

By and by the Big Boss realized that it had been really clever of him not to tell this respectable Commander about his really life size plans. It was really unnerving how he flared up and knocked the stuffing out of the Doctor who had made all the research work Bombo had wanted his scientists to do. Now he said matter-of-factly:

"Captain Kirk, you may do with Dr. McCoy what is your duty to do, that's your business. But to know how the giant hamster degenerated I would be much interested in these researches."

"Indeed?" the Captain retorted testily. "As matter of fact I also would be much interested what you have done there, Leonard. Incredible, really incredible!"

He saw Lt. Scott who was out of earshot with Spock, beckoning to him. So he nodded shortly to the Big Boss and walked over to his Chief. He did not change his angry face but whispered:

"He's at the hook, people. How about the ship?"

"Enterprise is here", Scotty replied in an equal whisper. "Above the magnetic pole."

"With the vivid assistance of all hamsters the preparations have been made", the Vulcan added and those who knew him well enough, knew that he almost grinned.

"Okay. Scotty, you are enraged now", said the Captain. "Spock, you are shocked in Vulcan style."

"Vulcans are never shocked", he objected.

"You are shocked now!"

"Ay, Sir."

From the distance it appeared like the Captain explaining to the two other officers the crime of Dr. McCoy and Lt. Scott now began to thunder. Normally he was quite good at thundering but he could not really think of anything. So he rummaged for his Gaelic vocabulary and scolded on in a language the Big Boss did not understand.

Contrary, Spock put on his iciest face, came with long strides and faced Dr. McCoy.

"After all the past incidents nothing better could obviously be expected from you, Dr. McCoy", he said in a cutting tone. "I tell you that I detest you and never again will share my plumex-soup with you."

The Doctor's jaw dropped, he looked deeply shocked. In truth he once had tasted that fiery hot Vulcan broth and felt nothing but the wholehearted desire never to do so again. The kind of contempt which the Vulcan offered to him was too much for his self-control. But he managed to keep the shocked expression, turned away and buried his face in his hands. So nobody could see that he was shaking of suppressed laughter.

Close by Hamstilidamst and Daby were lying in each others arms and also shook with laughter. What a pity that they could not do it in full cheer.

"It really seems to be a kind of punishment", the Big Boss said who only could see McCoy's shaking shoulders.

"It is indeed", the First Officer replied. "There is nothing more delicious in the whole galaxy and he is addicted to it."

"We think there will be a possibility", the Captain said who had returned together with Lt. Scott.

Welcome interruption for Bones for now Bombo fully concentrated on these two and he by and by could relax.

"What kind of possibility?"

"Daby earlier gave a hint that there is a control room with monitors at the outpost."

"That's correct, the outpost is fully networked."

"So we could build up a video connection to our space ship", Lt. Scott proposed.

"You want to log in with Earth's satellites."

"No, no, that would be registered and the ship must not be registered", the Chief said. "Just believe me that we can switch in the corresponding frequencies."

"The frequencies have to be adapted first", Lt. Spock said.

"One of the technicians can do that", Bombo replied and the Vulcan lifted an eyebrow.

"And won't he tell to everybody what he sees there?"

"No!" Dr. McCoy groaned who still had red eyes from laughing tears. "O no, you cannot do that to anyone. They would lose the trust in themselves."

"We know Daby as very discreet and we know that Hamstilidamst has some most interesting technical talents", Captain Kirk proposed and thought of McTinker’s exploded lab. "We cannot do it."

"Senorita Daby is loyal to BANTACH", Bombo nodded. "And Senor Hamstilidamst will leave with you. Agreed. Explain to them what to do. They probably are in the outpost."

"Probably they’re in our rucksack", Scotty dryly retorted.

For Hamstilidamst and Daby this was the sign to leave their hiding place and set out for the rucksack under the cover of the heather. And if they already were in the rucksack, they as well could get at some biscuits. Just a minute! Had Bones not brought lots of scones earlier?!

A cable wound its way out of one of the outpost entrances. Together with his colleagues Lt. Spock was sitting in the centre of the stone circle and connected the cable to the tricorder. The transmitter was docked to the other side of the tricorder. This way they got a video connection to the Enterprise which could be transferred into the outpost control room.

In the control room Hamstilidamst plugged in the cable and thought that he was much better at such things than chief Botchy. Daby assisted him and secretly made a connection to the manager's office. There not only Willy just stuffed his belly but President Veitli as well. From the control room every monitor could be switched on and very soon those two would see what the plans of the Big Boss really were. Daby was not sure if she could estimate the new president to his true value after such a short time but somehow she had the feeling that he would not be delighted on Bombo's plans.

"Okay", one floor above the Captain said in an undertone. "I hope on the Enterprise everybody's briefed."

"So do I", the Vulcan nodded. "If I switch it on, it is a direct connection."

"Cannae do more wi’ that cable", Lt. Scott said regretfully.

"O well", Kirk replied. "I rely on it that they all react to their best up there. – May we?"

The Vulcan nodded and handed the Captain the technical miracle he had tinkered. Kirk once more looked from one of his officers to the other, took a deep breath and pressed the speaking button.

"Kirk to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Lieutenant Uhura. Capain, we have…"

"Uhura, switch on the main screen, we – tinkered a video connection."

Five seconds silence on the other end. Then the tricorder display came to life. There were some wild running lines and slowly the face of the com-officer emerged. Kirk had not thought that ever in his life he would be so glad to see her and now he could not even show his joy.

Well, he might have grinned as in the control only the face of the dark-skinned woman could be seen. Also in the office of outpost manager Willy this face became visible when the monitor had switched on.

"Now what's that?" Willy asked and Veitli frowned.

"'t ish very strange, isn't it?" he asked.

He continued frowning while he listened what Captain Kirk had to say to the com-officer. He explained what had happened, which horrible crime Dr. McCoy had done. Everybody could see how Uhura's shocked eyes grew bigger and bigger. Suddenly she turned her head and said:

"Pavel, what's the hamster's name whom our little friends have been looking for all over the ship during the whole trip?"

"Dodo", a background voice replied. "Does that mean…"

"O my God!" Uhura groaned. "How shall we explain that to the hamsters?"

"That's another problem", Captain Kirk replied. "We have someone here who is interested in certain aspects of hamsters’ growth. Ethic does not permit it to destroy McCoy's experiment. When we are back on the ship, we have to clarify what has to happen with it."

"Oh, but this is horrible!" Uhura lamented and wiped her eyes.

"It is indeed. Anyhow, we want to show the result of this detestable research work to Bombo the Big Boss."

"The Big Boss", Uhura repeated in an extremely neutral tone.

"The boss of the BANTACH-organization, we'll tell you later on", Kirk impatiently said. "Now give me a connection to the experimental lab."

"We have some difficulties with the controls and… Oh! No, Chekov just signals to me. I'll switch on to Dr. Chapel."

Naturally, the data banks of the Enterprise holodeck contained all data of the crew so that it had not been difficult to generate Nurse Christine Chapel. During the peculiar events the hamsters had experienced on the holodeck they, too, had been scanned. The most difficult thing had been to programme an experimental laboratory like some hamster boss probably imagined such a lab to look like. The hamters on the Enterprise had been of most valuable assistance.

However, now the face of Christine Chapel appeared life size on all monitors. The only difference to the real Christine were those unpleasant fanatical eyes this one had. She was sitting at a desk, behind her was a cage with gerbils which were very noisy.

"Dr. Chapel?" the Captain said, not knowing how she was programmed and how he could talk with her.

"Captain, good to see you", she replied however and sounded like the real Chapel.

"Yes, good to be in contact again. – Dr. McCoy has performed several experiments before we left the ship and asked you to continue these experiments."

"Yes, indeed, terrific success regarding realization.  Apart from that…"

“Apart from that?" the sharp voice of the Captain was audible in the control room.

Bombo leant forward and glared at the monitor.

"Well, rather unsatisfactory and minor. Probably it was no very intelligent specimen. But the difference to the hamsters we have on board as guests is tremendous."

Now the Captain explained to her the kind of interest Bombo had in this experiment. While the fanatic gleam in Chapel's eyes became more accentuated, in Willy's office a deep frown built on Veitli's forehead. There was something he did not like here, he just did not know what it was.

"She shall show the giant hamster now", Bombo gnarled and outside the Captain said, too:

"Show us the result of the experiment, Dr. Chapel."

"Of course, Captain, at once. Quite ingenious regarding genetic mutation", she replied, stood up with an exaggerated swing of her hips and walked towards the next room.

When she entered, the camera seemed to be switched. With a broad smile Chapel stretched out her arms and pointed to the thing in the room. Hamstilidamst started to cough, choked on his cough and made such a noise that Bombo sent him out of the control room.

Daby looked after him nervously. This had been agreed upon and it also had been agreed that now she would stay alone in the lion's den. She did not feel all the thing, but took a deep breath and said in an admiring tone:

"I never thought that I would have been permitted to see something like this."

And she made her eyes shine, looking very convincing when Bombo quickly turned round to her.

In the lab, surrounded by mounds of corn, a hamster of about one metre height was sitting. As pattern for the programming Dodo had been taken, the biggest and strongest hamster they had. Looking at this sight even Spock could not hinder both his eyebrows to go up. Within the short time the people up there had really achieved a lot.

There he was sitting, the giant Dodo, daftly goggled at Christine and slowly lifted a paw filled with corn to his mouth. Chapel walked over to him, hugged him, twitched his ears and said:

"This is Dodo, Captain, mutated to a giant hamster, using genetic material of fossil finds. He is very kind. Come on, Dodo, you need some moving. Be a dear, go into the wheel. Now do go!"

The giant hamster slowly turned his head, after a while seemed to understand that the voice was above him and lifted his head.

"Have you got the universal translator?" the Captain asked and almost had bitten his tongue because the answer to such a question perhaps was not in the programme – but he had underrated Goldi who had thought of it.

"O yes, Captain, we understand each other. Don't we, Dodo?"

"Hum", said Dodo.

In the meantime Hamstilidamst had reached the officers, looked at the display and felt a little sick. If he imagined that something like that would be really existing…

Now Chapel dragged the giant hamster to a giant wheel and pushed him in. Dodo was sitting there, goggling at her. After quite some time he decided to return to the corn. When that had been programmed, Flecki had jeered at Goldi: "So take care not to end like that, glutton." Chapel now said:

"O no, my friend. Get moving!"

She pressed a button, the wheel started to rotate and giant Dodo was whirled around.

"He's an idiot!" Bombo in the control room groaned. "But she said he perhaps was not very intelligent anyway. What do you know about it?" he turned to Daby who only shrugged.

"I cannot remember Dodo very well, Big Boss. – It is a really pitiful sight what this female is doing to a giant hamster."

"It is indeed, you are absolutely right, my dear Senorita. In such a way a world ruling species should not be treated. There is only one possibility left!"

In the manager's office President Veitli was sitting very upright. With the video he had also received audio from the control room. It dawned to him that he had to thank Daby for this. He had not known the true plans of the Big Boss but Daby gave him a chance to learn them. Veitli began to think mightily.

In the meantime Christine Chapel held a speech and Dr. McCoy wholeheartedly hoped that Bombo knew nothing on the subject. The scans of a giant hamster's brain Lt. Uhura and Chekov had tinkered would have made him go up the walls. According to Chapel a hamster brain was unable to adjust to the size of the head. It just kept the size of some Bombo or Daby or Goldi brain.

All that McCoy had explained to the Big Boss and passed on the idea to Chekov but Chekov really was no doctor. With all the complicated holo-programming there had been no time to check on the medical data.

"Leonard asked me to continue his research work", Chapel beamed. "I did so during our voyage."

"And what is the result?" the Captain asked.

"It's simply overwhelming. The result is completely useless but this is science for the sake of science."

"We'll talk about this when I'm back on the Enterprise", Kirk grimly said. "Show us the result."

"With pleasure, Captain. I'm switching to the storage."

"You switch – where?"

To answer such an unqualified remark, the hologram was not programmed. Dr. Chapel pressed a button and a new scenery appeared. In the control room Daby slid from the chair, ran to the meal portioner and was busy there until she could control her rising laughter.

In the stone circle Hamstilidamst raced off until he thought he was out of earshot. Then he rolled on the ground of laughter. The poor officers just had to keep control.

An elephant-size holo-hamster with 30 cm long rodent teeth was sitting in the holo-storage compartment. Here no longer Dodo had been taken as scan sample but the data of all hamsters had been mingled. The elephant-hamster did not look like anybody anybody knew. The giant beast was just sitting there, mouth open and sometimes it blinked.

Nine absolutely real hamsters climbed around on it and gave comments: "Poor Turtle!" – "Who is to take that stuff serious?!" – "Can't she be made smaller again?" – "Ey, that's better than the Field Mountain!" – "Don’t! How can you talk so about poor Turtle!"

Right on the elephant-hamster a merry brawl started. All the time a holo crew member was standing on a ladder, shovel in hand, and tried to fill the hamster mouth with maize. But the hamster mouth just was open and the corns poured out. At last the man nagged:

"Why do they work out things like that? This beast has too little brain to eat. And if it could eat his own brain it would be like swallowing a pea. Damn, that's completely useless!"

"Completely useless elephant-hamster!" one of the real hamsters shouted.

