Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom.  This story is the creation and property of Gerry Downs and is copyright © 1978 by Gerry Downes.  Rated PG.

 

NESSIE

Gerry Downes

 

Now dragons are a fearsome sight

With scaley, glittery hides

And claws and fangs and forked tongues

And reptile eyes that glow inside.

They say on Berengaria

The beasts have learned to fly;

While on Camelopardalis

They are gentle creatures--shy.

But the finest dragons of them all

Live on the planet of your birth. 

Lochnesses are what they are called;

They live on that far planet--Earth.

 

"Well, now, what did ye think of the Inverness castle today?" Scotty asked of no one in particular as they set up the evening camp.

"A swordsman's dream," answered Sulu.  "I've never seen so many ancient weapons in one place before."

"Suits of armor, and tapestries, all tucked away in that old fortress," sighed Ducharme.  "What romantic days they must have been."  She carefully pulled a dinner packet from the campfire and tested it.  "Supper's ready."

"Good, I'm starved."  Chekov hurried over and drew his out.  "Wacationing is hungry vork."

"Aye," agreed Scott.  "But it's worth it to see this grand auld country.  T'was a fine idea to spend our leave here, Mr. Sulu."  And a fine chance to show these kids just who knows his history, he thought.

"Yes, I don't even mind all the hiking."  Sulu joined the others and began eating.  Between mouthfuls, "I'm almost sorry we have to report back tomorrow."

"Well, this is a lovely spot for a last night camp."  Lt. Ducharme folded her empty packet carefully and put it back in her pack.  She began pouring coffee for everyone.  "The lake over there is so beautiful, and the colors of that sunset tonight," she sighed again.

"There's stories about that peaceful lake."  Sulu finished and reached for his coffee.  "Tales of a strange creature that lives out in the water."

"Surely ye dinna believe such foolishness, lad," Scott protested.  "Monsters on Earth in this day 'n age."

"They're probably all gone now, but people used to think there was something like a plesiosaur that somehow managed to survive the ice ages."

"Tales to frighten children," Scott snorted.  "I for one am goin' for a walk down by yonder loch.  Anyone care ta come along?"

"Sorry, Scotty," Ducharme answered first.  "My feet refuse to take another step tonight."

Sulu and Chekov both shook their heads.  "Not me."  "No thanks."

"The younger generation's gettin' soft," Scott grinned.  "Save me a bit o' room by the fire, then.  It's chilly on towards mornin'."

"Call us if you find a monster, ve'll come rescue you," Chekov promised.

"Ah, I'm sure I'll manage somehow, dinna worry."

* * *

 

It was a beautiful night for a walk.  The stars and moon gave plenty of light and Scotty followed the path to the lake easily, humming softly to himself.  The lake surface was smooth as glass, a dark liquid mirror reflecting the stars like jewels from its depths.  He followed the shoreline and after a while climbed up on a large rock that was half in and half out of the water.

He looked from the lights in the water up to the lights in the sky.  Yes, Earth was nice to visit, but it would be good to get back to his engines.  He had enjoyed himself, true enough.  But the Enterprise was his real home and she was out there waiting for her engineer.  He turned from the water and stood up to climb down.  Then he heard a faint splashing and something large and hard nudged his back!

"Quick now," said a low voice right behind him.  "What isss your name and your businesss here?"

Scotty stood very still.  "Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott and I was just admirin' the loch and the stars."  The pressure left his back.

"Very well," said the hissing voice, more pleasantly.  "May I call you Montgomery?"

Scotty turned around and looked into a glowing amber eye larger than his hand on a meter long head attached to a slender curving neck that broadened out as it disappeared under the dark water.  He took a small step backward and nearly slipped.  "Call me whatever ye like," he stammered, regaining his balance.  "What manner o' beastie are you?"

"I am the monssster of Loch Nessss, of courssse," the dragon answered.  "You can call me Nesssie, if you want to," he added politely.

"Ye oughtn't ta sneak up on a mon that way," Scott said, recovering somewhat.  "Ye gave me quite a start."

"I'm sssorry, Montgomery.  It isss necessary for me to hear a human ssspeak a few wordsss before I can tell if it iss sssafe to approach."

"How is it ye'r speakin' ta me?"

"The wordsss are not correct?" the dragon asked, slightly confused.

"What I mean is," Scott sat back down on his rock, curious now, "how is it ye can talk?"

The dragon laughed a small rumbling laugh.  "I sssee.  Long ago, many humansss usssed to come to the lake to look for me.  We ... I had plenty of time to learn ssspeech.  I ssspeak ssseven different languagessss," he said with pride.

"Ye started to say we," Scott ventured.  "Are there many more of ye?"

"A misstake, Montgomery.  It hasss been ssso long sssince I ssspoke to a human."  He saw the man reaching inside his coveralls.  "What are you doing?" he asked, his crest rising in alarm.

