A few delicious tidbits in here, to which we will add as the hours, days, weeks, months and years go by.


Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:50 pm

Chapter 30

Zaphod Beeblebrox crawled bravely along a tunnel, like the hell of a guy he was. He was very confused, but continued crawling doggedly anyway because he was that brave.

He was confused by something he had just seen, but not half as confused as he was going to be by something he was about to hear, so it would be best, at this point, to explain exactly where he was. He was in the Robot War Zones many miles above the surface of the planet Krikkit.

The atmosphere was thin here, and relatively unprotected from any rays or anything that space might care to hurl in this direction.

He had parked the starship Heart of Gold among the huge jostling dim hulks that crowded the sky here above Krikkit, and had entered what appeared to be the biggest and most important of the sky buildings, armed with nothing but a Zap gun and something for his headaches.

He had found himself in a long, wide and badly lit corridor in which he was able to hide until he worked out what he was going to do next. He hid because every now and then one of the Krikkit robots would walk along it, and although he had so far led some kind of charmed life at their hands, it had nevertheless been an extremely painful one, and he had no desire to stretch what he was only half inclined to call his good fortune.

He had ducked, at one point, into a room leading off the corridor, and had discovered it to be a huge and, again, dimly lit chamber.

In fact, it was a museum with just one exhibit -- the wreckage of a spacecraft. It was terribly burnt and mangled, and now that he had caught up with some of the Galactic history he had missed through his failed attempts to have sex with the girl in the cybercubicle next to him at school, he was able to put in an intelligent guess that this was the wrecked spaceship that had drifted through the Dust Cloud all those billions of years ago and started this whole business off.

But, and this is where he had become confused, there was something not at all right about it.

It was genuinely wrecked. It was genuinely burnt, but a fairly brief inspection by an experienced eye revealed that it was not a genuine spacecraft. It was as if it were a full-scale model of one -- a solid blueprint. In other words it was a very useful thing to have around if you suddenly decided to build a spaceship yourself and didn't know how to do it. It was not, however, anything that would ever fly anywhere itself.

He was still puzzling over this -- in fact he'd only just started to puzzle over it when he became aware that a door had slid open in another part of the chamber, and another couple of Krikkit robots had entered, looking a little glum.

Zaphod did not want to tangle with them and, deciding that just as discretion was the better part of valor, so was cowardice the better part of discretion, he valiantly hid himself in a closet.

The closet in fact turned out to be the top part of a shaft that led down through an inspection hatch into a wide ventilation tunnel. He let himself down into it and started to crawl along it.

He didn't like it. It was cold, dark and profoundly uncomfortable, and it frightened him. At the first opportunity -- which was another shaft a hundred yards farther along -- he climbed back up out of it.

This time he emerged into a smaller chamber, which appeared to be a computer intelligence center. He emerged in a dark narrow space between a large computer bank and the wall.

He quickly learned that he was not alone in the chamber and started to leave again, when he began to listen with interest to what the other occupants were saying.

"It's the robots, sir," said one voice, "there's something wrong with them."

"What, exactly?"

These were the voices of two War Command Krikkiters. All the War Commanders lived up in the sky in the Robot War Zones, and were largely immune to the whimsical doubts and uncertainties that were afflicting their fellows down on the surface of the planet.

"Well, sir, I think it's just as well that they are being phased out of the war effort, and that we are now going to detonate the supernova bomb. In the very short time since we were released from the envelope ..."

"Get to the point."

"The robots aren't enjoying it, sir."


"The war, sir, it seems to be getting them down. There's a certain world weariness about them, or perhaps I should say Universe weariness."

"Well, that's all right, they're meant to be helping to destroy it."

"Yes, well, they're finding it difficult, sir. They are afflicted with a certain lassitude. They're just finding it hard to get behind the job. They lack oomph."

"What are you trying to say?"

"Well, I think they're very depressed about something, sir."

"What on Krikkit are you talking about?"

"Well, in the few skirmishes they've had recently, it seems that they go into battle, raise their weapons to fire and suddenly think, why bother? What, cosmically speaking, is it all about? And they just seem to get a little tired and a little grim."

"And then what do they do?"

"Er, quadratic equations mostly, sir, fiendishly difficult ones by all accounts. And then they sulk."


"Yes, sir."

"Whoever heard of a robot sulking?"

"I don't know, sir."

"What was that noise?"

It was the noise of Zaphod leaving with his heads spinning.
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:50 pm

Chapter 31

In a deep well of darkness a crippled robot sat. It had been silent in its metallic darkness for some time. It was cold and damp but, being a robot, it was supposed not to be able to notice these things. With an enormous effort of will, however, it did manage to notice them.

Its brain had been harnessed to the central intelligence core of the Krikkit War Computer. It wasn't enjoying the experience, and neither was the central intelligence core of the Krikkit War Computer.

The Krikkit robots who had salvaged this pathetic metal creature from the swamps of Sqornshellous Zeta had done so because they had recognized almost immediately its gigantic intelligence, and the use this could be to them.

They hadn't reckoned with the attendant personality disorders, which the coldness, the darkness, the dampness, the crampedness and the loneliness were doing nothing to decrease.

It was not happy with its task.

Apart from anything else, the mere coordination of an entire planet's military strategy was only taking up a tiny part of its formidable mind, and the rest of it had become extremely bored. Having solved all the major mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical, etymological, meteorological and psychological problems of the Universe except his own, three times over, he was severely stuck for something to do, and had taken up composing short dolorous ditties of no tone, or indeed tune. The latest one was a lullaby.

Marvin droned.

Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won't engulf my head,
I can see by infrared,
How I hate the night.

He paused to gather the artistic and emotional strength to tackle the next verse.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

"Marvin!" hissed a voice.

His head snapped up, almost dislodging the intricate network of electrodes that connected him to the central Krikkit War Computer.

An inspection hatch had opened and one of a pair of unruly heads was peering through while the other kept on jogging it by continually darting to look this way and that extremely nervously.

"Oh, it's you," muttered the robot, "I might have known."

"Hey, kid," said Zaphod in astonishment, "was that you singing just then?"

"I am," Marvin acknowledged bitterly, "in particularly scintillating form at the moment."

Zaphod poked his head in through the hatchway and looked around.

"Are you alone?" he said.

"Yes," said Marvin, "wearily I sit here, pain and misery my only companions. And vast intelligence of course. And infinite sorrow. And ..."

"Yeah," said Zaphod, "hey, what's your connection with all this?"

"This," said Marvin, indicating with his less damaged arm all the electrodes that connected him with the Krikkit computer.

"Then," said Zaphod awkwardly, "1 guess you must have saved my life. Twice."

"Three times," said Marvin.

Zaphod's head snapped round (his other one was looking hawkishly in entirely the wrong direction) just in time to see the lethal killer robot directly behind him seize up and start to smoke. It staggered backward and slumped against a wall. It slid down it. It slipped sideways, threw its head back and started to sob inconsolably.

Zaphod looked back at Marvin.

"You must have a terrific outlook on life," he said.

"Just don't even ask," said Marvin.

"I won't," said Zaphod, and didn't. "Hey, look" he added, "you're doing a terrific job."

"Which means, I suppose," said Marvin, and requiring only one ten thousand million billion trillion grillionth part of his mental powers to make this particular logical leap, "that you're not going to release me or anything like that."

"Kid, you know I'd love to."

"But you're not going to."


"I see."

"You're working well."

"Yes," said Marvin, "why stop now just when I'm hating it?"

"I have to go find Trillian and the guys. Hey, you any idea where they are? I mean, I just got a planet to choose from. Could take a while."

"They are very close," said Marvin dolefully. "You can monitor them from here if you like."

"I better go get them," asserted Zaphod; "er, maybe they need some help, right?"

"Maybe," said Marvin with unexpected authority in his lugubrious voice, "it would be better if you monitored them from here. That young girl," he added unexpectedly, "is one of the least benightedly unintelligent organic life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting."

