Chapter 8

 

No McTinker - but other acquaintances

 

Hamstilidamst was a little gleeful because the officers had taken him along after all. If Daby was not absolutely mean, she first of all would look after Hooty. And some time it would be him who told her what was on. Perhaps she had infected him. By now he, too, believed that there was some secret.

If he looked at the four of them, he did not think that anything was going to happen soon. Helplessly they were standing in front of the hotel and somehow it was about north and south. The silliest idiot knew where north and south were!

"Well, Mr. Scott, it's your turn. Where is North and where is South Ballachulish?"

"Och, when I'd been here, ‘t was one Ballachulish an’ that was that. A few holiday cottages w’d be beside t’ hotel, o’er there t’ fishin’ centre…"

"Come on, that's not yet here", McCoy mumbled. "I'm looking up and down and there's nothing but the hotel."

"Hamstilidamst!"

The three humans whirled round because Spock's voice had been very stern. Then they grinned. The hamster had jumped onto the tricorder by which Spock just was analysing something. Kirk plucked Hamstilidamst off the unit and looked at the display.

"North is north and south is south", Hamstilidamst said angrily. "What's there to talk about?"

"Now shut up", Kirk rebuked him, still studying the display which showed a small map. "Scotty?!"

"Ay?"

"If you had informed us that your town continues beyond the bridge, we might already have been on the way. Gentlemen, down to the right is South-Ballachulish."

"Sorry, Captain, I thought that was clear!"

"Here and now nothing at all is clear."

"Tell me, are you doing something really secret?" Hamstilidamst inquired and Kirk fondled his neck.

"Yes, my pet, but I don't rely on your secrecy. So you better don't ask, okay?"

"Then she's right after all! It's about razors, isn't it?"

"About what?!" Kirk burst out laughing. "Well, one thing I can promise you: It's not about razors."

"Just a moment", Spock interrupted. "Which 'she' is right after all, Hamstilidamst?"

"Er – a saying", he hastily retorted. "A Hamstish proverb."

He saw Lt. Spock's eyebrow lifting in an unbelieving fashion and he had to admit that this eyebrow fascinated him. He would have loved to have something like that, too, just for lifting it.

And he could not fool the First Officer of the Enterprise. There were few possibilities for the hamster to have contacted somebody. Hamstilidamst had been here before – in this time – it was well possible that he had other hamster acquaintances here.

Spock was willing to admit that he never met hamsters like Hamstilidamst and his friends – as matter of fact he never had been personally acquainted with any hamsters und could not have said whether hamsters generally were as smart as these ones. Up to now he had been convinced that hamsters were harmless nocturnal rodents but within the last two days his opinions about hamsters had soundly changed.

Suddenly Lt. Scott stopped and grinned broadly.

"Captain, I'm hearin’ piper's! Ay, haen't changed tha' much after all. 's the daily piper's parade."

"And what might that be?" McCoy inquired.

"Fer tourists. Ev'ry day t’ pipers parade through Ballachulish in t’ tartans o' t’ region – a right bonny sight!"

The pipers' sound carried far and they had to walk some distance until reaching the first houses of South Ballachulish. Then all four stood rooted. High up between two poles a banner was hanging with the wording: WELCOME TO THE BALLACHULISH FLOWER SHOW AND FUNFAIR

"Funfair! Funfair!" crowed Hamstilidamst cheerfully.

The jaws of four officers almost dropped. It was one thing to communicate with a hamster via the universal translator but to discover that he was able to read was quite another matter. They stood speechless while Hamstilidamst almost flipped out with joy. Flower show was only of interest if there were any edible vegetables, but a funfair like at home in Hamsterton…

"And we came here especially to fetch the Lordship to play the monster in our ghost train. He might be good for nothing, but as monster he's first rate. And all the adventures we had here until we got home at last. And we've been so looking forward to our funfair. I wanted to ride along everywhere and eat at every booth. And then the mayor got bonkers again and we packed him into the turbo-pegtop and then we met you and now I'm in Scotland again and here is a funfair. Madness!"

"From your rather confusing speech I conclude that you wish to visit this fair", the Vulcan stated and McCoy rolled his eyes.

"I almost think you may conclude that from his speech, my good man", he said patiently.

"But visiting such an event is not the reason for our being here."

Hamstilidamst who was sitting on Captain Kirk's shoulder, craned his neck and looked firmly into the eyes of the First Officer of the Enterprise.