"Wow, how silly would that have been, had they taken the mayor."

"Hey, were is he, by the way?"

"Down there! Tries to munch away the corn mountain."

That was the moment Chapel logged in again. She explained that after Dodo had not been the most clever hamster, she in person had selected the most intelligent hamster of the whole group.

"But this hamster is not even able to survive. A wonderful experiment, Captain, but it failed."

"We've seen enough, Dr. Chapel", the Captain said. "Connect me to bridge now."

Now the face of the com-officer was on the screen again. In time she remembered not to show laughing eyes but look absolutely shocked on the horrible experiments. When she started to stammer excuses, the Captain waved them off.

"It isn't your fault, Miss Uhura. In all the time you had problems enough at your hands."

"Yes, you could say so", she admitted. "We did not even come near the lab."

"Do switch that off", Bombo said in the control room. "This is worse than I'd ever expected."

Daby switched off the connection and in the background saw President Veitli and Willy at the entrance. Veitli beckoned her to come over to them. He was relieved that Bombo had not allowed his bodyguards in here but he wanted to get Daby off the target line.

"'t ish not basically what I expected", he said and the Big Boss whirled round. "'t ish what you really wanted, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's what he really wanted", Daby said. "I find it rather disgusting."

"That’sh the word I wash looking for. Bombo no longer ish the Big Boss. What he plans is disgushting!"

"You cannot estimate that, Veitli", Bombo calmly said. "You're missing farsightedness."

Then he gripped a whistle which was lying on the panel, and blew it. Except a shrill trill nothing happened. Bombo had expected his bodyguards to storm in at once. With a polite bow Veitli opened the door for him.

Well, so there would be a hearing and Bombo would know how to defend his ideas. During the hearing he would do his best to swear in all hamsters on his opinion. He slowly walked out, curtly nodded to Veitli and Willy and ignored Daby. She obviously had betrayed him and he did not tolerate betrayal.

However, for the first time in his life, Bombo was completely at mistake. To achieve his target he had organized BANTACH firmly. The staff had an abundance of food but that did not mean they did not have to work more than all other hamsters of the world. Furthermore Bombo had permitted much too few parties. More or less everybody had been afraid of the Big Boss.

Now the new president had explained to the Clebrig outpost staff what was happening within this organization and that he was going to depose the Big Boss. Everbody was absolutely willing if Veitli backed them up.

Bombo came through one of the exits. In the middle of the stone circle the officers were standing, surrounded by all members of the Clebrig outpost. He straightened up and shouted:

"Dear staff members, I've got to say something to you!"

"What?!" one of them yelled. "That you want to make giant hamster-dummies of us?!"

"Captain Kirk, what did you tell here?" Bombo cried furiously.

"I promised you silence", the Captain retorted. "Neither did my officers talk."

"Veitli!" Bombo furiously shouted. "Veitli is a traitor!"

"Nay, the traitor, that's you, Big Boss", said manager Willy's voice behind him.

"We spank him!" came a voice from the crowd.

They all thought that a great idea. His bodyguards had already been grabbed, bound and put under guard into one of the offices. It only took a few moments until the officers could dare to move again without trampling onto some hamster. The animals all stormed to spank Bombo. Jim Kirk did not think that to be any of his business.

"Kirk to Enterprise", the Captain once more called the ship.

"Enterprise, Uhura. Captain?"

"Please tell everybody that they did a fine job. At the moment there's quite an uproar. – What's the matter?"

"We've got it on the screen", the com-officer laughed. "Oh, our little friends are just coming back. Hullo, do take a look!"

"Well, then let them take a look", Kirk smiled and held the transmitter unit so that the Enterprise bridge got a better view. "I'll see how all this develops. Handing over to Lieutenant Scott."

The Chief Engineer only wanted to know whether Ensign Chekov had simulated the landing procedure. Chekov had already done so when they had been parking above moon's north pole. It could not be compared to the real thing but everything was functioning as it was to function.

In the meantime the brawl was no longer limited on Bombo. Veitli however beckoned three hamsters to take away Bombo. He took Daby's paw, dragged Hamstilidamst out of the crowed and struggled toward the officers. Several things had to be discussed.

 

Chapter 47

 

Preparations

 

Heaven knew what was to become of BANTACH. First of all Veitli wanted to travel to Bombo's Uruguay headquarter and take a look what kind of business that was. As long as he was gone, Daby was to substitute him here in Scotland. Like everybody else, Veitli did not think much about the idea to make Balthasar president again. Balthasar should go to the Enterprise as agreed with the officers.

Veitli would realize all his plans when the Enterprise was gone for also he was of course ready to help the officers as far as it was possible in Clebrig.

"What happens to the Big Boss?" Scotty inquired.

Veitli looked at Daby and she said with a giggle:

"Oh, Scotland has regions were a single hamster might survive easily without doing any damage."

"In all this you did the besht of dshobs, Daby. You agree with Willy where to take Bombo."

He wanted to go but the Captain called him back. There was something he had to clarify.

"Veitli, what you've seen there… It wasn't real."

"Not real?" the president echoed, surprised.

"No. Aboard the Enterprise there are only two of my officers and about a dozen absolutely normal hamsters. We explained Bombo's fantasies to them and on board we have the technical means to programme figures and make them play roles."

"So…" Veitli quickly looked up to Dr. McCoy whom up to now he had ignored deliberately.

"No", Bones grinned. "We did not breed giant hamsters. That can't be done. It was nothing but a fake for Bombo."

"'t ish mosht comforting to know that", Veitli said and now really left.

"I think he's quite okay", Hamstilidamst now said after not having said anything for some time. "But do tell me something."

"What?" asked Jim.

"All that corn there – was that real?"

"Which corn?" Scott did not understand.

"On the holodeck, what else?"

"What else, Scotty?" grinned the Capain. "Yes, that was real."

"O boy, that was eternal party!"

"I have the feeling that there wasn't eternal party", Daby remarked.

"Feeling, hey? Is that this femal intourism?"

"Goodness, the word is intru… Now really, I've forgotton the word. You are just impossible, Hamstilidamst. See what you did to our friends."

"Are you sheep – or what?" Hamstilidamst shouted.

The three humans were literally rolling on the ground of laughter and seemed to bite into the grass. Some time Dr. McCoy looked up again and said to Spock:

"But I'll never forgive you that plumex-soup!"

"I'm craving pardon, Doctor", the Vulcan retorted and the corners of his mouth twitched a little. "Jim ordered me to be shocked in a Vulcan way. Perhaps you do understand that I had no idea in that area."

"That reminds me", said the Captain and sat up. "What's the time? When will it get dark here?"

"I don't see the connection", the First Officer said, "but it is 17.45 h local. It will be dark at 21.50 hours."

"So there's nothing left to do", Kirk stated.

"This would be a suitable moment for the vote."

"Spock?" The Captain was irritated.

"Regarding Balthasar's future abode. Hamstilidamst had very massive objections against Balthasar's stay in Hamsterton. In my opinion all Hamsterton hamsters we can ask should vote on this question."

"Gee, now comes my big convincing show!" Hamstilidamst cheered.

"Hum, that's only fair", Dr. McCoy mumbled. "But of what do you want to convince them?"

"Does hamster breeding make the brain soft?" the hamster contemptously retorted. "That Balthasar won't stay with us, of course, what else. Another one like the mayor and Hamsterton… er… What will happen to Hamsteron, Daby?"

"It drowns in chaos", she at once replied.

"That's where it drowns!"

"I have the feeling that you need not do too much convincing work."

"Now leave me alone with your feeling… Erm! Well, perhaps your feeling isn't that daft", he admitted.

"And then we go to have dinner", the Captain remarked.

"Hum?" Lt. Scott ejaculated. "Do you want to leave these two alone with the transmitter?!"

"Then, I said", Jim grinned. "We let the hamsters vote, then we have to clear some details with Uhura and Chekov. Then we let the Clebrig hamsters have a swell party, while we have dinner. And when we return the outpost will be evacuated."

"Away located?!" Hamstilidamst was horrfied. "Jim, how will you…”

"Not away located, silly. All hamsters are to leave the outpost. If our preparations are not good enough and the Enterprise goes beyond the touch down limit, she easily might crash into the stone circle."

"And where should they go?" Daby asked who would have to arrange that with Willy.

"Best would be over there towards the mountain", Lt. Scott proposed.

"Eh!" Hamstilidamst suddenly said thoughtfully. "Jim?"

"Well?"

"What you listed up there…"

"Well?"

"Did I hear the word party?"

"Come on!" McCoy cried. "What do you think why I carried along all those scones from Altnaharra?! You'll get a swell farewell party. Or did I somehow misunderstand you, Hamstilidamst?"

"As to party and scones you can't misunderstand me."

"Well now", Daby said and looked about. "Perhaps we should make the party at the place where we evi… er… retreat when the space ship is landing."

"Excellent proposal", Lt. Spock nodded. "It might well be that at the time we cannot convince the hamsters to leave the party place, Jim."

"Good hamster thinking", Kirk grinned and the Vulcan's eyebrow went up.

While Daby went to organize the party, the Captain once more contacted the Enterprise. They compared times so that the landing party and the officers on board were equal. Spock transmitted the exact coordinates and the landscape-scan he had made with his tricorder. He then handed the transmitter back to the Captain.

"Uhura, may I talk to Goldi?"

"You want to talk to Golid?" Uhura squeaked. "Er, ay, Sir."

The next moment Goldi's head appeared on the display. Two weeks ago the Captain might have thought it silly to ask in all earnest for a com connection to a hamster – but that would have been two weeks ago…

"Hullo Goldi", he said now. "Listen, you know the mayor's brother, don't you?"

"That Balthasar-president", Goldi nodded. "Not much better."

"He got the chop and I promised to take him along."

"Sure, take him along", Goldi replied. "Leave him on the Vegan planets, hand him to the Borg. That's all right."

"I've no idea what you are talking about, but I propose you talk about that with Hamstilidamst."

"Hamstilidamst doesn't know anything about the Vegan planets!"

"No veggie planets", Hamstilidamst roared. "He promised that Balthasar flies back to the mayor. And I…"

"You need not shout so", Lt. Spock interrupted. "Sit down in front of the transmitter and you can talk on normal level."

Daby was right, Hamstilidamst needed to convince no one. All hamsters on the Enterprise agreed completely that they did not want Balthasar in Hamsterton. Only the mayor did not agree but all hamsters were of the opinion that he was not to have an opinion on the Enterprise.

"Moreover the mayor is partial, of course", Lt. Uhura said.

"But only if we replicate him", Goldi reminded her. "Hey, people, remember how gorgeous half a mayor looked?"

"I don't mean that. Just think that you are on one side and this Balthasar is on the other side. Which side do you think Balthasar's brother will take?"

"Well, why don't you say so first?" Goldi reproachfully retorted. "But you also think that the mayor has no vote?"

"You may be sure I think so."

"So we vote that we don't want to have Balthasar in Hamsterton. That's okay – why vote at all?"

"Now listen", Hamstilidamst said. "Our friends on two legs have no use for him in their time and just one hamster on a space ship – forget it. But what about Hamsterjelly or Hamsterhoosen?"

"Can you tell me what's the matter with you?" Goldi retorted. “Making the swank here!"

"My brother has grown at his tasks", Flecki's voice was to be heard. "Probably by now he's a hero."

"That much I can confirm", Captain Kirk said and bent forward. "What was he like before he came to Scotland with us bipeds?"

"Well, he hardly ever opened his mouth", Goldi said.

"You can take my word on it, Goldi: that has changed", the Captain laughed. "I don't remember one situation when he did not talk our ears off. What about your voting now? We've got other things to do."

"Okay, we'll contact you", Goldi said and the connection was cut.

"Hey, who's running the com there?" Kirk asked, indignated.

Well, he could not know that Lt. Uhura had given Flecki a crash-course in communication. Somehow there had not been the time up to now to talk about their adventures and how lately tasks were allocated which usually only Starfleet-officers after years of training had. Like so often, everything had gone topsy-turvy.

About fifteen minutes they sat together and wondered what might take that long up there. In the meantime Daby returned to inform them that everything was prepared for the party. Hamstilidamst did not want to miss that and began to lose his patience although he knew well enough how debates and votings were handled.

At least the result of the vote was there and all but Hamstilidamst were a little irritated:

  1. We don't want Balthasar
  2. We want a party
  3. Bochty's uncle lives in Hamsterjelly and Botchy thinks his uncle daft
  4. We want scones
  5. Mayor is to shut up
  6. Tuffy's cousin lives in Hamsterhoosen and Tuffy rather likes her cousin

Hamstilidamst thought this list to be very reasonable for Hamsterton but Bones groaned:

"But what did they decide?!"

"Balthasar will be sent to Hamsterjelly", the Vulcan immediately replied. "There's already someone living who is not liked."

"They clear-ly said so", Hamstilidamst trumpeted.

"Well, clear-ly is something quite different in my opinion but that's not my business", the Captain said. "It's your decision."

"Just so. In Hamsterton we have demo…"

"That I do believe", Lt. Scott butt in.

"…cracy, let me speak out! And now I'm for party."

Off he was and shouted for Daby ten steps later because he did not know where the party took place. She impatiently waved him off and said to Spock:

"We'll meet again, won't we?"