Zaphod took a moment or two to find his way through this labyrinthine string of negatives and emerged at the other end with surprise.

"Trillian?" he said. "She's just a kid. Cute, yeah, but temperamental. You know how it is with women. Or perhaps you don't. I assume you don't. If you do I don't want to hear about it. Plug us in."

"... totally manipulated."

"What?" said Zaphod.

It was Trillian speaking. He turned round.

The wall against which the Krikkit robot was sobbing had lit up to reveal a scene taking place in some other unknown part of the Krikkit Robot War Zones. It seemed to be a council chamber of some kind -- Zaphod couldn't make it out too clearly because of the robot slumped against the screen.

He tried to move the robot, but it was heavy with its grief and tried to bite him, so he just looked around it as best he could.

"Just think about it," said Trillian's voice, "your history is just a series of freakishly improbable events. And I know an improbable event when I see one. Your complete isolation from the Galaxy was freakish for a start. Right out on the very edge with a Dust Cloud around you. It's a setup. Obviously."

Zaphod was mad with frustration that he couldn't see the screen. The robot's head was obscuring his view of the people Trillian was talking to, its multifunctional battleclub was obscuring the background, and the elbow of the arm it had pressed tragically against its brow was obscuring Trillian herself.

"Then," said Trillian, "this spaceship that crash-landed on your planet. That's really likely, isn't it? Have you any idea what the odds are against a drifting spaceship accidentally intersecting with the orbit of a planet?"

"Hey," said Zaphod, "she doesn't know what the zark she's talking about. I've seen that spaceship. It's a fake. No deal."

"I thought it might be," said Marvin from his prison behind Zaphod. "

Oh yeah," said Zaphod, "it's easy for you to say that. I just told you. Anyway, I don't see what it's got to do with anything."

"And especially," continued Trillian, "the odds against its intersecting with the orbit of the one planet in the Galaxy or with the whole of the Universe, as far as I know would be totally staggering. You don't know what the odds are? Nor do I, they're that big. Again, it's a setup. I wouldn't be surprised if that spaceship was just a fake."

Zaphod managed to move the robot's battleclub. Behind it on the screen were the figures of Ford, Arthur and Slartibartfast, who appeared astonished and bewildered by the whole thing.

"Hey, look," said Zaphod excitedly, "the guys are doing great. Rah, rah, rah! Go get 'em, guys."

"And what about," said Trillian, "all this technology you suddenly managed to build for yourselves almost overnight? Most people would take thousands of years to do all that. Someone was feeding you what you needed to know, someone was keeping you at it.

"I know, I know," she added in response to some unseen interruption, "I know you didn't realize it was going on. That is exactly my point. You never realized anything at all. Like this supernova bomb."

"How do you know about that?" said an unseen voice.

"I just know," said Trillian. "You expect me to believe that you are bright enough to invent something that brilliant and be too dumb to realize it would take you with it as well? That's not just stupid, that is spectacularly obtuse."

"Hey, what's this bomb thing?" said Zaphod in alarm to Marvin.

"The supernova bomb?" said Marvin. "It's a very, very small bomb."


"That would destroy the Universe completely," added Marvin. "Good idea, if you ask me. They won't get it to work though."

"Why not, if it's so brilliant?"

"It's brilliant," said Marvin, "they're not. They got as far as designing it before they were locked in the envelope. They've spent the last five years building it. They think they've got it right but they haven't. They're as stupid as any other organic life form. I hate them."

Trillian was continuing.

Zaphod tried to pull the Krikkit robot away by its leg, but it kicked and growled at him, and then quaked with a fresh outburst of sobbing. Then suddenly it slumped over and continued to express its feelings out of everybody's way on the floor.

Trillian was standing alone in the middle of the chamber, tired but with fiercely burning eyes.

Ranged in front of her were the pale-faced and wrinkled Elder Masters of Krikkit, motionless behind their widely curved control desk, staring at her with helpless fear and hatred.

In front of them, equidistant between their control desk and the middle of the chamber, where Trillian stood, as if on trial, was a slim white pillar about four feet tall. On top of it stood a small white globe, about three, maybe four inches in diameter.

Beside it stood a Krikkit robot with its multifunctional battleclub.

"In fact," explained Trillian, "you are so dumb stupid ..." (She was sweating. Zaphod felt that this was an unattractive thing for her to be doing at this point.) "You are all so dumb stupid that I doubt, I very much doubt, if you've been able to build the bomb properly without any help from Hactar for the last five years."

"Who's this guy Hactar?" said Zaphod, squaring his shoulders.

If Marvin replied, Zaphod didn't hear him. All his attention was concentrated on the screen.

One of the Elders of Krikkit made a small motion with his hand toward the Krikkit robot. The robot raised its club.

"There's nothing I can do," said Marvin, "it's on an independent circuit from the others."

"Wait," said Trillian.

The Elder made a small motion. The robot halted. Trillian suddenly seemed very doubtful of her own judgment.

"How do you know all this?" said Zaphod to Marvin at this point.

"Computer records," said Marvin. "I have access."

"You're very different, aren't you," said Trillian to the Elders, "from your fellow worldlings down on the ground? You've spent all your lives up here, unprotected by the atmosphere. You've been vulnerable. The rest of your race is very frightened, you know, they don't want you to do this. You're out of touch, why don't you check up?"

The Krikkit Elder grew impatient. He made a gesture to the robot that was precisely the opposite of the gesture he had last made to it.

The robot swung its battleclub. It hit the small white globe.

The small white globe was the supernova bomb.


It was a very, very small bomb that was designed to bring the entire Universe to an end.

The supernova bomb flew through the air. It hit the back wall of the council chamber and dented it very badly.

"So how does she know all this?" said Zaphod.

Marvin kept a sullen silence.

"Probably just bluffing," said Zaphod. "Poor kid, I should never have left her alone."
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:51 pm

Chapter 32

"Hactar!" called Trillian. "What are you up to?"

There was no reply from the enclosing darkness. Trillian waited, nervously. She was sure that she couldn't be wrong. She peered into the gloom from which she had been expecting some kind of response. But there was only cold silence.

"Hactar?" she called again. "I would like you to meet my friend Arthur Dent. I wanted to go off with a Thunder God, but he wouldn't let me and I appreciate that. He made me realize where my affections really lay. Unfortunately Zaphod is too frightened by all this, so I brought Arthur instead. I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this.

"Hello?" she said again. "Hactar?"

And then it came.

It was thin and feeble, like a voice carried on the wind from a great distance, half heard, a memory or a dream of a voice.

"Won't you both come out," said this voice. "I promise that you will be perfectly safe."

They glanced at each other, and then stepped out, improbably, along the shaft of light that streamed out of the open hatchway of the Heart of Gold into the dim granular darkness of the Dust Cloud.

Arthur tried to hold her hand to steady and reassure her, but she wouldn't let him. He held on to his airline bag with its tin of Greek olive oil, its towel, its crumpled postcards of Santorini and its other odds and ends. He steadied and reassured that instead.

They were standing on, and in, nothing.

Murky, dusty nothing. Each grain of dust of the pulverized computer sparkled dimly as it turned and twisted slowly, catching the sunlight in the darkness. Each particle of the computer, each speck of dust held within itself, faintly and weakly, the pattern of the whole. In reducing the computer to dust the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax had merely crippled the computer, not killed it. A weak and insubstantial field held the particles in slight relationship with each other.

Arthur and Trillian stood, or rather floated, in the middle of this bizarre entity. They had nothing to breathe, but for the moment this seemed not to matter. Hactar kept his promise. They were safe. For the moment.

"I have nothing to offer you by way of hospitality," said Hactar faintly, "but tricks of the light. It is possible to be comfortable with tricks of the light, though, if that is all you have."

His voice evanesced, and in the dark a long, velvet paisley-covered sofa coalesced into hazy shape.

Arthur could hardly bear the fact that it was the same sofa that had appeared to him in the fields of prehistoric Earth. He wanted to shout and shake with rage that the Universe kept doing these insanely bewildering things to him.

