Chapter 10


Fort William – Explanations


For two hours the hamsters on the Ballachulish funfair had their fun. In the end Captain Kirk had agreed to mount a bunjee-ball with them which was almost as wonderful as the turbo-pegtop in Hamsterton. This reminded the Captain of the Enterprise and he wondered what might be happening there in the meantime. Had he known, he would have been much surprised.

However, he did not know, could do nothing and could not intervene but the question where it might be now gnawed at him. Here they somehow would get along with the unfamiliar circumstances but financing the matter would soon become a problem. Starfleet had simply ordered money from one of the historic archives and for the scheduled three days they had one thousand Euros. This morning in the hotel he had changed them for Scottish Pound and had been shocked how little was left to them now.

In case the Enterprise was not back in time they would by no means be able to stay at the hotel because they could not pay for it. If up there around the moon – or wherever the Enterprise just was – everything got out of control they probably had to look for jobs to earn money.

At last the bus arrived. The hamsters disappeared in Kirk's sleeves again and they travelled to Fort William and hopefully to Prof. McTinker. It was no long drive but most beautiful along Loch Linnhe. When they dismounted in the town centre they looked around them and were baffled. Then Dr. McCoy said in a biting voice:

"Och, there are no tourists. – That's what you said, Mr. Scott, wasn't it?"

"Ay well, in a sense…"

"He said so?" asked Hamstilidamst who had made himself comfortable with Lt. Scott again. "That's completely nuts.”

"Thank you, Hamstilidamst, we can see that", Spock said. "Obviously a time reasoned error."

All about them tourists were swarming. Close by a parking lot was packed with coaches. Snack bar stood beside coffee shop beside souvenir shop beside snack bar beside coffee shop. More or less they only had to follow the masses who all were moving in the direction of a certain bridge. The officers had the same way.

The tourists walked on to the locks while the Enterprise-officers wanted to look for a side road were Prof. McTinker had his flat. It was impossible to avoid some jostling in this squeeze. At one of these jostles both hamsters lost their balance, crashed down to the ground and looked that they came away from countless feet which would trample them.

"Come here, Daby!" Hamstilidamst cried, pressing against the pillar of the bridge.

When she wanted to run to him, a casual kick touched her and she skidded towards the edge of the bridge. For one second Hamstilidamst froze. A mighty water was running under the bridge. Daby's life was hanging by a thread.

Then he saw that she used all four paws as a brake. That was his chance!

"Brake on, brake on!" he yelled.

While Daby only shrieked, terrified, Hamstilidamst with all his strength held to a decorative bar of the bridge rail with his right fore- and hind-paw and stretched as far as possible. Had Daby not braked there would not be the tiniest chance but now he hopefully could hold her in a way that not both of them crashed down from the bridge.

He saw her eyes, big with shock, she came racing towards him. Suddenly there was nothing but hamster, the impact came, he lost his hold. A small kerb saved them both. They painfully banged against it but they were still on the bridge.

"You okay?" Hamstilidamst asked in a troubled voice and nudged the panting Daby.

"These damned humans with their clodhoppers. Don't see what's happening at their feet. Handles me like a castaway Coke-bin, that idiot. Jostling each other, just in walking. Blind…"

Daby stopped and clipped the last word. It would have been most indecent! Hamstilidamst sighed in relief. If Daby cursed like that it must have been bad, but as long as she cursed, it was not too bad. For sure she would talk posh again in a minute.

"I'm craving your pardon." There it was!

"That's okay", he graciously replied.

"You saved me from death. I am eternally grateful to you, dear Hamstilidamst. May I help you to clean your fur?"

He only nodded, they groomed each other thoroughly until they remembered that first they had lost the humans with whom they were travelling and that second very much time had passed since the last scone in the bus.

There was someone who paid much attention to what was happening at his feet, who paid not much attention to anything else. A short, almost tubby bald man pattered over the bridge. With both arms he clutched a small, heavy package. By no means he must stumble and so he stared ahead to look for an unevenness. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a very curious unevenness at the edge of the bridge, slowed his steps and looked there.

