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Thread: The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  1. #1

    Talking The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy


    Jonny Brock and Clare Gorst

    and all other Arlingtonians

    for tea, sympathy, and a sofa

    To be continued
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  2. #2
    1.1 Introduction

    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-two 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 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, one 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,
    a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.

    This is not her story.

    But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its

    It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitch Hiker's Guide to
    the Galaxy - not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the
    terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Earthman.

    Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book.

    in fact it was probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of
    the great publishing houses of Ursa Minor - of which no Earthman had
    ever heard either.

    Not only is it a wholly remarkable book, it is also a highly successful one
    - more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling
    than Fifty More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial
    than Oolon Colluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God


    Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes and Who is this
    God Person Anyway?

    In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of
    the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great
    Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and
    wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is
    apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more
    pedestrian work in two important respects.

    First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words Don't Panic
    inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

    But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday, the story of its extraor-
    dinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are inex-
    tricably intertwined with this remarkable book begins very simply.

    To be continued
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  3. #3
    It begins with a house.

    The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It stood
    on its own and looked over a broad spread of West Country farmland.
    Not a remarkable house by any means - it was about thirty years old,
    squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front
    of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the

    The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur
    Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived
    in. He had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved
    out of London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about
    thirty as well, dark haired and never- quite at ease with himself. The
    thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used
    to ask him what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local
    radio which he always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting
    than they probably thought. It was, too - most of his friends worked in

    It hadn't properly registered with Arthur that the council wanted to
    knock down his house and build an bypass instead.

    At eight o'clock on Thursday morning Arthur didn't feel very good. He
    woke up blearily, got up, wandered blearily round his room, opened a
    window, saw a bulldozer, found his slippers, and stomped off to the
    bathroom to wash.

    Toothpaste on the brush - so. Scrub.

    Shaving mirror - pointing at the ceiling. He adjusted it. For a moment
    it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window. Properly
    adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent's bristles. He shaved them off, washed,


    dried, and stomped off to the kitchen to find something pleasant to put
    in his mouth.

    Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn.

    The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search
    of something to connect with.

    The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one.

    He stared at it.

    "Yellow," he thought and stomped off back to his bedroom to get dressed.

    Passing the bathroom he stopped to drink a large glass of water, and
    another. He began to suspect that he was hung over. Why was he hung
    over? Had he been drinking the night before? He supposed that he must
    have been. He caught a glint in the shaving mirror. "Yellow," he thought
    and stomped on to the bedroom.

    He stood and thought. The pub, he thought. Oh dear, the pub. He
    vaguely remembered being angry, angry about something that seemed
    important. He'd been telling people about it, telling people about it at
    great length, he rather suspected: his clearest visual recollection was of
    glazed looks on other people's faces. Something about a new bypass he
    had just found out about. It had been in the pipeline for months only
    no one seemed to have known about it. Ridiculous. He took a swig of
    water. It would sort itself out, he'd decided, no one wanted a bypass,
    the council didn't have a leg to stand on. It would sort itself out.

    God what a terrible hangover it had earned him though. He looked
    at himself in the wardrobe mirror. He stuck out his tongue. "Yellow,"
    he thought. The word yellow wandered through his mind in search of
    something to connect with.

    Fifteen seconds later he was out of the house and lying in front of a big
    yellow bulldozer that was advancing up his garden path. Mr L Prosser
    was, as they say, only human. In other words he was a carbon-based
    life form descended from an ape. More specifically he was forty, fat and
    shabby and worked for the local council. Curiously enough, though he
    didn't know it, he was also a direct male-line descendant of Genghis
    Khan, though intervening generations and racial mixing had so juggled
    his genes that he had no discernible Mongoloid characteristics, and the
    only vestiges left in Mr L Prosser of his mighty ancestry were a pro-
    nounced stoutness about the tum and a predilection for little fur hats.

    He was by no means a great warrior: in fact he was a nervous worried
    man. Today he was particularly nervous and worried because something
    had gone seriously wrong with his job - which was to see that Arthur
    Dent's house got cleared out of the way before the day was out.

    "Come off it, Mr Dent,", he said, "you can't win you know. You can't
    lie in front of the bulldozer indefinitely." He tried to make his eyes blaze
    fiercely but they just wouldn't do it.

    Arthur lay in the mud and squelched at him.
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:32:14.
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  4. #4

    "I'm game," he said, "we'll see who rusts first."

    "I'm afraid you're going to have to accept it," said Mr Prosser gripping
    his fur hat and rolling it round the top of his head, "this bypass has got
    to be built and it's going to be built!"

    "First I've heard of it," said Arthur, "why's it going to be built?"

    Mr Prosser shook his finger at him for a bit, then stopped and put it
    away again.

    "What do you mean, why's it got to be built?" he said. "It's a bypass.
    You've got to build bypasses."

    Bypasses are devices which allow some people to drive from point A
    to point B very fast whilst other people dash from point B to point A
    very fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between,
    are often given to wonder what's so great about point A that so many
    people of point B are so keen to get there, and what's so great about
    point B that so many people of point A are so keen to get there. They
    often wish that people would just once and for all work out where the
    hell they wanted to be.

    Mr Prosser wanted to be at point D. Point D wasn't anywhere in par-
    ticular, it was just any convenient point a very long way from points A,
    B and C. He would have a nice little cottage at point D, with axes over
    the door, and spend a pleasant amount of time at point E, which would
    be the nearest pub to point D. His wife of course wanted climbing roses,
    but he wanted axes. He didn't know why - he just liked axes. He flushed
    hotly under the derisive grins of the bulldozer drivers.

    He shifted his weight from foot to foot, but it was equally uncomfortable
    on each. Obviously somebody had been appallingly incompetent and he
    hoped to God it wasn't him.

    Mr Prosser said: "You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or
    protests at the appropriate time you know."

    "Appropriate time?" hooted Arthur. "Appropriate time? The first I
    knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I
    asked him if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no he'd come
    to demolish the house. He didn't tell me straight away of course. Oh no.
    First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me a fiver. Then he
    told me."

    "But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office
    for the last nine month."

    "Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them,
    yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call
    attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or

    "But the plans were on display ..."

    "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."


    "That's the display department."

    "With a torch."

    "Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

    "So had the stairs."

    "But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

    "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a
    locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door
    saying Beware of the Leopard."

    A cloud passed overhead. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent as he lay
    propped up on his elbow in the cold mud. It cast a shadow over Arthur
    Dent's house. Mr Prosser frowned at it.

    "It's not as if it's a particularly nice house," he said.

    "I'm sorry, but I happen to like it."

    "You'll like the bypass."

    "Oh shut up," said Arthur Dent. "Shut up and go away, and take your
    bloody bypass with you. You haven't got a leg to stand on and you know

    Mr Prosser's mouth opened and closed a couple of times while his mind
    was for a moment filled with inexplicable but terribly attractive visions
    of Arthur Dent's house being consumed with fire and Arthur himself
    running screaming from the blazing ruin with at least three hefty spears
    protruding from his back. Mr Prosser was often bothered with visions like
    these and they made him feel very nervous. He stuttered for a moment
    and then pulled himself together.

    "Mr Dent," he said.

    "Hello? Yes?" said Arthur.

    "Some factual information for you. Have you any idea how much damage
    that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?"

    "How much?" said Arthur.

    "None at all," said Mr Prosser, and stormed nervously off wondering
    why his brain was filled with a thousand hairy horsemen all shouting at

    By a curious coincidence, None at all is exactly how much su****ion
    the ape-descendant Arthur Dent had that one of his closest friends was
    not descended from an ape, but was in fact from a small planet in the
    vicinity of Betelgeuse and not from Guildford as he usually claimed.

    Arthur Dent had never, ever suspected this.

    This friend of his had first arrived on the planet some fifteen Earth years
    previously, and he had worked hard to blend himself into Earth society
    - with, it must be said, some success. For instance he had spent those
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  5. #5

    fifteen years pretending to be an out of work actor, which was plausible

    He had made one careless blunder though, because he had skimped a bit
    on his preparatory research. The information he had gathered had led
    him to choose the name "Ford Prefect" as being nicely incon****uous.

    He was not con****uously tall, his features were striking but not con-
    ****uously handsome. His hair was wiry and gingerish and brushed back-
    wards from the temples. His skin seemed to be pulled backwards from
    the nose. There was something very slightly odd about him, but it was
    difficult to say what it was. Perhaps it was that his eyes didn't blink
    often enough and when you talked to him for any length of time your
    eyes began involuntarily to water on his behalf. Perhaps it was that he
    smiled slightly too broadly and gave people the unnerving impression
    that he was about to go for their neck.

    He struck most of the friends he had made on Earth as an eccentric, but
    a harmless one - an unruly boozer with some oddish habits. For instance
    he would often gatecrash university parties, get badly drunk and start
    making fun of any astrophysicist he could find till he got thrown out.

    Sometimes he would get seized with oddly distracted moods and stare
    into the sky as if hypnotized until someone asked him what he was
    doing. Then he would start guiltily for a moment, relax and grin. "Oh,
    just looking for flying saucers," he would joke and everyone would laugh
    and ask him what sort of flying saucers he was looking for.