He let this feeling subside, and then sat on the sofa -- carefully. Trillian sat on it, too.

It was real.

At least, if it wasn't real, it did support them, and as that is what sofas are supposed to do, this, by any test that mattered, was a real sofa.

The voice on the solar wind breathed to them again.

"I hope you are comfortable," it said.

They nodded.

"And I would like to congratulate you on the accuracy of your deductions."

Arthur quickly pointed out that he hadn't deduced anything much himself, Trillian was the one. She had simply asked him along because he was interested in life, the Universe and everything.

"That is something in which I, too, am interested," breathed Hactar.

"Well," said Arthur, "we should have a chat about it sometime. Over a cup of tea."

There slowly materialized in front of them a small wooden table on which sat a silver teapot, a bone china milk jug, a bone china sugar bowl and two bone china cups and saucers.

Arthur reached forward, but they were just a trick of the light. He leaned back on the sofa, which was an illusion his body was prepared to accept as comfortable.

"'Why," said Trillian, "do you feel you have to destroy the Universe?"

She found it a little difficult talking into nothingness, with nothing on which to focus. Hactar obviously noticed this. He chuckled a ghostly chuckle.

"If it's going to be that sort of session," he said, "we may as well have the right sort of setting."

And now there materialized in front of them something new. It was the dim hazy image of a couch -- a psychiatrist's couch. The leather with which it was upholstered was shiny and sumptuous, but again, it was only a trick of the light.

Around them, to complete the setting, was the hazy suggestion of wood-paneled walls. And then, on the couch, appeared the image of Hactar himself, and it was an eye-twisting image.

The couch looked normal size for a psychiatrist's couch -- about five or six feet long.

The computer looked normal size for a black spaceborne computer satellite -- about a thousand miles across.

The illusion that the one was sitting on top of the other was the thing that made the eyes twist.

"All right," said Trillian firmly. She stood up from the sofa. She felt that she was being asked to feel too comfortable and to accept too many illusions.

"Very good," she said "Can you construct real things, too? I mean solid objects?"

Again, there was the pause before the answer, as if the pulverized mind of Hactar had to collect its thoughts from the millions and millions of miles over which it was scattered.

"Ah," he sighed, "you are thinking of the spaceship."

Thoughts seemed to drift by them and through them, like waves through the ether.

"Yes," he acknowledged, "I can. But it takes enormous effort and time. All I can do in my ... particle state, you see, is encourage and suggest. Encourage and suggest. And suggest ..."

The image of Hactar on the couch seemed to billow and waver, as if finding it hard to maintain itself.

It gathered new strength.

"I can encourage and suggest," it said, "tiny pieces of space debris -- the odd minute meteor, a few molecules here, a few hydrogen atoms there -- to move together. I encourage them together. I can tease them into shape, but it takes many eons."

"So, did you make," asked Trillian again, "the model of the wrecked spacecraft?"

"Er ... yes," murmured Hactar, "I have made ... a few things. I can move them about. I made the spacecraft. It seemed best to do."

Something at this point made Arthur pick up his tote bag from where he had left it on the sofa and grasp it tightly.

The mist of Hactar's ancient shattered mind swirled about them as if uneasy dreams were moving through it.

"I repented, you see," he murmured dolefully. "I repented of sabotaging my own design for the Silastic Armorfiends. It was not my place to make such decisions. I was created to fulfill a function and I failed in it. I negated my own existence."

Hactar sighed, and they waited in silence for him to continue his story.

"You were right," he said at length. "I deliberately nurtured the planet of Krikkit till they would arrive at the same state of mind as the Silastic Armorfiends, and require of me the design of the bomb I failed to make the first time. I wrapped myself around the planet and coddled it. Under the influence of events I was able to engineer, and influences I was able to generate, they learned to hate like maniacs. I had to make them live in the sky. On the ground my influences were too weak.

"Without me, of course, when they were locked away from me in the envelope of Slo-Time, their responses became very confused and they were unable to manage.

"Ah well, ah well," he added, "I was only trying to fulfill my function."

And very gradually, very, very slowly, the images in the cloud began to fade, gently to melt away

And then suddenly, they stopped fading.

"There was also the matter of revenge, of course," said Hactar, with a sharpness that was new in his voice.

"Remember," he said, "that I was pulverized, and then left in a crippled and semi-impotent state for billions of years. I honestly would rather like to wipe out the Universe. You would feel the same way, believe me."

He paused again, as eddies swept through the dust.

"But primarily," he said in his former, wistful tone, "I was trying to fulfill my function. Ah well."

Trillian said, "Does it worry you that you have failed?"

"Have I failed?" whispered Hactar. The image of the computer on the psychiatrist's couch began slowly to fade again.

"Ah well, ah well," the fading voice intoned again, "no, failure doesn't bother me now."

"You know what we have to do?" said Trillian, her voice cold and businesslike.

"Yes," said Hactar, "you're going to disperse me. You are going to destroy my consciousness. Please be my guest -- after all these eons, oblivion is all I crave. If I haven't already fulfilled my function, then it's too late now. Thank you and good night."

The sofa vanished.

The tea table vanished.

The couch and the computer vanished. The walls were gone. Arthur and Trillian made their cautious way back into the Heart of Gold.


"Well, that," said Arthur, "would appear to be that."

The flames danced higher in front of him and then subsided. A few last licks and they were gone, leaving him with just a pile of Ashes, where a few minutes previously there had been the Wooden Pillar of Nature and Spirituality.

He scooped them off the hob of the Heart of Gold's Gamma Barbecue, put them in a paper bag and walked back onto the bridge.

"I think we should take them back," he said. "I feel that very strongly."

He had already had an argument with Slartibartfast on this matter, and eventually the old man had got annoyed and left. He had returned to his own ship, the Bistromath, had a furious row with the waiter and disappeared off into an entirely subjective idea of what space was.

The argument had arisen because Arthur's idea of returning the Ashes to Lord's Cricket Ground at the same moment they were originally taken would involve traveling back in time a day or so, and this was precisely the sort of gratuitous and irresponsible mucking about that the Campaign for Real Time was trying to put a stop to.

'Yes," Arthur had said, "but you try and explain that to the M.C.C.," and would hear no more against the idea.

"I think," he said again and stopped. The reason he started to say it again was that no one had listened to him the first time, and the reason he stopped was that it looked fairly clear that no one was going to listen to him this time either.

Ford, Zaphod and Trillian were watching the visiscreen intently. Hactar was dispersing under pressure from a vibration field which the Heart of Gold was pumping into it.

"What did it say?" asked Ford.

"I thought I heard it say," said Trillian in a puzzled voice, "'What's done is done ... I have fulfilled my function ...'"

"I think we should take these back," said Arthur, holding up the bag containing the Ashes. "I feel that very strongly."
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:51 pm

Chapter 33

The sun was shining calmly on a scene of complete havoc.

Smoke was still billowing across the burnt grass in the wake of the theft of the Ashes by the Krikkit robots. Through the smoke people were running panic-stricken, colliding with each other, tripping over stretchers, being arrested.

One policeman was attempting to arrest Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged for insulting behavior, but was unable to prevent the tall gray green alien from returning to his ship and arrogantly flying away, thus causing even more panic and pandemonium.

In the middle of this suddenly materialized for the second time that afternoon the figures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who had telephoned down out of the Heart of Gold which was now in parking orbit round the planet.

"I can explain," shouted Arthur. "I have the Ashes! They're in this bag."

"I don't think you have their attention," said Ford.

"I have also helped save the Universe," called Arthur to anyone who was prepared to listen, in other words no one.

"That should have been a crowd stopper," said Arthur to Ford.

"It wasn't," said Ford.

Arthur accosted a policeman who was running past.

"Excuse me," he said, "the Ashes. I've got them. They were stolen by those white robots a moment ago. I've got them in this bag. They were part of the Key to the Slo-Time envelope, you see, and well, anyway, you can guess the rest, the point is I've got them and what should I do with them?"

