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Thread: The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  1. #41

    "Because ... because ... I think it might be because if I knew I wouldn't
    be able to look for them."

    "What, are you crazy?"

    "It's a possibility I haven't ruled out yet," said Zaphod quietly. "I only
    know as much about myself as my mind can work out under its current
    conditions. And its current conditions are not good."

    For a long time nobody said anything as Ford gazed at Zaphod with a
    mind suddenly full of worry.

    "Listen old friend, if you want to ..." started Ford eventually.

    "No, wait ... I'll tell you something," said Zaphod. "I freewheel a lot.
    I get an idea to do something, and, hey, why not, I do it. I reckon I'll
    become President of the Galaxy, and it just happens, it's easy. I decide
    to steal this ship. I decide to look for Magrathea, and it all just happens.
    Yeah, I work out how it can best be done, right, but it always works
    out. It's like having a Galacticredit card which keeps on working though
    you never send off the cheques. And then whenever I stop and think -
    why did I want to do something? - how did I work out how to do it? - I
    get a very strong desire just to stop thinking about it. Like I have now.
    It's a big effort to talk about it."

    Zaphod paused for a while. For a while there was silence. Then he
    frowned and said, "Last night I was worrying about this again. About
    the fact that part of my mind just didn't seem to work properly. Then it
    occurred to me that the way it seemed was that someone else was using
    my mind to have good ideas with, without telling me about it. I put the
    two ideas together and decided that maybe that somebody had locked
    off part of my mind for that purpose, which was why I couldn't use it.
    I wondered if there was a way I could check.

    "I went to the ship's medical bay and plugged myself into the enceph-
    elographic screen. I went through every major screening test on both
    my heads - all the tests I had to go through under government medical
    officers before my nomination for Presidency could be properly ratified.
    They showed up nothing. Nothing unexpected at least. They showed
    that I was clever, imaginative, irresponsible, untrustworthy, extrovert,
    nothing you couldn't have guessed. And no other anomalies. So I started
    inventing further tests, completely at random. Nothing. Then I tried su-
    perimposing the results from one head on top of the results from the
    other head. Still nothing. Finally I got silly, because I'd given it all up
    as nothing more than an attack of paranoia. Last thing I did before I
    packed it in was take the superimposed picture and look at it through
    a green filter. You remember I was always superstitious about the color
    green when I was a kid? I always wanted to be a pilot on one of the
    trading scouts?"

    Ford nodded.

    "And there it was," said Zaphod, "clear as day. A whole section in the
    middle of both brains that related only to each other and not to anything


    else around them. Some bastard had cauterized all the synapses and
    electronically traumatised those two lumps of cerebellum."

    Ford stared at him, aghast. Trillian had turned white.

    "Somebody did that to you?" whispered Ford.


    "But have you any idea who? Or why?"

    "Why? I can only guess. But I do know who the bastard was."

    "You know? How do you know?"

    "Because they left their initials burnt into the cauterized synapses. They
    left them there for me to see."

    Ford stared at him in horror and felt his skin begin to crawl.

    "Initials? Burnt into your brain?"


    "Well, what were they, for God's sake?"

    Zaphod looked at him in silence again for a moment. Then he looked

    "Z.B.," he said.

    At that moment a steel shutter slammed down behind them and gas
    started to pour into the chamber.

    "I'll tell you about it later," choked Zaphod as all three passed out.


    On the surface of Magrathea Arthur wandered about moodily.

    Ford had thoughtfully left him his copy of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to
    the Galaxy to while away the time with. He pushed a few buttons at

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a very unevenly edited book
    and contains many passages that simply seemed to its editors like a good
    idea at the time.

    One of these (the one Arthur now came across) supposedly relates the
    experiences of one Veet Voojagig, a quiet young student at the Univer-
    sity of Maximegalon, who pursued a brilliant academic career studying
    ancient philology, transformational ethics and the wave harmonic theory
    of historical perception, and then, after a night of drinking Pan Galactic
    Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox, became increasingly obsessed
    with the problem of what had happened to all the biros he'd bought
    over the past few years.