"Certainly. You have to take care that except the helicopter-pilots no hamster is here when the space ship arrives. When it has landed, you bring Balthasar here. I guess that Hamstilidamst will be able to leave the party if there is the prospect of meeting all his friends again."

Daby thought his words over, nodded and slowly followed Hamstilidamst. Obvious she still thought the words over. Now also the officers rose and set off.

There was still money enough for a dinner in Altnaharra. Now they had to change into the clothes they had worn when they had arrived here. The rucksack, that was the Captain's decision, they simply left in the pub's toilet. The only thing they had to take with them, so Dr. McCoy reminded them, was the painting from Lairg for the town hall of Hamsterton.

Night over the Scottish Highlands. Against all expectations Hamstilidamst had already left the hamster party and returned to his biped friends. When they had explained to him that the touch down of the Enterprise might become really dangerous, he was convinced to better disappear into the pet box. However, he thought that to be rather degrading in the presence of so many hamsters.

"Well, ye're not in t’ presence of so many hamsters", Scotty said. "The so many hamsters are at the party."

"Anyhow, I'm rather looking forward to meet your sister", the Captain truthfully said.

"Well, she's right clever but sometimes she drives you nuts", Hamstilidamst remarked.

"That's the nature of sisters – and brothers as well", Dr. McCoy grinned.

"Hey, what's that? D'you want to say I drive anybody nuts?!"

"Now and then", Lt. Spock replied and the hamster was miffed.

One hour ago the Enterprise had reported departure. During the whole stay above the magnetic pole Chekov had had the safety screen up. So the space ship had not been noticed by the numerous science stations down there.

When the Enterprise had been over the geographic north pole, the first report had come in – by Flecki. The technique was simple because all the time the frequency to the landing party had to be open and only one button had to be kept pressed down for it. It had, however, been difficult to convince the hamster girl not to give personal comments to everything. Flecki passed on all reports in her own style but nobody had difficulties to understand her.

"We'll come in again when we go diving."

The officers were aware that she meant the diving of the ship into the atmosphere. From her present height die Enterprise would not dive in with high speed so that there would only be little external friction and no glow would be seen in the sky. So the landing party did not wait for a fire ball racing over the Highlands but for something which hopefully was darker yet than a night in the Scottish Highlands.

"Look at", Bones said, "doesn’t our runway look pretty?"

"Cute", the Captain dryly retorted.

They were waiting at the trees which were the utmost halting point. At a length of 100 metres in front of them the runway shone and blinked between the heather in red, blue, green, and yellow. It was absolutely miserable but as it was the only light in the darkness it should be visible from above.

"Ahum!" a voice came out of the dark.

"Ey, what do you want here?" Hamstilidamst squeaked.

Spock switched on the torch and lit the ground. Two meek looking hamsters were sitting there whom he recognized as the helicopter pilots. The Captain hunkered down.

"Well, what's the matter?"

"Ahum, we wanted to ask… When shall we start?"

"That will take some time."

"May we perhaps get something to eat?" one of the pilots asked. "We weren't permitted at the party."

"O my!" Dr. McCoy pitifully cried. "And no one brought you anything?"

"Well, nobody knows us here", the other pilot said, snivelling. "They simply forgot us."

"Bones, if you by chance hand out some scones…"

"Hamstilidamst, shut up", McCoy interrupted him. "These two poor pilots haven't eaten anything in hours and you stuffed your belly."

"So what?"

"You don't get anything now", the Captain decided. "If the pilots don't get anything they jeopardize the landing of the Enterprise because perhaps they are too weak to fly. What are you too weak for?"

"If Spock does his heal dancing again, I'm too weak to fart."

"Pardon?!" the Vulcan ejaculated who never had learned the details of his awakening from the healing trance, and McCoy hastily said:

"I'll explain that some time, Mr. Spock. – Now, here's a scone for each of you. We'll tell you when it starts. Without you the whole thing would not be possible."

The pilots did not listen any longer but dug their teeth into the scones. Hamstilidamst nagged a little because he did not get anything but it did not ring like truth. At the party he had secured a giant share of scones until he almost had felt sick. Perhaps he could endure another five minutes without food – perhaps even ten!

"Flecki for Earth!"

After Lt. Scott had returned the connecting cable to Willy and Spock had got back the tricorder, there was only audio to the ship. All the time the Captain had had his unit at hand as still only one connection could be established without problems.

"Kirk here. Hullo Flecki. Where are you?"

"I'm to tell you that now we dive into the atmosphere in a lo-o-o-o-ong angle - Eh? Now listen, I can't remember such a lot of numbers. Chief, be quiet, I'm at the com, not you. You'd manage to blow up the whole ship in the end… What? Okay, everybody understands that. You still there, Captain?"

"Still there, Flecki. Perhaps you could tie the chief somewhere?"

"Oh, he’s no longer a danger, Dodo guards him since hours and every time he makes a suspicious movement… – Okay, don't get that excited, Uhura, I’m going on. Well, we take an angle like flying along Norway. Got that?"

"Got it", the Captain nodded. "Hold the line."

"What do you think I'm doing else?”

"Lieutenant Spock now calculates the incoming angle."

"Do I have to remember a lot of numbers?"

"Spock, inform Flecki only two numbers at a time."

"Hold it", Flecki interrupted him. "Chekov says you are to speak really up, then he'll hear it. That is, if all the others shut up."

"Showing off there", came a grumble from the pet box.

"Quite resolute, the young lady", Dr. McCoy grinned.

"Ay, you may say so", Hamstilidamst retorted. "Do I look forward to her after all?"

"And now you shut up, too", said Jim Kirk. "If Chekov up there does not get the values exactly, you'll endanger our mission.”

Oops! No, Hamstilidamst did not want to endanger any mission. So he shut up until the Vulcan had listed a lot of completely daft numbers. Flecki's voice now:

"He says he got it, space fever. – What was that? – Yes, space fever, I said so."

Heads were shaken on Earth, until Kirk murmured "Spasiba" with a broad grin, the Russian word for "Thank you". Dr. McCoy gave a delighted grunt. Up there Flecki appeared to have a fine handle on matters.

In the meantime Spock did some mental calculations. With the speed and the incoming angle which he just had passed on, the Enterprise could reach Scotland in fifteen minutes. Followed the detailed adjusting but Spock was certain that navigator Chekov would find their exact position with the data he had given him earlier in the day.

"Okay, people", the Captain said. "Scotty, Bones, you retreat with Hamstilidamst. Spock and I will take care of the signal rockets and follow you."

"I propose we go tae t’ hamster evacuation", Lt. Scott said.

"He's right", nodded Dr. McCoy. "With their nocturnal eyes they'll see the ship better than we do, if it comes in. We should take care that they don't come running."

"Do so", the Captain agreed.

A short time later Kirk and Spock were alone in the night and looked up to the sky. Fortunately, the day had been bright, they had a clear sky. The view on that ridiculous runway illumination was not hindered. They had laid out the light chains in a distance of 100 metres and the Enterprise had to try to get down between them.

There was nothing to talk about but after a while the Captain sent the two pilots to their helis. It could not take long now. He felt excitement. For the first time the Enterprise was to land on a planet and he would watch it from down here. He had missed her, his Enterprise, and soon they would be united again.

"It looks hamsterly!" Flecki's voice suddenly was back. "We're over the ocean and there are lights. Chekov says that are ships. That right?"

"Might well be", the Captain confirmed.

"Wow, now there are real lights, that’s a town from the sky. – What? – Well, for my sake it's a small town, so what. – What? Oh, I'm to tell you we're in Scotland. Hey, we are in Scotland!!"

Without a word Spock set out for the heli-pilots. Now they could start their motors and take position at the east bank of Loch Naver as they had agreed.

"Light's gone", Flecki announced. "Do you know that we only have emergency light here? We switched off everything so that nobody can see us."

"That was very wise", the Captain replied. "Will you please tell the officers that the helis are starting here now?"

"Uhura, Chekov, the helis…"

The rest was drowned in the noise of the helicopter motors. Not for long as they only were HamHelis but for about one minute Kirk could understand nothing. Anyhow, he was very satisfied that the halogen bike lamps by the movement of the rotors gave a very bright light. Impossible not to see that from the Enterprise.

"Flecki to Captain."

"Yes, what is it?"

"You know what Chekov says? He says, down there it's that dark, he thinks we are in Siberia perhaps."

"I'm very certain that you're not in Siberia."

"Chekov! What stuff do you tell there?! – Uhura says there's water again. – Not our water? Okay."

Spock took the matches. The vessel had to be over Loch nan Clar now. A few moments and they could light the signal rockets. Chekov and Uhura knew that they were the signs for the utmost halting point.

"There!" the Captain cried.

East of Loch Naver, beyond the forest which none of them could see from here, a giant black shadow filled the sky. The Enterprise had arrived.

 

Chapter 48

 

Struggling back on Board

 

The president had given an order to the two HamHeli pilots and the officers had agreed. There was no connection to the two hamster helicopters as the pilots knew what they had to do. Nobody in Clebrig had worried much about that. When Flecki reported, Spock instinctively looked up where the two thin light beams reached into the sky, and the Captain felt like getting kicked into his stomach:

"Uhura says: O my God, those two dwarfs ahead of the big Enterprise have courage. – I think so, too."

In the background Sasy's voice squeaked:

"I would be terribly afraid!"

Spellbound, Kirk and Spock stared into the sky. Why had they not thought of that? The hamsters did not have the faintest idea about the Enterprise's size. Both pilots must have had the worst hamster shock of their life when this tremendous shadow had appeared which they of all hamsters were to guide to the runway with their tiny helis. Nervously Jim rubbed his wet hands at his trousers.

"I hope they can stand that", he said in a tight voice.

"Indeed", the Vulcan replied, sounding strained.

Then he took the tricorder, recorded the course of the Enterprise and handed the unit to the Captain.

"Flecki! Chekov is to listen. I'm speaking loudly now and give some coordinates. He knows what it means."

"He's nodding!" Goldi shouted from the background.

"He's nodding", Flecki confirmed. "Shoot!"

Captain Kirk passed on the exact direction coordinates which now could be defined to the inch. On the Enterprise Chekov nodded a second time.

"In case the pilots panic, you now nevertheless have the best chances to get down", Kirk explained and Flecki replied:

"Well, as I see it, they are just ahead of us as they shall be. My, I’d be in a blue funk."

"Somebody sitting at the scanner would be of advantage now", the First Officer said.

"Tuffy's sitting there", Flecki reported. "What must she do?"

Spock had not seriously thought that one of the hamsters had taken over his station. To scan the landing facilities would now be the best time. Anyhow, the First Officer had no idea what could be asked and expected of Tuffy. Mentally he recalled the scanner keyboard, then he took the communicator.

"Flecki, ask Tuffy to take a look at the row of keys under the viewer. She has to press the left outer key."

"Tuffy, left outer key", Flecki announced. "Left is off the desk. That's it! She pressed it. And now?"

"Ask her to climb up to the viewer. She is to look into it until she can see two bright lines. That is the runway illumination. Uhura has to set down the ship there."

"Tuffy, look into that slit. And just stay there and look and hold fast so that you don't fall in. Some time you'll see bright lines. If you see them you tell us immediately at once. – She will do it", Flecki reported.

"Excellent. As soon as Tuffy reports seeing the lines, we will light a row of signal rockets. Chekov shall take down that spot. It is the utmost halting point."

"He's got it. Ey, Tuffy, see bright lines? – Nope, aint."

"Can't", Jim said. "They're no more than hundred metres. Listen, when we lit the rockets we'll be off so that you don't roll us down in case the landing isn't that smooth."

"Okay. – Eh? Haha, Uhura says she jolly hopes so. Where's my brother?"

"With Scott and McCoy in safety."

"Why, he's not with you now?!"

"Probably from a distance they all watch your landing", Spock said. "But for each of them it really would be better to keep that distance."

"In case of thump?"

"In case of thump", the Captain confirmed.

The shadow had become gigantic. Three kilometres the Enterprise was away. Behind them the two men now heard steps. It was Lt. Scott, who simply could bear it no longer. McCoy, Veitli, Daby, and Willy told horror-stories to the Clebrig hamsters about what would happen if they approached the landing space ship. So they could hope that everybody stayed just where he was.

"You should have stayed there as well, Mr. Scott", the Captain said.

"Ay, Sir, I know. But with all respect, Sir, I'm the first one who should be on board again."

"Well, that's quite right, of course."

"Does nae she look impressive?!"

"Awsome would be my choice of word."

"What Tuffy can see, is right incredible", came Flecki's voice. "What sort of switch was that?"

"Infrared, Flecki", the Vulcan replied. "Every source of warmth can be clearly recognized."

"Why is the lake a source of warmth?"

"He took in the warmth of the sun during the day."

"So you had a sunny day today?"

Lt. Scott could not suppress his delight. Such a mad touch down action and Flecki started the most British of all small talks: Weather.

"We had a very sunny day today", Kirk confirmed with a grin.

"Tuffy says there's some big house at the banks."

"Is it? We haven't even been at the banks. Tuffy up there knows more than we down here."

"You see, and now… What?! Listen, listen, listen! Tuffy sees bright lines!!"

"Lieutenant Chekov!" the Captain shouted. "Switch on ground cameras, extend landing supports, ready for touch down. – Spock, the rockets and then take to your heels. Where are the helis?"