"Fancy!" he said and wrinkled his ample forehead heavily. "Analysis: Wild hamsters in Scotland are more or less unusual. Two at a time belonging together – even more unusual. So: two escaped hamsters. Question: Who is known to house two escaped hamsters? Answer: John McGofer - That far you removed yourselves from Ballachulish. This is unusual. If I believed in fairy tales, I would think you came by bus. Question: In which case do hamsters go by bus? Answer: In a box to a vet. – Hardly probable. I think you belong to John McGofer and I will take you with me."

For Hamstilidamst and Daby there would have been a score of chances to leave the spot. First however they had not listened to the fat babbler, then he had named John McGofer. They found it most shocking to be compared with the two blubberbutts at John's, but as an exception they were able to ignore it. This had to be Fergus McTinker on his way home. When they realized this, they had no desire to run away. They only desired him to stop jabbering and take them along.

Lt. Scott was at the same time busy coaxing the Captain to take a look at the lock system of Fort William. That ancient water mechanic was a masterpiece. Only to see it was a sight. While he talked they looked for the street with the flat of Prof. McTinker.

At last Dr. McCoy pointed at a street name. He had walked ahead and now turned round.

"This should be it."

"Right, Linnhe Way", Kirk replied.

"Scotty!" McCoy exclaimed. "Where are the hamsters?"

"Gorblimey!" the Chief Engineer shouted. "They're gone. Must hae scotted in t’ squeeze! Well, I never!"

"I doubt that they - scotted, as you phrase it", the Vulcan said and held up the sack with the scones. "As long as they get food from us without effort they certainly see no reason to leave us."

"Then we've lost’em", Scotty said. "Come on, let's look fer them."

"Stop!" the Captain interrupted. "Before we start off blindly… - Where have they last been with us as certainty?"

"Just before we reached the bridge", Spock immediately said.

"Tha's it", Scott nodded. "Hamstilidamst said, he thinks all tourists are barmy and I agree with him. And Daby said they are a considerable economic factor – there I agree with her."

"What does a hamster know about economic factors?!" McCoy asked, impressed.

"As assistant to a president…", Spock began and Kirk laughed.

"You humanize your hamster-girl, my dear chap."

"Considering the fact that still in our time we do not have many possibilities to comprehend the communications of the various animals, we have no knowledge about their social structures. It is, however, baffling how many similarities are recognizable after we have got the chance to communicate with these hamsters."

"Nice 'n well", Lt. Scott grumbled, "but I wanna go an’ look fer them. P’rhaps they're sittin’ somewhere by t’ roadside…"

"Like two lonely orphans", Kirk interrupted. "If they're not by some roadside, we'll be in a scrap, I fear. So…"

He made an inviting gesture. All four turned round and slowly walked back the way they had come. Their looks were only on the pavement for somewhere on the ground…

"Cooee! Cooee!"

Four heads jerked up. The voice came from somewhere considerably beyond the ground and Scotty's face lit up. A tubby bald man was coming towards them, clutching a package and on the package two hamsters were sitting.

"Hamstilidamst!" Scotty cried happily and ran to the tubby who jumped back, shocked. "O Sir, beggin’ yer pardon, but these hamsters belong tae us. We’re just lookin’ fer them."

"To – you?!" the tubby asked, bewildered. "According to my analysis that's not possible, Sir."

"Which is your analysis?" Spock asked politely.

"After thorough examination of all facts they only can belong to my assistant."

"Who also has two hamsters?" Captain Kirk grinned and felt a wave of relief rising in him.

"I do not know about also, but he has them."

"Professor McTinker?"

"Er – yes?"

"Mr. McGofer has given us your address. We're just coming from Ballachulish."

"Analysis: Hamsters do no only go by bus to be taken in a box to the vet but also accompanying certain persons to look for certain persons. Question: Do the hamsters have a special meaning for the persons they accompany? Answer: Probable in a high degree. Question: Are the hamsters connected to the person to visit? Answer: Unverified. – You want to see me?"

"Yes, Sir", Kirk smiled. "We are colleagues of you from America. Allow me: My name is Kirk, these are Professor Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Dr. Scott. We are most interested in your research work."