    "Green ones!" he would reply with a wicked grin, laugh wildly for a mo-
    ment and then suddenly lunge for the nearest bar and buy an enormous
    round of drinks.

    Evenings like this usually ended badly. Ford would get out of his skull on
    whisky, huddle into a corner with some girl and explain to her in slurred
    phrases that honestly the colour of the flying saucers didn't matter that
    much really.

    Thereafter, staggering semi-paralytic down the night streets he would
    often ask passing policemen if they knew the way to Betelgeuse. The
    policemen would usually say something like, "Don't you think it's about
    time you went off home sir?"

    "I'm trying to baby, I'm trying to," is what Ford invariably replied on
    these occasions.

    In fact what he was really looking out for when he stared distractedly
    into the night sky was any kind of flying saucer at all. The reason he said
    green was that green was the traditional space livery of the Betelgeuse
    trading scouts.

    Ford Prefect was desperate that any flying saucer at all would arrive
    soon because fifteen years was a long time to get stranded anywhere,
    particularly somewhere as mindboggingly dull as the Earth.


    Ford wished that a flying saucer would arrive soon because he knew how
    to flag flying saucers down and get lifts from them. He knew how to see
    the Marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairan dollars a day.

    In fact, Ford Prefect was a roving researcher for that wholly remarkable
    book The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    Human beings are great adaptors, and by lunchtime life in the environs
    of Arthur's house had settled into a steady routine. It was Arthur's
    accepted role to lie squelching in the mud making occasional demands
    to see his lawyer, his mother or a good book; it was Mr Prosser's accepted
    role to tackle Arthur with the occasional new ploy such as the For the
    Public Good talk, the March of Progress talk, the They Knocked My
    House Down Once You Know, Never Looked Back talk and various other
    cajoleries and threats; and it was the bulldozer drivers' accepted role to
    sit around drinking coffee and experimenting with union regulations to
    see how they could turn the situation to their financial advantage.

    The Earth moved slowly in its diurnal course.

    The sun was beginning to dry out the mud Arthur lay in.

    A shadow moved across him again.

    "Hello Arthur," said the shadow. Arthur looked up and squinting into
    the sun was startled to see Ford Prefect standing above him.

    "Ford! Hello, how are you?"

    "Fine," said Ford, "look, are you busy?"

    "Am I busy?" exclaimed Arthur. "Well, I've just got all these bulldozers
    and things to lie in front of because they'll knock my house down if I
    don't, but other than that ... well, no not especially, why?"

    They don't have sarcasm on Betelgeuse, and Ford Prefect often failed to
    notice it unless he was concentrating. He said, "Good, is there anywhere
    we can talk?"

    "What?" said Arthur Dent.

    For a few seconds Ford seemed to ignore him, and stared fixedly into
    the sky like a rabbit trying to get run over by a car. Then suddenly he
    squatted down beside Arthur.

    "We've got to talk," he said urgently.

    "Fine," said Arthur, "talk."

    "And drink," said Ford. "It's vitally important that we talk and drink.
    Now. We'll go to the pub in the village."

    He looked into the sky again, nervous, expectant.

    "Look, don't you understand?" shouted Arthur. He pointed at Prosser.
    "That man wants to knock my house down!"

    Ford glanced at him, puzzled.

    "Well he can do it while you're away can't he?" he asked.
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  6. #6

    "But I don't want him to!"


    "Look, what's the matter with you Ford?" said Arthur.

    "Nothing. Nothing's the matter. Listen to me - I've got to tell you the
    most important thing you've ever heard. I've got to tell you now, and
    I've got to tell you in the saloon bar of the Horse and Groom."

    "But why?"

    "Because you are going to need a very stiff drink."

    Ford stared at Arthur, and Arthur was astonished to find that his will
    was beginning to weaken. He didn't realize that this was because of an
    old drinking game that Ford learned to play in the hyperspace ports that
    served the madranite mining belts in the star system of Orion Beta. The
    game was not unlike the Earth game called Indian Wrestling, and was
    played like this:

    Two contestants would sit either side of a table, with a glass in front of
    each of them.

    Between them would be placed a bottle of Janx Spirit (as immortalized
    in that ancient Orion mining song "Oh don't give me none more of that
    Old Janx Spirit/ No, don't you give me none more of that Old Janx
    Spirit/ For my head will fly, my tongue will lie, my eyes will fry and I
    may die/ Won't you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit").

    Each of the two contestants would then concentrate their will on the
    bottle and attempt to tip it and pour spirit into the glass of his opponent
    - who would then have to drink it.

    The bottle would then be refilled. The game would be played again. And

    Once you started to lose you would probably keep losing, because one
    of the effects of Janx spirit is to depress telepsychic power.

    As soon as a predetermined quantity had been consumed, the final loser
    would have to perform a forfeit, which was usually obscenely biological.

    Ford Prefect usually played to lose.

    Ford stared at Arthur, who began to think that perhaps he did want to
    go to the Horse and Groom after all.

    "But what about my house ...?" he asked plaintively.

    Ford looked across to Mr Prosser, and suddenly a wicked thought struck

    "He wants to knock your house down?"

    "Yes, he wants to build ..."

    "And he can't because you're lying in front of the bulldozers?"

    "Yes, and ..."


    "I'm sure we can come to some arrangement," said Ford. "Excuse me!"
    he shouted.

    Mr Prosser (who was arguing with a spokesman for the bulldozer drivers
    about whether or not Arthur Dent constituted a mental health hazard,
    and how much they should get paid if he did) looked around. He was
    surprised and slightly alarmed to find that Arthur had company.

    "Yes? Hello?" he called. "Has Mr Dent come to his senses yet?"

    "Can we for the moment," called Ford, "assume that he hasn't?" "Well?"
    sighed Mr Prosser.

    "And can we also assume," said Ford, "that he's going to be staying
    here all day?"


    "So all your men are going to be standing around all day doing nothing?"

    "Could be, could be ..."

    "Well, if you're resigned to doing that anyway, you don't actually need
    him to lie here all the time do you?"


    "You don't," said Ford patiently, "actually need him here."

    Mr Prosser thought about this.

    "Well no, not as such...", he said, "not exactly need ..." Prosser was
    worried. He thought that one of them wasn't making a lot of sense.

    Ford said, "So if you would just like to take it as read that he's actually
    here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub for half an hour. How
    does that sound?"

    Mr Prosser thought it sounded perfectly potty.

    "That sounds perfectly reasonable," he said in a reassuring tone of voice,
    wondering who he was trying to reassure.

    "And if you want to pop off for a quick one yourself later on," said Ford,
    "we can always cover up for you in return."

    "Thank you very much," said Mr Prosser who no longer knew how to
    play this at all, "thank you very much, yes, that's very kind ..." He
    frowned, then smiled, then tried to do both at once, failed, grasped hold
    of his fur hat and rolled it fitfully round the top of his head. He could
    only assume that he had just won.

    "So," continued Ford Prefect, "if you would just like to come over here
    and lie down ..."

    "What?" said Mr Prosser.

    "Ah, I'm sorry," said Ford, "perhaps I hadn't made myself fully clear.
    Somebody's got to lie in front of the bulldozers haven't they? Or there
    won't be anything to stop them driving into Mr Dent's house will there?"

    "What?" said Mr Prosser again.
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  7. #7

    "It's very simple," said Ford, "my client, Mr Dent, says that he will
    stop lying here in the mud on the sole condition that you come and take
    over from him." "What are you talking about?" said Arthur, but Ford
    nudged him with his shoe to be quiet.

    "You want me," said Mr Prosser, spelling out this new thought to him-
    self, "to come and lie there ..."


    "In front of the bulldozer?"


    "Instead of Mr Dent."


    "In the mud."

    "In, as you say it, the mud."

    As soon as Mr Prosser realized that he was substantially the loser after
    all, it was as if a weight lifted itself off his shoulders: this was more like
    the world as he knew it. He sighed.

    "In return for which you will take Mr Dent with you down to the pub?"

    "That's it," said Ford. "That's it exactly."

    Mr Prosser took a few nervous steps forward and stopped.


    "Promise," said Ford. He turned to Arthur.

    "Come on," he said to him, "get up and let the man lie down."

    Arthur stood up, feeling as if he was in a dream.

    Ford beckoned to Prosser who sadly, awkwardly, sat down in the mud.
    He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes
    wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. The mud
    folded itself round his bottom and his arms and oozed into his shoes.

    Ford looked at him severely.

    "And no sneaky knocking down Mr Dent's house whilst he's away, al-
    right?" he said.

    "The mere thought," growled Mr Prosser, "hadn't even begun to specu-
    late," he continued, settling himself back, "about the merest possibility
    of crossing my mind."