"Coming off now", Lt. Scott reported.

"That'll be two scones each", Kirk mumbled.

The two pilots had shown tremendous courage indeed. They were flying ahead of the ship in about 500 metres distance. As soon as they could see the chains of light beyond them, they were to break off their escort and go down in some distance from the stone circle. Yes, now the helicopters rattled past them and a moment later the first two rockets went up.

When they all were lit, the Enterprise stood in the sky like a dark night monster. The three men took to their heels. Their direction was the slopes of Ben Klibreck where all the hamsters were assembled. However, nobody had succeeded to keep them at the party spot but the distance was safe enough.

"Do you still hear me?" Flecki excitedly cried.

"We do. Report permanently", Kirk cried back.

"Chekov says, she sinks now. Uhura says, there are trubulences. Ey, it's rocking, I'm holding fast. We can see the lights clearly, that looks… Hi, Trample, who sent you? Now listen, just don't touch that key…"

And the connection was cut.

"What's the matter?" Dr. McCoy asked who appeared at the officers' side now.

"The connection is dead", the Captain groaned. "Who is Trample?!"

"He nice", Hamstilidamst's voice sounded. "He's terribly nice but there's nothing which does not happen to him."

"Obviously just now it happened to him that he pressed the key which is our only communication connection to the ship", Lt. Spock explained.

Hamstilidamst sat in his box and furiously thumped the floor. Just now, when he was in it, when matters became thrilling. Just now! It was like running in the wheel - that unbearable was it! He hung at the door of his box and glared up into the face of his humans friends.

None of them spoke any longer, they all looked into the same direction and the faces were strained. Hamstilidamst also looked into the direction and caught his breath. Over there – it looked damned close – something so big came down that he did not really want to know what it was. Why in the world had these officers looked forward for the last two weeks to such an incredible monster?!

Captain James T. Kirk bit his lips until he tasted blood. With or without a connection he could have done nothing now. His Chief Engineer instinctively had run forward a few steps but stopped as he also realised that he could not do anything. The Doctor on the other hand took care that Hamstilidamst got a first rate view by pressing the pet box to his breast so that Hamstilidamst could much better see all he did not want to see at the moment.

"Landing supports out", the First Officer said who could see far better in the dark than the humans.

"They don't get her down clean." Scotty sounded worried.

"Considering the strength of the crew and the unusual circumstances that was not to be expected."

"Och, shut up, Mr. Spock. – Careful, Chekov, careful. Lower thrust, Uhura. Lassie, do take out thrust!"

"She cannot hear you, Mr. Scott", the Vulcan politely reminded him.

"Spock, if you don't want to risk a knock-out from Scotty, better be quiet", Dr. McCoy said.

And then there was a tremendous thud which made the ground all around them shake. The Enterprise still had forward thrust, the landing supports dug into the earth, the whole ship seemed to break away in the back.

"Pleh! Pleh!"

That was Flecki's voice and Kirk groaned. Lt. Scott tore the communicator from him.

"Uhura!" he yelled. "Foot of your station, right side. Stall thrust manual. You hear me?!"

Only shrieks rang out from the com, than a shout over all the tumult:

"Understood!"

The Enterprise slid straight towards the trees, pushing a bow wave of sand and heather along. The whole vessel seemed to screech. Fifty metres, thirty metres! Panting loudly, the Captain could see how the ship slowed down considerably at last.

Lt. Scott wanted to set out and stumbled. Only now they saw that all hamsters were closely around them. Twenty metres, ten metres! The discus of the ship slowly tilted forward, rested on a mound of sand and heather. And then there was silence…

Dark patches were on the Captain's shirt, sweat was running down his face. Tired, he wiped it off and realised that Daby was sitting on his shoulder.

"Fetch Balthasar", he murmured. "We meet at the ship."

"All right", she replied. "I don't think I want to see anything the like again."

"Neither I, you bet."

The Clebrig hamsters made room for the bipeds. They all had been terribly frightened, none wanted to get near that monster. "Fetch Balthasar" was a very good reason to retreat to the place of their party. Bombo and the bodyguards had been bound to a shrub and Balthasar… They looked around. Where was Balthasar?

"Escaped?" outpost manager Willy asked.

"You achieve nothing if I do not have the management of the organization", Bombo jeered. "Well, you want it so. Why should I give you a hint that during the evacuation you forgot to fetch Balthasar from where I left him? Your carelessness is not my business."

"Indeed, we forgot him in the outpost!" Willy cried.

"We fetch him at once", President Veitli shouted. "Willy, Daby, follow me!"

The officers knew nothing about this dispute. They hastened, ran to the half dug in Enterprise. The frequency was open but nobody reported. Finally they reached the banked up mound and scrambled along. Above them was the giant discus. Lt. Spock lit the bottom with the flash light and frowned a little.

"Dammit!" Lt. Scott shouted.

"What's on?" asked Dr. McCoy.

"What's on?!" Hamstilidamst echoed from the box. "You've seen this tremendous catastrophe, you lived this fiesta and then you ask: What's on? Got lice in your head?"

"I'm not sure that fiesta is the correct term", Lt. Spock mumbled.

"He probably means fiasco and that's exactly the correct term", Kirk grimly said. "Here should be the opening for the exit ramp. We won't reach it by any means.”

"Oops!" it sounded from the communicator, followed by a coughing and continuing: "Oopsinored audinence! Trample closer. On our funfair torate all ferrygomounds… Erm… Eh!"

Some noises were audible, one came out of the box and was a sigh.

"Mayor has bumped his nob again", Hamstilidamst said.

"Captain? Captain Kirk?"

"Lieutenant Uhura", Jim said, relieved. "How is it?"

"I'm afraid we've all been quite shaken up. We try to open the exit…"

"Forget it. As well as the ground camera, the hatch is dug in."

"O my God, how are you to get in now?!" the com officer desperately asked.

"No idea."

"Sir, the torpedo shafts should be accessible to us", the First Officer proposed. "I'll take a look."

"Ay, if tha's possible", Lt. Scott said. "Send out Chekov. He shall unhinge one or two ladders in t’ emergency passages."

A moment later the Vulcan returned and informed them that due to the downtilt of the ship the outlets of the torpedo shafts were about ten metres above ground level. This was decidedly too high but as it was they would need ladders in any case. Uhura sent off Ensign Chekov. The Captain was nervous. The touchdown had been so noisy that it might have been audible in Altnaharra. He feared somebody might show up soon. They had to be off as quickly as possible.

"Hey, listen", Hamstilidamst said, "can't you dig out that ramp?"

"That'll take much too long", Dr. McCoy objected.

"Just a minute", the Captain said. "Not dig it out completely but so that one person can squeeze in. Then Chekov pushes the ladder through the opening and we can fasten it at the ramp. That should work."

"I've heard it, Captain", Uhura said. "I'll send Pavel to the ramp."

"We need nae hurry", Lt. Scott grinned. "Tha’ ladder is too long fer any turbo lift. He’s to walk down t’ whole ship."

"May be, Scotty, but we have to hurry. It's not only that the landing probably has been heard in the village. On the approach Tuffy made out a building at the banks. If it is inhabited…”

They set to work.

Exhaustedly, Veitli, Willy, and Daby reached the stone circle in the meantime. Today they had done a lot of walking. From the party spot to the outpost it was quite a distance for a hamster. When they had been evacuated, they had taken along some important things, for instance flashlights.

Now the beamed around and were irritated. In the middle of the stone circle a giant rock was lying which never had been here before. President Veitli had a sudden inspiration.

"The impact of the shpace ship", he cried. "The ground trembled."

"One of the stone circle stones fell down", Daby continued.

"'t musht be so. Well, never mind. There's an entrance at every shtone."

But all around the touchdown of the Enterprise really had made the ground tremble. Each single entrance of the outpost was blocked. Frightened and helpless, the three hamsters stood by the last of the blocked entrances. Veitli mumbled:

"'t would be too terrible. – Willy, can you tell from this shpot, at which place Balthasar was locked away?"

"No", the outpost manager unhappily said. "And what would it help? Everything is collapsed, Balthasar is buried. O boy, nobody wished that fate for him."

"The passages are tightly pressed soil", Daby loudly pondered, "but the rooms are secured with wooden beams. Willy, do you really have no idea where the office is to which Pre… er… Balthasar has been taken?"

"Even if we could dig him out from abof", Veitli said, "'t would take much too long."

"Not for the humans", Daby answered in a whisper.

"They have their own troubles."

"They always helped us."

"'t ish correct and they dishcovered Bombo's evil plans."

He looked at Daby but shook his head. She was very familiar with those bipeds but today she really had worked hard. He could not send her out again. Moreover he was the president and if someone asked for help it had to be the president.

So he ordered Willy and Daby to run about in the stone circle and shout for Balthasar. Perhaps he heard it, perhaps he gave knocking-signals from below. As president, Balthasar certainly had not been of much worth, but Veitli would have felt horrible and also not of much worth if he now did not do everything to rescue him.

The landed Enterprise was so gigantic that a hamster only could recognize it as some large new landscape. The new landscape would not have been that bad if the ship had not banked up the mound which he had either to climb or to bypass.

"Here", he heard a voice. "The manual latch is free."

"Doesn't help us much, Scotty. And no, Hamstilidamst, you'll stay where you are. You won't help us."

Veitli was now standing on the slope and looked down to the bipeds who dug away the soil with their bare hands.

"Flecki for landing party", he heard a hamster voice and he heard how the Captain snorted.

"This is a working party, Flecki. What's on? Where's Uhura?"

"She sitting and writing protocols or something."

"Startin’ protocol", Lt. Scott mumbled.

"I see", Kirk retorted. "How does it look on your side?"

"A lot of things have fallen down. Why do you want to know that? We gagged the mayor once more. I just wanted to tell you that Chekov will be there with the ladder any moment. And he brings a spade."

"Great!"

"Goldi's idea."

"Give him my thanks. If we can open the ramp only five centimetres, Chekov can push the spade through."

"We'd need a second shpade."

"Yes, that's right, but… Just a moment, who said that?"

The Captain straightened up, looked into the thin beam of a tiny flash light and squinted.

"I'm sorry, Captain", said Veitli.

"It's you. You really shouldn't be here, Veitli."

"When we evacuated, Balthasar has been forgotten in the outposht, Captain", Veitli bravely said. "The landing of your shpace ship blocked all the entrances of the shtone circle. We don't know if Balthasar is shtill alife but when we know it we can dig him out. Would you be willing to help us?"

"I'll go with you!" Hamstilidamst shouted out of the box.

"You'll go not with him", the Captain said curtly and Hamstilidamst shut up – in the last minutes these astronauts had been absolutely spoilsporting. "Flecki, has Chekov got a hand communicator with him?"

"Yes, because he has to crawl through tunnels where there are no… no…"

"Okay. – Kirk calls Chekov."

"Chekov here", came a panting voice.

"Where are you just now, Ensign?"

"Umph!" came an utterance after a moment. "Captain, I just reached the ramp room."

"Fine. I know there is a tool replicator. Order another spade."

"Ay, Sir."

In the meantime McCoy had ripped the seal from the manual hatch and began to tear at the heavy lever. Silently the Vulcan shoved him aside and took over. Crunching and creaking, the lever came down. The pneumatic of the ramp started automatically but the access did not open more than a slit.

Suddenly they heard steps above them. Chekov was on the ramp. From inside he realised the problem which the officers outside faced and started and jump around on the ramp to push it down. Some sand trickled down the mound but that did not help much. That meant the digging out here had to go on. After a few moments Spock again dragged at the ramp. Now at least his fingers gripped the edge and had a better hold.

Suddenly he heard a low slithering noise, then something touched the tips of his fingers. Spock groped around, took the thing and said:

"Jim, just a moment."

"Yes, what is it?"

The Captain came closer and Lt. Spock with the flashlight lit the thing in his hand for a moment. It was a small phaser. Relieved, Jim closed his eyes. He whispered:

"We have to get rid of the two hamsters. As soon as the slit is wide enough for a spade, you take along Hamstilidamst and Veitli. Scan for Balthasar with the tricorder and dig him out. Until you are back, we are ready here."

"In this unofficial mission there should be at last an unofficial praise for Mr. Chekov, Sir."

"My friend, you may bet your last scone on that", Jim said with a broad grin.

"Spade's coming!" Dr. McCoy shouted.

Spock handed the phaser to the Captain, walked back to the ramp opening and dragged the spade out. Then he informed Hamstilidamst that together they were going to dig out Balthasar. Moreover he noticed how groggy Veitli looked, took him up and willy-nilly put him into Hamstilidamst's box. For the first time in his life Veitli found himself in a cage, but is paws were hurting so badly that he did not object.

"Very comfortable", he mumbled and Hamstilidamst grinned.

"And much quicker. Before you know it, we're at the stone circle."

"We are much opliged to your friends."

"O nuts, they are so much obliged to us that this won't be talked about."

With long paces Lt. Spock was on his way to the stone circle. The Captain would be able to phaser away much of the mound. So not only their access to the Enterprise was secured but also the start of the ship. It probably would not take him long.

The First Officers took it for granted that Lt. Scott would storm Engineering at once and repair all that was to repair. He did not know what it might be but he knew the Chief and assumed that also this would not take long. So he had not reason to dawdle.

