THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

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

Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:16 pm

Chapter 23

The news networks don't like this kind of thing. They regard it as a waste. An incontrovertible spaceship arrives out of nowhere in the middle of London and it is sensational news of the highest magnitude. Another completely different one arrives three and a half hours later and somehow it isn't.

ANOTHER SPACECRAFT! said the headlines and newsstand billboards. THIS ONE'S PINK. A couple of months later they could have made a lot more of it. The third spacecraft, half an hour after that, the little four-berth Hrundi runabout, only made it onto the local news.

Ford and Arthur had come screaming down out of the stratosphere and parked neatly on Portland Place. It was just after six-thirty in the evening and there were spaces free. They mingled briefly with the crowd that gathered around to ogle, then said loudly that if no one else was going to call the police, they would, and made good their escape.

"Home ..." said Arthur, a husky tone creeping into his voice as he gazed, misty-eyed, around him.

"Oh, don't get all maudlin on me," snapped Ford. "We have to find your daughter and we have to find that bird thing."

"How?" said Arthur. "This is a planet of five and a half billion people, and ..."

"Yes," said Ford. "But only one of them has just arrived from outer space in a large silver spaceship accompanied by a mechanical bird. I suggest we just find a television and something to drink while we watch it. We need some serious room service."

They checked into a large two-bedroom suite at the Langham. Mysteriously, Ford's Dine-O-Charge card, issued on a planet over five thousand light years away, seemed to present the hotel's computer with no problems.

Ford hit the phones straight away while Arthur attempted to locate the television.

"Okay," said Ford. "I want to order up some margaritas, please. Couple of pitchers. Couple of chef's salads. And as much foie gras as you've got. And also London Zoo."

"She's on the news!" shouted Arthur from the next room.

"That's what I said," said Ford into the phone. "London Zoo. Just charge it to the room."

"She's ... Good God!" shouted Arthur. "Do you know who she's being interviewed by?"

"Are you having difficulty understanding the English language?" continued Ford. "It's the zoo just up the road from here. I don't care if it's closed this evening. I don't want to buy a ticket, I just want to buy the zoo. I don't care if you're busy. This is room service, I'm in a room and I want some service. Got a piece of paper? Okay. Here's what I want you to do. All the animals that can be safely returned to the wild, return them. Set up some good teams of people to monitor their progress in the wild, see that they're doing okay."

"It's Trillian!" shouted Arthur. "Or is it ... er ... God, I can't stand all this parallel universe stuff. It's so bloody confusing. It seems to be a different Trillian. It's Tricia McMillan, which is what Trillian used to be called before ... er ... Why don't you come and watch, see if you can figure it out?"

"Just a second," Ford shouted, and returned to his negotiations with room service. "Then we'll need some natural reserves for the animals that can't hack it in the wild," he said. "Set up a team to work out the best places to do that. We might need to buy somewhere like Zaire and maybe some islands. Madagascar. Baffin. Sumatta. Those kind of places. We'll need a wide variety of habitats. Look, I don't see why you're seeing this as a problem. Learn to delegate. Hire whoever you want. Get onto it. I think you'll find my credit is good. And blue cheese dressing on the salad. Thank you."

He put the phone down and went through to Arthur, who was sitting on the edge of his bed watching television.

"I ordered us some foie gras," said Ford.

"What?" said Arthur, whose attention was entirely focused on the television.

"I said I ordered us some foie gras."

"Oh," said Arthur, vaguely. "Um, I always feel a bit bad about foie gras. Bit cruel to the geese, isn't it?"

"Fuck 'em," said Ford, slumping on the bed. "You can't care about every damn thing."

"Well, that's all very well for you to say, but --"

"Drop it!" said Ford. "If you don't like it I'll have yours. What's happening?"

"Chaos!" said Arthur. "Complete chaos! Random keeps on screaming at Trillian, or Tricia or whoever it is, that she abandoned her and then demanding to go to a good night club. Tricia's broken down in tears and says she's never even met Random, let alone given birth to her. Then she suddenly started howling about someone called Rupert and said that he had lost his mind or something. I didn't quite follow that bit, to be honest. Then Random started throwing stuff and they've cut to a commercial break while they try and sort it all out. Oh! They've just cut back to the studio! Shut up and watch."

A rather shaken anchorman appeared on the screen and apologized to viewers for the disruption of the previous item. He said he didn't have any very clear news to report, only that the mysterious girl, who called herself Random Frequent Flyer Dent, had left the studio to, er, rest. Tricia McMillan would be, he hoped, back tomorrow. Meanwhile, fresh reports of UFO activity were coming in ...