    There followed a long period of painstaking research during which he
    visited all the major centres of biro loss throughout the galaxy and
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  2. #42

    eventually came up with a quaint little theory which quite caught the
    public imagination at the time. Somewhere in the cosmos, he said, along
    with all the planets inhabited by humanoids, reptiloids, fishoids, walking
    treeoids and superintelligent shades of the colour blue, there was also a
    planet entirely given over to biro life forms. And it was to this planet that
    unattended biros would make their way, slipping away quietly through
    wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a
    uniquely biroid lifestyle, responding to highly biro-oriented stimuli, and
    generally leading the biro equivalent of the good life.

    And as theories go this was all very fine and pleasant until Veet Voojagig
    suddenly claimed to have found this planet, and to have worked there
    for a while driving a limousine for a family of cheap green retractables,
    whereupon he was taken away, locked up, wrote a book, and was finally
    sent into tax exile, which is the usual fate reserved for those who are
    determined to make a fool of themselves in public.

    When one day an expedition was sent to the spatial coordinates that
    Voojagig had claimed for this planet they discovered only a small aster-
    oid inhabited by a solitary old man who claimed repeatedly that nothing
    was true, though he was later discovered to be lying.

    There did, however, remain the question of both the mysterious 60,000
    Altairan dollars paid yearly into his Brantisvogan bank account, and of
    course Zaphod Beeblebrox's highly profitable second-hand biro business.

    Arthur read this, and put the book down.

    The robot still sat there, completely inert.

    Arthur got up and walked to the top of the crater. He walked around
    the crater. He watched two suns set magnificently over Magrathea.

    He went back down into the crater. He woke the robot up because even
    a manically depressed robot is better to talk to than nobody.

    "Night's falling," he said. "Look robot, the stars are coming out." >From
    the heart of a dark nebula it is possible to see very few stars, and only
    very faintly, but they were there to be seen.

    The robot obediently looked at them, then looked back.

    "I know," he said. "Wretched isn't it?"

    "But that sunset! I've never seen anything like it in my wildest dreams
    ... the two suns! It was like mountains of fire boiling into space."

    "I've seen it," said Marvin. "It's rubbish."

    "We only ever had the one sun at home," persevered Arthur, "I came
    from a planet called Earth you know."

    "I know," said Marvin, "you keep going on about it. It sounds awful."

    "Ah no, it was a beautiful place."

    "Did it have oceans?"

    "Oh yes," said Arthur with a sigh, "great wide rolling blue oceans ..."


    "Can't bear oceans," said Marvin.

    "Tell me," inquired Arthur, "do you get on well with other robots?"

    "Hate them," said Marvin. "Where are you going?"

    Arthur couldn't bear any more. He had got up again.

    "I think I'll just take another walk," he said.

    "Don't blame you," said Marvin and counted five hundred and ninety-
    seven thousand million sheep before falling asleep again a second later.

    Arthur slapped his arms about himself to try and get his circulation a
    little more enthusiastic about its job. He trudged back up the wall of
    the crater.

    Because the atmosphere was so thin and because there was no moon,
    nightfall was very rapid and it was by now very dark. Because of this,
    Arthur practically walked into the old man before he noticed him.


    He was standing with his back to Arthur watching the very last glimmers
    of light sink into blackness behind the horizon. He was tallish, elderly
    and dressed in a single long grey robe. When he turned his face was thin
    and distinguished, careworn but not unkind, the sort of face you would
    happily bank with. But he didn't turn yet, not even to react to Arthur's
    yelp of surprise.

    Eventually the last rays of the sun had vanished completely, and he
    turned. His face was still illuminated from somewhere, and when Arthur
    looked for the source of the light he saw that a few yards away stood a
    small craft of some kind - a small hovercraft, Arthur guessed. It shed a
    dim pool of light around it.