"I'm delighted. I am most delighted indeed. Oh, do accompany me. Four colleagues from America, I'm really extremely delighted. – Oh, I cannot let go this package. Put your hand into my right jacket pocket, will you, you'll find the key. You believe in my work, don't you? Otherwise you would not have come. Thank you, it's the key with the blue ring. The package just arrived, it's valuable, most valuable. Do come, please, here to the left. The key with the yellow ring. This evening I will go back home and spend the night with new experiments. Do come in, take a seat. If I make the breakthrough, it will be epochal, be assured. Just imagine I had not found the hamsters on the bridge and taken them along because I thought they belong to John. Well! I'm putting down the package very cautiously. Do call me Fergus."

During his nonstop talking they had reached street, flat, and living room of Prof. McTinker. After he placed his package onto a shelf, he stretched out his hand and Kirk took it.

"James – call me Jim."

"Leonard", Dr. McCoy said and

"Montgomery", Scotty introduced himself.

"Delighted, very delighted. And you, Sir?" the professor turned to Spock.

"Wa… Walter."

Kirk almost hiccupped. Everbody called the Vulcan Spock as no human was able to pronounce his first name. So Starfleet had given him the name Walter in his faked papers. Obviously it had taken a moment until Spock had remembered this. It was not every day that they had a stuttering Spock.

Not only Daby now went for Lt. Spock shamelessly. This time Hamstilidamst joined her because Spock had the bag with the scones. He took out one of them, broke it in two parts and they disappeared under a chair with them. Here they could listen and eat at the same time. As agreed upon they did not speak although it would have been much more interesting than listening.

Around the table matters were discussed which the hamsters did not even understand basically. Hamstilidamst and Daby chewed and look at each other. Once Hamstilidamst puffed in a bored fashion and sprayed a small fountain of crumbs. Then he saw that the living room door had been left open und nodded at it. Certainly there would be some room where they could talk undisturbed.

The debating humans did not notice that they flitted out. They came into the kitchen and climbed onto the next cupboard. Unerringly, they found a bowl with the remains of cornflakes. They scrambled in and scoffed away this dessert before they discussed the situation.

"What do you think?" Daby asked.

"No idea. What do them guys really want here?"


"Ey, you stop that trash", Hamstilidamst cried and Daby sniggered.

"Well now. What do we know?"

"They came by space ship from the future and had to go to Scotland."

"To Fergus, the scientist. – They fake being scientists, too. – What do you say, Hamstilidamst, in future people must do everything better than today, don't they?"

"I don't see why", he retorted stubbornly.

"Well now, I do", she iffily retorted. "If I learn something and can do it better, then I hold it in mind. And then I learn something new and do it better again…"

"Now, will you stop? I've got that so far. – Okay, so they can do everything better."

"So what do they want here?"

"That's what I asked! – It's something about antibutter."

"About what?!"

"Antibutter", Hamstilidamst repeated impatiently. "That's what they're jabbering about, aren't they?"

"Antimatter. – What it that, by the way? – I think they have to tell us."

"'xactly!" he trumpeted. "We get them out of so many messes and they don't even tell us why they're here. That's not fair. But that's the human way, you know."

"Hum, Spock is not human…", Daby pondered.

"Here ye are", a voice said from the door and Scotty came in. "Ay, I should hae thought o’ this. – Fergus, I'm sorry, but our hamsters are sittin’ in yer cornflakes."

"Oh, doesn't matter, I didn't want to eat them anyway", Prof. McTinker’s voice came from the passage.

"Ye're right the most hoggish I e’er met", Lt. Scott said, set the hamsters on his shoulder and immediately heard protest.

"You don't know Goldi. And he's nothing against Bummy and Balla. To compare us to them, that's a cheek. "

"Against who?" Scotty asked in a low voice.

"The two guys at McGofer. Blubberbutts!"

"Well, p’rhaps I'll meet them. We're leavin’ now."


"Ter t’ lock."

More they did not learn. Hamstilidamst and Daby looked at each other under Lt. Scott's chin. What had locks to do with all this? But then they heard that the four men wanted to take the bus back to Ballachulish in the evening. There they would meet with the professor again, but they had much time until the next bus left. Scotty had won and they would spend the waiting time at the locks of Fort William.