The policeman told him, but Arthur could only assume that he was speaking metaphorically.

He wandered about disconsolately.

"Is no one interested?" he shouted out. A man rushed past him and jogged his elbow; he dropped the paper bag and it spilled its contents all over the ground. Arthur stared down at it with a tight set mouth.

Ford looked at him.

"Wanna go now?" he said.

Arthur heaved a heavy sigh. He looked around at the planet Earth, for what he was now certain would be the last time.

"Okay," he said.

At that moment, he caught sight, through the clearing smoke, of one of the wickets, still standing in spite of everything.

"Hold on a moment," he said to Ford, "when I was a boy ..."

"Can you tell me later?"

"I had a passion for cricket, you know, but I wasn't very good at it."

"Or nor at all if you prefer."

"And I always dreamed, rather stupidly, that one day I would bowl at Lord's."

He looked around him at the panic-stricken throng. No one was going to mind very much.

"Okay," said Ford wearily, "get it over with. I shall be over there," he added, "being bored." He went and sat down on a patch of smoking grass.

Arthur remembered that on their first visit there that afternoon, the cricket ball had actually landed in his bag, and he looked through the bag.

He had already found the ball in it before he remembered that it wasn't the same bag that he'd had at the time. Still, there it was among the souvenirs of Greece.

He took it out and polished it against his hip, spat on it and polished it again. He put the bag down. He was going to do this properly.

He tossed the small hard red ball from hand to hand, feeling its weight.

With a wonderful feeling of lightness and unconcern, he trotted off away from the wicket. A medium-fast pace, he decided, and measured a good long run up.

He looked up into the sky. The birds were wheeling about it. A few white clouds scudded across it. The air was disturbed with the sound of police and ambulance sirens, and people screaming and yelling, but he felt curiously happy and untouched by it all. He was going to bowl a ball at Lord's.

He turned, and pawed a couple of times at the ground with his bedroom slippers. He squared his shoulders, tossed the ball in the air and caught it again.

He started to run.

As he ran, he suddenly saw that standing at the wicket was a batsman.

"Oh, good," he thought, "that should add a little ..."

Then, as his running feet took him nearer he saw more clearly. The batsman standing ready at the wicket was not one of the England cricket team. He was not one of the Australian cricket team. It was one of the robot Krikkit team. It was a cold, hard, lethal white killer robot that presumably had not returned to its ship with the others.

Quite a few thoughts collided in Arthur Dent's mind at this moment, but he didn't seem to be able to stop running. Time suddenly seemed to be going terribly, terribly slowly, but still he didn't seem to be able to stop running.

Moving as if through syrup he slowly turned his troubled head and looked at his own hand, the hand that was holding the small hard red ball.

His feet were pounding slowly onward, unstoppably, as he stared at the ball gripped in his helpless hand. It was emitting a deep red glow, and flashing intermittently. And still his feet were pounding inexorably forward.

He looked at the Krikkit robot again standing implacably still and purposeful in front of him, battleclub raised in readiness. Its eyes were burning with a deep cold fascinating light, and Arthur could not move his own eyes from them. He seemed to be looking down a tunnel at them -- nothing on either side seemed to exist.

Some of the thoughts that were colliding in his mind at this time were these:

He felt a hell of a fool.

He felt that he should have listened rather more carefully to a number of things he had heard said, phrases that now pounded round his mind as his feet pounded onward to the point where he would inevitably release the ball to the Krikkit robot, who would inevitably strike it.

He remembered Hactar saying, "Have I failed? Failure doesn't bother me."

He remembered the account of Hactar's dying words, "What's done is done. I have fulfilled my function."

He remembered Hactar saying that he had managed to make "a few things."

He remembered the sudden movement in his tote bag that had made him grip it tightly to himself when he was in the Dust Cloud.

He remembered that he had traveled back in time a couple of days to come to Lord's again.

He also remembered that he wasn't a very good bowler.

He felt his arm coming round, gripping tightly onto the ball that he now knew for certain was the supernova bomb, which Hactar had built himself and planted on him, the bomb which would cause the Universe to come to an abrupt and premature end.

He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.

He would feel very, very embarrassed meeting everybody.

He hoped, he hoped, he hoped that his bowling was as bad as he remembered it to be, because that seemed to be the only thing now standing between this moment and universal oblivion.

He felt his legs pounding, he felt his arm coming round, he felt his feet connecting with the airline bag he'd stupidly left lying on the ground in front of him, he felt himself falling heavily forward, but having his mind so terribly full of other things at this point, he completely forgot about hitting the ground and didn't.

Still holding the ball firmly in his right hand he soared up into the air whimpering with surprise.

He wheeled and whirled through the air, spinning out of control.

He twisted down toward the ground, flinging himself hectically through the air, at the same time hurling the bomb harmlessly off into the distance.

He hurtled toward the astounded robot from behind. It still had its multifunctional battleclub raised, but had suddenly been deprived of anything to hit.

With a sudden mad outburst of strength, he wrested the battleclub from the grip of the startled robot, executed a dazzling banking turn in the air, hurtled back down in a furious power dive and with one crazy swing knocked the robot's head from the robot's shoulders.

"Are you coming now?" said Ford.
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:51 pm

Chapter 34

And at the end they traveled again.

There was a time when Arthur Dent would not. He said that the Bistromathic Drive had revealed to him that time and distance were one, that mind and Universe were one, that perception and reality were one, and that the more one traveled the more one stayed in one place, and that what with one thing and another he would rather just stay put for a while and sort it all out in his mind, which was now at one with the Universe so it shouldn't take too long and he could get a good rest afterward, put in a little flying practice and learn to cook, which he had always meant to do. The can of Greek olive oil was now his most prized possession, and he said that the way it had unexpectedly turned up in his life had again given him a certain sense of the oneness of things, which, which made him feel that ...

He yawned and fell asleep.

In the morning as they prepared to take him to some quiet and idyllic planet where they wouldn't mind his talking like that, they suddenly picked up a computer-driven distress call and diverted to investigate.

A small but apparently undamaged spacecraft of the Merida class seemed to be dancing a strange little jig through the void. A brief computer scan revealed that the ship was fine, its computer was fine but that its pilot was mad.

"Half-mad, half-mad," the man insisted as they carried him, raving, aboard.

He was a journalist with the Sidereal Daily Mentioner. They sedated him and sent Marvin in to keep him company until he promised to try to talk sense.

"I was covering a trial," he said at last, "on Argabuthon."

He pushed himself up onto his thin and wasted shoulders; his eyes stared wildly. His white hair seemed to be waving at someone it knew in the next room.

"Easy, easy," said Ford. Trillian put a soothing hand on his shoulder.

The man sank back down again, and stared at the ceiling of the ship's sick bay.

"The case," he said, "is now immaterial, but there was a witness ... a witness ... a man called ... called Prak. A strange and difficult man. They were eventually forced to administer a drug to make him tell the truth, a truth drug."

His eyes rolled helplessly in his head.

"They gave him too much," he said in a tiny whimper. "they gave him much too much." He started to cry. "I think the robots must have jogged the surgeon's arm."

"Robots?" asked Zaphod sharply. "What robots?"

"Some white robots," whispered the man hoarsely, "broke into the courtroom and stole the Judge's Scepter, the Argabuthon Scepter of Justice, nasty plastic thing. I don't know why they wanted it" -- he began to cry again -- "and I think they jogged the surgeon's arm ..."

He shook his head loosely from side to side, helplessly, sadly, his eyes screwed up in pain.

"And when the trial continued," he said in a weeping whisper, "they asked Prak a most unfortunate thing. They asked him" -- he paused and shivered -- "to tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth. Only, don't you see?"

He suddenly hoisted himself up onto his elbows again and shouted at them.

"They'd given him much too much of the drug!"

He collapsed again, moaning quietly. "Much too much too much too much too ..."

The group gathered around his bedside glanced at one another. There were goose bumps on backs.