"At first I didn't think you that boring."

Scotty almost toppled over of laughter und Dr. McCoy stretched out his forefinger to fondle the hamster. Often enough the Vulcan had got on their nerves with his exact, always logical ways, but nobody had called him boring up to now. McCoy liked that very much and was glad that they had taken the hamster along. Spock for his part looked a little baffled, then someone bumped into him roughly.

Three broad-shouldered, ruggedly looking young men shoved along with swaggering steps and appeared to have too many muscles to walk.

"Ey, ye breedin’ here, or what?" one of the guys said with a rough voice and Kirk took a step forward.

"I propose you apologize, okay?"

"Ey, put a sock in it", another one mobbed back.

"Excuse me, might it be that you are looking for trouble?" Lt. Spock asked politely.

"Ey, wanna be smacked in t’ puss, tell ma."

"Now you better shut up" McCoy retorted. "You better don’t tangle with him."

"Woa, tha’ spindle?!" the third one said, began to laugh and fainted.

The two others goggled. The long one with the cap had done nothing, had only put the tips of his fingers on the neck of their pal. The Captain smirked over the daft faces. That was the outcome if anyone made the Vulcan use his Vulcan stunning-grip. No force, no pain, you were just sent to sleep for a while. The boys could not know that of course.

"Well?" Kirk asked and craned his neck.

But nobody could do something like that to the two ones who were still awake. They doubled their fists and went for the four men. In Ballachulish they were known as bully lads, they tangled with everybody. The Captain lifted Hamstilidamst from his shoulder, passed him to Dr. McCoy and said in a low voice:

"You stay out of this, Bones, you've got no identification."

"That's okay. – Hey, will you stop flouncing!"

"Isn't that swell?!" Hamstilidamst squeaked delightedly. "A real brawl. At home we do that every day."

"You might bite the ear of one of them."

"Yea!"

"Stop, you stay. – Ooops!"

Between the two rowdies, Kirk, and Scott the first blows had been exchanged. The boys might be bullies and musclemen, but they never had got a sparring like every officer got it at Starfleet-Academy. Quickly Scott had turned the arm of one of them and given him, when he went to his knees , a good push. At "Ooops!" the boy had staggered towards McCoy who pushed him on to Spock.

The Vulcan had no need to bandy. As soon as the boy came into the reach of the Vulcan neck-grip, he went down. The same fate befell to the third one, but before that he had received a nice shiner from Kirk.

"What's on here?!" a voice shouted from some distance.

It was the policeman who was to take care that today everything went peacefully during the summer feast. A few minutes ago a woman had come running and told him that the three village hooligans were going for some strangers.

How terrible if tourists who wanted to visit the funfair were beaten up by these three bad guys. What would be in the newspaper tomorrow?! The policeman gripped his baton and set off. When he arrived the bullies were lying on the ground unconsciously, three men were standing around them, a fourth one kneeled beside them. One just said:

"Did they come to any harm?" Then he stepped to the policeman and smiled. "O Sir, my friend is a doctor. These three poor young men suddenly fainted."

"Reckon they ate som'in’ wrong", another one added with a fine brogue and the tall one with the woollen cap said:

"Probably they have not enjoyed porridge for breakfast."

A group of onlookers began to laugh. They knew these guys and were glad that they had been walloped. Even the policeman found it hard to suppress a grin, but he must not grin, he was on duty. When he bent to take a look at the three guys, he only saw that one of them soon would have a shiner. Now they were just lying there sleeping peacefully.

"Suddenly fainted, did they?" he asked. "Not very trustworthy, gentlemen, but I can't find anything else. I'll call the ambulance."

"Leave them there, them duffs!" a voice came from the crowd. "Nothin’ better than tae hae them knocked out. They'd only cocked up our festival."

"Ay, Joe, and if they're taken away with the ambulance, they'll stay in hospital till tomorrow", the policeman retorted and the people applauded. "Tourists, are you?" he turned to the officers.

"Not really", Captain Kirk smiled. "We are scientists and want to pay a visit to our colleague McTinker. We didn't even know that you hold a festival today."

"An’ if we're here anaway…", Scotty added. "I've nae been hame fer long and wouldnae miss t’ pipers."

"Well, and then we met these three young men", McCoy added in a pitiful voice.

