John smiled wistfully at the name inscribed on the headstone. "I had a cat called Tim when I was young," he said. "He lives with my Aunt Mimi still."
"Aye, Tim's a fine name for a pet," replied Angus MacGregor. He nodded politely at John, then pointed his flashlight at another grave marker in the small cemetery. "I had a wee mongrel named Jess when I was a lad, wouldn't you know, just like that poor ol' mutt buried over there."
Brian Epstein squinted so he could read the inscription on the dog's headstone. "She belonged to the Black Watch Forty-Second Royal Highlanders," he noted. "She died in 1881."
"Her's is the oldest stane in the castle's pet cemetery, to be sure," Angus added. "Now, if ye'll be so good as to follow me, I'll tak' ye to the palace where King James was born, and show ye the Honours of Scotland."
John, Paul, George, Ringo and Brian fell into place behind the tour guide. Angus aimed his flashlight at the cannons tucked into the tall stone archways as they passed the Half Moon Battery, then led the party of five up the long stone path to Edinburgh Castle's Crown Square.
"There are three bits to the Honours," Angus explained as they approached the palace. "The crown, which was made for James V in 1540 by the Auld Reekie goldsmith John Mosman. The sword, which was crafted in Italy and presented to James IV by Pope Julius in 1507. And the scepter, the oldest bit of the Honours. 'Twas also made in Italy and was gi'n to James IV by Pope Alexander, likely in or aboot 1494. But 'twas remodeled for James V by the Scots silversmith Andrew Leys in 1536."
"Why did he remodel it?" Ringo asked.
"I cannae be sure," Angus answered. "Though I suspect Mr. Leys was asked to make it a wee bit longer. Kings like their scepters to be imposing, if you ken whit I mean."
Paul snickered, "Och, I ken whit ye mean, alright!"
Angus exchanged friendly greetings with the guard posted outside the palace's front door. Then the guard led the group of six through the building's wide hallway towards the Crown Room.
"Hae ony o' ye seen th' Honours o' Scootlund afore?" the guard asked the Beatles.
"I have," George replied. "Though it was a very long time ago."
"Weel, you're jammy lads to be gettin' this private tooer," he replied as he twisted his key in the lock of the Crown Room's door.
"And they certainly appreciate your showing them around, even if they didn't say so," Brian added, casting an admonishing look at John. "My boys can hardly go anywhere these days without their fans pestering them."
"Eppie hired out Harrods for us last week," John piped in. "Had the whole bleeding store to ourselves for a coupl'a hours last Thursday."
The guard tripped the lock, then opened the door and gestured for the others to step inside. Angus flipped on the light switch and gasped.
Two men, one short and stout and the other tall and thin, were standing in front of the large display case that housed the Honours. The stout man, dressed in a bright red shirt with golden trim on the sleeves and a triangular insignia over his heart, was carrying a strange, round tool that made beeping and whirring sounds. His partner wore a bright blue shirt of a similar design and had a small black bag draped across his chest. An incongruous, plaid deerstalker hat was pulled low over the second man's ears. A sheet of plate glass had been removed from the front of the display case and was resting against the wall beside the two men.
The guard reached for his truncheon. "Stoap thieves! Whit th' hell dae ye think ye'r daein'?" he shouted at the intruders.
The tall, thin man turned towards the guard, pointed a thin, pen-shaped stick at his chest and pulled its trigger. The guard dropped his club, smiled a dimwitted grin, and slowly collapsed to the floor.
Angus stared at his fallen comrade in horror, then looked back at the culprit. The tall man, in turn, pointed his stick at Angus, released its trigger, and sent the tour guide reeling to the floor as well.
"Fuck me!" John cursed under his breath.
George took a small step away from the two strangers and spread his hands out wide, shielding Brian and Ringo's chests with his arms. "You'd best not shoot us too, you sorry sod, unless you want to cause an international incident."
Paul cleared his throat and squared his shoulders. "Yeah. Right. Listen to George, why don't you? The two of you will have hell to pay if you muck with us. We're national treasures, we are. The Queen'll set her corgis on you both!"