"Spock! Spock! Here we are!"

Daby and Willy waved their flashlights. The Vulcan opened the box to free the two other hamsters and switched on his tricorder.

"I would be grateful if you would not stand that close", he said. "This mars the tricorder readings."

"We're off", Hamstilidamst said.

He dashed away, turned to look for Daby and crashed full power into something. Dizzily he looked up and saw a steep rocky wall in front of him which up to now never had been here.

"Are you injured?" Daby asked, worried. "One of the stones fell down and now is lying here."

"Why are rocks always bigger when lying than when standing?" Hamstilidamst asked and rubbed his head.

By now Lt. Spock had adjusted the tricorder sensors to scan underground. After a few moments he got a weak life signal, adjusted and noted that it was a hamster signal.

"Daby, will you please come with the flash light?" he asked. "I've got the coordinates."

"Is he alife?" Veitli asked.

"Yes and shows normal life functions. – Please stand there, Daby. I'll use the spade now. Do we have more light?"

All the tiny flashlights available were directed to the spot, Spock thrust the spade into the soil with one foot. Something crunched, the spade was stuck.

"What is it?" President Veitli nervously asked.

"Respect", Willy said. "With the first thrust into the cabling of the ceiling."

"I see", the Vulcan replied.

He knelt down, beckoned the hamsters with the flashlights closer and carefully dived with his hand into the opening. He felt thin cables indeed, groped further, found a hollow. Within this hollow he moved searching fingers – at last he found something furry. He gripped it cautiously and pulled it out. Motionless Balthasar was resting in his hand.

"Oh! Oh! What happened to him?!" Daby squeaked.

"Chrrr!" it sounded from Spock's hand.

Two or three seconds of silence. Spock looked up into the starry sky. The corners of his mouth quivered a tiny bit, then he regained control.

"That's not true!" Hamstilidamst bawled. "We make a fuss about him to no end and he snores!"

"What a behaviour in a catashtrophee!" Veitli said, shaking his head.

"He probably stuffed himself. I some time took some food to him", Willy said.

"Well, he is not harmed after all", Spock soothed them. "Veitli, Willy, it will be better you take care of the other hamsters now. – In the name of the Federation of the United Planets I give you my thanks for your assistance."

"'t was an honour", the president solemnly said. "We wish the Enterprise and her crew a happy return. – Daby, we'll meet later."

"Thank you, Mr. President. I really like to say farewell to our friends in person."

Balthasar did not notice that he was squeezed into the box with Hamstilidamst and Daby. Spock also carried Veitli and Willy part of the way until he turned off to the Enterprise and the two hamsters walked on to the outpost staff. There would be a lot of work to do until the Clebrig outpost was re-established, but this really was the hamsters' business.

For a moment the Vulcan paused. He saw the tiny beams of the hamster flash lights of Veitli and Willy disappear and turned to the mighty hulk of the Enterprise which towered the trees in front of her. The mound had largely vanished in the meantime – as well as Lt. Scott. He already was busy inside the ship and Dr. McCoy had spoken out the assumption that by now he had shaken hands which each of his machines.

"Ey, why is everything finished here?" Hamstilidamst asked in surprise.

The landing ramp was hanging down, a ladder was comfortably latched. Kirk and McCoy only had waited for Spock. But they both were delighted that Daby had come along to say farewell to them.

"What a pity", she said. "I would have loved to say hello to the Hamsterton hamsters."

"So would they", the Captain smiled. "But hamsters can't walk ladders for humans. – Daby, I'm truly happy that I could make your acquaintance. And I'm almost certain that you will be the next BANTACH-President."

"Many thanks, I do not at all wish for it", she retorted and made a face. "I surely will never meet you again and it was great with you. But perhaps Hamsterton pays Scotland another visit and perhaps I will pay a visit to Hamsterton. So this need not be farewell for ever."

"What's the matter with Balthasar?" Bones asked and peeped into the box.

"Kipping!" Hamstilidamst scornfully replied. "Hamsterjelly will be the right place for him. Kipping!"

"Well, he will stare when he wakes up", Jim grinned. "Gentlemen, board the ship. Daby, I'll take you."

Now everything went fast. McCoy was the first one to climb the ladder. He handed the pet box to Ensign Chekov and when he was inside the ship he embraced the navigator like having not seen him for decades. Spock followed and went so far as to shake hands with Ensign Chekov. A few moments later also Captain Kirk climbed in. They pulled in the ladder, activated the closing pneumatic for the ramp and programmed a new sealing.

None of them had ever entered the ramp room as the Enterprise never before had landed on a planet. Here only maintenance teams came in now and then. However, when the door slid back and they entered a passage which looked like all Enterprise passages, the Captain stretched, grinned around and said:

"My friends, we are home!"

In their laughing gas dizziness Uhura and Chekov had programmed the doors so that they also openend for hamsters. Later on it would have been silly to change it. Only the doors of the staff cabins were not concerned as everybody programmed them to his own liking. The landing party had not thought about anything like that but as matter of fact they were quite relieved to find neither hamsters nor chaos when they entered their quarters.

Now they were on board again, were officers again and wanted to get into their uniform again. There was time enough to take a shower as Lt. Scott was still tinkering in Engineering and had asked for fifteen minutes. Captain Kirk would have liked to embrace his whole cabin but first his arms were not long enough for that and second he wanted to get to the bridge as fast as possible and take his chair at long last.

The chair was there and empty but in front of it some block was lying which looked as if some much smaller creature had climbed over it onto the chair. Mayor, Jim grimly thought, kicked the block away and sat down. It was a decidedly pleasant feeling.

"Captain on the bridge!"

Kirk whirled round. That had been a highly official announcement from the com. A hamster was sitting there and Kirk grinned into that direction.

"Flecki?"

"Ay, Sir."

"My compliments, Flecki, did you learn the Starfleet protocol by heart?"

"Nope, but Uhura said, you do such things here."

"When we are very ceremonial. By the way, your communication during the landing was excellent. Good job."

"'Good job' is high praise to a member of the crew after a very difficult situation." Spock had come in, walked over to his station and found another hamster there. "Tuffy, I assume?"

"Yes, sure. Did I make a good job, too?"

"Why, of course", the Captain said. "Except very, very few you all have been great. I'm looking forward to your reports."

"Reports?!" answered a large chorus.

Oops? From everywhere now hamsters showed up but only two of them drew attention. One was chief Botchy who had made a lot of suspicious movements and consequently received several bruises and a black eye from Dodo. The other one had a gag in his mouth.

"Reports. Or don't you want to tell us all the things which happened to you? Then we'll also tell you what happened to us. Now I order you to free that poor chap from the gag."

"Need that be with the mayor? He again bumped his nob."

“Ah, so that it the mayor”, Captain Kirk said, looked at him sternly and the mayor seemed to shrink five centimetres at least. Then he turned: "I take it that you are Goldi?" he inquired.

"Yes, Sir, that is Goldi who all the time had many ideas", Uhura answered.

She was busy preparing the start. As the Enterprise never had started from a planet, not to talk about the difficult circumstances, she had a lot of work to do.

"I think everybody has earned a reward", Kirk nodded. "Anyhow, take the gag out of his mouth, Goldi. A gagged hamster looks daft."

"Well, that's your responsibility, to get that clear", Goldi retorted.

"Don't worry, I have the responsibility here."

"Inget, inget, rots are found about. The newest tentations on the Flunflair!" the mayor bawled and hopped up and down.

"What's on here? Are we on a funfair?" Dr. McCoy asked from the door.

"They mayor thinks so", Tuffy grumbled.

"He was better when he always wanted to go to the beach", Flecki said.

"Listen, are you a doctor? Can't you do anything?" Goldi inquired.

"I think so. By the way, my dears, Balthasar did not only take a nap, he had a lack of oxygen. What I did with Balthasar…”

"Tall bazar, we make a tall bazar, the latest test stations!"

"Gosh!" Goldi mumbled.

"The tall bazar is in Sickbay", McCoy grinned. "Best thing will be to take along the mayor as well. And in case anybody is interested in scones, I've also got them in Sickbay."

Science and com station, machine and navigation control were all quitted by the hamsters in a trice and they assembled round the Doctor. Kirk closed his eyes for a moment and nodded gratefully to Bones. Any moment now Lt. Scott would report from Engineering. During that tricky take-off the Captain very much preferred not to have a hamster around who pressed the wrong button.

"Where is Chekov, by the way?" he asked when the three of them were alone on the bridge.

"Helping Lieutenant Scott in Engineering", Lt. Uhura replied. "Now I hope that I calculated the take-off strains correctly. Would you take a look, Mr. Spock?"

While the First Officer checked the calculations, Captain Kirk called Engineering. It took a moment until Chekov answered and the first thing Jim could hear, was:

"Yes, now do stop interrupting. – This is Chekov, Sir."

"And if I get that correctly, you dragged Hamstilidamst along?"

"I had no time to go to the bridge before."

"Well, it's all right. But if you do, stop at Sickbay and leave him there."

"I don't want any Sickbay!" a voice roared in the background.

"No? Pity? All your friends are there for a scones-party."

"Checky, Checky, you haven't got any work here any longer, have you?"

"No, that's what I just wanted to report to the Captain, if you don't mind. – Sir, Lieutenant Scott is ready. But he wants to stay here in case there’s a hatch. "

"Okay. We'll start as soon as you're on the bridge."

"Ay, Sir."

"That will be a party", the Captain grinned after he switched of the com.

"Sasy and Dasy have prepared a welcome dance for Hamstilidamst", Uhura said with a smile.

Kirk turned and looked at his First Officer who stared at the com officer. One eyebrow was close to his fringe, he opened the mouth to say something – and closed it again. Three weeks ago there certainly would have been some acide comment, Jim thought.

Short time later Ensign Chekov entered, grinned around and took his seat at Navigation. The Captain informed Engineering accordingly, the First Officer bent over the view-slit of the scanner and they could start.

Somewhere deep down in the ship the machines started humming. Lt. Uhura pressed a lot of buttons, the starting jets switched on, she gave minimum upward thrust. A first jerk went through the ship.

"Infrared-scan, Mr. Spock", the Captain ordered. "Anything approaching?"

"Nothing except a larger group of very small life forms", the Vulcan replied.

Kirk grinned. The Clebrig-hamsters were waiting for the start und now it came. A second and third jerk, a rough shake and the Enterprise moved upwards. The ground cameras came free, a moment later the Vulcan cleared his throat.

"Sir, I'm switching the ground view to all screens."

"Hum?" The Captain was baffled, then he glanced at the main screen and laughed.

Tiny, colourful firecrackers were exploding in the air. Without any doubt that was Daby's farewell present. Of course that had to be on all screens, right fitting to the Sickbay-party. Slowly Kirk rose, patted Chekov's shoulder and took his chair.

A little fine tuning with the laser, then he pressed a button. Down there, close to the ground over the slope of Ben Klibreck a laser beam appeared, drawing a big heart into the air. And that was his farewell present to Daby!

Nobody, neither the hamsters nor the Enterprise-crew, had noticed that the touchdown of the Enterprise had not only ravaged the south shore of Loch Naver but also made two people homeless. Was it the quake of the giant space ship’s landing or was it the suction of the start – it could not be clarified and as matter of fact the fact did not matter as it could not be helped any more.

Thanks to his deafness the lord had not been awakened by the noise, however the some Scottish rain had disturbed his sleep.

“McClown, close the roof!”

No one answered the old lord and after enjoying some more of the heavy rain, he rose, snorting with rage, from his by now through and through wet bed. Along some junk he struggled to the room of his butler and opened McClown’s sleeping room door with a well aimed kick. Just as he wanted to begin some good nagging, he noticed that something was wrong. At the spot of his butler’s bed a big hole was yawning in the floor. Cautiously he walked to the edge, looked down and crowed as loud as he could:

“McClown, are you in the cellar? Please bring along some tea, I need something warm!”

“Sir, no need to yell, I am behind you.”

The lord turned round and looked his servant over. He looked quite battered, scratches in his face, hair and nightgown dirty.

“You look like a pig, McClown, a good butler takes care of his outer appearance!”

“Sir, in case you did not notice – the roof of your castle has just flown away…”

“Flown away, McClown? Well, go and do something or do you want me to catch a cold?”

Shaking his head, the old lord turned and too late noticed his mistake. With a shriek he fell into the big hole in the floor of his butler’s sleeping room and disappeared. McClown stepped to the edge and listened to his Lordships shrieking until he reached the cellar.

“No, Sir”, McClown mumbled, “of course I do not want you to catch a cold – ha ha.”

Half an hour later the two men were sitting under a tarp in the room which a short time ago had been a cosy sitting room.

“Some more tea, Sir?”

“I want a truthful answer to my question, McClown – did you within the last days have contact to certain hamsters or have you seen certain hamsters around my castle?”

The butler moved a little aside under the tarp as a gush of water poured down his neck, then he nodded tiredly. Also Lord McShredder nodded, took another sip of tea and said:

“By the way, McClown, why did we leave Loch Rannoch? Killichonen Castle was not in that bad order. Some little cleanup and it will be like new. Child’s game for a busy butler. As soon as the sun rises, we will be on our way home!”