When the two of them discovered that they should be shut away in a wooden box which the Captain had begged from the professor, they raised the next protest. But the little box had holes to look out and Scott explained to them that he had been very frightened when they had vanished before. He did not want to happen something like that again and the box…

"O well", Hamstilidamst said with a shrug. "There's straw inside, it might be cosy."

"And if some jostler comes along we will not fall out", Daby admitted. "But only to our destination."

"Wherever that might be", Dr. McCoy retorted and closed the lid.

Except that they were really comfortably dandled along, the hamsters did not notice anything of the little walk. The officers enjoyed it. Now they had found their professor, now they were allowed to have some fun during the excursion to this time.

When they reached the bridge over the river Linnhe, Scotty made them turn to get a look at Ben Nevis. Everywhere on Earth and a lot of other planets he had seen mightier mountains, but this was his Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of his home land and it was an overwhelming sight. On they walked and when they came to the next bridge, this time over the Caledonian Canal, they all stopped in surprise.

Lt. Scott had not promised too much. Neptune's Staircase, the Fort William lock system really looked terrific.

"Now, wha’ d'ye say?!" he proudly asked.

"Fascinating", Spock admitted and appreciatively lifted his right brow.

"I can't help it", Kirk smiled, "but seeing this I'm feeling more at home than in our own presence."

"What's on, what's on?" Hamstilidamst bawled from out of the box.

"Nothing, you bray, we've reached the locks."

"That's not nothing if Scott croaks about it all day long!"

"He's quite right", Dr. McCoy remarked, impressed, and opened the lid again.

What the hamsters saw was their idea of a kind of giant staircase with a lot of monkey bars over some water. The funfair in Hamsterton had been better – in every respect.

Scott, Kirk, and McCoy walked up and down the locks and could not stop admiring them. The Vulcan had scanned the system with his tricorder and saw no reason to continue crawling between the lock doors. At this time of the day the tourists had buggered off so that he simply sat down on the bank and let the hamsters out of their box.

He admitted – even if not in words – that he felt a certain fascination towards these two rodents. To talk with them opened quite a new world to him.

"Now listen", Hamstilidamst said, "you're not such a boring guy. We surely could help you in what you’re doing here."

"But you do not know that we are doing here."

"It is difficult to help if one does not know at what", Daby said and he bent his head in confirmation of this logical statement. "We are most able to be silent about your secrets. – Even Hamstilidamst is."

"Ey, what do you mean? I'm not Tuffy and I don't gibber, okay?"

"You will hardly be able to imagine what all this is about."

"Yea, how should we? Nobody tells us", Hamstilidamst grumbled.

"Spock?" Daby asked silkily. "What is antimatter?"

Now both Vulcan eyebrows shot up. He did not see that the hamsters were a danger regarding the necessary break in human history. But if they were to talk about it among hamsters it better was the truth. Hamstilidamst and Daby should realize that the officers' duty was not without danger.

"What you are – that is matter", he said.

"Nope, that's a hamster", Hamstilidamst retorted.

"Now will you shut up?!" Daby snapped. "Why matter?"

"You know what material is? – Well, material is matter. You could say a blade of grass is material, your skin, your fur, my shoes, the water here in the canal…"

"Got that."

"Very good, Hamstilidamst. Your fur consists of countless single hairs, every hair is made of countless tiny parts and these particles again of particles and so on. The smallest particles are so tiny that you can only see them under a very, very big microscope."

Hamstilidamst had tried to fake being above those things but now he was fascinated. And suddenly he had the link. Almost breathlessly he asked:

"Also matter?"


"Hum? It's not my birthday…", Hamstilidamst replied, baffled, and did not know what the Vulcan meant now.

"I congratulate you because you have realized this. That is a big achievement – not only for a hamster."

"Ey, sure", he retorted and puffed himself up mightily.

"The particles are not always linked, they exist in singles and they are very fast when they move. Sometimes such particles meet and collide. If something collides with very high speed…"

"It hurts very much", Daby interrupted and rubbed her back.

"Did you have a corresponding experience?" Spock asked and allowed her to divert him from the subject.

Both told about their experience, their very painful experience on the bridge. Well, a Vulcan was not able to feel pity but he admitted that he would not have thought it positive to loose the two hamsters. Although he had already given them a scone at the professor's, he brought out another one and this could be regarded as consolation.