    The man looked at Arthur, sadly it seemed.

    "You choose a cold night to visit our dead planet," he said.

    "Who ... who are you?" stammered Arthur.

    The man looked away. Again a kind of sadness seemed to cross his face.

    "My name is not important," he said.

    He seemed to have something on his mind. Conversation was clearly
    something he felt he didn't have to rush at. Arthur felt awkward.

    "I ... er ... you startled me ..." he said, lamely.

    The man looked round to him again and slightly raised his eyebrows.

    "Hmmmm?" he said.

    "I said you startled me."

    "Do not be alarmed, I will not harm you."
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  3. #43

    Arthur frowned at him. "But you shot at us! There were missiles ..." he

    The man chuckled slightly.

    "An automatic system," he said and gave a small sigh. "Ancient com-
    puters ranged in the bowels of the planet tick away the dark millennia,
    and the ages hang heavy on their dusty data banks. I think they take
    the occasional pot shot to relieve the monotony."

    He looked gravely at Arthur and said, "I'm a great fan of science you

    "Oh ... er, really?" said Arthur, who was beginning to find the man's
    curious, kindly manner disconcerting.

    "Oh, yes," said the old man, and simply stopped talking again.

    "Ah," said Arthur, "er ..." He had an odd felling of being like a man in
    the act of adultery who is surprised when the woman's husband wanders
    into the room, changes his trousers, passes a few idle remarks about the
    weather and leaves again.

    "You seem ill at ease," said the old man with polite concern.

    "Er, no ... well, yes. Actually you see, we weren't really expecting to
    find anybody about in fact. I sort of gathered that you were all dead or
    something ..."

    "Dead?" said the old man. "Good gracious no, we have but slept."

    "Slept?" said Arthur incredulously.

    "Yes, through the economic recession you see," said the old man, ap-
    parently unconcerned about whether Arthur understood a word he was
    talking about or not.

    "Er, economic recession?"

    "Well you see, five million years ago the Galactic economy collapsed, and
    seeing that custom-made planets are something of a luxury commodity
    you see ..."

    He paused and looked at Arthur.

    "You know we built planets do you?" he asked solemnly.

    "Well yes," said Arthur, "I'd sort of gathered ..."

    "Fascinating trade," said the old man, and a wistful look came into his
    eyes, "doing the coastlines was always my favourite. Used to have endless
    fun doing the little bits in fjords ... so anyway," he said trying to find his
    thread again, "the recession came and we decided it would save us a lot
    of bother if we just slept through it. So we programmed the computers
    to revive us when it was all over."

    The man stifled a very slight yawn and continued.

    "The computers were index linked to the Galactic stock market prices
    you see, so that we'd all be revived when everybody else had rebuilt the
    economy enough to afford our rather expensive services."


    Arthur, a regular Guardian reader, was deeply shocked at this.

    "That's a pretty unpleasant way to behave isn't it?"

    "Is it?" asked the old man mildly. "I'm sorry, I'm a bit out of touch."

    He pointed down into the crater.

    "Is that robot yours?" he said.

    "No," came a thin metallic voice from the crater, "I'm mine."

    "If you'd call it a robot," muttered Arthur. "It's more a sort of electronic
    sulking machine."

    "Bring it," said the old man. Arthur was quite surprised to hear a note
    of decision suddenly present in the old man's voice. He called to Marvin
    who crawled up the slope making a big show of being lame, which he
    wasn't. "On second thoughts," said the old man, "leave it here. You
    must come with me. Great things are afoot." He turned towards his craft
    which, though no apparent signal had been given, now drifted quietly
    towards them through the dark.

    Arthur looked down at Marvin, who now made an equally big show of
    turning round laboriously and trudging off down into the crater again
    muttering sour nothings to himself.

    "Come," called the old man, "come now or you will be late."

    "Late?" said Arthur. "What for?"

    "What is your name, human?"