    He saw the bulldozer driver's union representative approaching and let
    his head sink back and closed his eyes. He was trying to marshal his
    arguments for proving that he did not now constitute a mental health
    hazard himself. He was far from certain about this - his mind seemed
    to be full of noise, horses, smoke, and the stench of blood. This always
    happened when he felt miserable and put upon, and he had never been
    able to explain it to himself. In a high dimension of which we know noth-
    ing the mighty Khan bellowed with rage, but Mr Prosser only trembled


    slightly and whimpered. He began to fell little pricks of water behind the
    eyelids. Bureaucratic ****-ups, angry men lying in the mud, indecipher-
    able strangers handing out inexplicable humiliations and an unidentified
    army of horsemen laughing at him in his head - what a day.

    What a day. Ford Prefect knew that it didn't matter a pair of dingo's
    kidneys whether Arthur's house got knocked down or not now.

    Arthur remained very worried.

    "But can we trust him?" he said.

    "Myself I'd trust him to the end of the Earth," said Ford.

    "Oh yes," said Arthur, "and how far's that?"

    "About twelve minutes away," said Ford, "come on, I need a drink."

    Here's what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about alcohol. It says
    that alcohol is a colourless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of
    sugars and also notes its intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says
    that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

    It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having
    your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold

    The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic Gargle
    Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what
    voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterwards.

    The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself.

    Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit, it says.

    Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V - Oh
    that Santraginean sea water, it says. Oh those Santraginean fish!!!

    Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it
    must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).

    Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory
    of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of

    Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint
    extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones,
    subtle sweet and mystic.

    Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading
    the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.

    Sprinkle Zamphuor.
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:35:34.
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  8. #8

    Add an olive.

    Drink ... but ... very carefully ...

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the En-
    cyclopedia Galactica.

    "Six pints of bitter," said Ford Prefect to the barman of the Horse and
    Groom. "And quickly please, the world's about to end."

    The barman of the Horse and Groom didn't deserve this sort of treat-
    ment, he was a dignified old man. He pushed his glasses up his nose and
    blinked at Ford Prefect. Ford ignored him and stared out of the win-
    dow, so the barman looked instead at Arthur who shrugged helplessly
    and said nothing.

    So the barman said, "Oh yes sir? Nice weather for it," and started pulling

    He tried again.

    "Going to watch the match this afternoon then?"

    Ford glanced round at him.

    "No, no point," he said, and looked back out of the window.

    "What's that, foregone conclusion then you reckon sir?" said the bar-
    man. "Arsenal without a chance?"

    "No, no," said Ford, "it's just that the world's about to end."

    "Oh yes sir, so you said," said the barman, looking over his glasses this
    time at Arthur. "Lucky escape for Arsenal if it did."

    Ford looked back at him, genuinely surprised.

    "No, not really," he said. He frowned.

    The barman breathed in heavily. "There you are sir, six pints," he said.

    Arthur smiled at him wanly and shrugged again. He turned and smiled
    wanly at the rest of the pub just in case any of them had heard what
    was going on. None of them had, and none of them could understand
    what he was smiling at them for.

    A man sitting next to Ford at the bar looked at the two men, looked
    at the six pints, did a swift burst of mental arithmetic, arrived at an
    answer he liked and grinned a stupid hopeful grin at them.

    "Get off," said Ford, "They're ours," giving him a look that would have
    an Algolian Suntiger get on with what it was doing.

    Ford slapped a five-pound note on the bar. He said, "Keep the change."

    "What, from a fiver? Thank you sir."

    "You've got ten minutes left to spend it."

    The barman simply decided to walk away for a bit.

    "Ford," said Arthur, "would you please tell me what the hell is going


    "Drink up," said Ford, "you've got three pints to get through."

    "Three pints?" said Arthur. "At lunchtime?"

    The man next to ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him.
    He said, "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

    "Very deep," said Arthur, "you should send that in to the Reader's
    Digest. They've got a page for people like you."

    "Drink up."

    "Why three pints all of a sudden?"

    "Muscle relaxant, you'll need it."

    "Muscle relaxant?"

    "Muscle relaxant."

    Arthur stared into his beer.

    "Did I do anything wrong today," he said, "or has the world always been
    like this and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice?"

    "Alright," said Ford, "I'll try to explain. How long have we known each

    "How long?" Arthur thought. "Er, about five years, maybe six," he said.
    "Most of it seemed to make some sense at the time."

    "Alright," said Ford. "How would you react if I said that I'm not from
    Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of
    Betelgeuse?" Arthur shrugged in a so-so sort of way.

    "I don't know," he said, taking a pull of beer. "Why - do you think it's
    the sort of thing you're likely to say?"

    Ford gave up. It really wasn't worth bothering at the moment, what
    with the world being about to end. He just said:

    "Drink up."

    He added, perfectly factually:

    "The world's about to end."

    Arthur gave the rest of the pub another wan smile. The rest of the pub
    frowned at him. A man waved at him to stop smiling at them and mind
    his own business.

    "This must be Thursday," said Arthur musing to himself, sinking low
    over his beer, "I never could get the hang of Thursdays."

    On this particular Thursday, something was moving quietly through the
    ionosphere many miles above the surface of the planet; several some-
    things in fact, several dozen huge yellow chunky slablike somethings,
    huge as office buildings, silent as birds. They soared with ease, basking
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:36:24.
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    7 years to ding 220, any better?

  9. #9

    in electromagnetic rays from the star Sol, biding their time, grouping,

    The planet beneath them was almost perfectly oblivious of their pres-
    ence, which was just how they wanted it for the moment. The huge
    yellow somethings went unnoticed at Goonhilly, they passed over Cape
    Canaveral without a blip, Woomera and Jodrell Bank looked straight
    through them - which was a pity because it was exactly the sort of thing
    they'd been looking for all these years.

    The only place they registered at all was on a small black device called
    a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic which winked away quietly to itself. It nes-
    tled in the darkness inside a leather satchel which Ford Prefect wore
    habitually round his neck. The contents of Ford Prefect's satchel were
    quite interesting in fact and would have made any Earth physicist's eyes
    pop out of his head, which is why he always concealed them by keeping
    a couple of dog-eared scripts for plays he pretended he was audition-
    ing for stuffed in the top. Besides the Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic and the
    scripts he had an Electronic Thumb - a short squat black rod, smooth
    and matt with a couple of flat switches and dials at one end; he also had
    a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This
    had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four
    inches square on which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned
    at a moment's notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one
    of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words
    Don't Panic printed on it in large friendly letters. The other reason was
    that this device was in fact that most remarkable of all books ever to
    come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor - The Hitch
    Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The reason why it was published in the
    form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed
    in normal book form, an interstellar hitch hiker would require several
    inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.

    Beneath that in Ford Prefect's satchel were a few biros, a notepad, and
    a largish bath towel from Marks and Spencer.

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the
    subject of towels.

    A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstel-
    lar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can
    wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of
    Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of
    Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it
    beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon;
    use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use
    in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious
    fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
    (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it
    can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your
    towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off


    with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

    More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some
    reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker
    has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in
    possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, com-
    pass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc.,
    etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any
    of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally
    have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch
    the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against
    terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly
    a man to be reckoned with.

    Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in "Hey, you
    sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where
    his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really
    together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

    Nestling quietly on top of the towel in Ford Prefect's satchel, the Sub-
    Etha Sens-O-Matic began to wink more quickly. Miles above the surface
    of the planet the huge yellow somethings began to fan out. At Jodrell
    Bank, someone decided it was time for a nice relaxing cup of tea.

    "You got a towel with you?" said Ford Prefect suddenly to Arthur.

    Arthur, struggling through his third pint, looked round at him.

    "Why? What, no ... should I have?" He had given up being surprised,
    there didn't seem to be any point any longer.

    Ford clicked his tongue in irritation.

    "Drink up," he urged.

    At that moment the dull sound of a rumbling crash from outside filtered
    through the low murmur of the pub, through the sound of the jukebox,
    through the sound of the man next to Ford hiccupping over the whisky
    Ford had eventually bought him.

    Arthur choked on his beer, leapt to his feet.

    "What's that?" he yelped.

    "Don't worry," said Ford, "they haven't started yet."

    "Thank God for that," said Arthur and relaxed.

    "It's probably just your house being knocked down," said Ford, drowning
    his last pint.

    "What?" shouted Arthur. Suddenly Ford's spell was broken. Arthur
    looked wildly around him and ran to the window.

    "My God they are! They're knocking my house down. What the hell am
    I doing in the pub, Ford?"

    "It hardly makes any difference at this stage," said Ford, "let them have
    their fun."
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  10. #10

    "Fun?" yelped Arthur. "Fun!" He quickly checked out of the window
    again that they were talking about the same thing.

    "Damn their fun!" he hooted and ran out of the pub furiously waving
    a nearly empty beer glass. He made no friends at all in the pub that

    "Stop, you vandals! You home wreckers!" bawled Arthur. "You half
    crazed Visigoths, stop will you!"

    Ford would have to go after him. Turning quickly to the barman he
    asked for four packets of peanuts.

    "There you are sir," said the barman, slapping the packets on the bar,
    "twenty-eight pence if you'd be so kind."