Until they had finished the last crumbs the three other officers had joined them. When Kirk heard that Spock was just explaining their mission to the hamsters, he almost went crazy but the Vulcan only asked:

"To whom do you think the hamsters would report?"

"Erm", said Kirk.

He had no idea but he thought those two capable of much. Spock felt a tickle at his hand and saw that Daby nudged him with her paw. She wanted him to continue. Up to now she did not see the secret but she just wanted to know.

"So two particles crash", she said. "Does it hurt them, too?"

"No", Spock replied. "Such an immense collision changes the matter."

"Parking block!" Hamstilidamst blazed.

"Parking block?" the three humans chorused.

"At home in Hamsterton once a parking block completely collapsed. Well, afterwards it really looked completely different. Or when our van crashed down…"

"We – know – exactly wha’ ye mean", Scotty groaned who almost toppled over with laughter.

"That wasn't as funny as you act!" Hamstilidamst scolded.

"But in principle it is correct", Spock said and somebody could almost have caught him at a grin. "It is only… With particles it is as if…"

He could not think of an example and the Captain took over.

"Just imagine that a strawberry and a raspberry collide with immense power. Afterwards you just can't recognize any longer which is the strawberry and which is the raspberry, so squashed they are. It is mingled and connected but the mass separates again in splashes and then it's something quite different."

"Jam", Hamstilidamst proposed. "Or juice – or…"

"Tiny particles are no jam", Daby interrupted.

"That's correct", Spock said, "they became another kind of particles."

"Anti-strawraspberries for instance", Dr. McCoy said and Daby jumped high into the air so that everybody started.

"Antimatter!" she squeaked in her shrillest voice.

"Correct!" nodded Spock.

Daby danced around wildly. She had discovered it, she had discovered the secret. She knew a real, true secret! Hamstilidamst folded the paws over his belly and watched the fuss. At last he loudly said:

"So what?"

"What, so what?" she asked and stumbled over her own paws.

"Do you know now why they are here?"

For a change Dr. McCoy lifted an eyebrow and made peculiar noises to suppress a spasm of laughter. It was a roaring sight how Daby almost collapsed when she realized the truth. However, hats off to Hamstilidamst. He wanted to know why the Enterprise-officers were here and would stick to his guns until he got an answer he understood. Someone might tell as many pretty stories as he liked, they all were no answer to his question.

"A little beforehand , wasn't it, Daby?" the Captain grinned and she bared her teeth.

"Okay", Hamstilidamst said and stretched to his fill height. "Now put up or shut up!"

"Pardon?" Kirk ejaculated.

"That means he now really wants to know why we are here", McCoy translated.

"That's it. – If you already know what antimatter is, you need not come here with a future-space ship."

"I had not finished my explanation", Spock declared.

"And it would be all right for me if it were shorter now."

"Certainly. – We want to forestall the basis of warp-ignition."

"Ey, not that short!" Hamstilidamst protested.

"But it's something with antimatter?" Daby asked who slowly calmed down and stomached the disappointment.

"If particles of matter and antimatter collide, there is a tiny explosion."

Hamstilidamst was on the alert again. Explosion was okay, he had made a lot of experience with that here in Scotland. Therefore he understood perfectly that the explosion was bigger if several of these particles crashed at a time. And if a big mass of matter and antimatter collided it was the biggest explosion of the universe. Hamstilidamst was most interested.

"If you start a car, you send a spark to the petrol. The petrol burns in a controlled way and thus is a kind of energy by which you can set things moving", Spock continued his explanation and both hamsters nodded fiercely.

"We know. And if there's no petrol in the tank, that silly car just stops."

"Quite right, Hamstilidamst", the Vulcan said. "Anyhow, we are not talking about stopping but about moving. The explosion of matter/antimatter sets free an immense energy to move things."

"Oh!" said Daby.

More she did not say but put her head into her paws and thought full power.

"With this energy you have the precondition to be faster than light."

"Eh?!" said Hamstilidamst and more he did not say.

"That is the energy by which our space ship is driven."

It was almost frightening how silent the two hamsters suddenly were. The officers who in all their life never had thought much about hamsters, stared at them. By now all four bipeds believed that the two clever rodents really understood what just had been explained to them.