The tall man arched one of his pointed eyebrows and examined his accusers. "Indeed," he replied, lowering his silver stick after a moment of quiet reflection. "I recognize you now. You are the Beatles, an uncommonly popular musical quartet from Liverpool, England, which had a tremendous impact upon mid-twentieth century Terran culture. And you, sir, I believe, are their manager, Brian Epstein. Please accept my sincerest apologies. I had not anticipated that anyone would be visiting the Crown Room at this hour, least of all such illustrious persons as yourselves. The castle is closed for the night."
"I arranged a private tour for us with the castle staff," Brian replied haughtily. "We're on the up and up. Which is more than I can say for you."
The thick-set man in the red shirt rested his whirring tool inside the open display case, stepped towards the band, and lifted his hands in a gesture of friendship. "Aye, laddies. Ah kin explain this hail fankle. 'Tis lik' this. We come fae th' future. Oor starship traveled back in time tae watch ower ye a' while an especially pernicketie time 'n' see that ye come tae na harm, 'n' by ill luck we intercepted a mingin' transporter beam fae Mister Seven 'n' his wee moggie. Th' beam blasted a nook in oor engines, 'n' whin we tried tae return tae oor ain time by slinging oor starship aroond th' sun at stowed oot thrust, oor dilithium crystals wur blown tae bits. Och, a'maist entirely goosed thay wur! Sae we ur aff tae tak' th' crystal fae this scepter tae set hings tae richt. Bit dinna fash yirsel. Ah wull replace it wi' a stane that ah hae reamiplified, 'n' it shuid be as guid as freish afore a hunner years. Sae na yin wull be th' worse."
Ringo stared at the man in a slack-jawed stupor and said, "What?"
"Yes," Brian added. "I think 'What?' is the only appropriate response to that bit of prattle."
"Bit a' prattle, ye say, ya posh Sassenach!?" the stout man replied. He scowled, rolled up one of the sleeves of his red shirt and took another step forward. "Why, ah oughta…"
The thin man placed his right hand on his partner's shoulder and held him back. "Again, sirs, my apologies. My colleague is feeling very emotional about returning to the land of his birth and his brogue has gotten the better of him. I will translate. We come from the twenty-third century. My crewmates and I recently journeyed back through time to conduct historical research on your planet, but our starship accidentally intercepted an interstellar transporter beam emanating from a distance of one thousand lightyears away, and we became unavoidably enmeshed in a undertaking to assist Gary Seven, a galactic traveler, in detonating a rogue rocket-based nuclear warhead at a safe distance from the Earth's surface. Having successfully completed this mission, we attempted to return to our own century, using the light-speed break-away factor. But after we traveled past the planet Mercury and began momentarily drifting backwards in time, the dilithium crystals in our warp engine drive imploded, having been critically impaired by Mr. Seven's staggeringly massive transporter beam. So my colleague and I have come to the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle to exchange one of our damaged crystals for the stone in this scepter, which is the only functioning dilithium crystal known to exist on the planet Earth in this time period. We have, of course, reamplified the dilithium lattice in our replacement crystal with ions of Illium-629, so it should be fully charged within a period of eighty-six to ninety-two years. Hence, no-one will be the wiser when warp-drive technology is invented on this planet in the year 2063, and the presence of dilithium in this fabled scepter will first be noted."
John exchanged a dubious glance with Paul, then turned to face the intruders. "I think I understood the Scots better."
George glowered at the strangers. "You're talking rubbish. What sort of wooly-back science allows a starship to travel back and forth through time using a cockamamie 'light-speed break-away factor'?"
The stout man in red harrumphed loudly in response. The thin man raised his left eyebrow once more, stared pointedly at George, and answered, "Pataphysical science."
Brian crossed his arms in front of his chest and glared at the two men. "Might we know your names, or is it no longer customary in the twenty-third century to make introductions?"
The man in the red shirt sighed loudly, then rolled his sleeve back down and stepped towards Brian and the Beatles. "O' coorse. Ah'm Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer ae th' Starship Enterprise," he said gruffly, extending his right hand in a formal greeting. "And this is Mister Spock, oor ship's First Officer."