 

Chapter 49

Homecoming and the Result of all the Events

 

On the Enterprise all were assembled on the bridge again. The party was over and only Balthasar and the mayor still were in Sickbay. Scotty insisted on a short system check as soon as the Enterprise was up and even threatened to turn down the juice of the ship if it was not parked above the magnetic pole of the Earth for one or two hours.

“That’s not at all necessary”, chief Botchy bawled. “On our way I kept up permanent maintenance and amended all the botch.”

“Oh, did you?!” Flecki shrieked. “Throwing screwdrivers into cable ducts…”

“But he reconnected all the cables”, Tuffy remarked and the Captain got a shock.

“Scotty, take your two hours for system check”, he said into the com and in his back heard Uhura saying:

“Better more than not.”

“What happened here all the time?” he asked. “Come on, we’ve got two hours, I’m waiting for that report.”

At first the hamsters looked at one another helplessly but when chief Botchy started to clear his throat in an important fashion, they all at once started shouting so that Botchy did not get the chance to cover himself with doubtful glory. Five seconds later Lt. Uhura raised her voice to remind the hamsters of what she had taught them as to discipline at work.

So by and by all came pouring out: the Veganian system, the Borg-gerbils, the visit at the Klingon hamsters and the daft mossbeavers. And all the time the mystical energy creature Plushum had been in. A most pitiable creature who on his search for an agent-body had slipped into mossbeavers and hamster-mayors, this certainly being no fun.

“W-well”, the Captain finally stammered when he was able to close his mouth again. “Well – are you really sure that all this happened to you? As it is with that laughing gas leakage it might well be…”

“Ha ha!” shrieked Goldi. “Laughing gas leakage, is it? At that time we were the only ones running the show here.”

“And it really all happened”, Trample said, “especially to me.”

“Plushum, he?” Jim Kirk grinned and turned round when from the science station came a harrumph.

“Sir, notwithstanding the fact that more than once we encountered energy creatures”, the First Officer said and looked up to the ceiling. “As to the hamsters’ description it is an existing creature, and scientific analyses on Vulcan say that…”

“Abstract, Spock”, the Captain interrupted.

“T’Plush”, the Vulcan gave an abstract and everybody on the bridge goggled at him until he got the idea that his abstract was a little abstract. “On Vulcan the name of the creature is T’Plush.”

“So – it is a female?” Lt. Uhura asked who knew that on Vulcan all female names were T’-something.

“I knew!” Flecki cheered. “Didn’t I know it. Such a good, wise creature only can be female.”

“Yep, that’s why it was wise enough to choose mossbeavers and mayors as bodies”, Goldi cackled and Flecki fell into a miffed silence.

“Whatsoever”, Captain Kirk calmed them all down. “I think the universe really was in danger by this antimatter-planet. We have to be grateful to Plushum.”

Before any quarrel could start, Lt. Scott reported from Engineering. He was not happy at all and he had to make a lot of checks before being happy again but now the Enterprise could set out to take the hamsters home to Hamsterton.

Not long and the only question was how to find Hamsterton from space. The Enterprise was parking at about the spot they had reached after the time-leap and met the Funfair-turbo peg. However, this was no help in finding Hamsterton.

And they had to be quick. All kinds of satellites could make them out any time. The Enterprise had her shields up. This limited the possibilities of discovery but did not eliminate them.

"But how may we locate Hamsterton?" Lt. Spock asked. "By what is it topographically outstanding?"

"Well now, I really can't explain by what it's photographically outstanding", Hamstilidamst said.

"It's outstanding by our living there", chief Botchy explained. "It is in the Magic Forest and the hamster realm is surrounded by a un-pe-ne-trable force field which I myself have developed."

"Yes, that's why any fool can penetrate it, the force field", Goldi said.

"Force field?" Spock asked. "Which kind?"

"For not penetrating, I just told you", Botchy grumbled.

The door opened and Dr. McCoy came in with the mayor and Balthasar. He looked quite shirted.

"Jim, will you please explain to these wonderfully worthy two hamsters what has happened?"

"Why, what has happened?"

"Well, well, he also does not now", Balthasar blated. "I'm most delighted but don't understand it."

"What sort of stuff is that? You don't know why you're delighted?" Goldi nagged.

"Why is Balthasar here, Jim?"

"Now, come on, you know well enough… Oh! Well, Hamstilidamst, perhaps you want to explain that?"

"Sure! Balthasar, they fired you as president. And Jim did not want you to be spanked all the time in Clebrig. So he said you're to go to your brother Mayor."

“And we don't want two of your kind, so you go to Hamsterjelly", Goldi continued. "But you had to come to the Enterprise first and all the time on the Enterprise was your brother Mayor. Got it now?"

"I protested most undecidedly", the mayor cried. "It would be dingus… a heartfelt dingus to have my loathed … erm… beloved brother…"

"You've been overruled", the Captain interrupted him.

"I wasn't allowed to. Vote, I mean!"

"So what, one against all is still overruled", Goldi said.

"What an exquisitely fine understanding of democracy", the Vulcan remarked with some surprise and Hamstilidamst nodded.

"Told you we've got that."

"Now listen!" Uhura called from the helm. "Could you get that clear at home? We've got to transport you as soon as possible."

"Where?" asked Dodo.

"Home, giant hamster", Tealeafy snickered.

Since he had been taken as sample for the daft giant hamster, Dodo had not easy life. Everybody laughed at him and he had his fill. Dodo certainly was a patient hamster but enough was enough.

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had all hands full to stop the sudden brawl. Tealeafy escaped to the engineering station, stumbled over some key and thought that Dodo had caught her. But Dodo, who was fiercely boxing the air, was held by the Captain, and the Captain said:

"That's enough! Within the next fifteen minutes we have to transport you to Hamsterton. Otherwise fighter jets will come from the planet and shoot us."

"Are you sure?!" it slipped the Vulcan.

"Absolutely sure", Kirk retorted with a firm voice.

"Now do think", Uhura said. "How would we recognize Hamsterton best?"

"Yoohoo, that is an undingus question", the mayor explained. "In Hamsterton there is… are… Erm!"

"… a lot of hamsters", Flecki snapped.

The officers exchanged long glances and McCoy began to laugh. Spock walked over to his station. The Captain took Flecki up and fondled her.

"How big is the population?" the First Officer asked.

"Which pompous nation?" Hamstilidamst asked back and the Captain hiccupped.

"How many hamsters are there?" Spock rephrased.

"Well…" Botchy began, then he scratched his head.

"Harry-George, you must have an estimation of the inhabitants", Balthasar said. "And please hurry or the fighter jets will come."

"Erm…", the mayor wondered. "Well, as it is… Changing!"

Tuffy had scrambled up to Spock and watched him. Suddenly she said:

"But many hamsters plus a funfair you won't find again."

"A numerous population of hamsters, combined with extensive minimal technique. – Excellent, Tuffy."

"Er, did I say so?!" She sounded surprised.

"In principle you did."

"Did you all hear what great things I said?!" she shouted.

"You did not say anything special", the chief retorted. "If I just may explain that technically…"

Botchy set out for the science station and all the other hamsters cried out in panic. The Captain just gripped and held him. By now he had learned enough of about what had happened to ship and crew while he had been in Scotland. Now he did not intend to let Botchy get near any keys and buttons.

"I have spotted the place", Lt. Spock reported.

"Then let's go there quickly before the fighter jets come", Balthasar said.

From Kirk's armrest Flecki looked down to the former president, then she wrinkled her nose.

"But you're a coward!"

"After all I had to endure…"

"What did you endure?" Hamstilidamst interrupted him. "Travelling through the world, munching and leaving the work to Daby."

"We should send him into a repair team", Botchy proposed. "There he will learn what hard work means."

"We'll send him to Hamsterjelly and that's it", Goldi stated. "And how will we get there? Might we take a look?"

"Good idea", the Captain nodded. "Mr. Spock?"

"I get the coordinates, Sir, but no clear picture. – This is all I can offer."

On the screen appeared a forest with a blurred spot in the centre. Not only the hamsters were disappointed. By now the bipeds on the Enterprise and in Scotland had heard so much about Hamsterton that they really were curious.

"Scott to bridge", sounded the com.

"Kirk here."

"May somebody tell me who botched around with the transporter?!"

"Botchy!" four or five hamsters bawled a chorus and Flecki added:

"Is it all done in, the transporter?"

"Well, not completely, but your Botchy made quite a mess of it. Does he have any idea what he has adjusted in which order? He messed up half the programming."

"Spock", the Captain only said and the First Officer set off.

"I certainly could…", Botchy began but Goldi furiously interrupted him.

"O yea, you certainly could smash everything to bits. That's all you could!"

When Spock entered the transporter room he saw that the Chief had taken some casings from the walls. All the cabling was in there and a wrong programming could not be repaired this way. But between Spock's leaving the bridge and arriving here Scotty had got to the bottom of the problem.

"You might have informed the Captain that you require assistance", the First Officer said.

"Hum – why? I get along swell."

"You did not have the time to change."

"Ay, right", Scott replied and tugged at his by now very dirty shirt.

"You still have the appearance of a lock keeper at Fort William."

"Well, if that's your biggest problem, you dunnae ha’ any. Wi’out that I wouldnae ha’ known what happened here."

"I was not aware that we have a lock in the transporter room", the Vulcan retorted.

"Ye told us, tha’ McBastle's lab blew up 'cause Hamstilidamst dragged out a cable of the vacuum lock seal an’ so oxygen could get in."

"Ah, I see", Spock nodded. "Chief Botchy worked at the cabling."

"Ay, tha's it. He plugged around madly so that it looked like a programming fault. Moreo’er I found a screw driver in the cable duct which probably goes to the Botchy-account as well. Lend me a hand here."

"I seem to remember some narrative of Hamstilidamst about a collapsed parking block which also had been designed by Botchy", Spock said and occupied himself with the cables.

"Should nae wonder. Only thing is tae gi’ him Red Bull so he'll get wings."

"Mr. Scott, I do not see any relation to our problem." The Vulcan sounded a little baffled.

"Ay, but I've seen some silly ad down there."

"Television appears to have some misleading effects. – I think we now may beam a test container."

He walked over to the com device and called the bridge. If they wanted to beam, the shields had to be switched off. If the shields were down, there was the danger of being detected by the Earth sensors.

The navigator was to check whether any sensors were directed to their position. In the backgroud the Vulcan heard the voice of chief Botchy.

"I'll take navigation in the meantime."

"NO!!!" bawled a hamster chorus.

"I'll take navigation", the Captain said.

"Do you have the ability?" Balthasars voice was to be heard.

"First: yes. Second: there's nothing to navigate around here."

"Nothing towards our position", Chekov reported. "I'm switching off the shields."

A moment later Lt. Scott beamed out a test container, counted to five and beamed it back. Then he checked the values and the state of the container and nodded, satisfied.

"Ay, tha's a' right. We can send t’ hamsters home."

Spock reported to the bridge accordingly and as well might have left now. But he stayed. At first Scotty did not really notice this for he used the time the start a big check to find out which further damages had happened here. Suddenly he looked up, however, and smiled.

"Wanna say farewell tae Hamstilidamst?"

"Yes."

"T’ little pet has a place in yer heart, haen't he?"

"Mr. Scott, a Vulcan…" He broke off.

As a good Vulcan he now would have to state that nothing and nobody ever would have a place in a Vulcan's heart. Anyhow, as a good Vulcan he neither was able to lie. He certainly would have expressed it differently if another expression had come to his mind. Fact was that Hamstilidamst had a place in his heart.

"Well?" Scott asked with a broad grin. "What about a Vulcan?"

"With his hamster view Hamstilidamst had broadened my horizon…"

"Ye can say so – an’ nae yours alone."

"Moreover… Well, he was one of the team. He was a comrade – a pleasant comrade even if now and then he was a little pert.”

"If ye now admit tha’ he has a place in yer heart, I'll tell the Doctor", Lt. Scott said and Spock's eyebrows shot up.

"In that case I will not admit anything!"

He almost smiled, but only almost. Scotty put his hands to his hips, looked him up and down and grinned broadly. A moment later Chekov reported that everybody had left the bridge and was on the way to the transporter room.

Hamstilidamst, the mayor and Balthasar were sitting on Kirk's shoulders. Lt. Uhura carried Goldi, Flecki, and Tuffy. All the others were transported by Dr. McCoy in the box in which the Altnaharra scones had been. However, Hamstilidamst at once hopped onto Scotty's shoulder and said to Kirk:

"Hand it to him." With a grin the Captain handed to his Chief the pet box they had bought in Golspie. "My present to you, Scotty. From Scotsman to Scotman as a reminder."

"You are no Scotsman – or I would be one, too", Flecki angrily said.

"And who says that you are no little Scotsgirl?" Lt. Uhura asked. "What would be wrong with it?"

"Tha’ dunnae matter at all", Lt. Scott interrupted. "I’ll honour this box an’ think o’ ye everytime I look at it."

"Ey, need you see some cage to remember me?!" Hamstilidamst was really shocked.

"Now, there he's right…"

Kirk and Goldi said so at the same time, stopped at the same moment and began to laugh.

"I do not think that we will have to look at some object to remember this mission. It certainly was one of the most unusual ones we ever had", Lt. Spock said.

"Why that?" Trample asked. "It's quite normal at our end."

"I readily believe that", grinned McCoy. "But not at ours."