Moreover the hamsters might well understand the events on different time levels. After his opening Spock just wanted to take breath to continue his explanation, when Daby scrutinized him ponderingly.

"That's no secret for you. How about us?"

"In your time? It does not exist."

"I said they are much better", she mumbled and Hamstilidamst grumbled:

"Yea, right, you said so. Only because you said so we still do not know…"

"… why we are here", Captain Kirk interrupted. "All right. In this time that kind of energy should not exist. That's what our history books say. However, Professor McTinker is working on a way to bring matter and antimatter to a controlled reaction so that this energy might well exist very soon."

"So what?" Hamstilidamst asked. "Your history books are wrong."

"Dope", Daby hissed. "Don't you think it's in all books since when they can fly faster than light? – Perhaps the things Fergus is trying do not work after all?"

"Tha's what we dinna know", Lt. Scott said. "And we’re here tae see that it doesn't work."

"That so mean!" Hamstilidamst scolded. "Ay, that's really mean. You coming here all snooty out of future…"

"Now listen to reason", Kirk interrupted, but Hamstilidamst did not want to listen to reason, he now wanted to scold, nag, and grumble.

"Fascinating", Lt. Spock murmured. "We really discuss the rightness of our actions with two hamsters."

"You've got funny notions about discussions", Dr. McCoy retorted. "Then one acts, the other one grumbles? – Moreover we've got to leave if we want to get our bus. – Ey, you two, back into the box."

"That's just nice", Hamstilidamst nagged. "You only object a little and are thrown into prison. If your time's like that…"

"Hamstilidamst, you are yelling about that much that you don't twig anything", Daby protested. "We are not thrown into prison, we are going back into our transport box so that we safely can travel to Ballachulish. Moreover your noise interrupts my thoughts."

"And what are your thoughts? D'you think about how Fergus may pull through his thing after all – that fat explosion?"

"I wonder why he shall not do it."

"They won't tell you, no way. I know how humans are."

"Dear Hamstilidamst, calm down a little. I am certain that Spock was just going to explain it when you started to behave so extremely uncivil."

"Ey, you won’t set the world on fire."

"Dear Hamstilidamst, setting anything on fire, with or without reason, is much more to your taste than to mine", she answered in a voice as polite as it was smashing.

Then she fell silent and pondered how she might finally get the secret out of the humans yet – and especially out of the Vulcan. It was a secret, that much was certain, but she did not see what should be so secret in the things she had heard up to now.

Perhaps after all Bummy and Balla at John McGofer knew more than they said. Maybe they were lazy and greedy but she really could not imagine that two hamsters living close to a carrier of secrets were too stupid to know something.

The officers got out at the hotel bus stop. Here they wanted to eat something and later in the evening pay Prof. McTinker another visit. Furthermore they wanted to take a look at the hotel shop.

They had learned and memorized a lot of things concerning this time but there were some things they had not really been able to convert into the everyday life of this time. One thing was clothing. In their own time clothes were put into a high pressure-steam cleaner and after a few minutes were clean again. Here and now there was water and washing powder.

Alternatively each of them could buy a new T-shirt. And that was all what remained doing. Water and washing powder also made the clothes clean in a few minutes but they were dripping wet. As none of them knew whether the Enterprise was going to pick them up within the next two days, they had to make themselves acquainted with the everyday life of the early 21st century for better or worse and none of them would have liked to be in the same dirty and stinking shirts for days.

"Ay, ye brought hame t’ bacon", Scotty sighed into the direction of the hamsters.

He came out of the bathroom where he had tried to find something were he could hang out his shirt for drying.

“Bacon?” Hamstilidamst replied who was munching away the new biscuits on the tea tray.

"No need to worry if your clothes get dirty and smell", Dr. McCoy nodded. "You really come off well."

"Ay", Hamstilidamst aped the Scotsman, "if we come off better still, we'll probably explode."

"Why, I don't hope so", McCoy grinned. "We'll go down for dinner. Wanna wait here or at the Captain's?"

"Oh, we'll wait here", Daby sweetly said and Hamstilidamst threw her a pondering glance.