Ringo shook his hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Scott. And you too, Mr. Spock. I'm Ringo Starr."
Scotty's cross expression softened. "Indeed, I ken," he replied, his lips slowly curling into the trace of a reluctant smile. "Yer reputation precedes ye, laddie."
"Really?" Paul laughed, shaking hands with Scotty. "Are you two astronauts suggesting that our very own Ringo Starr will still be shining brightly in the twenty-third century?"
Spock clasped his hands behind his back, precluding any further gestures of greeting. "I am indeed, sir. Your most prescient drummer will one day establish a charity called 'The Lotus Foundation,' which will become one of the Earth's leading philanthropic organizations," he replied, nodding respectfully at Ringo. "I believe it would be fair to say that the human race would never have survived the atrocities of the twenty-first century's Eugenics War without the ministrations of the Lotus Foundation and its tireless support of the dual principles of Peace and Love."
Ringo beamed at his bandmates.
"Well, now you've done it," John said, rolling his eyes at Spock. "You've filled our Ritchie's mind with delusions of grandeur. And just look at him now – his poor little head, trembling under the weight of it! Dare I ask, will my name go down in history too?"
"Undeniably, Mr. Lennon," Spock said. "In six years' time you will write a song about peace and brotherhood that will one day become the interstellar anthem of the United Federation of Planets."
"You're having me on," John said, cracking a smile.
"Sir, I strongly deny your accusation," Spock stated emphatically. "Where would be the logic in that?"
John turned to his manager and started to laugh. "You signed up the right band, Brian. I'm going to write an intergalactic number one hit! Imagine all the royalties!"
Scotty shook hands with John, and then with Paul. "Och, good on ye, Mr. Lennon. But ye, Sir Paul, wull do yer mucker one better. Ye wull write an ode tae the Mull o' Kintyre that wull be sung by generations o' Scoots tae come. Why, mah ain granny mist hae sung it tae me ilka nicht whin ah wis a bairn. Och, I kin a'maist feel that mist rolling in fae th' sea noo, juist thinking aboot it."
Ringo winked at Paul. "Now who's chuffed, hey?"
John pointed to Scotty and frowned. "Did that wanker just call our bassist 'Sir Paul'?"
"I believe he did," Brian replied.
"What the fuck?" John cursed.
"What about me?" George asked, stepping forward.
Spock raised his eyebrow once more and examined George's face carefully, then cleared his throat. "Perhaps I ought not to say in the present company."
"What the hell does that mean?" George challenged, scowling at Spock.
"Why are you telling us this?" Brian interrupted. "Won't it affect the future if we know all this information about ourselves before it happens?"
"I suspect these so-called 'time travelers' wouldn't have shared their stories with us if they didn't have a clever plan up their gold-trimmed sleeves to erase our new memories," George proposed, throwing a contemptuous look at Spock.
"Really? Sir Paul?" John continued grousing to his manager. "That bastard in blue is definitely pulling our legs. What kind of pillock wears a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat while he's attempting a bloody robbery? I don't believe a word he says!"
"I think you actually have a good point, John," Brian agreed. "Why should we trust these two thieves?"
"Because they zapped Angus MacGregor and the castle guard with that 'wee moggie' they pinched from Mr. Seven," Ringo answered, his earlier bravado pushed aside by a gnawing and visibly obvious sensation of fear.
John collected himself. "Don't be daft, Ritchie. A 'wee moggie' is a small cat."
"Righto," Paul added, throwing back his shoulders and puffing out his chest. He pointed accusingly at Spock. "And the weapon that man is wielding is called a magic pen-ray. I've seen one in a comic book."
"It is called a 'servo'," Spock corrected him. "It is a curious device, to be certain, though hardly a magical one. It projects an invisible beam that stuns upon impact, but it is otherwise harmless. However, Sir Richard was partially correct. We did take this 'servo' from Gary Seven."