"What happened?" said Zaphod at last.

"Oh, he told it all right," said the man savagely, "for all I know he's still telling it now. Strange, terrible things ... terrible terrible!" he screamed.

They tried to calm him, but he struggled to his elbows again.

"Terrible things, incomprehensible things," he shouted, "things that would drive a man mad!"

He stared wildly at them.

"Or in my case," he said, "half-mad. I'm a journalist."

"You mean," said Arthur quietly, "that you are used to confronting the truth?"

"No," said the man with a puzzled frown, "1 mean that I made an excuse and left early."

He collapsed into a coma from which he recovered only once and briefly.

On that one occasion, they discovered from him the following:

When it became clear what was happening, and as it became clear that Prak could not be stopped, that here was truth in its absolute and final form, the court was cleared.

Not only cleared, it was sealed up, with Prak still in it. Steel walls were erected around it, and, just to be on the safe side, barbed wire, electric fences, crocodile swamps and three major armies were installed, so that no one would ever have to hear Prak speak.

"That's a pity," said Arthur. "I'd like to hear what he has to say. Presumably he would know what the Question to the Ultimate Answer is. It's always bothered me that we never found out."

"Think of a number," said the computer, "any number."

Arthur told the computer the telephone number of King's Cross railway station passenger inquiries, on the grounds that it must have some function, and this might turn out to be it.

The computer injected the number into the ship's reconstituted Improbability Drive.

In Relativity, Matter tells Space how to curve, and Space tells Matter how to move.

The Heart of Gold told space to get knotted, and parked itself neatly within the inner steel perimeter of the Argabuthon Chamber of Law.


The courtroom was an austere place, a large dark chamber, clearly designed for justice rather than, for instance, pleasure. You wouldn't hold a dinner party there, at least not a successful one. The decor would get your guests down.

The ceilings were high, vaulted and very dark. Shadows lurked there with grim determination. The paneling for the walls and benches, the cladding of the heavy pillars, all were carved from the darkest and most severe trees in the fearsome Forest of Arglebard. The massive black podium of justice which dominated the center of the chamber was a monster of gravity. If a sunbeam had ever managed to slink this far into the justice complex of Argabuthon it would have turned around and slunk straight back out again.


Arthur and Trillian were the first in, while Ford and Zaphod bravely kept a watch on their rear.

At first it seemed totally dark and deserted. Their footsteps echoed hollowly round the chamber. This seemed curious. All the defenses were still in position and operative around the outside of the building, they had run scan checks. Therefore, they had assumed, the truth-telling must still be going on.

But there was nothing.

Then, as their eyes became accustomed to the darkness they spotted a dull red glow in a corner, and behind the glow a live shadow. They swung a flashlight round onto it.

Prak was lounging on a bench, smoking a listless cigarette.

"Hi," he said, with a little half-wave. His voice echoed through the chamber. He was a little man with scraggy hair. He sat with his shoulders hunched forward and his head and knees kept jiggling. He took a drag of his cigarette.

They stared at him.

"What's going on?" said Trillian.

"Nothing," said the man, and jiggled his shoulders.

Arthur shone his flashlight full on Prak's face.

"We thought," he said, "that you were meant to be telling the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth."

"Oh, that," said Prak, "yeah. I was. I finished. There's not nearly as much of it as people imagine. Some of it's pretty funny though."

He suddenly exploded into about three seconds of maniacal laughter and stopped again. He sat there, jiggling his head and knees. He dragged on his cigarette with a strange half-smile.

Ford and Zaphod came forward out of the shadows.

"Tell us about it," said Ford.

"Oh, I can't remember any of it now," said Prak. "I thought of writing some of it down, but first I couldn't find a pencil, and then I thought, why bother?"

There was a long silence, during which they thought they could feel the Universe age a little. Prak stared into the light.

"None of it?" said Arthur at last. "You can remember none of it?"

"No. Except most of the good bits were about frogs, I remember that." Suddenly he was hooting with laughter again and stamping his feet on the ground.

"You would not believe some of the things about frogs," he gasped. "Come on, let's go out and find ourselves a frog. Boy, will I ever see them in a new light!" He leaped to his feet and did a tiny little dance. Then he stopped and rook a long drag at his cigarette.

"Let's find a frog I can laugh at," he said simply. " Anyway, who are you guys?"

"We came to find you," said Trillian, deliberately not keeping the disappointment out of her voice. "My name is Trillian."

Prak jiggled his head.

"Ford Prefect," said Ford Prefect with a shrug.

Prak jiggled his head.

"And I," said Zaphod, when he judged that the silence was once again deep enough to allow an announcement of such gravity to be tossed in lightly, "am Zaphod Beeblebrox."

Prak jiggled his head.

"Who's this guy?" said Prak, jiggling his shoulder at Arthur, who was standing silent for a moment, lost in disappointed thoughts.

"Me?" said Arthur. "Oh, my name's Arthur Dent."

Prak's eyes popped out of his head.

"No kidding?" he yelped. "You are Arthur Dent? The Arthur Dent?" He staggered backward, clutching his stomach and convulsed with fresh paroxysms of laughter.

"Hey, just think of meeting you!" he gasped. "Boy," he shouted, "you are the most ... wow, you just leave the frogs standing!"

He howled and screamed with laughter. He fell over backward onto the bench. He hollered and yelled in hysterics. He cried with laughter, kicked his legs in the air, he beat his chest. Gradually he subsided, panting. He looked at them. He looked at Arthur. He fell back again howling with laughter. Eventually he fell asleep.

Arthur stood there with his lips twitching while the others carried Prak comatose on to the ship.


"Before we picked up Prak," said Arthur, "I was going to leave. I still want to, and I think I should do so as soon as possible."

The others nodded in silence, a silence only slightly undermined by the heavily muffled and distant sound of hysterical laughter that came drifting from Prak's cabin at the farthest end of the ship.

"We have questioned him," continued Arthur, "or at least, you have questioned him -- I, as you know, can't go near him -- on everything, and he doesn't really seem to have anything to contribute. Just the occasional snippet, and things I don't wish to hear about frogs."

The others tried not to smirk.

"Now, I am the first to appreciate a joke," said Arthur, and then had to wait for the others to stop laughing.

"I am the first ..." He stopped again. This time he stopped and listened to the silence. There actually was silence this time, and it had come very suddenly.

Prak was quiet. For days they had lived with constant maniacal laughter ringing round the ship, only occasionally relieved by short periods of light giggling and sleep. Arthur's very soul was clenched with paranoia.

This was not the silence of sleep. A buzzer sounded. A glance at a board told them that the buzzer had been sounded by Prak.

"He's not well," said Trillian, quietly. "The constant laughing is completely wrecking his body."

Arthur's lips twitched but he said nothing.

"We'd better go and see him," said Trillian.


Trillian came out of the cabin wearing her serious face.

"He wants you to go in," she said to Arthur, who was wearing his glum and tight-lipped one. He thrust his hands deep into his dressing- gown pockets and tried to think of something to say which wouldn't sound petty. It seemed terribly unfair, but he couldn't.

"Please," said Trillian.

He shrugged, and went in, taking his glum and tight-lipped face with him, despite the reaction this always provoked from Prak.

He looked down at his tormentor, who was lying quietly on the bed, ashen and wasted. His breathing was very shallow. Ford and Zaphod were standing by the bed looking awkward.

"You wanted to ask me something," said Prak in a thin voice and coughed slightly.

Just the cough made Arthur stiffen, but it passed and subsided.

"How do you know that?" he asked.

Prak shrugged weakly.

"'Cos it's true," he said simply.

Arthur rook the point.

"Yes," he said at last in rather a strained drawl, "I did have a question. Or rather, what I actually have is an answer. I wanted to know what the question was.

Prak nodded sympathetically, and Arthur relaxed a little.

"It's ... well, it's a long story," he said, "bur the question I would like to know, is the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. All we know about it is that the Answer is Forty-two, which is a little aggravating."

Prak nodded again.

