Chapter 4

 

Scotland – Meeting Liza

 

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

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

"A-a-a-ah! – Wonderful Scottish air."

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

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

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

"Bones?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No Euro?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What's the matter with him?"

"Oh, it'll be all the adventure…"

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

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

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

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

"Liza's at home."

"An’ how d’ye know?" Scotty asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why don't you just wait here?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ye're frae t’ Continent?"

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

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

"Oh!" Hercules said and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The car moved a few metres forward.

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

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

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

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

"Now, what kind of glutton are you?"

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

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

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

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

"Madmen, are they?" Hamstilidamst interestedly inquired.

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

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

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

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

"I am not tired."

"What a pity!" Hercules retorted.

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