"Calm yourself, Nessie," Scott reassured him.  "I only thought to hae a drop o' whiskey.  It seems ta be a good time for it."

"SSScotch whissskey?" the dragon hissed hopefully.

"Aye," Scott drew out his flask.  "How do ye know about Scotch?"

"Three, or wasss it four?, centuriesss ago, another party of sssearchersss came looking forme.  They were well sssupplied with refressshmentsss, and I managed to bump into their boat and a few bottlesss accidentally fell overboard.  They were very excited about sssighting me, but with the sssmell of all the whissskey they ssspilled, I don't think they were believed."

The dragon's long forked tongue licked delicately at his fangs.  "Would you ... ssshare sssome with me, Montgomery?"

"O 'course, " Scott answered, taking off the cap.  "If you're sure now ye like it."

"Oh, yesss."  The dragon leaned his great head forward and opened his mouth.  Scott looked at the teeth in the gaping jaw and took a quick pull on the flask himself for courage.  Then he carefully inserted his hand between the front fangs, poured in a healthy amount of whiskey, and quickly withdrew his hand.

The jaws closed with an audible click as the dragon rolled the lovely liquid around with his tongue.  Then he swallowed slowly.  "Ahhhh," he sighed blissfully.  "Thank you, Montgomery."

"Well, now, if you're the only one here, Nessie, dinna ye get lonesome?" Scott helped himself to another drink.

"Yesss, sssince Litket and Meryn passssed on, it hasss been lonely.  They fought conssstantly, but even arguementsss are conversssation of a sort."  The dragon opened his mouth for another drink, and Scott poured in the remaining contents of the flask.

"Litket and Meryn?  And who were they, now?" Scotty asked.

"I'll be happy to ssstay and talk with you, Montgomery, but explaining iss thirssty work.  I don't sssuppossse you have any more?" The dragon sounded wistful.

"I do, back at the camp.  If ye dinna mind waitin', I'll go fetch it."

"I'd be very pleasssed to wait, Montgomery."

Scotty scrambled down from the rock and headed towards the path.  Once he glanced back, and saw the dragon's neck and head silhouetted against the dark water, scales gleaming silvery in the moonlight.  Back at the campsite, he looked at his sleeping shipmates and shook his head.  "Scotty, ye must be daft, talkin' and drink in ' with mythical beasties."  But he pulled the half-liter of Scotch out of his pack anyway and headed back for the lake.

"Nessie, where are ye?" he called in a loud whisper as he approached the rock.

"Right here," the dragon answered, his head and neck rising almost soundlessly from the water.  "I alwaysss hide underwater when I'm waiting, for sssafety.  Force of habit," he apologized.

"I brought the Scotch."  Scotty held up the bottle and poured the dragon another mouthful.  "Now, then," he sat back down on the rock and took a drink himself, "who were Litket and Meryn, and what happened to them?"

So the dragon talked with the man, explaining about his relatives, and about how a few of the long-lived dragons had always been at Loch Ness, showing themselves often enough to keep a few curious people around, once people had appeared on the scene.  He told of their peculiar empathic semi-telepathic abilities, by which they had avoided those people with savage thoughts, and about the underwater cave, filled with dragon bones from the time of the beginning.  After the big change, Litket and Meryn had been so despondent and upset that they had gone in there one day and not come out, leaving him along.  After that he had stayed hidden, sleeping for months on end, as was a dragon habit, waking only a few times a year to tend to necessities, like eating.

"What was this change ye speak of?" Scott asked, as he poured another round.

"About two and a half centuriesss ago," the dragon answered when he had swallowed, the sssearchersss became ssseriousss.  SSScientissstsss even came in a sssubmarine!  They planned to capture usss and dissect usss!"  His voice trembled with the remembered horror of it.  "We hid, of courssse.  But one evil man brought depth chargesss, figured our bodies would float to the sssurface.  It wasss a terrible time, Montgomery."  A tear rolled from one shiny eye.  Scotty hastened to give him another drink.  After a moment, the dragon went on.  "Litket and Meryn were ssso sssad to think humanss had come to thisss, they couldn't go on.  It wasss the firssst time they ever agreed on anything."  He began to cry in earnest.

Scott petted the great head and made comforting sounds.  When the dragon had calmed down they shared another drink.  "It wouldna be like that now, Nessie.  Men have traveled the stars, and made friends with all kinds of Creatures out there.  If ye re­vealed yourself again, people wouldna harm ye, and ye'd have company to talk to."

"It'sss not much fun when humansss know for sssure that I'm real.  They alwaysss enjoyed it when they were uncertain ... it can be fun to be ssscared sssometimesss, when you almossst know the creature can't really exissst."  He opened his mouth for another drink, and Scotty poured one in.  "Sssometimesss whole familiesss would come.  I like children ... they never thought it wasss odd to talk to a dragon..."