"Bullocks, now Ringo is Sir Richard too?" John shouted. "What the bleedin' hell does a man have to do to be knighted in your goddamned timeline? Christ!"
George eyed Spock warily. "So what do you intend to do now?"
"I intend to take the fully charged dilithium crystal from the scepter in this case and replace it with the re-amplified damaged crystal from our ship," Spock replied calmly. "Then Mr. Scott and I will hang the glass plate back over the Honours of Scotland, and return to the Enterprise."
"Och, moost we gang back straecht awa'?" Scotty asked, his eyes beginning to glisten. "Ah dinnae ken whin ah will get t' see Scootland again."
John's acerbic veneer slipped away the sight of Scotty's tears, and he offered him a sympathetic smile. "It is a beautiful country, isn't it, Montgomery? Some of my happiest memories are from the summers I spent in Durness when I was a boy."
"Ye'v bin tae Durness, laddie?" Scotty said, his face lighting up once more.
"My Uncle Bert and Aunt Mater own a farmhouse overlooking Sango Bay," John replied. "I used to go there with my cousins almost every summer when I was small."
"Ye've seen Smoo Cave?" Scotty gasped.
"And splashed in the waterfall that separates the fresh water from the sea," John laughed.
"Och, ye'v set mah hert racin'," Scotty said, putting his hand to his chest and covering his golden insignia.
"Mr. Scott, compose yourself," Spock chided. "We must attend to the matter at hand."
"Aye, yes, we moost," Scotty agreed. He returned to the case, lifted the scepter from its resting spot and examined it carefully. "Noo whit dae ye suppose is th' best wey tae tak' oot this stane?"
George cast a quick, anxious glance at his bandmates and manager, then slowly approached the display case. He took the scepter from Scotty and ran his finger over the filigree that held the crystal in place. "I feel a small lump here," he said. "Perhaps it's a soldering mark?"
Scotty took the scepter back, touched the spot and nodded. "Aye, laddie, ah think ye'r richt. It may be a wabbit plook."
"A wabbit plook?" Spock repeated.
"A weak spot," John translated.
Paul looked at George and furrowed his brow. "So when did you learn about soldering?"
"When I did my electrician's apprenticeship, before I became a national treasure," George replied testily.
"I thought all you learned from that gig was how to blow things up!" Paul chuckled.
Spock took the scepter away from Scotty, examined the 'wabbit plook', and nodded thoughtfully. "I shall take your advice, Mr. Harrison. If we leave a small mark here, it can be explained away in the future as a blot made by Andrew Lews when he refurbished this scepter in the early sixteenth century."
"Andrew Leys," George corrected him.
Spock locked eyes with George for a long moment, then rested the scepter back in its case. "But first I must dispatch the five of you."
"You were right, George," Brian muttered under his breath. "He had a plan to doff us all along."
"Bloody hell! He's going to zap us with his silver thingee now!" Ringo cried.
"I could," Spock agreed. "Though I would prefer to offer you a more pleasant option."
He reached into the cross-body bag draped over his chest and pulled out a small vial. "Before Mr. Scott and I beamed down to the Earth's surface, our ship's doctor gave me these. He knew recreational drugs were particularly popular at this point in Earth's history, and thought we might present these pills to anyone who accidentally disrupted our work, as an alternative to the 'servo' or our Federation-issued stunning phaser."
Brian Epstein stepped forward and assumed an authoritative stance. "Are you trying to give my boys drugs, Mr. Spock?"
"A harmless, non-addicting hallucinogenic," Spock replied. "These tablets are extracted from the Birnhama plant on Rigel VI. Shortly after ingesting them, the user will experience a mild sensation of euphoria that will slowly ebb into a trancelike state of bliss. As the effect wears off, the user will fall asleep briefly, then upon awakening, forget everything that happened in the last twenty-four hours. There are no other known side effects."
"Damn, that sounds like the world's most perfect drug!" John laughed, his eyes wide with excitement.
"That galaxy's most perfect drug," Spock corrected him. "Bliss-seekers from lightyears away travel to Rigel VI to indulge in the experience."