"But we hardly e’er laughed tha’ much during any mission. Ay, 't was fun."

"Could we now leave for Hamsterton before the fight jets arrive?" Balthasar cried.

"We'll easily manage any fight jets. We managed everything here", chief Botchy boasted.

"And if you don't?" Balthasar objected. "I am an important person. And I…"

"You are a thrown out person", Goldi interrupted him. "So stop laying the big shot here."

"Might we go home anyway?" Sasy asked.

They might and should. All were cautiously set down on the transporter platform and reminded to keep sitting there quietly.

"Oh!" Uhura suddenly cried. "The painting for the town hall"

"Now really, little brother, I could get jealous that you brought something like that", Flecki confessed.

Uhura put down the sketch with the sportswear of Lairg on which four officers, a pram and Hamstilidamst in the box could be seen. All hamsters assembled around it, awestruck.

"Dear resembled – erm – assembled crew. We now have bound together… found to – erm – to wait what happens. The time has come…"

The Captain, too, thought that the time had come. On the platform the hamsters showed every intention to spank their daft mayor. They had said their farewells and Kirk clicked his fingers into Lt. Scott's direction.

Hamsters and painting dematerialized and probably when they rematerialized in Hamsterton they immediately would start a brawl. This hamster load on board had been explosive but nevertheless they all looked at the empty transporter platform for some time. Also Uhura looked and looked – there had been something yet.

“Oh, dear me!” she suddenly shouted.

“Well, forgot something?” the Captain grinned.

“Er, yes, Sir, the gerbil space ship.”

“The what?!”

“The vessel of the gerbils – it’s on the shuttle deck. We should not take it with us, should we?”

"Well", the Captain began, then a sensor alarm started howling.

"Bridge to transporter room!" Ensign Chekov shouted.

"Kirk here. What's on?"

"We are on some satellite sensors, Captain. Are the hamsters down?"

"Grrrm", gnarled Kirk. "Yes, they are. Pavel, some gerbils ship is somewhere around here!”

“Erm, ay, Sir, on the shuttle deck.”

“Scotty, make a position-transport, I don’t want such scrap on board. And then, Chekov, shields up. Full impulse to Jupiter."

Position-transport without transfer via the transport platform was quite a new technique which sometime lacked a little. Even a genius like Montgomery Scott had not brought it to perfection up to now. He beamed the gerbil vessel into the direction of Hamsterton and had no idea if it ever would reach there.

A moment later they clearly felt the jerk of acceleration and Scotty frowned. There should be no jerk. Something still was in disorder there. Before he had not checked every single relais, the Chief Engineer would fight tooth and nail against going to time warp speed.

"Nobody asks that of you, Scotty", the Captain said. "Somewhere near Jupiter we will make all the necessary repairs. You even will have time to change into your uniform before we go to meet Admiral McDonald."

"O gosh!" Bones grumped. "What will you tell him?"

"Admiral McDonald would be the only person to know the truth", the First Officer remarked. "Give me leave to go to Engineering, Sir. I will assist Mr. Scott."

"Perhaps there's someone else we might tell somethin’", Lt. Scott proposed. "Your old friend, Captain MacLean."

Kirk pursed his lips. That was a really tempting idea. What would he say if Jim told him that he had met MacLean's ancestor Brian as cheeky brat? Well, he would think about it and first they had to get back into their own time.

If the whole crew was on board they also had psychologists who looked after the mental welfare of the staff. Even then Chief Medial Officer Dr. McCoy had the last say. And as that was the case, he was just now very busy with the welfare of the crew, even if it numbered only six people.

Three of them were sitting with him at the replicator programming while the Chief and the First Officer still worked on the big damage check in Engineering. The Enterprise was on automatic near Jupiter.

"That isn't it", Kirk said, shaking his head.

"I find it delicious", Lt. Uhura objected.

"Somehow I don't have any other idea", Dr. McCoy lamented.

Since about an hour he tried to feed the replicator data bank with a recipe for scones. The result was not that bad but had nothing to do with the scones they so often had eaten in Scotland.

"And nothing at all with the white-witch-scones", the Captain stated.

"O well, Frida", Bones said with a shrug. "What are the odds she made them with a spell."

"Sir, was that a real witch?" Uhura asked.

"Decidedly", the Captain nodded. "If I could do that… Well, I would stand here making ftftft and the Enterprise would be twice as big."

"And be invincible, even against Borg-gerbils."

"Better still", the Doctor added who in the meantime also had learned some of the Enterprise-adventures, "if the Borg use telecinese, Frida shoots them up unter the ceiling and no more playing around."

Hopefully he once more ordered scones to the new programming and handed them around. They took a bite and Uhura rolled her eyes. Ensign Chekov who up to now had not commented the Scottish scones, smacked once and begged pardon immediately.

"Sorry, but that's too good to be true. Did you work with a spell, Doctor?"

"Perhaps Frida's influence somehow is here", the Captain grinned.

"Really good", Chekov nodded again. "May we try blini now?"

"Don't be funny, Pavel", the com officer retorted.

"What's wrong with blini?" Kirk asked.

"There are about twelve recipes for blini in the data bank. That will be enough, wont't it?"

"That true?" McCoy asked and checked the replicator-bank. His eyes widened. "My dear man, your next check-up will be very soon. – 12 times blini, 17 times pirogi, 32 times borszcz!"

"So what?" the Russian defended himself. "I'm only trying to make borszcz like my mother did."

The Captain grinned, stuffed the rest of the scone into his mouth and wondered how the hamsters fared. Did they have a brawl right after rematerializing? And what might the other hamsters have said when the group appeared in Hamsterton out of nothing? Had they already shunted Balthasar to Hamsterjelly?

The door hissed open, Lt. Spock entered. Uhura handed him a scone.

"Well? How are things going?" the Captain asked.

"Now don't always babble at him if he just has his mouth full", Dr. McCoy nagged.

"The repairs are finished, Sir. Lieutenant Scott will join us in a moment."

"Are those scones as they should be?" Ensign Chekov inquired.

"Mr. Scott of course will be the best judge of this, but to my feeling they are close to those of Altnaharra."

"You heard that?" Dr. McCoy cried. "You all heard that? He said, to his feeling!"

"Doctor, there are emotional feelings, which are, as you well know…"

"Dr. McCoy!" he was interrupted as at this moment Scotty came in and saved them all from a Vulcan speech. "Ay, Doc, ye're a good man. – Hmmmm! Ay, they’re good. As matter of fact they’re wasted to all but me. Real scones only a real Scotsman can estimate."

"Well, Hamstilidamst saw himself as a real Scotsman", Spock remarked.

Well, whatsoever, of one thing Captain James T. Kirk was absolutely certain: Before he faced Admiral McDonald he would make a tour through the Enterprise very, very thoroughly. He was absolutely sure that this was what McDonald would do when he learned what had happened to the Enterprise and what had deleted her so long.

He wanted to show an intact Enterprise, a ship at her best. Nowhere rotten pieces of cheese would lie about, no biscuit crumbs would stick between the key boards. He had found both already. Of course there never had been the time for a good cleaning but when he reported to McDonald everything had to be blinking here again.

To pep up the Enterprise had really been the smallest problem. Admiral McDonald had had some difficulties to explain where the Enterprise was. More then thrice of the time than scheduled had passed until Captain Kirk had called him on a screened frequency.

Nothing had remained to the Admiral but to tell the truth to some members of the Federation Council. Fortunately he had the full backing of the Vulcan Science Council under the leadership of T'Raeg. However, all were agreed that the whole matter was not to be spread around.

The heroes of the mission were most grateful. Those who had travelled with the hamsters had learned to like, even to estimate them. But how were they to explain this to those who had not been with them? No, the six officers who had been of the party kept mum. Sometimes it was a bit difficult not to quote Hamstilidamst or Goldi or Flecki. Now and then his colleagues looked at Ensign Chekov who had taken to a most silly "Erm!".

One week after their return the Enterprise had the full crew again and a new order. This order was a revenge of Admiral McDonald. They were to patrol the Neutral Zone for one month and it promised to be very boring. Already on their way, they had lots of time and leisure.

"In case you are not busy in two hours’ time, I ask you to come to my quarters."

With this invitation Spock had gone to Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Lt Scott. The First Officer never had tended to invite a lot of people to his quarters so that they all were very curious. When they were there, the Captain looked around and squinted a little.

"Does this special assembly in your quarters has a meaning, Spock?"

"Yes, Sir, I wanted to show you the results of my investigation."

"Yer investigation?" Lt. Scott asked. "Wha’ hae ye been lookin’ for?"

"Don't you notice anything?" Jim asked.

"It's hot in here", Dr. McCoy noticed.

"Woa ey!" Kirk uttered and suddenly Bones and Scotty grinned.

"Travelling Scotland!" the Chief said. "What have you been looking for, Spock?"

"The results of our escape from Lairg."

"As a result we met Frida", Kirk said and shrugged.

The Vulcan lifted an eyebrow. How like the humans to relate everything to themselves. It had interested him if as a result of their visit there had been changes in the past which would not have happened without them. And he had not thought of Fergus McTinker for that influence hat been planned.

"Quite correct", he answered to Jim's remark. "But what happened in Lairg?"

"Well, what might have happened in Lairg?" McCoy retorted.

"One year after our visit the Grants left Lairg and moved to Glasgow", Spock explained to his colleagues and they rolled their eyes.

"Things like that do happen", Lt. Scott grumbled.

"Without us it would not have happened."

"The Grants?" Kirk pondered, than he remembered. "The painter-couple, Baby Dinky – of course. – Oh! Do you want to tell us the two of them gained fame and honour?"

"Honour, that might be doutbful", Spock retorted.

He switched on the monitor and they all assembled around the unit. Up to today almost all cultures of the galaxy had fashions and idols. The time they had seen had been no exception. There had been something called Diddle-mice. Following some movie there had been a dino boom. The examples were manifold. One of these cult figures which had enjoyed fame for almost a decade had been MacSmart about whom there had been stories and cartoons and countless figures made of every imaginable material.

The inventors of this figure had earned a pretty penny. There had been fan clubs. Kids who did not wear MacSmart shirts and had no collection of MacSmart figures in their rooms had not really belonged. But of course there also had been studies about the history of origins of MacSmart and it sounded like a fairy tale.

Once upon a time in the small town of Lairg a shop robbery had happened and nobody had known the culprit. Out of nothing four men had come who had been in the company of a hamster. This hamster had been MacSmart who had helped the men to solve the crime. This had been the first of MacSmart's countless adventures but Lairg never had seen those men and MacSmart again.

Nobody ever heard anything about the strangers. However, MacSmart, the super-hamster had accomplished his exploits in Scotland, England, and all over the world.

"My goodness!" Lt. Scott shouted. "That cannae be true!"

"Seems to be anyway", Bones grinned.

"I dunnae believe it!" Scotty cried and his voice really sounded very much like dunnae believe. "I'll tell you something. My grandfather had a few MacSmart-figures, really expensive collector pieces. He told me when his father was a child, you got them everywhere. But I'll tell you something else: MacSmart did not resemble, but did not at all resemble…"

"Correct", Spock nodded. "In the course of time the design of MacSmart was drastically changed. But the legendary first comic looked like this."

He pressed a key and a new picture appeared. They all bent forward and they all grinned. A hundred pound reward they had earned that evening. Aileen Grant had been sitting in her living room and sketched like mad: MacSmart climbing the hiking boot, MacSmart racing about in the inline scater, MacSmart crashing into a pyramid of tennis balls – all the time hunting the dangerous robber.

And however MacSmart had looked in later times, those first sketches which they all had witnessed in person, showed Hamstilidamst in all his greatness and beauty. – The Vulcan cleared his throat.

"Yes, Mr. Spock? You think all this most illogical?" the Captain asked and grinned broadly.

"We witnessed it, so it happened, Sir. I wonder about something else. At the time of Mr. Scott's grandfather fantastic prices were already paid for the original sketches of Aileen Grant. – What might the painting in the town hall of Hamsterton be worth today?"

 

Chapter 50

 

Back in Hamsterton

 

Far, far away on the planet of gerbils, Klingon hamsters and mossbeavers they are back to humdrum. Gerbils and Klingon hamsters are living more or less peacefully. There is a skirmish now and then and a few bruises but nothing serious happened and won’t happen in future. The intervention of Earth’s hamsters had been a full success.

Also the mossbeavers in a few hours’ distance are just fine. Their life has not changed by the visit of the Enterprise and her crew. Well, to be exact, none of the cute little animals remembers any event of any kind, not to talk about the visit of a space ship.

Present events on the Enterprise would have been the delight of all Hamsterton. If the whole crew had been on holiday, it was a tradition to make a party where everyone could tell everyone what they had done in their time off. On the one hand nobody later on disturbed the routine of service by countless holiday anecdotes, on the other hand they were doing something against the horrible boredom on their daft patrol-mission.

The party took place on the holodeck which had not been used since the full crew was on board again. All those storytellers caused a mighty noise and Captain Kirk strolled from one group to the other. Everyone was wearing his gala uniform and when finally Lt. Scott showed up, equipped with the kilt in the colours of his clan, the Captain, Lt. Spock, and Dr. McCoy approached him.