After a little silence, Scott passed the bottle again, and began to hum, then sing, an old gaelic folk song.  To his surprise, the dragon joined in when he came to the part about all the different cows, hardly hissing at all.  Just at the end of the song the dragon belched loudly, and little orange-red flames flickered out of his mouth.

"Oh, excussse me!" the dragon exclaimed self-consciously, the flames coming again.  "Alcohol doesss that to me sssometimesss."  He burped once more.  "I believe I have a touch of heartburn."  He lowered his head and took a drink from the lake water.  Little wisps of smoke curled out of his nostrils.  "Ah, thattsss better."

"Perhaps ye've had enough to drink, Nessie," Scott suggested.

"Nonsssenssse, Montgomery, the evening'sss young yet."  To show he wasn't drunk he started to sing a bawdy tavern song.  Scotty laughed, remembering the last time he had heard it, and joined in.  They stopped for drinks in all the appropriate places.  The song went on for rounds and rounds, each verse getting more obscene than the last and they collapsed with booze and laughter long before the end.

"Ah, Nessie, you're a bonny, bonny dragon," Scotty managed to gasp out.  "What a night!"

"Montgomery, I am a little tired.  Would you mind if I take a ssshort nap?"  The dragon carefully settled his huge head on Scotty's lap, filling it to overflowing and effectively wedging him against the rock, and began to snore softly.

"'Course not, laddie, the bottle's empty anyway."  Scott leaned his head on the dragon's neck, at the soft place just behind the ear-membranes.  He could feel the creature's pulse beating steadily.  It gradually slowed to deepening slumber, drawing Scotty along to sleep.

* * *

 

A chill morning fog drifted through the campsite.  Sulu shivered and woke up.  He was adding logs to the fire when he noticed Scotty's sleeping bag was still rolled and tied.  "Chekov!  Ducharme!  Wake up."  He shook them awake.

"Vat is it at this hour?" Chekov grumbled.

"Scotty didn't come back last night.  Look!"  Sulu gestured to the eloquent sleeping bag.

Chekov dragged himself up and examined Scott's things.  "Vell, the bottle's gone from his pack.  He probably fell asleep down by the lake."

"I'll put the coffee on while you two go find him," Ducharme offered.  "If he slept out in the open, he's going to be cold and stiff."

Chekov automatically picked up a tricorder and he and Sulu started on the path to the lake.  Wisps of fog swirled around their feet.

"Watch your footing, Pavel, it's hard to see the ground in this."

After a while they heard water gently lapping the shore, then Chekov got his boot wet and they knew they were at the lake.  The water's surface was covered with the swirly fog.  "Vitch vay now?"

"Here's some footprints on this side.  Looks like he went to the left.  Come on."  They could see the tracks just often enough through the mist to know they were on the right trail.

A huge rock loomed up out of the fog.  Both men stared, speechless at the sight of Mr. Scott asleep with a dragon's head on his lap!  Sulu came out of it first.  "Quick, Pavel, your tricorder."

Chekov brought it up just as the dragon woke up with a start at the sound of a strange voice.  The monster raised his head so abruptly that he cracked Scotty on the chin, and he woke up yelling.  "Here, now!  What's goin' on?!"

"Pleassse, Montgomery, not ssso loud," the dragon pleaded, his huge head swaying nearer the men on the beach as he tried to focus bleary eyes.  He had a dragon-sized headache.

Sulu took a hasty step backward and bumped into Chekov, who slipped and fell.  The tricorder splashed into the lake.

"Wait, Nessie, it's all right," Scott called to the dragon.  But the creature was already swimming away, almost out of sight in the fog.  Amazingly fast for a beast that size.

While Sulu and Chekov brushed themselves off, Scott climbed down from the rock and fished out the tricorder.  His finger hit a button and it made a faint skrilling sound.  "Och, I'm sorry, Mr. Chekov.  The box was wet and my hand must've slipped.  I'm afraid your tape's erased."

"Mister Scott!"  Chekov snatched away the tricorder and checked it over, then swore.  "You newer had an accident vith a machine in your life!"

Scott held his head as Sulu joined in.  "Now we've no record of one of the most fantastic discoveries on the planet!!"

"Easy, lads," Scotty begged, "Quieter, please.  Ye can still file reports when we get back.  I'll back up your story.  O' course, it is a verra foggy mornin', and I have had a great deal to drink..."

"No one vould belief us, Mr. Scott," Chekov mourned, shaking his head. 

"We'll be laughed off the starbase," Sulu added gloomily.

"Not everyone will laugh, lads..  Maybe a few curious folks will start comin' here again, and give a poor lonely beastie someone to talk to."  He saw their puzzled expressions.  "Well, it's no fun if ye already know all the answers," he explained.  "Let's go back to camp, I really need some coffee this mornin'."

THE END