"Now, Saer", an elderly man said, approached them and beckoned them to follow him away from the policeman, "ter t’ professor ye turn aff t’ road at t’ village centre t'wards them bens. He's li'ng a wee bit off wi’ his lab. An’ there behold t’ pipers."

He had successfully lured them away from the policeman and it was quite obvious that they had rendered a good service to the festival when they finished the three hooligans. Surely it spread like a wildfire through South-Ballachulish that everybody would be left in peace by those lads today.

Only Hamstilidamst was disappointed. A good brawl had to be louder and take longer. But it wasn't that bad after all for now the first stands came into sight, here was a merry-go-round, there an old-fashioned swingboat. Everything was prettily decorated with flowers but on first sight Hamstilidamst could see that nothing edible was among them.

There were the pipers as Scotty knew them. He listened to the music cheerfully and just wanted to begin to rumble along when close to his ear he heard a voice saying:

"Over there they've got pancakes!"

In his enthusiasm he had not noticed that the hamster had come back to him. Slowly he turned his head and looked into two dark beaded eyes. He grinned.

"Buckwheat pancakes an’ oat biscuit afterwards – ay, tha's Scotland."

"O well, I don’t care if that's Scotland", Hamstilidamst retorted.

One thing none of them knew. Wherever they went somebody whispered to somebody "Tha's them!" Everyone was really glad that the strangers had knocked out the three bullies. They might have lived like in Cockayne and pay nowhere. But the Captain felt distressed about this and when he and his colleagues did not only get free pancakes but also free tea, they walked off to look for the street branching off the village centre.

Even Hamstilidamst did not object because he had eaten so much that he scrambled into Kirk's sleeve to take a nap and did not notice that the officers passed the merry-go-rounds without merry-go-rounding. Kirk was grateful for the hamster's pigged out sleepiness. Hamstilidamst was able to express his wishes very loud and nerving.

Unfortunately the old man had not told them where the village centre was where they should turn towards the mountains. They walked through the whole place and had to go back to find the right way. Again they approached the noise of the funfair but it died down soon in the quiet street which really ran straight to the mountains. After they passed the last houses standing close together, the road became a path. In a short distance they could see a long building beside a small tenement, beside a shed, beside a garage, beside another shed. All this looked quite warped.

"That can't be it, can it?!" Dr. McCoy exclaimed.

"Has there been anything the like when you've been here, Scotty?" Kirk inquired.

"Och, I've been fishin’ here an’ nae looking ’t age-worn houses."

"In case that means no…" Spock began.

"Means nae!"

Spock directed his tricorder to the buildings and scanned them. Then he took a deep breath.

"As much as this contradicts my idea about a lab where someone tries to experiment with the controlled reaction of matter and antimatter…"

"So that's it", Kirk interrupted.

"Yes, Sir."

"So let's pay a visit."

"Why is it that quiet? Is the power off?"

Hamstilidamst, waking up. He scrambled out of Kirk's sleeve, looked about him and fell into a shocked silence. The funfair was gone! That was unfair – that simply was unfair.

"What power?" Scott was baffled.

"We're no longer at the funfair!" Hamstilidamst squeaked in a voice holding much reproach.

"Perhaps you remember that we never wished to go there", Lt. Spock remarked and Hamstilidamst gave him a dark look.

Never mind where they wanted to go. A good hamster was only interested in the things hamsters liked best. When he wanted to run away from the sleeve, Kirk held him. Didn't say anything, didn't scold – just held him. Somehow that was rather convincing. No way!

Instead they walked towards a few buildings which… Hum, might be of interest for a hamster. If he saw that correctly this would be paradise to the repair hamsters. There a roof tile was missing, there something rattled. Hamstilidamst really wondered what the men wanted here.

At the front door Captain Kirk looked for a transmitter unit to announce them. As he found none he looked at Spock who opened an archive file 'Everyday life in the early 21st century' in his tricorder. He required information as to how to get entrance into a house if one wanted to pay a visit. Soon he received a detailed text on contact wires to sound units.

"Bell", he said. "There should be a kind of button. If we press it, inside the house sounds a ringing or gonging noise. This signals to the inhabitants that one or several persons require admission."

"This is a most interesting lecture, Spock, but here's nothing like that", McCoy said who had looked for a bell during the reading out of the information.

Also Hamstilidamst had listened to this humbug. As the Captain was holding him in the right height, he did what one did in Scotland if one wanted to enter some house and was tall enough. With his paw he gripped the knocker, lifted it and let it fall again. The noise was surprisingly penetrating.