“Why didn’t you take that one along to our so to say holiday?” Bones asked. “As matter of fact I’ve seen several men in the streets like that.”

“Ay, an’ they will as long as the world exists, Doctor”, Scotty retorted. “Scotchmen always will be Scotchmen.”

“Erm”, someone behind him uttered and he turned round. “Mr. Scott, we have a problem”, Ensign Chekov said.

“What is it, laddy?”

“Yea, erm, the holodeck replicator… Something’s wrong there. Well, I wanted some vodka and woodruff.”

“Arrgh!” Kirk said disgustedly but with a grin.

“Except the very obviously misguided taste”, the Vulcan remarked, “where is the problem?”

“Lo-look at”, Lt. Uhura said who also had appeared and held out to the men something green and wispy.

“What is that?!” Dr. McCoy ejaculated.

“Erm, somehow… Well, this is a mossbeaver and…”

“Wallaballa!” the mossbeaver crowed.

“… and he came out of the replicator – that is instead of vodka with woodruff.”

“Tha’s what ye get”, Lt. Scott nodded. “Who orders such stuff?”

“But Sir”, Uhura said in a strained whisper, “mossbeavers had taken over all computers here completely – it was t-terrible.”

“Spock, red alert at once”, the Captain cried, horrified. However, the First Officer did not move but thoughtfully looked at Ensign Chekov, Lt. Uhura, and the mossbeaver. “Mr. Spock that was an order!”

“Wallaballa!” the mossbeaver roared.

“Excuse me, Sir”, Spock replied and made his right brow wander upwards. “Miss Uhura, might it happen that this mossbeaver no longer exists in case you leave the holodeck?”

The com officer bit her lip with a smirk and shook her head while Chekov broadly grinned around. They just had not been able to resist reviving this green danger on the holodeck. The Captain had reacted as expected. However, the Vulcan…

“O boy!” Kirk said, took the holo-mossbeaver and scrutinized it. “That‘s what they look like? – Daft!”

“Wallaballa!” the mossbeaver agreed.

“Take it were you found it, Uhura. I don’t want to know anything about mossbeavers. Hamsters – all right, if it’s only one. I don’t want more, I couldn’t manage them.”

“Sir, we can manage them all right”, Chekov retorted, took Uhura’s arm and left.

“Now, hold it, hold it!” Dr. McCoy shouted, pointing at Spock. “What’s wrong with you, pike-ear? Either you are sick or you got that joke – than you’re sick as well.”

“Doctor, the statistical probability of a mossbeaver’s presence on the Enterprise is…”

“I don’t want to know”, the Captain interrupted. “Possibly as high as the probability of a hamster being in command here.”

“Er – yes”, Spock nodded.

“Great! So forget it. And to quote our furry little friends: We don’t have statistics now, he have party! For a time this might have been the Hamsterprise, from now on it’s the Enterprise again – got that?”

And also the hamsters were returning to normal.

“Now will you stop thrashing me, you dummy?” chief Botchy nagged, trying to push away Dodo. “We are back in Hamsterton and Starfleet has not say here, dammit!”

Silently the hamsters stood side by side and looked up to the sky.

“Well, there she goes, the Enterprise.”

“Where, I don’t see anything.”

“Just a phrase, Dodo, they certainly are out on new space adventures”, Goldi grinned.

“Well, however, they have to see how they manage without us”, chief Botchy trumpeted. “Anyway – my friends – I think that also in Hamsterton we should be able to build such a transporter. More effective of course and not that failure-prone.”

“Erm!”

“Will you explain that in detail, Mr. Mayor?” Tuffy asked.

“Th-there! G-gol-goldi got…” the mayor stammered and jerked his head towards Goldi who stood grinning and playing around with a phaser.

“You, you…”, Flecki gasped. “Where did you get that phaser? Lieutenant Uhura took it from you!”

“Yes, she did”, Goldi smiled, “but during touch-down she was completely distracted and didn’t notice that I took it along. Well, it’s a pretty souvenir, isn’t it? Moreover it’s on stun only.”

“You madman, hand it over at once, who knows what sort of daft things you’ll do with it”, Flecki growled and reached for the phaser. Goldi of course did not hand it over without battle and so they had a nice brawl. Flecki dragged at one end, Goldi at the other end. And so happened what naturally had to happen: A hissing shot came lose, there was some howling and whimpering and both hamsters were so shocked that they let go the weapon which clattered to the stony ground.

“Well, did it hurt?”

Flecki glared at Goldi angrily because of this tactless remark and turned to Trample who was lying on the ground with smoking fur. “You’ve been lucky”, she said. “Just a little singed at the forehead, that will grow again.”

“Mohawk haircut”, Taty grinned, “quite up to date.”

“Just so”, Tealeafy added. “In matters of fashion our Trample is quite a trend setter.”

Now things went haywire. Furious of rage and pain Trample grabbed for the phaser and aimed at Taty and Tealeafy who jumped aside, shrieking. Another howling and whimpering, everybody looked appalled to the spot where Hamstilidamst was lying on the ground with smoking fur.

“Now, really, people, I don’t think that we are really ready for this modern technique”, chief Botchy pondered. “Perhaps we should approach these dangerous things more slowly.”

“That’s just my opinion”, Flecki cried, took up the phaser, walked a short distance and threw it into a river. In the meantime her friends had helped up Hamstilidamst and inspected the damages.

“Your luck”, Botchy said, “if you had not let yourself fall down…”

“But now he looks like a chipmunk. The beam went right down his back and singed a swath from head to tail. Perhaps it can be sized”, Tuffy pitifully said.

“Yes”, Sasy cried, “he could extend his fur, these extension are absolutely hip and if he combs it fashionably…”

“I know a hairdresser who makes cool extensions and if we are there, Hamstilidamst could have dyed his fur as well, that’ll look smart. Trample, we’ll take you along of course!”

“Forget it, Dasy!” Trample hissed. “As to dyeing I’m fed up to the back teeth.”

“After getting acquainted to the mossbeavers? Well, there’s really no need for any of us to look like that”, Dodo agreed thoughtfully.

“We at least came around in the world and had adventures no hamster ever had!” Hamstilidamst roared. “Outdoors in all weathers, not in some snug space ship!”

“No chipmunk tells me what adventures are…”

“If so to say – erm – I may contribute to this conservation – er – conversation”, Goldi was interrupted by the mayor, “we urgently should add to our defender – er – agenda the project ‘Hamsterton mounts a maize ship – er – space ship’ because once more we hamsters proved that – erm – well, that…”

“What?” Flecki growled, coming face to face with the stammering mayor.

“Well – er – quite a lot. Don’t you think so?”

“We crossed space and saved the galaxy”, Tuffy cheered. “I’m so very proud to be of Hamsterton!”

“We showed the Klingon what’s what!” roared Goldi.

“And beat the dangerous Borg!” Tealeafy shouted.

“And helped to stop a criminal hamster”, chief Botchy added. “Who knows what would happen if this Bobo had succeeded with his ideas.”

“Bombo, chief, the name was Bombo!”

“Thanks, Tuffy”, Botchy growled, “that’s what I mean. Just fancy we’d be the rulers of Earth, mighty and invincible!”

“Well, erm.” For no special reason the mayor felt addressed and called up to say something. “Perhaps this dingus – er – Bimbo…”

“Bombo!”

“Er, yes, thank you, dear Botchy. …this Bombo was not that wrong. How knows what the rolls – er – the world would look like.”

“Oh, thank you, no”, Flecki sighed, “I think it’s bad enough as it is.”

“That’s it”, Goldi nodded. “And there would be the food problem because we would need much more food.”

“Now, will there be an end to this daft discussion?” Flecki angrily shouted. “I think for today this adventure is over!”

 

THE END

 

Supplement

We are indebted to the hamsters and humans participating in this adventure. This book could not have been written without their more or less brave efforts.

 

Aboard the Enterprise in untiring action:

Dasy:                           Security

Mayor:                         Mostly on a different planet

Dodo:                           Navigator – temporary Starfleet member

Flecki:                          First Officer

Goldi:                           Weapon Officer

Botchy:                        Engineer

Nyota Uhura:                Lieutenant – Communication Officer

Pavel Chekov:               Ensign – Navigator/Weapon Officer

Sasy:                           Quartermaster

Taty:                            Science Officer – Caboose

Tealeafy:                      Party Organizer

Trample:                       Deputy Communication Officer

Tuffy:                            Engineering Assistant

and one flower pot (Geranium)

 

On Earth (Hamsterton):

Head Physician of the AHH

Nurse Nursy

Mamsy – tumbled during Walking

Another nurse

 

On Earth (Scotland):

In the future of our present and the present of our present

In the order of their appearance:

 

James T. Kirk:              Captain – rightful commander of Enterprise

Spock:                         Lieutenant – First Officer of Enterprise

Dr. Leonard McCoy:      Chief Medical Officer of Enterprise

Montgomery Scott:        Lieutenant – the real Chief of Enterprise

(McDonald: Admiral – Head of Starfleet) who makes no real appearance

(T’Raeg: Head of Vulcan Science Council) also makes no real appearance

Hamstilidamst:              Essential Hamstian guide through Scotland

 

Only in the present of our present:

 

Nagging biker-lady in Gualachulain – shop owner

Her son:                       Shop assistant

Weather-beaten old man with van

Liza McGyer:                Daughter to the owner of King’s House Hotel

Hercules:                      Her cousin

1 squirrel in King’s House Hotel

Family with red Opel

Daby:                           Assistant to BANTACH-President

Hooty:                          Her cousin

3 hooligans in Ballachulish

Ted Pity:                      Policeman in Ballachulish

Joe:                             Inhabitant of Ballachulish

Elderly man in Ballachulish

Bridget:                        Housekeeper of Prof. McTinker

John McGofer:              Assistant to Prof. McTinker

Bummy and Balla:         Inmates at Prof. McTinker’s

Prof. Fergus McTinker:  Physicist at Ballachulish

Picklock-Billy:               Burglar in Ballachulish

Balthasar:                     President of the BANTACH-Organization

Mindrat:                        Canal rat of the BANTACH-Organization at Fort William

Captain Hanoi-Casablanca: Submarine Commander of the BANTACH-Organization at Fort William

Several seaman of the BANTACH-Organization at Fort William

Gwendolyn:                  Tourist-Advisor at Fort William

Another Montgomery Scott: President of the Primrose Breeding Club Fort William

Allan:                           Nephew of the Count of Twix and Dunvengan

Security hamster Wideawake and yet more security of BANTACH on Pebbay Island

Miles Count of Twix and Dunvengan

Countess of Twix and Dunvengan

Lady Stately:                Allan’s mother

Perry McPerry:             Lock keeper at Fort William

Andy McPerry, his son: Owner of “To Hell” at Fort William

Nurse Katie:                 District nurse at Fort William

Shrieking blonde and bald man in boat at Fort William

Owner of an Internet-café at Fort William

Lord McShredder:          At an outing to Fort William

Frido McClown:             His butler

Pete:                            Truck driver on bird’s dung

Kev and Sandy:             Employees at a market garden in Golspie

1 hen at the garden market

Several sea gulls

Tony and Brian McLean: Kids at Golspie

Cora McLean:               Their mother

Several squirrels at Dunrobin Castle

Brucy-dear:                   Little boy in the park of Dunrobin Castle

His granma

Security in the park of Dunrobin Castle

Donald:                        Winner of Golspie golf contest

Betsey:                        Woman in the bus to Lairg

Fat man in the bus to Lairg

Driver of the bus to Lairg

Arthur Grant:                 Painter in Lairg

Adder on the road to Lairg

Aileen Grant:                Paintress in Lairg, Arthur’s wife

Baby Dinky Maxwell Grant

Cilly:                            Shop assistant at sportswear McBean, Lairg

Little girl at sportswear McBean, Lairg

Shop manager of sportswear McBean, Lairg

Constable McBoot:        Policeman in Lairg

Frida:                           Highland witch

2 cats at Frida’s

Tom:                            Landlord at Crask Inn

His wife

Amy:                            Their daughter

David and Oliver:           2 German students

Bombo:                        The Big Boss of BANTACH at Clebrig

His bodyguards

Willy:                           BANTACH outpost manager at Clebrig

A lot of hamsters at outpost Clebrig

Veitli:                           New President of BANTACH Scotland

B&B-landlady at Altnaharra

Hologram of Christine Chapel

Hologram of Dodo as giant hamster

Hologram of the super-giant hamster with the real hamsters

Hologram of an Enterprise-crewman

2 helicopter pilots at Clebrig

 

Meetings in space:

 

Fluffbert:                       Gerbil-leader

Babblebert and Drivelbert: Assistants

Wailbert, Poobert, Rubarbert, Softbert, Rawbert, Wombert: Extended assistants

Hitbert, Beatbert, Pushbert, and Kickbert: Crew members

Greenquacks:   no-name and no-idea creatures

Fabian:                         Leader of the Klingon hamsters

Ruffian:                         His deputy

Many other Klingon hamsters

Mossbeavers Group 1    – in charge of “Rooba”

Mossbeavers Group 2    – in charge of “Wallaballa”

Mossbeavers Group 3    – in charge of “Rataplan in the van”

Mossbeavers Group 4    – in charge of “Roll up silly”

Mossbeaver as virus in Enterprise-computer

 

Special thanks go to the Plushum

 

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