    Ford was very kind - he gave the barman another five-pound note and
    told him to keep the change. The barman looked at it and then looked
    at Ford. He suddenly shivered: he experienced a momentary sensation
    that he didn't understand because no one on Earth had ever experienced
    it before. In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives
    out a tiny sublimal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact
    and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his
    birth. On Earth it is never possible to be further than sixteen thousand
    miles from your birthplace, which really isn't very far, so such signals
    are too minute to be noticed. Ford Prefect was at this moment under
    great stress, and he was born 600 light years away in the near vicinity
    of Betelgeuse.

    The barman reeled for a moment, hit by a shocking, incomprehensible
    sense of distance. He didn't know what it meant, but he looked at Ford
    Prefect with a new sense of respect, almost awe.

    "Are you serious, sir?" he said in a small whisper which had the effect
    of silencing the pub. "You think the world's going to end?"

    "Yes," said Ford.

    "But, this afternoon?"

    Ford had recovered himself. He was at his flippest.

    "Yes," he said gaily, "in less than two minutes I would estimate."

    The barman couldn't believe the conversation he was having, but he
    couldn't believe the sensation he had just had either.

    "Isn't there anything we can do about it then?" he said.

    "No, nothing," said Ford, stuffing the peanuts into his pockets.

    Someone in the hushed bar suddenly laughed raucously at how stupid
    everyone had become.

    The man sitting next to Ford was a bit sozzled by now. His eyes waved
    their way up to Ford.

    "I thought," he said, "that if the world was going to end we were meant
    to lie down or put a paper bag over our head or something."


    "If you like, yes," said Ford.

    "That's what they told us in the army," said the man, and his eyes began
    the long trek back down to his whisky.

    "Will that help?" asked the barman.

    "No," said Ford and gave him a friendly smile. "Excuse me," he said,
    "I've got to go." With a wave, he left.

    The pub was silent for a moment longer, and then, embarrassingly
    enough, the man with the raucous laugh did it again. The girl he had
    dragged along to the pub with him had grown to loathe him dearly over
    the last hour or so, and it would probably have been a great satisfaction
    to her to know that in a minute and a half or so he would suddenly
    evaporate into a whiff of hydrogen, ozone and carbon monoxide. How-
    ever, when the moment came she would be too busy evaporating herself
    to notice it.

    The barman cleared his throat. He heard himself say:

    "Last orders, please." The huge yellow machines began to sink downward
    and to move faster.

    Ford knew they were there. This wasn't the way he had wanted it.

    Running up the lane, Arthur had nearly reached his house. He didn't
    notice how cold it had suddenly become, he didn't notice the wind,
    he didn't notice the sudden irrational squall of rain. He didn't notice
    anything but the caterpillar bulldozers crawling over the rubble that
    had been his home.

    "You barbarians!" he yelled. "I'll sue the council for every penny it's
    got! I'll have you hung, drawn and quartered! And whipped! And boiled
    ... until ... until ... until you've had enough."

    Ford was running after him very fast. Very very fast.

    "And then I'll do it again!" yelled Arthur. "And when I've finished I will
    take all the little bits, and I will jump on them!"

    Arthur didn't notice that the men were running from the bulldozers; he
    didn't notice that Mr Prosser was staring hectically into the sky. What
    Mr Prosser had noticed was that huge yellow somethings were screaming
    through the clouds. Impossibly huge yellow somethings.

    "And I will carry on jumping on them," yelled Arthur, still running,
    "until I get blisters, or I can think of anything even more unpleasant to
    do, and then ..."

    Arthur tripped, and fell headlong, rolled and landed flat on his back. At
    last he noticed that something was going on. His finger shot upwards.

    "What the hell's that?" he shrieked.

    Whatever it was raced across the sky in monstrous yellowness, tore the
    sky apart with mind-buggering noise and leapt off into the distance
    leaving the gaping air to shut behind it with a bang that drove your
    ears six feet into your skull.
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  11. #11

    Another one followed and did the same thing only louder.

    It's difficult to say exactly what the people on the surface of the planet
    were doing now, because they didn't really know what they were doing
    themselves. None of it made a lot of sense - running into houses, running
    out of houses, howling noiselessly at the noise. All around the world city
    streets exploded with people, cars slewed into each other as the noise
    fell on them and then rolled off like a tidal wave over hills and valleys,
    deserts and oceans, seeming to flatten everything it hit.

    Only one man stood and watched the sky, stood with terrible sadness
    in his eyes and rubber bungs in his ears. He knew exactly what was
    happening and had known ever since his Sub-Etha Sens-O- Matic had
    started winking in the dead of night beside his pillar and woken him
    with a start. It was what he had waited for all these years, but when he
    had deciphered the signal pattern sitting alone in his small dark room
    a coldness had gripped him and squeezed his heart. Of all the races in
    all of the Galaxy who could have come and said a big hello to planet
    Earth, he thought, didn't it just have to be the Vogons.

    Still he knew what he had to do. As the Vogon craft screamed through
    the air high above him he opened his satchel. He threw away a copy of
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he threw away a copy
    of Godspell: He wouldn't need them where he was going. Everything was
    ready, everything was prepared.

    He knew where his towel was.

    A sudden silence hit the Earth. If anything it was worse than the noise.
    For a while nothing happened.

    The great ships hung motionless in the air, over every nation on Earth.
    Motionless they hung, huge, heavy, steady in the sky, a blasphemy
    against nature. Many people went straight into shock as their minds
    tried to encompass what they were looking at. The ships hung in the
    sky in much the same way that bricks don't.

    And still nothing happened.

    Then there was a slight whisper, a sudden spacious whisper of open
    ambient sound. Every hi fi set in the world, every radio, every television,
    every cassette recorder, every woofer, every tweeter, every mid-range
    driver in the world quietly turned itself on.

    Every tin can, every dust bin, every window, every car, every wine glass,
    every sheet of rusty metal became activated as an acoustically perfect
    sounding board.

    Before the Earth passed away it was going to be treated to the very
    ultimate in sound reproduction, the greatest public address system ever
    built. But there was no concert, no music, no fanfare, just a simple

    "People of Earth, your attention please," a voice said, and it was won-
    derful. Wonderful perfect quadrophonic sound with distortion levels so
    low as to make a brave man weep.


    "This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning
    Council," the voice continued. "As you will no doubt be aware, the
    plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the
    building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and
    regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The
    process will take slightly less that two of your Earth minutes. Thank

    The PA died away.

    Uncomprehending terror settled on the watching people of Earth. The
    terror moved slowly through the gathered crowds as if they were iron
    fillings on a sheet of board and a magnet was moving beneath them.
    Panic sprouted again, desperate fleeing panic, but there was nowhere to
    flee to. Observing this, the Vogons turned on their PA again. It said:

    "There's no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts
    and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning de-
    partment on Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you've had
    plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it's far too late to start
    making a fuss about it now."

    The PA fell silent again and its echo drifted off across the land. The
    huge ships turned slowly in the sky with easy power. On the underside
    of each a hatchway opened, an empty black space.

    By this time somebody somewhere must have manned a radio transmit-
    ter, located a wavelength and broadcasted a message back to the Vogon
    ships, to plead on behalf of the planet. Nobody ever heard what they
    said, they only heard the reply. The PA slammed back into life again.
    The voice was annoyed. It said:

    "What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? For heaven's
    sake mankind, it's only four light years away you know. I'm sorry, but
    if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that's your
    own lookout.

    "Energize the demolition beams."

    Light poured out into the hatchways.

    "I don't know," said the voice on the PA, "apathetic bloody planet, I've
    no sympathy at all." It cut off.

    There was a terrible ghastly silence.

    There was a terrible ghastly noise.

    There was a terrible ghastly silence.

    The Vogon Constructor fleet coasted away into the inky starry void.
    220/27/62 Crat | 200 NT | 200 fixer |174/14/42 twink trox nt| 100/12 trader| 60/6 enf|

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  12. #12
    Far away on the opposite spiral arm of the Galaxy, five hundred thou-
    sand light years from the star Sol, Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the


    Imperial Galactic Government, sped across the seas of Damogran, his
    ion drive delta boat winking and flashing in the Damogran sun.

    Damogran the hot; Damogran the remote; Damogran the almost totally
    unheard of.

    Damogran, secret home of the Heart of Gold.

    The boat sped on across the water. It would be some time before it
    reached its destination because Damogran is such an inconveniently ar-
    ranged planet. It consists of nothing but middling to large desert islands
    separated by very pretty but annoyingly wide stretches of ocean.

    The boat sped on.

    Because of this topological awkwardness Damogran has always remained
    a deserted planet. This is why the Imperial Galactic Government chose
    Damogran for the Heart of Gold project, because it was so deserted and
    the Heart of Gold was so secret.

    The boat zipped and skipped across the sea, the sea that lay between
    the main islands of the only archipelago of any useful size on the whole
    planet. Zaphod Beeblebrox was on his way from the tiny spaceport on
    Easter Island (the name was an entirely meaningless coincidence - in
    Galacticspeke, easter means small flat and light brown) to the Heart
    of Gold island, which by another meaningless coincidence was called

    One of the side effects of work on the Heart of Gold was a whole string
    of pretty meaningless coincidences.