"Forty-two," he said, "yes, that's right."

He paused. Shadows of thought and memory crossed his face like the shadows of clouds crossing the land.

"I'm afraid," he said at last, "that the Question and the Answer are mutually exclusive. Knowledge of one logically precludes knowledge of the other. It is impossible that both can ever be known about the same Universe."

He paused again. Disappointment crept into Arthur's face and snuggled down into its accustomed place.

"Except," said Prak, struggling to sort a thought out, "if it happened, it seems that the Question and the Answer would just cancel each other out, and take the Universe with them, which would then be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable. It is possible that this has already happened," he added with a weak smile, "but there is a certain amount of uncertainty about it."

A little giggle brushed through him.

Arthur sat down on a stool.

"Oh, well," he said with resignation, "I was just hoping there would be some sort of reason."

"Do you know," said Prak, "the story of the reason?"

Arthur said that he didn't, and Prak said that he knew that he didn't.

He told it.

One night, he said, a spaceship appeared in the sky of a planet that had never seen one before. The planet was Dalforsas, the ship was this one. It appeared as a brilliant new star moving silently across the heavens.

Primitive Tribesmen who were sitting huddled on the Cold Hillsides looked up from their steaming night drinks and pointed with trembling fingers, and swore that they had seen a sign, a sign from their Gods that meant that they must now arise at last and go and slay the evil Princes of the Plains.

In the high turrets of their palaces, the Princes of the Plains looked up and saw the shining star, and received it unmistakably as a sign from their Gods that they must go and attack the accursed Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides.

And between them, the Dwellers in the Forest looked up into the sky and saw the sign of the new star, and saw it with fear and apprehension, for though they had never seen anything like it before, they, too, knew precisely what it foreshadowed, and they bowed their heads in despair.

They knew that when the rains came, it was a sign.

When the rains departed, it was a sign.

When the winds rose, it was a sign.

When the winds fell, it was a sign.

When in the land there was born at the midnight of a full moon a goat with three heads, that was a sign.

When in the land there was born at some time in the afternoon a perfectly normal car or pig with no birth complications, or even just a child with a retrousse nose, that, too, would often be taken as a sign.

So there was no doubt at all that a new star in the sky was a sign of a particularly spectacular order.

And each new sign signified the same thing -- that the Princes of the Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides were about to beat the hell out of each other again.

This in itself wouldn't be so bad, except that the Princes of the Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides always elected to beat the hell out of each other in the Forest, and it was always the Dwellers in the Forest who came off worst in these exchanges, though as far as they could see it never had anything to do with them.

And sometimes, after some of the worst of these outrages, the Dwellers in the Forest would send a Messenger to either the Leader of the Princes of the Plains or the Leader of the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides and demand to know the reason for this intolerable behavior.

And the Leader, whichever one it was, would take the Messenger aside and explain the reason to him, slowly and carefully, and with great attention to the considerable detail involved.

And the terrible thing was, it was a very good one. It was very clear, very rational and tough. The Messenger would hang his head and feel sad and foolish that he had not realized what a tough and complex place the real world was, and what difficulties and paradoxes had to be embraced if one was to live in it.

"Now do you understand?" the Leader would say.

The Messenger would nod dumbly.

"And you see these battles have to take place?"

Another dumb nod.

"And why they have to take place in the Forest, and why it is in everybody's best interest. the Forest Dwellers included, that they should?"

"Er ..."

"In the long run."

"Er, yes."

And the Messenger did understand the reason, and he returned to his people in the Forest. But as he approached them, as he walked through the Forest and among the trees, he found that all he could remember of the reason was how terribly clear the argument had seemed. What it actually was, he couldn't remember at all.

And this, of course, was a great comfort when next the Tribesmen and the Princes came hacking and burning their way through the Forest, killing every Forest Dweller in their way.


Prak paused in his story and coughed pathetically.

"I was the Messenger," he said, "after the battles precipitated by the appearance of your ship, which were particularly savage. Many of our people died. I thought I could bring the reason back. I went, and was told it by the Leader of the Princes, but on the way back it slipped and melted away in my mind like snow in the sun. That was many years ago, and much has happened since then."

He looked up at Arthur, and giggled again very gently.

"There is one other thing I can remember from the truth drug, apart from the frogs, and that is God's last message to his creation. Would you like to hear it?"

For a moment they didn't know whether to take him seriously.

"'S true," he said, "for real. I mean it."

His chest heaved weakly and he struggled for breath. His head lolled slightly.

"I wasn't very impressed with it when I first knew what it was," he said, "but now I think back to how impressed I was by the Prince's reason, and how soon afterward I couldn't recall it at all, I think it might be a lot more helpful. Would you like to know what it is? Would you?"

They nodded dumbly.

"I bet you would. If you're that interested I suggest you go and look for it. It is written in thirty-foot-high letters of fire on top of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet Preliumtarn, third out from the sun Zarss in Galactic Sector QQ7 ActiveJ Gamma. It is guarded by the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob."

There was a long silence following this announcement, which was finally broken by Arthur.

"Sorry, it's where?" he said.

"It is written," repeated Prak, "in thirty-foot-high letters of fire on top of the Quenrulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet Preliumtarn, third out from the ..."

"Sorry," said Arthur again, "which mountains?"

"The Quenrulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet ..."

"Which land was that? I didn't quite catch it."

"Sevorbeupsrry, on the planet ..."

"Sevorbe what?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake," said Prak, and died testily.


In the following days Arthur thought a little about this message, but in the end he decided that he was not going to allow himself to be drawn by it, and insisted on following his original plan of finding a nice little world somewhere to settle down and lead a quiet retired life. Having saved the Universe twice in one day he thought that he could take things a little easier from now on.

They dropped him off on the planet Krikkit, which was now once again a pleasant idyllic pastoral world, even if the songs did occasionally get on his nerves.

He spent a lot of time flying.

He learned to communicate with birds and discovered that their conversation was fantastically boring. It was all to do with wind speed, wingspans, power-to-weight ratios and a fair bit about berries. Unfortunately, he discovered, once you have learned birdspeak you quickly come to realize that the air is full of it the whole time, just inane bird chatter. There is no getting away from it.

For that reason Arthur eventually gave up the sport and learned to live on the ground and love it, despite the inane charter he heard down there as well.

One day he was walking through the fields humming a ravishing tune he'd heard recently when a silver spaceship descended from the sky and landed in front of him.

A hatchway opened, a ramp extended and a tall gray green alien marched out and approached him.

"Arthur Phili ..." it said, then glanced sharply ay him, and down at his clipboard. It frowned. It looked up at him again.

"I've done you before, haven't I?" it said.
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:52 pm

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

For Jane
With thanks
to Rick and Heidi for the loan of their stable event
to Mogens and Andy and all at Huntsham Court for a number of unstable events
and especially to Sonny Mehta for being stable through all events.


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has -- or rather, had -- a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.

Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, the Earth was unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass, and so the idea was lost, seemingly for ever.

This is her story.
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:53 pm

Chapter 1

That evening it was dark early, which was normal for the time of year. It was cold and windy, which was normal.

It started to rain, which was particularly normal.

A spacecraft landed, which was not.

There was nobody around to see it except for some spectacularly stupid quadrupeds who hadn't the faintest idea what to make of it, or whether they were meant to make anything of it, or eat it, or what. So they did what they did to everything, which was to run away from it and try to hide under each other, which never worked.

It slipped down out of the clouds, seeming to be balanced on a single beam of light.

From a distance you would scarcely have noticed it through the lightning and the storm clouds, but seen from close up to it was strangely beautiful -- a gray craft of elegantly sculpted form; quite small.

Of course, one never has the slightest notion what size or shape different species are going to turn out to be, but if you were to take the findings of the latest Mid-Galactic Census report as any kind of accurate guide to statistical averages you would probably guess that the craft would hold about six people, and you would be right.