"That's the way", he said uppishly.

"But that's darkest Stone Age", Dr. McCoy mumbled, repeated the procedure, however.

When he lifted his hand for the third time, the door was wrenched open. A spindly old woman faced them, tussled grey hair, clad in a slop and worn shoes. She fitted the house well.

"Yes?" she croaked.

"Excuse me, does Professor Fergus McTinker live here?" Kirk asked with his most charming smile.

"Yes."

"My name is Kirk, these are my colleagues Professor Spock, Dr. Scott, and Dr. McCoy."

"Yes."

"We have read his interesting publications", Spock explained.

"Yes."

"We’d like ter talk wi’ him ’bout them ", Scott said in a bit pressing fashion.

"Yes?"

"We've been informed correctly that he lives and works here?" Kirk asked and slowly the smile froze on his face.

"Yes."

"Is it possible to talk to Professor McTinker?" Dr. McCoy now tried it and the old hag frowned heavily.

"Yes", she hesitatingly croaked after she decided that in principle it was technically possible to talk to the professor.

"May we come in?" Captain Kirk tried again and her eyes became icy.

"No!"

"Is Professor McTinker at home? Will you ask him if he wants to talk with us?"

"No and no", she answered both questions and banged the door into their faces.

The said faces were quite a sight. What were they to do? Nothing but yes and no was to get out of the old hag. If she had told the truth, the scientist was not at home. They had not considered the possibility that he was not there. They just wanted to leave to take council somewhere when they heard shuffling steps.

"Hullo?"

Around the corner came a young man lugging a big log. As "Hullo" was a much better beginning than yes and no, they turned to him. Once more they introduced themselves and told him what they wanted.

The young man opened his arms and at the same time jumped backwards so that the falling log just missed his feet. Then with a grin he stretched out an arm.

"I'm John McGofer, t’ professor's assistant. Why, tha's swell, ye comin’ here. Ye take him serious? Nobody takes him serious."

As he was standing there, gangly, red-haired and very freckled, he did not really look as if he should be taken serious – he decidedly did not look like the assistant of any professor.

"Oh, in America we are liberal against new ideas. We found the papers of our colleague most interesting", Kirk explained and Spock added:

"For us the question of executing the theoretical idea comes up. We would like to discuss with him about this."

"But if ye’re his assistant, ye might show us his lab?" Lt. Scott put the decisive question.

"Nonono", John McGofer replied in a terrified voice and blushed fiercely. "O my goodness, absolutely impossible. No one must see his lab, even me."

"Er, how can you then be his assistant?" Dr. McCoy wondered.

"Oh, I prepare them slates, tha's very important."

"Aha-a-a!" Kirk said in an enlightened voice although he did not look very enlightened. "And the wood, too?"

"That?!" McGofer said and looked at the log a few centimetres from his feet. "Nonono! If the professor's not in I make meself a wee bit useful. Helpin’ good ol’ Brigg. Choppin’ wood an’ so on. I just wanted to take it ter the shed. Wanna join me? I can make tea an’ offer some biscuits."

"Ouch!" said Kirk and gripped his forearm.

When "good old Brigg" had opened the door, Hamstilidamst had already vanished into Kirk's sleeve again. He had almost fallen asleep but the magic word "biscuits" made him wide awake and he nudged Kirk's arm. If he dared to refuse the invitation! His last meal after all had been ages ago, he could not even remember it.

"Haha, strained something!" Kirk laughed artificially and inwardly cursed the hamster.

"Perhaps there are some items we might talk about, Mr. McGofer", Spock said. "We accept the invitation to the shed."

Hamstilidamst in the sleeve clapped his paws until the sleeve wobbled. Quickly Kirk turned away to give the sleeve a little slap. After a murmured "Dammit, keep quiet!" the sleeve immediately stopped wobbling. After all it might be well possible that he would get nothing to eat if he did not do what Kirk wanted, Hamstilidamst thought. He had not had to care for nourishment himself up to now and for a hamster that was quite pleasing.

With a loud thud the log fell to the ground. Once more John McGofer hopped away in time not to get it onto his feet. Five people quite filled the shed but for a shed it was very comfortable. Beside a workbench and a sawbuck there was a roughly carpented table and a few stools, a shelf with mugs and plates and an electric cooking plate. John seemed to spend a good part of his time in here. Now he laboriously cleared his throat.