"Sign me up," John replied with a lopsided smile.
"I will offer each of you a choice between a Birnhama pill and the servo," Spock announced. "In either scenario, you will forget everything that transpired this evening. If you opt for the servo, I will stun you, then coordinate with the Enterprise's Transporter Chief to beam you to a safe destination where you may rest. If you opt for the pills, I will watch you ingest them, then send you on your way. I trust you have a mode of transportation arranged to take you away from the castle?"
Paul eyed the vial in Spock's hand with a curious look, then raised his head and smiled. "Our chauffeur Alf is waiting in the carpark in our Rolls. He'd already seen Edinburgh Castle, so he's just having a smoke while the five of us do the tour. He'll be driving us to Glasgow as soon as we get back to the car. We're playing the Odeon tomorrow night."
"Well, I don't know about you, mates, but I'm choosing euphoria and bliss over the magic pen-ray," John announced. He exchanged grins with his bandmates, then looked back at Spock excitedly.
Spock nodded and offered the first pill to Brian. "I shall trust you to watch over your charges, Mr. Epstein, and see that they walk directly to their automobile. The hallucinogen will take hold in approximately fifteen minutes. You five should be safely inside your Rolls Royce by then."
"You leave me little choice," Brian replied. He accepted the pill from Spock and swallowed it. Then he picked up Angus's flashlight, turned it on, and pointed the beam towards the exit. John, Paul and Ringo grabbed their pills greedily from Spock and placed them, one by one, under their tongues.
George locked eyes with Spock once more. "Are you sure these have no ill effects? You've tried them yourself?"
"They have no known side-effects on humans," Spock answered.
"But you're a Vulcan," George pointed out. He grabbed a pill, placed it under his tongue and smiled at Spock. "What do you know about such things?"
"Come along now, boys," Brian said. He ushered the band members out of the room, making sure that none of them stepped on the fallen guard or tour guide as they left.
"We'll be popping out then," John called over his shoulder. "Give Angus our love when he wakes up."
Ringo shut the door behind him as the group left the room.
Scotty turned towards Spock. "Wid ye jalouse that, Mr. Spock? We juist met t' Beatles!"
"Yes," Spock agreed. He pulled the damaged dilithium crystal from his bag and set it beside the scepter in the case. "Did you notice anything unusual about Mr. Harrison?"
Scotty picked up the tool he had been holding earlier and started waving it over the top of the scepter. "Aye. He knew ye wur a Vulcan, withoot yer tellin' 'im."
"Did you read the Captain's log concerning our recent trip to the Omega System, where we met the seemingly immortal Renaissance man, Mr. Flint?" Spock asked.
"Aye, that I did," Scotty answered.
"I believe we may have met another incarnation of him," Spock proposed. "Throughout his long life, he has been known by many illustrious names, including Alexander the Great, Leonardo di Vinci and Johannes Brahms. At this point in the Earth's timeline, I hypothesize that he might answer to the name George Harrison."
"Mebbe," Scotty said. He lowered his tool so that it touched the scepter and loosened the stone. "An' ah suspect he may hae wance gaen by th' name Andrew Leys as weel."
"Fascinating," Spock said. He placed the good crystal in his bag and slipped the damaged one from the Enterprise's warp core into the scepter's setting.
"Ah ne'er thought a'd be haudin' this beauty in mah ain hauns," Scotty said. He ran his tool over the scepter's fittings, securing the new crystal into place, and admired his handiwork. Then, with the greatest of reverence, he moved the scepter back to its proper spot in the case beside the crown and sword. He threw an anxious glance at the plate glass leaning against the wall.
"Dae ye think efter we pat that back we micht tak' a wee birl by Sango Bay, Mr. Spock? Ah hae a hankering tae see Smoo Cave wance mair afore we gang back tae th' ship. Ah dinnae think th' captain wull mind."
With gratitude to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the television series "Star Trek", and to the authors of the episodes "Assignment: Earth" (Art Wallace), "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (D.C. Fontana) and "Requiem for Methuselah" (Jerome Bixby).