    But it was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of culmi-
    nation of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the Heart
    of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was also
    a great day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake
    of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a de-
    cision which had sent waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial
    Galaxy - Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox?
    Not the President? Many had seen it as a clinching proof that the whole
    of known creation had finally gone bananas.

    Zaphod grinned and gave the boat an extra kick of speed.

    Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippy, good timer, (crook? quite pos-
    sibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often
    thought to be completely out to lunch.


    No one had gone bananas, not in that way at least.

    Only six people in the entire Galaxy understood the principle on which
    the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox
    had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a
    fait accompli: he was the ideal Presidency fodder.


    What they completely failed to understand was why Zaphod was doing

    He banked sharply, shooting a wild wall of water at the sun.

    Today was the day; today was the day when they would realize what
    Zaphod had been up to. Today was what Zaphod Beeblebrox's Presi-
    dency was all about. Today was also his two hundredth birthday, but
    that was just another meaningless coincidence.

    As he skipped his boat across the seas of Damogran he smiled quietly
    to himself about what a wonderful exciting day it was going to be. He
    relaxed and spread his two arms lazily across the seat back. He steered
    with an extra arm he'd recently fitted just beneath his right one to help
    improve his ski-boxing.

    "Hey," he cooed to himself, "you're a real cool boy you." But his nerves
    sang a song shriller than a dog whistle.

    The island of France was about twenty miles long, five miles across the
    middle, sandy and crescent shaped. In fact it seemed to exist not so
    much as an island in its own right as simply a means of defining the
    sweep and curve of a huge bay. This impression was heightened by the
    fact that the inner coastline of the crescent consisted almost entirely of
    steep cliffs. From the top of the cliff the land sloped slowly down five
    miles to the opposite shore.

    On top of the cliffs stood a reception committee.

    It consisted in large part of the engineers and researchers who had built
    the Heart of Gold - mostly humanoid, but here and there were a few
    reptiloid atomineers, two or three green slyph-like maximegalacticans,
    an octopoid physucturalist or two and a Hooloovoo (a Hooloovoo is a
    super-intelligent shade of the color blue). All except the Hooloovoo were
    resplendent in their multi- colored ceremonial lab coats; the Hooloovoo
    had been temporarily refracted into a free standing prism for the occa-

    There was a mood of immense excitement thrilling through all of them.
    Together and between them they had gone to and beyond the furthest
    limits of physical laws, restructured the fundamental fabric of matter,
    strained, twisted and broken the laws of possibility and impossibility,
    but still the greatest excitement of all seemed to be to meet a man with
    an orange sash round his neck. (An orange sash was what the President
    of the Galaxy traditionally wore.) It might not even have made much
    difference to them if they'd known exactly how much power the President
    of the Galaxy actually wielded: none at all. Only six people in the Galaxy
    knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but
    to attract attention away from it.

    Zaphod Beeblebrox was amazingly good at his job.

    The crowd gasped, dazzled by sun and seemanship, as the Presidential
    speedboat zipped round the headland into the bay. It flashed and shone
    as it came skating over the sea in wide skidding turns.
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:37:16.
    220/27/62 Crat | 200 NT | 200 fixer |174/14/42 twink trox nt| 100/12 trader| 60/6 enf|

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    7 years to ding 220, any better?

  13. #13

    In fact it didn't need to touch the water at all, because it was supported
    on a hazy cushion of ionized atoms - but just for effect it was fitted
    with thin finblades which could be lowered into the water. They slashed
    sheets of water hissing into the air, carved deep gashes into the sea which
    swayed crazily and sank back foaming into the boat's wake as it careered
    across the bay.

    Zaphod loved effect: it was what he was best at.

    He twisted the wheel sharply, the boat slewed round in a wild scything
    skid beneath the cliff face and dropped to rest lightly on the rocking

    Within seconds he ran out onto the deck and waved and grinned at over
    three billion people. The three billion people weren't actually there, but
    they watched his every gesture through the eyes of a small robot tri-D
    camera which hovered obsequiously in the air nearby. The antics of the
    President always made amazingly popular tri-D; that's what they were

    He grinned again. Three billion and six people didn't know it, but today
    would be a bigger antic than anyone had bargained for.

    The robot camera homed in for a close up on the more popular of his
    two heads and he waved again. He was roughly humanoid in appearance
    except for the extra head and third arm. His fair tousled hair stuck out
    in random directions, his blue eyes glinted with something completely
    unidentifiable, and his chins were almost always unshaven.

    A twenty-foot-high transparent globe floated next to his boat, rolling
    and bobbing, glistening in the brilliant sun. Inside it floated a wide
    semi-circular sofa upholstered in glorious red leather: the more the globe
    bobbed and rolled, the more the sofa stayed perfectly still, steady as an
    upholstered rock. Again, all done for effect as much as anything.

    Zaphod stepped through the wall of the globe and relaxed on the sofa.
    He spread his two arms lazily along the back and with the third brushed
    some dust off his knee. His heads looked about, smiling; he put his feet
    up. At any moment, he thought, he might scream.

    Water boiled up beneath the bubble, it seethed and spouted. The bubble
    surged into the air, bobbing and rolling on the water spout. Up, up it
    climbed, throwing stilts of light at the cliff. Up it surged on the jet, the
    water falling from beneath it, crashing back into the sea hundreds of feet

    Zaphod smiled, picturing himself.

    A thoroughly ridiculous form of transport, but a thoroughly beautiful

    At the top of the cliff the globe wavered for a moment, tipped on to a
    railed ramp, rolled down it to a small concave platform and riddled to
    a halt.


    To tremendous applause Zaphod Beeblebrox stepped out of the bubble,
    his orange sash blazing in the light.

    The President of the Galaxy had arrived.

    He waited for the applause to die down, then raised his hands in greeting.

    "Hi," he said.

    A government spider sidled up to him and attempted to press a copy of
    his prepared speech into his hands. Pages three to seven of the original
    version were at the moment floating soggily on the Damogran sea some
    five miles out from the bay. Pages one and two had been salvaged by a
    Damogran Frond Crested Eagle and had already become incorporated
    into an extraordinary new form of nest which the eagle had invented. It
    was constructed largely of papier m@ch@ and it was virtually impossible
    for a newly hatched baby eagle to break out of it. The Damogran Frond
    Crested Eagle had heard of the notion of survival of the species but
    wanted no truck with it.

    Zaphod Beeblebrox would not be needing his set speech and he gently
    deflected the one being offered him by the spider.

    "Hi," he said again.

    Everyone beamed at him, or, at least, nearly everyone. He singled out
    Trillian from the crowd. Trillian was a gird that Zaphod had picked up
    recently whilst visiting a planet, just for fun, incognito. She was slim,
    darkish, humanoid, with long waves of black hair, a full mouth, an odd
    little nob of a nose and ridiculously brown eyes. With her red head scarf
    knotted in that particular way and her long flowing silky brown dress
    she looked vaguely Arabic. Not that anyone there had ever heard of
    an Arab of course. The Arabs had very recently ceased to exist, and
    even when they had existed they were five hundred thousand light years
    from Damogran. Trillian wasn't anybody in particular, or so Zaphod
    claimed. She just went around with him rather a lot and told him what
    she thought of him.

    "Hi honey," he said to her.

    She flashed him a quick tight smile and looked away. Then she looked
    back for a moment and smiled more warmly - but by this time he was
    looking at something else.

    "Hi," he said to a small knot of creatures from the press who were
    standing nearby wishing that he would stop saying Hi and get on with
    the quotes. He grinned at them particularly because he knew that in a
    few moments he would be giving them one hell of a quote.

    The next thing he said though was not a lot of use to them. One of
    the officials of the party had irritably decided that the President was
    clearly not in a mood to read the deliciously turned speech that had
    been written for him, and had flipped the switch on the remote control
    device in his pocket. Away in front of them a huge white dome that
    bulged against the sky cracked down in the middle, split, and slowly
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  14. #14

    folded itself down into the ground. Everyone gasped although they had
    known perfectly well it was going to do that because they had built it
    that way.

    Beneath it lay uncovered a huge starship, one hundred and fifty metres
    long, shaped like a sleek running shoe, perfectly white and mindbog-
    gingly beautiful. At the heart of it, unseen, lay a small gold box which
    carried within it the most brain-wretching device ever conceived, a device
    which made this starship unique in the history of the galaxy, a device
    after which the ship had been named - The Heart of Gold. "Wow", said
    Zaphod Beeblebrox to the Heart of Gold. There wasn't much else he
    could say.

    He said it again because he knew it would annoy the press.


    The crowd turned their faces back towards him expectantly. He winked
    at Trillian who raised her eyebrows and widened her eyes at him. She
    knew what he was about to say and thought him a terrible showoff.

    "That is really amazing," he said. "That really is truly amazing. That
    is so amazingly amazing I think I'd like to steal it."