"Harrump! By the way, I share this shed wi’ two hamsters. Probably ran away somewhere. I feed them an’ sometimes they disappear but they – er, well they're ‘t home here. If somethin’ hamsterlike crosses yer path… I hope you don't dislike it."

"But not at all!" Kirk replied at once. "We do love hamsters. To tell the truth we are travelling with one, but we didn't know…"

"Nonono! Just don't!" McGofer cried, terrified.

"Don't what?" Lt. Scott asked, baffled.

"Er, nonsense, what I mean… Good that ye dinna show him up t’ now. Brigg w’ld have banged t’ door into yer faces."

"She did anyway", McCoy mumbled.

"'Dinna let those beasts into t’ house!' – She's very particular. - Where is he?"

"Er, in my sleeve."

"How cute! Let him come out. Wha's his name? I even dinna know whether mine are here. Noonoonoo, where are ye pet? Wha's yer name?" John changed into some silly language which grown-ups often use with children when the hamster scrambled out of Kirk's sleeve.

"His name is Hamstilidamst", Spock explained. "An exceptionally intelligent animal."

"Is he indeed? Haha, I always thought hamsters are only there tae get food. Hahaha! Now where are you? But ye're a canny ‘un. Ay, do run, p’rhaps ye'll find Muckly and Waggly. Ayayay…!"

Nobody needed to tell Hamstilidamst twice, but for an exception he refrained from any comment. That guy seemed to be bonkers and he did not want to have business with madmen. He had sniffed the hamsters as soon as he had come in. And there was something else, somehow familiar… He ran exactly to the corner where the two hamsters were living behind the workbench. Then he braked until wood shaves were flying.

"Daby!" he exclaimed, thunderstruck.

"Indeed, my dear Hamstilidamst", the hamster-girl replied and graciously added: "Hooty is befriended with these two. They're named Bummy and Balla. This is the acquaintance from Hamsterton I told you about. He's named Hamstilidamst."

"Hi", said Bummy and

"Hi", mumbled Balla.

"O well", Daby said who already had made the acquaintance of their politeness. "When in between Hooty stopped coughing she told me that she knew Fergus McTinker because Bummy and Balla are living here who helped her with the roof on the penthouse. Well now, I asked her for a description of the route. And how did you fare in the meantime, dear Hamstilidamst?"

He told her about the funfair, the nice brawl, and the knocker. Daby thought the knocker trivial, the brawl disgusting and the funfair something to think about.

"So, those guys do have a secret", Hamstilidamst explained, "but is has to do nothing with razors."

"Well now, the fire of enthusiasm carried me away", Daby admitted. "As to what Bummy and Balla know it is about things Fergus McTinker does in his laboratory. Razors don't come in there."

"And what does come in?" asked Hamstilidamst who felt just a little shirted by Daby.

"Stone plates - which I do not understand. But Balla said so."

"Yep", Balla said.

"That red haired guy babbles something about slate and that it's important."

"John", grumbled Bummy.

"Say, can you talk in complete sentences?" Hamstilidamst hissed.

"Nope, why?" it came in two voices.

Hamstilidamst wondered how those two had managed to get to the roof of the hotel and to put a roof onto Hooty's house. Both were fat, for ever chewing and appeared to be extremely lazy not only in talking. Miracle that Daby got anything out of them at all.

"I did not get very much out of them", she admitted. "Now and then it is very loud in the lab, sometimes there are explosions, Fergus McTinker often curses. John McGofer usually is very excited then."

"Fergus isn't in", Hamstilidamst knew.

"Aha! This explains why your astronauts are talking to McGofer. Could you learn where he is at the moment?"

"No, but if anybody knows it will be those two blubberbutts", he retorted and jerked his head in the direction of Bummy and Balla.

"Who? We?" it chorused from the corner.

"I don't see any other blubberbutts."

"They are really a little - portly", Daby admitted.

"Shall we roll you down? Wanna get a drubbing?" Bummy asked and Balla added:

"Might get it."

"O please! Please!" Daby squeakily tried to soothen them.

But the two fat hamsters had already fallen on Hamstilidamst. He defended himself with all his strength but against those two bruisers he would have no chance. For some moments Daby watched disgustedly, then she produced an artificial sigh, took a chipping and banged it over the two heads. Bummy and Balla would get nice big goose eggs and rather staggered around.