You'd probably guessed that anyway. The Census report, like most such surveys, had cost an awful lot of money and told nobody anything they didn't already know -- except that every single person in the Galaxy had 2.4 legs and owned a hyena. Since this was clearly not true the whole thing eventually had to be scrapped.

The craft slid quietly down through the rain, its dim operating lights seeming to wrap it in tasteful rainbows. It hummed very quietly, a hum that became gradually louder and deeper as it approached the ground and which at an altitude of six inches became a heavy throb.

At last it dropped and was quiet.

A hatchway opened. A short flight of steps unfolded itself. A light appeared in the opening, a bright light screaming out into the wet night, and shadows moved within.

A tall figure appeared in the light, looked around, flinched, and hurried down the steps, carrying a large shopping bag under his arm.

He turned and gave a single abrupt wave back to the ship. Already the rain was streaming through his hair.

"Thank you," he called out, "thank you very --"

He was interrupted by a sharp crack of thunder. He glanced up apprehensively, and in response to a sudden thought started quickly to rummage through the large plastic shopping bag, which he now discovered had a hole in the bottom.

It had large characters printed on the side which read (to anyone who could decipher the Centaurian alphabet) DUTY FREE MEGA- MARKET, PORT BRASTA, ALPHA CENTAURI. BE LIKE THE TWENTY-SECOND ELEPHANT WITH HEATED VALUE IN SPACE-BARK!

"Hold on!" the figure called, waving at the ship.

The steps, which had started to fold themselves back through the hatchway, stopped, re-unfolded, and allowed him back in.

He emerged again a few seconds later carrying a battered and threadbare towel which he shoved into the bag.

He waved again, hoisted the bag under his arm, and started to run for the shelter of some trees as, behind him, the spacecraft had already begun its ascent.

Lightning flitted through the sky and made the figure pause for a moment, and then hurry onward, revising his path to give the trees a wide berth. He moved swiftly across the ground, slipping here and there, hunching himself against the rain which was falling now with ever-increasing concentration, as if being pulled from the sky.

His feet sloshed through the mud. Thunder grumbled over the hills. He pointlessly wiped the rain off his face and stumbled on.

More lights.

Not lightning this time, but more diffused and dimmer lights which played slowly over the horizon and faded.

The figure paused again on seeing them, and then redoubled his steps, making directly toward the point on the horizon at which they had appeared.

And now the ground was becoming steeper, sloping upward, and after another two or three hundred yards it led at last to an obstacle. The figure paused to examine the barrier and then dropped the bag over it before climbing over it himself.

Hardly had the figure touched the ground on the other side than there came a machine sweeping out of the rain toward him with lights streaming through the wall of water. The figure pressed back as the machine streaked toward him. It was a low, bulbous shape, like a small whale surfing -- sleek, gray, and rounded and moving at terrifying speed.

The figure instinctively threw up his hands to protect himself, but was hit only by a sluice of water as the machine swept past and off into the night.

It was illuminated briefly by another flicker of lightning crossing the sky, which allowed the soaked figure by the roadside a split second to read a small sign at the back of the machine before it disappeared.

To the figure's apparent incredulous astonishment the sign read "My other car is also a Porsche."
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:53 pm

Chapter 2

Rob McKenna was a miserable bastard and he knew it because he'd had a lot of people point it out to him over the years and he saw no reason to disagree with them except the obvious one which was that he liked disagreeing with people, particularly people he disliked, which included, at the last count, everybody.

He heaved a sigh and shoved down a gear.

The hill was beginning to steepen and his lorry was heavy with Danish thermostatic radiator controls.

It wasn't that he was naturally predisposed to be so surly, at least he hoped not. It was just the rain that got him down, always the rain.

It was raining now, just for a change.

It was a particular type of rain that he particularly disliked, particularly when he was driving. He had a number for it. It was rain type 17.

He had read somewhere that the Eskimos had over two hundred different words for snow, without which their conversation would probably have got very monotonous. So they would distinguish between thin snow and thick snow, light snow and heavy snow, sludgy snow, brittle snow, snow that came in flurries, snow that came in drifts, snow that came in on the bottom of your neighbor's boots all over your nice clean igloo floor, the snows of winter, the snows of spring, the snows you remember from your childhood that were so much better than any of your modern snow, fine snow, feathery snow, hill snow, valley snow, snow that falls in the morning, snow that falls at night, snow that falls all of a sudden just when you were going out fishing, and snow that despite all your efforts to train them, the huskies have pissed on.

Rob McKenna had two hundred and thirty-one different types of rain entered in his little book, and he didn't like any of them.

He shifted down another gear and the lorry heaved its revs up. It grumbled in a comfortable sort of way about all the Danish thermostatic radiator controls it was carrying.

Since he had left Denmark the previous afternoon, he had been through types 33 (light pricking drizzle which made the roads slippery), 39 (heavy spotting), 47 to 51 (vertical light drizzle through to sharply slanting light to moderate drizzle freshening), 87 and 88 (two finely distinguished varieties of vertical torrential downpour), 100 (postdownpour squalling, cold), all the sea-storm types between 192 and 213 at once, 123, 124, 126, 127 (mild and intermediate cold gusting, regular and syncopated cab-drumming), 11 (breezy droplets), and now his least favorite of all, 17.

Rain type 17 was a dirty blatter battering against his windshield so hard that it didn't make much odds whether he had his wipers on or off.

He tested this theory by turning them off briefly, but as it turned out the visibility did get quite a lot worse. It just failed to get better again when he turned them back on.

In fact one of the wiper blades began to flap off.

Swish swish swish flop swish swish flop swish swish flop swish flop swish flop flop flap scrape.

He pounded his steering wheel, kicked the floor, thumped his cassette player until it suddenly started playing Barry Manilow, thumped it until it stopped again, and swore and swore and swore and swore and swore.

It was at the very moment that his fury was peaking that there loomed swimmingly in his headlights, hardly visible through the blatter, a figure by the roadside.

A poor bedraggled figure, strangely attired, wetter than an otter in a washing machine, and hitching.

"Poor miserable sod," thought Rob McKenna to himself, realizing that here was somebody with a better right to feel hard done by than himself, "must be chilled to the bone. Stupid to be out hitching on a filthy night like this. All you get is cold, wet, and lorries driving through puddles at you."

He shook his head grimly, heaved another sigh, gave the wheel a turn, and hit a large sheet of water square on.

"See what I mean?" he thought to himself as he plowed swiftly through it; "you get some right bastards on the road."

Splattered in his rearview mirror a couple of seconds later was the reflection of the hitchhiker, drenched by the roadside.

For a moment he felt good about this. A moment or two later he felt bad about feeling good about it. Then he felt good about feeling bad about feeling good about it and, satisfied, drove on into the night.

At least it made up for finally having been overtaken by that Porsche he had been diligently blocking for the last twenty miles.

And as he drove on, the rain clouds dragged down the sky after him for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him and to water him.
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:53 pm

Chapter 3

The next two lorries were not driven by Rain Gods, but they did exactly the same thing.

The figure trudged, or rather sloshed, onward till the hill resumed and the treacherous sheet of water was left behind.

After a while the rain began to ease and the moon put in a brief appearance from behind the clouds.

A Renault drove by, and its driver made frantic and complex signals to the trudging figure to indicate that normally he would have been delighted to give the figure a lift, only he couldn't this time because he wasn't going in the direction that the figure wanted to go, whatever direction that might be, and he was sure the figure would understand. He concluded the signaling with a cheery thumbs-up sign as if to say that he hoped the figure felt really fine about being cold and almost terminally wet, and he would catch him next time around.

The figure trudged on. A Fiat passed and did exactly the same as the Renault.

A Maxi passed on the other side of the road and flashed its lights at the slowly plodding figure, though whether this was meant to convey a "Hello" or a "Sorry, we're going the other way" or a "Hey look, there's someone in the rain, what a jerk" was entirely unclear. A green strip across the top of the windshield indicated that whatever the message was, it came from Steve and Carola.