    A marvellous Presidential quote, absolutely true to form. The crowd
    laughed appreciatively, the newsmen gleefully punched buttons on their
    Sub-Etha News-Matics and the President grinned.

    As he grinned his heart screamed unbearably and he fingered the small
    Paralyso-Matic bomb that nestled quietly in his pocket.

    Finally he could bear it no more. He lifted his heads up to the sky, let
    out a wild whoop in major thirds, threw the bomb to the ground and
    ran forward through the sea of suddenly frozen smiles.

    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was not a pleasant sight, even for other Vogons.
    His highly domed nose rose high above a small piggy forehead. His dark
    green rubbery skin was thick enough for him to play the game of Vogon
    Civil Service politics, and play it well, and waterproof enough for him
    to survive indefinitely at sea depths of up to a thousand feet with no ill

    Not that he ever went swimming of course. His busy schedule would not
    allow it. He was the way he was because billions of years ago when the
    Vogons had first crawled out of the sluggish primeval seas of Vogsphere,
    and had lain panting and heaving on the planet's virgin shores... when
    the first rays of the bright young Vogsol sun had shone across them that
    morning, it was as if the forces of evolution ad simply given up on them
    there and then, had turned aside in disgust and written them off as an
    ugly and unfortunate mistake. They never evolved again; they should
    never have survived.


    The fact that they did is some kind of tribute to the thick- willed slug-
    brained stubbornness of these creatures. Evolution? they said to them-
    selves, Who needs it?, and what nature refused to do for them they sim-
    ply did without until such time as they were able to rectify the grosser
    anatomical inconveniences with surgery.

    Meanwhile, the natural forces on the planet Vogsphere had been working
    overtime to make up for their earlier blunder. They brought forth scin-
    tillating jewelled scuttling crabs, which the Vogons ate, smashing their
    shells with iron mallets; tall aspiring trees with breathtaking slenderness
    and colour which the Vogons cut down and burned the crab meat with;
    elegant gazelle- like creatures with silken coats and dewy eyes which the
    Vogons would catch and sit on. They were no use as transport because
    their backs would snap instantly, but the Vogons sat on them anyway.

    Thus the planet Vogsphere whiled away the unhappy millennia until the
    Vogons suddenly discovered the principles of interstellar travel. Within
    a few short Vog years every last Vogon had migrated to the Megabrantis
    cluster, the political hub of the Galaxy and now formed the immensely
    powerful backbone of the Galactic Civil Service. They have attempted
    to acquire learning, they have attempted to acquire style and social
    grace, but in most respects the modern Vogon is little different from
    his primitive forebears. Every year they import twenty-seven thousand
    scintillating jewelled scuttling crabs from their native planet and while
    away a happy drunken night smashing them to bits with iron mallets.

    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was a fairly typical Vogon in that he was thor-
    oughly vile. Also, he did not like hitch hikers.

    Somewhere in a small dark cabin buried deep in the intestines of Prostet-
    nic Vogon Jeltz's flagship, a small match flared nervously. The owner of
    the match was not a Vogon, but he knew all about them and was right
    to be nervous. His name was Ford Prefect.

    He looked about the cabin but could see very little; strange monstrous
    shadows loomed and leaped with the tiny flickering flame, but all was
    quiet. He breathed a silent thank you to the Dentrassis. The Dentrassis
    are an unruly tribe of gourmands, a wild but pleasant bunch whom the
    Vogons had recently taken to employing as catering staff on their long
    haul fleets, on the strict understanding that they keep themselves very
    much to themselves.

    This suited the Dentrassis fine, because they loved Vogon money, which
    is one of the hardest currencies in space, but loathed the Vogons them-
    selves. The only sort of Vogon a Dentrassi liked to see was an annoyed

    It was because of this tiny piece of information that Ford Prefect was
    not now a whiff of hydrogen, ozone and carbon monoxide.

    He heard a slight groan. By the light of the match he saw a heavy shape
    moving slightly on the floor. Quickly he shook the match out, reached in
    his pocket, found what he was looking for and took it out. He crouched
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:38:08.
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  15. #15

    on the floor. The shape moved again.

    Ford Prefect said: "I bought some peanuts."

    Arthur Dent moved, and groaned again, muttering incoherently.

    "Here, have some," urged Ford, shaking the packet again, "if you've
    never been through a matter transference beam before you've probably
    lost some salt and protein. The beer you had should have cushioned your
    system a bit." "Whhhrrrr..." said Arthur Dent. He opened his eyes.

    "It's dark," he said.

    "Yes," said Ford Prefect, "it's dark."

    "No light," said Arthur Dent. "Dark, no light."

    One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand
    about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating
    the obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem
    to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright? At first Ford had
    formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings
    don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize
    up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned
    this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their
    lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned
    this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite
    liked human beings after all, but he always remained desperately worried
    about the terrible number of things they didn't know about.

    "Yes," he agreed with Arthur, "no light." He helped Arthur to some
    peanuts. "How do you feel?" he asked.

    "Like a military academy," said Arthur, "bits of me keep on passing

    Ford stared at him blankly in the darkness.

    "If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I
    regret it?"

    Ford stood up. "We're safe," he said.

    "Oh good," said Arthur.

    "We're in a small galley cabin," said Ford, "in one of the spaceships of
    the Vogon Constructor Fleet."

    "Ah," said Arthur, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word
    safe that I wasn't previously aware of."

    Ford struck another match to help him search for a light switch. Mon-
    strous shadows leaped and loomed again. Arthur struggled to his feet and
    hugged himself apprehensively. Hideous alien shapes seemed to throng
    about him, the air was thick with musty smells which sidled into his
    lungs without identifying themselves, and a low irritating hum kept his
    brain from focusing.

    "How did we get here?" he asked, shivering slightly.


    "We hitched a lift," said Ford.

    "Excuse me?" said Arthur. "Are you trying to tell me that we just stuck
    out our thumbs and some green bug-eyed monster stuck his head out
    and said, Hi fellas, hop right in. I can take you as far as the Basingstoke

    "Well," said Ford, "the Thumb's an electronic sub-etha signalling device,
    the roundabout's at Barnard's Star six light years away, but otherwise,
    that's more or less right."

    "And the bug-eyed monster?"

    "Is green, yes."

    "Fine," said Arthur, "when can I get home?"

    "You can't," said Ford Prefect, and found the light switch.

    "Shade your eyes ..." he said, and turned it on.

    Even Ford was surprised.

    "Good grief," said Arthur, "is this really the interior of a flying saucer?"

    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz heaved his unpleasant green body round the con-
    trol bridge. He always felt vaguely irritable after demolishing populated
    planets. He wished that someone would come and tell him that it was
    all wrong so that he could shout at them and feel better. He flopped as
    heavily as he could on to his control seat in the hope that it would break
    and give him something to be genuinely angry about, but it only gave a
    complaining sort of creak.

    "Go away!" he shouted at a young Vogon guard who entered the bridge
    at that moment. The guard vanished immediately, feeling rather relieved.
    He was glad it wouldn't now be him who delivered the report they'd just
    received. The report was an official release which said that a wonderful
    new form of spaceship drive was at this moment being unveiled at a
    government research base on Damogran which would henceforth make
    all hyperspatial express routes unnecessary.

    Another door slid open, but this time the Vogon captain didn't shout
    because it was the door from the galley quarters where the Dentrassis
    prepared his meals. A meal would be most welcome.

    A huge furry creature bounded through the door with his lunch tray. It
    was grinning like a maniac.

    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was delighted. He knew that when a Dentrassi
    looked that pleased with itself there was something going on somewhere
    on the ship that he could get very angry indeed about.

    Ford and Arthur stared about them.

    "Well, what do you think?" said Ford.

    "It's a bit squalid, isn't it?"

    Ford frowned at the grubby mattress, unwashed cups and unidentifiable
    bits of smelly alien underwear that lay around the cramped cabin.
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  16. #16

    "Well, this is a working ship, you see," said Ford. "These are the Den-
    trassi sleeping quarters."

    "I thought you said they were called Vogons or something."

    "Yes," said Ford, "the Vogons run the ship, the Dentrassis are the cooks,
    they let us on board."

    "I'm confused," said Arthur.

    "Here, have a look at this," said Ford. He sat down on one of the mat-
    tresses and rummaged about in his satchel. Arthur prodded the mattress
    nervously and then sat on it himself: in fact he had very little to be
    nervous about, because all mattresses grown in the swamps of Squorn-
    shellous Zeta are very thoroughly killed and dried before being put to
    service. Very few have ever come to life again.

    Ford handed the book to Arthur.

    "What is it?" asked Arthur.

    "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a sort of electronic book. It
    tells you everything you need to know about anything. That's its job."

    Arthur turned it over nervously in his hands.

    "I like the cover," he said. "Don't Panic. It's the first helpful or intelli-
    gible thing anybody's said to me all day."

    "I'll show you how it works," said Ford. He snatched it from Arthur who
    was still holding it as if it was a two-week-dead lark and pulled it out of
    its cover.

    "You press this button here you see and the screen lights up giving you
    the index."