"Treating a guest, an outlandish guest, as it is, like that, is impertinent. I will certainly tell Hooty about it", Daby said firmly.

From both came the expected wailing. Hooty took care that her friends regularly got titbits from the hotel kitchen. And if Hooty knew that the two of them had attacked Hamstilidamst who had rescued her from the ventilation shaft there certainly would be no more titbits for some time.

Daby had taken Hamstilidamst aside and explained this to him. He was completely satisfied with this solution. Now she helped him to straighten his fur so that he quickly felt better. When Daby saw that she cautiously said:

"Dear Hamstilidamst, something peculiar is happening here. It is our duty to get to the root of it but up to now we have not been successful."

"Hum – right."

"How about presenting me to your companions? As I know you have been of great assistance to them in some situations. Perhaps they are willing to accept further assistance."

"Why, it's been you who didn't want to be seen", he retorted. "Now listen, somehow nobody shall know that they can talk with me. I don't speak with them, if strangers are about. That okay for you?"

"Certainly, dear Hamstilidamst. It's just most important that I – that we can hear everything they talk about."

However, they had missed the communication between John McGofer and the officers. Concerning any experiments, John could tell them nothing because the professor did all this clandestinely. But John thought the professor might perhaps show his lab to colleagues from America. McTinker had published many papers on his experiments but most scientists only laughed at him and called him an oddball. If now four came at a time who were seriously interested in his lab-work he perhaps showed it to them.

"Ay, but where is he now?" Lt. Scott asked who had thought that the professor would turn up any moment.

"He's in Fort William tae collect somethin’. As he dinna know exactly when’t arrives he’ll p’rhaps stay there for a few days", John McGofer explained.

"Unfortunately our schedule is a little tight", Spock said. "Do you know where we might find him there?"

"O ayayay. He's got a small flat as he often goes there tae collect somethin’ and has tae wait for it. If ye wanna pay him a visit I'll gi’ yer t’ address."

"That would be really kind", Kirk said. "We expect to be called home the day after tomorrow and so…"

"O ayayay! Jist wait a moment, I'll go tae t’ house an’ note it down."

He jumped up and set off. However, at the door he stopped, turned, grinned and lifted first the one, then the other leg to look at the soles of his shoes.

"Anything wrong?" the Captain asked.

"Nonono, everythin’ a’ right. But good ol’ Brigg turfs me out at once if I’ve sawdust at the shoes. – But I haen't!"

After this cry of triumph he slammed the shed door and was gone. The officers looked at each other and even Spock took a deep breath. The young man was a little tiring!

"Do you know Fort William, Scotty?" Kirk asked.

"I do indeed, Captain, hae been there more than once. The Caledonian Canal ends there, they've got a really interestin’ ol’ lock-system. Now and then it's still in use."

"For tourists?"

"Och nay, ye dunnae find tourists there. It's shown tae students o’ mechanical history."

"Ohum!" it sounded beside his shoe and he looked down.

"Now look at, Sir, Hamstilidamst found a girl friend."

"He's a fast one", Kirk grinned.

"Could one of you lift us upon the table before that guy's back?" Hamstilidamst asked politely.

Lt. Scott bent and took up both hamsters. He scrutinized the new hamster, was scrutinized in turn, then a well-bred voice said:

"If you do not mind, Sir, I would prefer solid ground under my paws."

"Cool!" Dr. McCoy ejaculated.

"This is Daby", Hamstilidamst explained. "We know her since our last trip to Scotland. She's the assistant of Balthasar."

"Of – whom?" Kirk exclaimed with a grin.

"Balthasar is the president of BANTACH – the Basic All Nations Trust of Archaeology for Celtic Hamsters", Daby explained politely.

Four jaws dropped, then Scotty cleared his throat.

"Eh? Er, ye exc’vate Celtic hamsters – or what?"

"Unfortunately I can give no detailed information. All this is most secret. – I'm used to be a carrier of secrets.”

"I assume it is about excavation works which are done by Celtic, that is Scottish hamsters", Spock said.

Daby looked at him ponderingly for a long while, then she slinkily hurried over the table, sat down in front of him and said in a conspirative voice:

"Sir, even if you were right, I could not tell you anything about it."

"Certainly not, it is the most fascinating aspect in carriers of secrets. - My name is Spock."