He did not think much of waiting in any room. If so, it should be at the Captain's, there still were peanuts under the bed. But he did not argue for somehow he had the idea that Daby had plans.

The men had hardly left the room when she pointed to the heating pipe which higher up the wall passed the ventilation. At the ventilation the grill was missing.

"A quick way to Hooty", she said.

"Umph, we've got to look after her, haven't we? She'll cough at us."

"First of all Balla and Bummy are her friends. I hope she can tell me how to make those two talk."

"What for? The officers will take us…"

"No", she interrupted him. "Earlier in the bus you had fallen asleep, dear Hamstilidamst. And as I followed your proposal not to talk if strangers are close by, they certainly thought I also had fallen asleep. – They will not take us with them. When they have taken their dinner, they immediately will go to Fergus."

"Ey, but that's mean, it really is!" Hamstilidamst shouted.

"Yes, but it doesn't matter. I know a way which is much shorter than along the roads the officers have to go. But before that I absolutely have to speak with Hooty."

Hastily they scrambled through the ventilation shafts. There was a terrible draught and small wonder that Hooty had caught a cold. When they reached the roof of the hotel and stood in front of the penthouse they already could hear the "ootootootoot" from the distance. It had got her pretty badly!

The more Hooty was ill, however, the hungrier she became. She felt much too weak to supply herself in the hotel kitchen and since the morning her supplies had drastically dwindled. She almost panicked that nobody would come and she would be starved by tomorrow.

Daby could see that no other thought was in her cousin's head just now, borrowed a rucksack and set out to the hotel kitchen. In the meantime Hamstilidamst told the hamster-girl about the adventures Daby and he had had during the day. The diversion did Hooty well.

When finally Daby came back with the full rucksack, Hooty was very satisfied and certain not to starve. Now she could think of other things and Daby said:

"Dear Hooty, your two friends Bummy and Balla do not talk very much. Do they not like to talk or is it not in their nature to talk much?"

"You've got to bribe them oot oot", Hotty replied. "If you bribe them, they talk and work."

"They certainly have to be bribed with food from the hotel kitchen?"

"What they get in Fergus McTinker’s house surely is not equal to the food here in the oot oot."

"Did they ever tell you what Fergus is doing in his lab?" Hamstilidamst inquired.

"Horrible!" Hooty moaned. "It must be really horrible oot oot. I think nobody would have ever made Bummy and Balla work at my roof if at that time it had not been so extremely oot oot oot horrible in their house. Horrible and dangerous."

"Yes, but what was it?" Hamstilidamst impatiently asked.

"Dear Daby, would you please hand me oot oot a bowl of porridge? I think that will oot oot… Oh, thank you very much, you're most kind to me."

Hooty let the porridge glide down her throat slowly and softly. Hamstilidamst tapped his paw on the ground. He only stopped when he remembered that especially the mayor had this daft habit. Beside him he heard some curious wheeze and quickly turned his head to Daby – then he wheezed, too. Daby breathed in and out very slowly but a lot of fury was in her eyes.

She wondered whether her cousin deliberately kept them on tenterhooks or whether she did not notice at all that Hamstilidamst and herself were sitting on pins and needles.

"Ah, that was really nice", Hooty said with a much clearer voice. "Nothing better than some soft porridge or tea with honey for a sore throat. Don't you agree?"

Then she started to shriek because Hamstilidamst fell on her and shook her.

"If you don't tell us at once what's happening at this professor, I'll do something horrible to you!"

"Hamstilidamst!" Daby exclaimed. "Stop that! If you shake her, she shrieks, then her throat is sore again and then… Now well!"

He had immediately stopped shaking Hooty for all that stuff about sore throat and porridge and what else he did not want to hear once more.

"Listen, Hooty, this is really important", Daby urgently said. "You must tell us what happens in Fergus's house."

"He must not harm me", Hooty wailed and shrank back to the wall. "I don't want him to come here again. He isn't nice to me!"

Hamstilidamst was close to hitting the roof but Daby held him and nodded reassuringly.

"No, he certainly will not come here again, promised. I'll take him with me and he never again will harm you. But please do tell us now what kind of horrible things are happening in Fergus McTinker’s house. What does he do?"

"He oot oot oot … He makes earthquakes!!"