Ford leapt up off the bed, grabbed the nearest phone and jabbed at a number.

"Concierge? You want to own the hotel? It's yours if you can find out for me in five minutes which clubs Tricia McMillan belongs to. Just charge the whole thing to this room."
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:17 pm

Chapter 24

Away in the inky depths of space invisible movements were being made.

Invisible to any of the inhabitants of the strange and temperamental Plural zone at the focus of which lay the infinitely multitudinous possibilities of the planet called Earth, but not inconsequential to them.

At the very edge of the solar system, hunkered down on a green leatherette sofa, staring fretfully at a range of TV and computer screens, sat a very worried Grebulon leader. He was fiddling with stuff. Fiddling with his book on astrology. Fiddling with the console of his computer. Fiddling with the displays being fed through to him constantly from all of the Grebulons' monitoring devices, all of them focused on the planet Earth.

He was distressed. Their mission was to monitor. But to monitor secretly. He was a bit fed up with his mission, to be honest. He was fairly certain that his mission must have been to do more than sit around watching TV for years on end. They certainly had a lot of other equipment with them that must have had some purpose if only they hadn't accidentally lost all trace of their purpose. He needed a sense of purpose in life, which was why he had turned to astrology to fill the yawning gulf that existed in the middle of his mind and soul. That would tell him something, surely.

Well, it was telling him something.

It was telling him, as far as he could make out, that he was about to have a very bad month, that things were going to go from bad to worse if he didn't get a grip on things and start making some positive moves and think things out for himself.

It was true. It was very clear from his star chart, which he had worked out using his astrology book and the computer program which that nice Tricia McMillan had designed for him to retriangulate all the appropriate astronomical data. Earth-based astrology had to be entirely recalculated to yield results that were meaningful to the Grebulons here on the tenth planet, out on the frozen edges of the solar system.

The recalculations showed absolutely clearly and unambiguously that he was going to have a very bad month indeed, starting with today. Because today Earth was starting to rise into Capricorn, and that, for the Grebulon leader, who showed all the character signs of being a classic Taurus, was very bad indeed.

This was all very distressing for him, but he knew that he had to start taking positive action. He ordered the turrets to swivel.

***

Because all of the Grebulon surveillance equipment was focused on the planet Earth, it failed to spot that there was now another source of data in the solar system.

Its chances of accidentally spotting this other source of data -- a massive yellow constructor ship -- were practically nil. It was as far from the sun as Rupert was, but almost diametrically opposite, almost hidden by the sun.

Almost.

The massive yellow constructor ship wanted to be able to monitor events on Planet Ten without being spotted itself. It had managed this very successfully.

There were all sorts of other ways in which this ship was diametrically opposite to the Grebulons'.

Its leader, its Captain, had a very clear idea of what his purpose was. It was a very simple and plain one and he had been pursuing it in his simple, plain way for a considerable period of time now.

Anyone who knew of his purpose might have said that it was a pointless and ugly one, that it wasn't the sort of purpose that enhanced a life, put a spring in a person's step, made birds sing and flowers bloom. Rather the reverse in fact. Absolutely the reverse.

It wasn't his job to worry about that, though. It was his job to do his job, which was to do his job. If that led to a certain narrowness of vision and circularity of thought, then it wasn't his job to worry about such things. Any such things that came his way were referred to others, who had, in turn, other people to refer such things to.

Many, many light years from here, indeed from anywhere, lies the grim and long-abandoned planet Vogsphere. Somewhere on a fetid, fog-bound mud bank on this planet there stands, surrounded by the dirty, broken and empty carapaces of the last few jeweled scuttling crabs, a small stone monument which marks the place where, it is thought, the species Vogon Vogonblurtus first arose. On the monument there is carved an arrow which points away, into the fog, under which is inscribed in plain, simple letters the words "The buck stops there."

Deep in the bowels of his unsightly yellow ship, the Vogon Captain grunted as he reached for a slightly faded and dog-eared piece of paper that lay in front of him. A demolition order.

If you were to unravel exactly where the Captain's job, which was to do his job, actually began, then it all came down at last to this piece of paper that had been issued to him by his immediate superior long ago. The piece of paper had an instruction on it, and his purpose was to carry out that instruction and put a little tick mark in the adjacent box when he had carried it out.