    A screen, about three inches by four, lit up and characters began to
    flicker across the surface.

    "You want to know about Vogons, so I enter that name so." His fingers
    tapped some more keys. "And there we are."

    The words Vogon Constructor Fleets flared in green across the screen.

    Ford pressed a large red button at the bottom of the screen and words
    began to undulate across it. At the same time, the book began to speak
    the entry as well in a still quiet measured voice. This is what the book

    "Vogon Constructor Fleets. Here is what to do if you want to get a lift
    from a Vogon: forget it. They are one of the most unpleasant races in
    the Galaxy - not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious
    and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grand-
    mothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders
    signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to
    public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and recycled as


    "The best way to get a drink out of a Vogon is to stick your finger down
    his throat, and the best way to irritate him is to feed his grandmother
    to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

    "On no account allow a Vogon to read poetry at you."

    Arthur blinked at it.

    "What a strange book. How did we get a lift then?"

    "That's the point, it's out of date now," said Ford, sliding the book
    back into its cover. "I'm doing the field research for the New Revised
    Edition, and one of the things I'll have to include is a bit about how the
    Vogons now employ Dentrassi cooks which gives us a rather useful little

    A pained expression crossed Arthur's face. "But who are the Dentrassi?"
    he said.

    "Great guys," said Ford. "They're the best cooks and the best drink
    mixers and they don't give a wet slap about anything else. And they'll
    always help hitch hikers aboard, partly because they like the company,
    but mostly because it annoys the Vogons. Which is exactly the sort of
    thing you need to know if you're an impoverished hitch hiker trying to
    see the marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairan Dollars a
    day. And that's my job. Fun, isn't it?"

    Arthur looked lost.

    "It's amazing," he said and frowned at one of the other mattresses.

    "Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I in-
    tended," said Ford. "I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years."

    "But how did you get there in the first place then?"

    "Easy, I got a lift with a teaser."

    "A teaser?"


    "Er, what is ..."

    "A teaser? Teasers are usually rich kids with nothing to do. They cruise
    around looking for planets which haven't made interstellar contact yet
    and buzz them."

    "Buzz them?" Arthur began to feel that Ford was enjoying making life
    difficult for him. "Yeah", said Ford, "they buzz them. They find some
    isolated spot with very few people around, then land right by some poor
    soul whom no one's ever going to believe and then strut up and down in
    front of him wearing silly antennae on their heads and making beep beep
    noises. Rather childish really." Ford leant back on the mattress with his
    hands behind his head and looked infuriatingly pleased with himself.

    "Ford," insisted Arthur, "I don't know if this sounds like a silly question,
    but what am I doing here?"

    "Well you know that," said Ford. "I rescued you from the Earth."
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  17. #17

    "And what's happened to the Earth?"

    "Ah. It's been demolished."

    "Has it," said Arthur levelly.

    "Yes. It just boiled away into space."

    "Look," said Arthur, "I'm a bit upset about that."

    Ford frowned to himself and seemed to roll the thought around his mind.

    "Yes, I can understand that," he said at last.

    "Understand that!" shouted Arthur. "Understand that!"

    Ford sprang up.

    "Keep looking at the book!" he hissed urgently.


    "Don't Panic."

    "I'm not panicking!"

    "Yes you are."

    "Alright so I'm panicking, what else is there to do?"

    "You just come along with me and have a good time. The Galaxy's a
    fun place. You'll need to have this fish in your ear."

    "I beg your pardon?" asked Arthur, rather politely he thought.

    Ford was holding up a small glass jar which quite clearly had a small
    yellow fish wriggling around in it. Arthur blinked at him. He wished
    there was something simple and recognizable he could grasp hold of. He
    would have felt safe if alongside the Dentrassi underwear, the piles of
    Squornshellous mattresses and the man from Betelgeuse holding up a
    small yellow fish and offering to put it in his ear he had been able to see
    just a small packet of corn flakes. He couldn't, and he didn't feel safe.

    Suddenly a violent noise leapt at them from no source that he could
    identify. He gasped in terror at what sounded like a man trying to gargle
    whilst fighting off a pack of wolves.

    "Shush!" said Ford. "Listen, it might be important."

    "Im ... important?"

    "It's the Vogon captain making an announcement on the T'annoy."

    "You mean that's how the Vogons talk?"


    "But I can't speak Vogon!"

    "You don't need to. Just put that fish in your ear."

    Ford, with a lightning movement, clapped his hand to Arthur's ear, and
    he had the sudden sickening sensation of the fish slithering deep into his
    aural tract. Gasping with horror he scrabbled at his ear for a second or
    so, but then slowly turned goggle-eyed with wonder. He was experiencing


    the aural equivalent of looking at a picture of two black silhouetted faces
    and suddenly seeing it as a picture of a white candlestick. Or of looking
    at a lot of coloured dots on a piece of paper which suddenly resolve
    themselves into the figure six and mean that your optician is going to
    charge you a lot of money for a new pair of glasses.

    He was still listening to the howling gargles, he knew that, only now it
    had taken on the semblance of perfectly straightforward English.

    This is what he heard ...

    "Howl howl gargle howl gargle howl howl howl gargle howl gargle howl
    howl gargle gargle howl gargle gargle gargle howl slurrp uuuurgh should
    have a good time. Message repeats. This is your captain speaking, so
    stop whatever you're doing and pay attention. First of all I see from our
    instruments that we have a couple of hitchhikers aboard. Hello wherever
    you are. I just want to make it totally clear that you are not at all
    welcome. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I didn't become
    captain of a Vogon constructor ship simply so I could turn it into a
    taxi service for a load of degenerate freeloaders. I have sent out a search
    party, and as soon that they find you I will put you off the ship. If you're
    very lucky I might read you some of my poetry first.

    "Secondly, we are about to jump into hyperspace for the journey to
    Barnard's Star. On arrival we will stay in dock for a seventy-two hour
    refit, and no one's to leave the ship during that time. I repeat, all planet
    leave is cancelled. I've just had an unhappy love affair, so I don't see
    why anybody else should have a good time. Message ends." The noise

    Arthur discovered to his embarrassment that he was lying curled up in a
    small ball on the floor with his arms wrapped round his head. He smiled

    "Charming man," he said. "I wish I had a daughter so I could forbid her
    to marry one ..."

    "You wouldn't need to," said Ford. "They've got as much sex appeal as
    a road accident. No, don't move," he added as Arthur began to uncurl
    himself, "you'd better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It's
    unpleasantly like being drunk."

    "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"

    "You ask a glass of water."

    Arthur thought about this.

    "Ford," he said.


    "What's this fish doing in my ear?"
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:41:39.
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  18. #18

    "It's translating for you. It's a Babel fish. Look it up in the book if you

    He tossed over The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and then curled
    himself up into a foetal ball to prepare himself for the jump.

    At that moment the bottom fell out of Arthur's mind.

    His eyes turned inside out. His feet began to leak out of the top of his

    The room folded flat about him, spun around, shifted out of existence
    and left him sliding into his own navel.

    They were passing through hyperspace.

    "The Babel fish," said The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy quietly,
    "is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the
    Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from
    those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this
    brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind
    of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious
    thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres
    of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is
    that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand
    anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you
    actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your
    mind by your Babel fish.

    "Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so
    mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some
    thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the
    non-existence of God.

    "The argument goes something like this: `I refuse to prove that I exist,'
    says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'

    "`But,' says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could
    not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by
    your own arguments, you don't. QED.'

    "`Oh dear,' says God, `I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanished
    in a puff of logic.

    "`Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that
    black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

    "Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo's
    kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune
    when he used it as the central theme of his best- selling book Well That
    About Wraps It Up For God.

    "Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to
    communication between different races and cultures, has caused more
    and bloddier wars than anything else in the history of creation."


    Arthur let out a low groan. He was horrified to discover that the kick
    through hyperspace hadn't killed him. He was now six light years from
    the place that the Earth would have been if it still existed.

    The Earth.

    Visions of it swam sickeningly through his nauseated mind. There was
    no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having
    gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents
    and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had
    been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he
    had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket before and
    felt a sudden stab - the supermarket was gone, everything in it was gone.
    Nelson's Column had gone! Nelson's Column had gone and there would
    be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry. From now
    on Nelson's Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in
    his mind - his mind, stuck here in this dank smelly steel-lined spaceship.
    A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.

    England no longer existed. He'd got that - somehow he'd got it. He
    tried again. America, he thought, has gone. He couldn't grasp it. He
    decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He'd
    never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, had
    sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every Bogart movie has been wiped,
    he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonalds, he
    thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald's hamburger.
    He passed out. When he came round a second later he found he was
    sobbing for his mother.

    He jerked himself violently to his feet.


    Ford looked up from where he was sitting in a corner humming to him-
    self. He always found the actual travelling-through-space part of space
    travel rather trying.

    "Yeah?" he said.

    "If you're a researcher on this book thing and you were on Earth, you
    must have been gathering material on it."

    "Well, I was able to extend the original entry a bit, yes."

    "Let me see what it says in this edition then, I've got to see it."