"Pleased to meet you. – You are obviously an exceptionally intelligent human."

"No!" McCoy wailed. "Now he starts again!"

"With this illogical outburst my colleague announces that now I'm going to inform you that I am not human. Perhaps Hamstilidamst told you that we came from the future? My home planet is named Vulcan."

All were baffled when Daby rested her chin on a paw. Enrapted, she stared at Spock, then she breathed:

"An alien! How incredibly exciting! Surely nobody is to know that?"

"Quite right, nobody is to know that."

"O my God, I'm feeling quite dizzy!"

"Come on, stop feeling dizzy", Hamstilidamst interrupted this adoration. "I can hear that guy coming back."

"Into the sleeve", Kirk said and opened the cuff of his sweatshirt.

"The sleeve?!" Daby was bewildered and Hamstilidamst replied in about her tone:

"Indeed, dear Daby, during this journey in Scotland I use to travel in a sleeve."

"So in with you, luv", the Captain grinned and she gave him a look.

"Are we that familiar?"

"Being friends of Hamstilidamst, we should be at least. I'm Kirk, that's Scott, the one over there is McCoy, and now into the sleeve."

"Pleased to meet you all", Daby said, nodded to them and slipped into Kirk's right sleeve, while Hamstilidamst disappeared into the left one.

John McGofer apologized for the delay but Brigg had kept him. The officers wondered what good old Brigg might talk about beside yes and no and restraints to the occupants. But it really was not important. They got the address of Prof. McTinker in Fort William and the directions as well.

"Ye certainly hae ’ired a car?" John asked.

"No", Spock curtly replied.

"So ye'd best tak t’ bus. Due to t’ feast t’ station hae certainly been moved. Ye'll find’t all right. Haha, I’d be happy if ye came ’gain together wi’ t’ professor. Hae been a real pleasure."

While they left the premises, Spock got out his tricorder and inquired what hiring a car meant. He all too clearly remembered something which had happened a few years ago.

They had visited a planet where the people were living like Chicago gangsters of the first half of the 20th century. Against their wishes they had been drawn into the ongoings, had to flee several times. On one such occasion the Captain had stolen a car - without having the faintest idea how such a vehicle functioned. It had been a horror trip. For nothing in the world Lt. Spock would sit again in an automobile with Kirk at the wheel.

A squeak interrupted his memories:

"May we come out at last?"

"Why, yes, sorry", Kirk said and let the two hamsters out of his sleeves. "But I guess you've got to get in again when we mount the bus."

"The bus is due in the afternoon", Daby said, climbed along the sweatshirt and sat on Kirk's shoulder.

"Great, then now we've got time for the funfair", Hamstilidamst cheered.

"Jim, I think we can't avoid that", McCoy grinned. "Look, over there is a big wheel.”

"You all right in your attic? I won't mount any big wheel.”

"But up there ye've got a great view o’er Loch Leven an’ Loch Linnhe an’ Glencoe an’…"

"Scotty, you sound like Hamstilidamst!"

"Doesn't he?" the hamster said. "That's when you've got Scottish ancestors."

"Probably it is indeed", Kirk retorted angrily.

"Perhaps it would not be a mistake to get an overview of our surroundings", the Vulcan said and McCoy stared at him open-mouthed.

"I just got that right? You want to mount a big wheel?"

"Doctor, I would of course prefer to scan the surroundings from a shuttle…"

"Don't you believe that", McCoy interrupted. "You only long for some childish amusement."

"He wants to do us a favour", Hamstilidamst remarked. "Why shouldn't he? You may well stay away."

"No way, my pet. I want to be there if the guy begins vomiting up there."

"I do not have the tiniest reason to do anything like that", Spock replied, piqued.

By now they were close to the noise of the funfair. At the first munching stand Hamstilidamst forgot the big wheel for a while. Except the biscuits at John's none of them had eaten anything since breakfast and the hamster needed not ask for anything. To the contrary, he had the choice between scones, fruit salad or fish 'n chips. The hamsters spoilt for choice but as each officer chose something different they tried everything.

Finally they stayed with Kirk and Spock. The Captain had ordered fish 'n chips, Spocks only took chips. Again Dr. McCoy accused the Vulcan of some time mutating to a human being. It was not to be expected that he really would, but he was a friend to the hamsters and bought a bag of scones so that Hamstilidamst and Daby would not starve during the journey to Fort William.