He had carried out the instruction once before, but a number of troublesome circumstances had prevented him from being able to put the tick in the little box.

One of the troublesome circumstances was the Plural nature of this Galactic Sector, where the possible continually interfered with the probable. Simple demolition didn't get you any further than pushing down a bubble under a badly hung strip of wallpaper. Anything you demolished kept on popping up again. That would soon be taken care of.

Another was a small bunch of people who continually refused to be where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. That, also, would soon be taken care of.

The third was an irritating and anarchic little device called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That was now well and truly taken care of and, in fact, through the phenomenal power of temporal re\ verse engineering, it was now itself the agency through which everything else would be taken care of. The Captain had merely come to watch the final act of this drama. He himself did not have to lift a finger.

"Show me," he said.

The shadowy shape of a bird spread its wings and rose into the air near him. Darkness engulfed the bridge. Dim lights danced briefly in the black eyes of the bird as, deep in its instructional address space, bracket after bracket was finally closing, if clauses were finally ending, repeat loops halting, recursive functions calling themselves for the last few times.

A brilliant vision lit up in the darkness, a watery blue and green vision, a tube flowing through the air, shaped like a chopped-up string of sausages.

With a flatulent noise of satisfaction, the Vogon Captain sat back to watch.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:17 pm

Chapter 25

Just there, number forty-two," shouted Ford Prefect to the taxi driver. "Right here!"

The taxi lurched to a halt, and Ford and Arthur jumped out. They had stopped at quite a number of cash dispensers on the way, and Ford chucked a fistful of money through the window at the driver.

The entrance to the club was dark, smart and severe. Only the smallest little plaque bore its name. Members knew where it was, and if you weren't a member, then knowing where it was wasn't any help to you.

Ford Prefect was not a member of Stavro's, though he had once been to Stavro's other club in New York. He had a very simple method of dealing with establishments of which he was not a member. He simply swept in as soon as the door was opened, pointed back at Arthur and said, "It's okay, he's with me."

He bounded down the dark glossy stairs, feeling very froody in his new shoes. They were suede and they were blue, and he was very pleased that in spite of everything else going on he had been sharp-eyed enough to spot them in a shop window from the back of a speeding taxi.

"I thought I told you not to come here."

"What?" said Ford.

A thin, ill-looking man wearing something baggy and Italian was walking up the stairs past them, lighting a cigarette, and had stopped, suddenly.

"Not you," he said. "Him."

He looked straight at Arthur, then seemed to become a little confused.

"Excuse me," he said. "I think I must have mistaken you for someone else." He started on up the stairs again, but almost immediately turned around once more, even more puzzled. He stared at Arthur.

"Now what?" said Ford.

"What did you say?"

"I said, now what?" repeated Ford, irritably.

"Yes, I think so," said the man and swayed slightly and dropped the book of matches he'd been carrying. His mouth moved weakly. Then he put his hand to his forehead.

"Excuse me," he said, "I'm trying desperately to remember which drug I've just taken, but it must be one of those ones that mean you can't remember." He shook his head and turned away again and went up toward the men's room.

"Come on," said Ford. He hurried on downstairs, with Arthur following nervously in his wake. The encounter had shaken him badly and he didn't know why.

He didn't like places like this. For all of the dreams of Earth and home he had had for years, he now badly missed his hut on Lamuella with his knives and his sandwiches. He even missed Old Thrashbarg.

"Arthur!"

It was the most astounding effect. His name was being shouted in stereo.

He twisted to look one way. Up the stairs behind him he saw Trillian hurrying down toward him in her wonderfully rumpled Rymplon ™. She was looking suddenly aghast.

He twisted the other way to see what she was looking suddenly aghast at.

At the bottom of the stairs was Trillian, wearing ... No -- this was Tricia. Tricia that he had just seen, hysterical with confusion, on television. And behind her was Random, looking more wild-eyed than ever. Behind her in the recesses of the smart, dimly lit club, the other clientele of the evening formed a frozen tableau, staring anxiously up at the confrontation on the stairs.

For a few seconds everyone stood stock still. Only the music from behind the bar didn't know to stop throbbing.

"The gun she is holding," said Ford, quietly, nodding slightly toward Random, "is a Wabanatta 3. It was in the ship she stole from me. It's quite dangerous in fact. Just don't move for a moment. Let's just everybody stay calm and find out what's upsetting her."

"Where do I fit?" screamed Random, suddenly. The hand holding the gun was trembling fiercely. Her other hand delved into her pocket and pulled out the remains of Arthur's watch. She shook it at them.