    "Yeah OK." He passed it over again.

    Arthur grabbed hold of it and tried to stop his hands shaking. He pressed
    the entry for the relevant page. The screen flashed and swirled and re-
    solved into a page of print. Arthur stared at it.

    "It doesn't have an entry!" he burst out.

    Ford looked over his shoulder.

    "Yes it does," he said, "down there, see at the bottom of the screen, just
    under Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6."
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  19. #19

    Arthur followed Ford's finger, and saw where it was pointing. For a
    moment it still didn't register, then his mind nearly blew up.

    "What? Harmless? Is that all it's got to say? Harmless! One word!"

    Ford shrugged.

    "Well, there are a hundred billion stars in the Galaxy, and only a limited
    amount of space in the book's microprocessors," he said, "and no one
    knew much about the Earth of course."

    "Well for God's sake I hope you managed to rectify that a bit."

    "Oh yes, well I managed to transmit a new entry off to the editor. He
    had to trim it a bit, but it's still an improvement."

    "And what does it say now?" asked Arthur.

    "Mostly harmless," admitted Ford with a slightly embarrassed cough.

    "Mostly harmless!" shouted Arthur. "What was that noise?" hissed

    "It was me shouting," shouted Arthur.

    "No! Shut up!" said Ford. I think we're in trouble."

    "You think we're in trouble!"

    Outside the door were the sounds of marching feet.

    "The Dentrassi?" whispered Arthur.

    "No, those are steel tipped boots," said Ford.

    There was a sharp ringing rap on the door.

    "Then who is it?" said Arthur.

    "Well," said Ford, "if we're lucky it's just the Vogons come to throw us
    in to space."

    "And if we're unlucky?"

    "If we're unlucky," said Ford grimly, "the captain might be serious in
    his threat that he's going to read us some of his poetry first ..."

    Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe.

    The second worst is that of the Azagoths of Kria. During a recitation by
    their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode To A Small
    Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning"
    four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President
    of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one
    of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been "disappointed"
    by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his
    twelve- book epic entitled My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles when his own


    major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leapt
    straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.

    The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator Paula Nancy
    Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England in the destruction of
    the planet Earth.

    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz smiled very slowly. This was done not so much
    for effect as because he was trying to remember the sequence of muscle
    movements. He had had a terribly therapeutic yell at his prisoners and
    was now feeling quite relaxed and ready for a little callousness.

    The prisoners sat in Poetry Appreciation Chairs -strapped in. Vogons
    suffered no illusions as to the regard their works were generally held in.
    Their early attempts at composition had been part of bludgeoning insis-
    tence that they be accepted as a properly evolved and cultured race, but
    now the only thing that kept them going was sheer bloodymindedness.

    The sweat stood out cold on Ford Prefect's brow, and slid round the
    electrodes strapped to his temples. These were attached to a battery of
    electronic equipment - imagery intensifiers, rhythmic modulators, allit-
    erative residulators and simile dumpers - all designed to heighten the
    experience of the poem and make sure that not a single nuance of the
    poet's thought was lost.

    Arthur Dent sat and quivered. He had no idea what he was in for, but
    he knew that he hadn't liked anything that had happened so far and
    didn't think things were likely to change.

    The Vogon began to read - a fetid little passage of his own devising.

    "Oh frettled gruntbuggly ..." he began. Spasms wracked Ford's body -
    this was worse than ever he'd been prepared for.

    "... thy micturations are to me _ As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid

    "Aaaaaaarggggghhhhhh!" went Ford Prefect, wrenching his head back
    as lumps of pain thumped through it. He could dimly see beside him
    Arthur lolling and rolling in his seat. He clenched his teeth.

    "Groop I implore thee," continued the merciless Vogon, "my foonting

    His voice was rising to a horrible pitch of impassioned stridency. "And
    hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,_ Or I will rend thee
    in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don't!"

    "Nnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyuuuuuuurrrrrrrggggggghhhhh!" cried Ford Pre-
    fect and threw one final spasm as the electronic enhancement of the
    last line caught him full blast across the temples. He went limp.

    Arthur lolled.

    "Now Earthlings ..." whirred the Vogon (he didn't know that Ford Pre-
    fect was in fact from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and
    wouldn't have cared if he had) "I present you with a simple choice!
    Last edited by Blodcreeper; Jul 24th, 2002 at 14:42:34.
    220/27/62 Crat | 200 NT | 200 fixer |174/14/42 twink trox nt| 100/12 trader| 60/6 enf|

    Total levels gained since nov 2002 |2500+ |

    7 years to ding 220, any better?

  20. #20

    Either die in the vacuum of space, or ..." he paused for melodramatic
    effect, "tell me how good you thought my poem was!"

    He threw himself backwards into a huge leathery bat-shaped seat and
    watched them. He did the smile again.

    Ford was rasping for breath. He rolled his dusty tongue round his parched
    mouth and moaned.

    Arthur said brightly: "Actually I quite liked it."

    Ford turned and gaped. Here was an approach that had quite simply
    not occurred to him.

    The Vogon raised a surprised eyebrow that effectively obscured his nose
    and was therefore no bad thing.

    "Oh good ..." he whirred, in considerable astonishment.

    "Oh yes," said Arthur, "I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery
    was really particularly effective."

    Ford continued to stare at him, slowly organizing his thoughts around
    this totally new concept. Were they really going to be able to bareface
    their way out of this?

    "Yes, do continue ..." invited the Vogon.

    "Oh ... and er ... interesting rhythmic devices too," continued Arthur,
    "which seemed to counterpoint the ... er ... er ..." He floundered.

    Ford leaped to his rescue, hazarding "counterpoint the surrealism of the
    underlying metaphor of the ... er ..." He floundered too, but Arthur was
    ready again.

    "... humanity of the ..."

    "Vogonity," Ford hissed at him.

    "Ah yes, Vogonity (sorry) of the poet's compassionate soul," Arthur felt
    he was on a home stretch now, "which contrives through the medium
    of the verse structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to
    terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other," (he was reaching
    a triumphant crescendo ...) "and one is left with a profound and vivid
    insight into ... into ... er ..." (... which suddenly gave out on him.) Ford
    leaped in with the coup de gr@ce:

    "Into whatever it was the poem was about!" he yelled. Out of the corner
    of his mouth: "Well done, Arthur, that was very good."

    The Vogon perused them. For a moment his embittered racial soul had
    been touched, but he thought no - too little too late. His voice took on
    the quality of a cat snagging brushed nylon.

    "So what you're saying is that I write poetry because underneath my
    mean callous heartless exterior I really just want to be loved," he said.
    He paused. "Is that right?"

    Ford laughed a nervous laugh. "Well I mean yes," he said, "don't we all,
    deep down, you know ... er ..."


    The Vogon stood up.

    "No, well you're completely wrong," he said, "I just write poetry to
    throw my mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief. I'm going to
    throw you off the ship anyway. Guard! Take the prisoners to number
    three airlock and throw them out!"

    "What?" shouted Ford. A huge young Vogon guard stepped forward and
    yanked them out of their straps with his huge blubbery arms.

    "You can't throw us into space," yelled Ford, "we're trying to write a

    "Resistance is useless!" shouted the Vogon guard back at him. It was
    the first phrase he'd learnt when he joined the Vogon Guard Corps.

    The captain watched with detached amusement and then turned away.

    Arthur stared round him wildly.

    "I don't want to die now!" he yelled. "I've still got a headache! I don't
    want to go to heaven with a headache, I'd be all cross and wouldn't
    enjoy it!"

    The guard grasped them both firmly round the neck, and bowing defer-
    entially towards his captain's back, hoiked them both protesting out of
    the bridge. A steel door closed and the captain was on his own again.
    He hummed quietly and mused to himself, lightly fingering his notebook
    of verses.

    "Hmmmm," he said, "counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying
    metaphor ..." He considered this for a moment, and then closed the
    book with a grim smile.

    "Death's too good for them," he said.

    The long steel-lined corridor echoed to the feeble struggles of the two
    humanoids clamped firmly under rubbery Vogon armpits.

    "This is great," spluttered Arthur, "this is really terrific. Let go of me
    you brute!"

    The Vogon guard dragged them on.

    "Don't you worry," said Ford, "I'll think of something." He didn't sound

    "Resistance is useless!" bellowed the guard.

    "Just don't say things like that," stammered Ford. "How can anyone
    maintain a positive mental attitude if you're saying things like that?"

    "My God," complained Arthur, "you're talking about a positive mental
    attitude and you haven't even had your planet demolished today. I woke
    up this morning and thought I'd have a nice relaxed day, do a bit of
    reading, brush the dog ... It's now just after four in the afternoon and
    I'm already thrown out of an alien spaceship six light years from the
    smoking remains of the Earth!" He spluttered and gurgled as the Vogon
    tightened his grip.
    220/27/62 Crat | 200 NT | 200 fixer |174/14/42 twink trox nt| 100/12 trader| 60/6 enf|

    Total levels gained since nov 2002 |2500+ |

    7 years to ding 220, any better?

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