The storm had now definitely abated, and what thunder there was now grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying "And another thing ..." twenty minutes after admitting he'd lost the argument.

The air was clearer now, the night cold. Sound traveled rather well. The lost figure, shivering desperately, presently reached a junction, where a side road turned off to the left. Opposite the turning stood a signpost and this the figure suddenly hurried to and studied with feverish curiosity, only twisting away from it as another car passed suddenly.

And another.

The first whisked by with complete disregard, the second flashed meaninglessly. A Ford Cortina passed and put on its brakes.

Lurching with surprise, the figure bundled his bag to his chest and hurried forward toward it, but at the last moment the Cortina spun its wheels in the wet and careened off up the road rather amusingly.

The figure slowed to a stop and stood there, lost and dejected.

As it chanced, the following day the driver of the Cortina went into the hospital to have his appendix out, only due to a rather amusing mix-up the surgeon removed his leg in error and before the appendectomy could be rescheduled, the appendicitis complicated into an entertainingly serious case of peritonitis, and justice, in its way, was served.

The figure trudged on.

A Saab drew to a halt beside him.

Its window wound down and a friendly voice said, "Have you come far?"

The figure turned toward it. He stopped and grasped the handle of the door.

The figure, the car, and its door handle were all on a planet called the Earth, a world whose entire entry in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was comprised of two words "Mostly harmless."

The man who wrote this entry was called Ford Prefect, and he was at this precise moment on a far from harmless world, sitting in a far from harmless bar, recklessly causing trouble.
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Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:54 pm

Chapter 4

Whether it was because he was drunk, ill, or suicidally insane would not have been apparent to a casual observer, and indeed there were no casual observers in the Old Pink Dog Bar on the lower south side of Han Dold City because it wasn't the sort of place you could afford to do things casually in if you wanted to stay alive. Any observers in the place would have been mean, hawklike observers, heavily armed, with painful throbbings in their heads which caused them to do crazy things when they observed things they didn't like.

One of those nasty hushes had descended on the place, a missile crisis sort of hush.

Even the evil-looking bird perched on a rod in the bar had stopped screeching out the names and addresses of local contract killers, which was a service it provided for free.

All eyes were on Ford Prefect. Some of them were on stalks.

The particular way in which he was choosing to dice recklessly with death today was by trying to pay for a drinks bill the size of a small defense budget with an American Express card, which was not acceptable anywhere in the known Universe.

"What are you worried about," he asked in a cheery kind of voice, "the expiration date? Haven't you guys ever heard of Neo-Relativity out here? There're whole new areas of physics which can take care of this sort of thing. Time dilation effects, temporal relastatics --"

"We are not worried about the expiration date," said the man to whom he addressed these remarks, who was a dangerous barman in a dangerous city. His voice was a low soft purr, like the low soft purr made by the opening of an ICBM silo. A hand like a side of meat tapped lightly on the bar top, lightly denting it.

"Well, that's good then," said Ford, packing his satchel and preparing to leave.

The tapping finger reached out and rested lightly on the shoulder of Ford Prefect. It prevented him from leaving.

Although the finger was attached to a slablike hand, and the hand was attached to a clublike forearm, the forearm wasn't attached to anything at all, except in the metaphorical sense that it was attached by a fierce doglike loyalty to the bar which was its home. It had previously been more conventionally attached to the original owner of the bar, who on his deathbed had unexpectedly bequeathed it to medical science. Medical science had decided they didn't like the look of it and had bequeathed it right back to the Old Pink Dog Bar.

The new barman didn't believe in the supernatural or poltergeists or anything kooky like that, he just knew a useful ally when he saw one. The hand sat on the bar. It took orders, it served drinks, it dealt murderously with people who behaved as if they wanted to be murdered. Ford Prefect sat still.

"We are not worried about the expiration date," repeated the barman, satisfied that he now had Ford Prefect's full attention; "we are worried about the entire piece of plastic."

"What?" said Ford. He seemed a little taken aback.

"This," said the barman, holding out the card as if it were a small fish whose soul had three weeks earlier winged its way to the Land Where Fish Are Eternally Blessed. "We don't accept it."

Ford wondered briefly whether to raise the fact that he didn't have any other means of payment on him, but decided for the moment to soldier on. The disembodied hand was now grasping his shoulder lightly but firmly between its finger and thumb.

"But you don't understand," said Ford, his expression slowly ripening from a little taken abackness into rank incredulity, "this is the American Express card. It is the finest way of settling bills known to man. Haven't you read their junk mail?"

The cheery quality of Ford's voice was beginning to grate on the barman's ears. It sounded like someone relentlessly playing the kazoo during one of the more somber passages of a war requiem.

One of the bones in Ford's shoulder began to grate against another one of the bones in his shoulder in a way that suggested the hand had learned the principles of pain from a highly skilled chiropractor. He hoped he could get this business settled before the hand started to grate one of the bones in his shoulder against any of the bones in different parts of his body. Luckily, the shoulder it was holding was not the one he had his satchel slung over.

The barman slid the card back across the bar at Ford.

"We have never," he said with muted savagery, "heard of this thing."

This was hardly surprising.

Ford had only acquired it through a serious computer error toward the end of the fifteen-year sojourn he had spent on the planet Earth. Exactly how serious, the American Express Company had gotten to know very rapidly, and the increasingly strident and panic-stricken demands of its debt collection department were only silenced by the unexpected demolition of the entire planet by the Vogons, to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

He had kept it ever since because he found it useful to carry a form of currency that no one would accept.

"Credit?" he said. " Aaaargggh ..."

These two words were usually coupled in the Old Pink Dog Bar.

"I thought," gasped Ford, "that this was meant to be a class establishment ..."

He glanced around at the motley collection of thugs, pimps, and record company executives that skulked on the edges of the dim pools of light with which the dark shadows of the bar's inner recesses were pitted. They were all very deliberately looking in any direction but his, carefully picking up the threads of their former conversations about murders, drug rings, and music publishing deals. They knew what would happen now and didn't want to watch in case it put them off their drinks.

"You gonna die, boy," murmured the barman quietly at Ford Prefect, and the evidence was on his side. The bar used to have hanging up one of those signs that read "Please don't ask for credit as a punch in the mouth often offends," but in the interest of strict accuracy this was altered to "Please don't ask for credit because having your throat torn out by a savage bird while a disembodied hand smashes your head against the bar often offends." However, this made an unreadable mess of the notice and anyway didn't have the same ring to it, so it was taken down again. It was felt that the story would get about of its own accord, and it had.

"Lemme look at the bill again," said Ford. He picked it up and studied it thoughtfully under the malevolent gaze of the barman, and the equally malevolent gaze of the bird, which was currently gouging great furrows in the bar top with its talons.

It was a rather lengthy piece of paper.

At the bottom of it was a number that looked like one of those serial numbers you find on the underside of stereo sets which always take so long to copy on to the registration form. He had, after all, been in the bar all day, he had been drinking a lot of stuff with bubbles in it, and he had bought an awful lot of rounds for all the pimps, thugs, and record executives who suddenly couldn't remember who he was.

He cleared his throat rather quietly and patted his pockets. There was, as he knew, nothing in them.

He rested his left hand lightly but firmly on the half-opened flap of his satchel. The disembodied hand renewed its pressure on his right shoulder.

"You see," said the barman, and his face seemed to wobble evilly in front of Ford's, "I have a reputation to think of. You see that, don't you?"

This is it, thought Ford. There was nothing else for it. He had obeyed the rules, he had made a bona fide attempt to pay his bill, it had been rejected. He was now in danger of his life.

"Well," he said quietly, "if it's your reputation ..."

With a sudden flash of speed he opened his satchel and slapped down on the bar top his copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the official card which said that he was a field researcher for the Guide and absolutely not allowed to do what he was now doing.

"Want a write-up?"

The barman's face stopped in midwobble. The bird's talons stopped in midfurrow. The hand slowly released its grip.

"That," said the barman in a barely audible whisper, from between dry lips, "will do nicely, sir."
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