"I thought I would fit here," she cried, "on the world that made me! But it turns out that even my mother doesn't know who I am!" She flung the watch violently aside, and it smashed into the glasses behind the bar, scattering its innards.

Everyone was very quiet for a moment or two longer.

"Random," said Trillian, quietly, from up on the stairs.

"Shut up!" shouted Random. "You abandoned me!"

"Random, it is very important that you listen to me and understand," persisted Trillian, quietly. "There isn't very much time. We must leave. We must all leave."

"What are you talking about? We're always leaving!" She had both hands on the gun now, and both were shaking. There was no one in particular she was pointing it at. She was just pointing it at the world in general.

"Listen," said Trillian again. "I left you because I went to cover a war for the network. It was extremely dangerous. At least, I thought it was going to be. I arrived and the war had suddenly ceased to happen. There was a time anomaly and ... listen! Please listen! A reconnaissance battleship had failed to turn up, the rest of the fleet was scattered in some farcical disarray. It's happening all the time now."

"I don't care! I don't want to hear about your bloody job!" shouted Random. "I want a home! I want to fit somewhere!"

"This is not your home," said Trillian, still keeping her voice calm. "You don't have one. None of us have one. Hardly anybody has one anymore. The missing ship I was just talking about. The people of that ship don't have a home. They don't know where they are from. They don't even have any memory of who they are or what they are for. They are very lost and very confused and very frightened. They are here in this solar system, and they are about to do something very ... misguided because they are so lost and confused. We ... must ... leave ... now. I can't tell you where there is to go to. Perhaps there isn't anywhere. But here is not the place to be. Please. One more time. Can we go?"

Random was wavering in panic and confusion.

"It's all right," said Arthur, gently. "If I'm here, we're safe. Don't ask me to explain just now, but I am safe, so you are safe. Okay?"

"What are you saying?" said Trillian.

"Let's all just relax," said Arthur. He was feeling very tranquil. His life was charmed and none of this seemed real.

Slowly, gradually, Random began to relax, and to let the gun down, inch by inch.

Two things happened simultaneously.

The door to the men's room at the top of the stairs opened, and the man who had accosted Arthur came out, sniffing.

Startled at the sudden movement, Random lifted the gun again just as a man standing behind her made a grab for it.

Arthur threw himself forward. There was a deafening explosion. He fell awkwardly as Trillian threw herself down over him. The noise died away. Arthur looked up to see the man at the top of the stairs gazing down at him with a look of utter stupefaction.

"You ..." he said. Then slowly, horribly, he fell apart.

Random threw the gun down and fell to her knees, sobbing. "I'm sorry!" she said. "I'm so sorry! I'm so, so sorry ..."

Tricia went to her. Trillian went to her.

Arthur sat on the stairs with his head between his hands and had not the faintest idea what to do. Ford was sitting on the stair beneath him. He picked something up, looked at it with interest and passed it up to Arthur.

"This mean anything to you?" he said.

Arthur took it. It was the book of matches that the dead man had dropped. It had the name of the club on it. It had the name of the proprietor of the club on it. It looked like this:

STAVRO MUELLER
BETA

He stared at it for some time as things began slowly to reassemble themselves in his mind. He wondered what he should do, but he only wondered it idly. Around him people were beginning to rush and shout a lot, but it was suddenly very clear to him that there was nothing to be done, not now or ever. Through the new strangeness of noise and light he could just make out the shape of Ford Prefect sitting back and laughing wildly.

A tremendous feeling of peace came over him. He knew that at last, for once and forever, it was now all, finally, over.

***

In the darkness of the bridge at the heart of the Vogon ship, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz sat alone. Lights flared briefly across the external vision screens that lined one wall. In the air above him the discontinuities in the blue and green watery sausage shape resolved themselves. Options collapsed, possibilities folded into each other, and the whole at last resolved itself out of existence.

A very deep darkness descended. The Vogon Captain sat immersed in it for a few seconds.

"Light," he said.

There was no response. The bird, too, had crumpled out of all possibility.

The Vogon turned on the light himself. He picked up the piece of paper again and placed a little tick in the little box.

***

Well, that was done. His ship slunk off into the inky void. In spite of having taken what he regarded as an extremely positive piece of action, the Grebulon leader ended up having a very bad month after all. It was pretty much the same as all the previous months except that there was now nothing on the television anymore. He put on a little light music instead.
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