    "Dent. Arthur Dent," said Arthur.

    "Late, as in the late Dentarthurdent," said the old man, sternly. "It's
    a sort of threat you see." Another wistful look came into his tired old
    eyes. "I've never been very good at them myself, but I'm told they can
    be very effective."

    Arthur blinked at him.

    "What an extraordinary person," he muttered to himself.

    "I beg your pardon?" said the old man.

    "Oh nothing, I'm sorry," said Arthur in embarrassment. "Alright, where
    do we go?"

    "In my aircar," said the old man motioning Arthur to get into the craft
    which had settled silently next to them. "We are going deep into the
    bowels of the planet where even now our race is being revived from its
    five-million-year slumber. Magrathea awakes."

    Arthur shivered involuntarily as he seated himself next to the old man.
    The strangeness of it, the silent bobbing movement of the craft as it
    soared into the night sky quite unsettled him.

    He looked at the old man, his face illuminated by the dull glow of tiny
    lights on the instrument panel.

    "Excuse me," he said to him, "what is your name by the way?"
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  4. #44

    "My name?" said the old man, and the same distant sadness came into
    his face again. He paused. "My name," he said, "... is Slartibartfast."

    Arthur practically choked.

    "I beg your pardon?" he spluttered.

    "Slartibartfast," repeated the old man quietly.


    The old man looked at him gravely. "I said it wasn't important," he

    The aircar sailed through the night.


    It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what
    they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed
    that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so
    much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins
    had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But
    conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more
    intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons.

    Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending de-
    struction of the planet Earth and had made many attempts to alert
    mankind of the danger; but most of their communications were misin-
    terpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits,
    so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means shortly
    before the Vogons arrived.

    The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly so-
    phisticated attempt to do a double-backwards- somersault through a
    hoop whilst whistling the "Star Sprangled Banner", but in fact the mes-
    sage was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.

    In fact there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than
    dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioural research
    laboratories running round inside wheels and conducting frighteningly
    elegant and subtle experiments on man.

    The fact that once again man completely misinterpreted this relationship
    was entirely according to these creatures' plans.


    Silently the aircar coasted through the cold darkness, a single soft glow
    of light that was utterly alone in the deep Magrathean night. It sped
    swiftly. Arthur's companion seemed sunk in his own thoughts, and when
    Arthur tried on a couple of occasions to engage him in conversation again


    he would simply reply by asking if he was comfortable enough, and then
    left it at that.

    Arthur tried to gauge the speed at which they were travelling, but the
    blackness outside was absolute and he was denied any reference points.
    The sense of motion was so soft and slight he could almost believe they
    were hardly moving at all.

    Then a tiny glow of light appeared in the far distance and within seconds
    had grown so much in size that Arthur realized it was travelling towards
    them at a colossal speed, and he tried to make out what sort of craft it
    might be. He peered at it, but was unable to discern any clear shape,
    and suddenly gasped in alarm as the aircraft dipped sharply and headed
    downwards in what seemed certain to be a collision course. Their rela-
    tive velocity seemed unbelievable, and Arthur had hardly time to draw
    breath before it was all over. The next thing he was aware of was an
    insane silver blur that seemed to surround him. He twisted his head
    sharply round and saw a small black point dwindling rapidly in the dis-
    tance behind them, and it took him several seconds to realize what had

    They had plunged into a tunnel in the ground. The colossal speed had
    been their own relative to the glow of light which was a stationary hole
    in the ground, the mouth of the tunnel. The insane blur of silver was the
    circular wall of the tunnel down which they were shooting, apparently
    at several hundred miles an hour.

    He closed his eyes in terror.

    After a length of time which he made no attempt to judge, he sensed a
    slight subsidence in their speed and some while later became aware that
    they were gradually gliding to a gentle halt.

    He opened his eyes again. They were still in the silver tunnel, threading
    and weaving their way through what appeared to be a crisscross war-
    ren of converging tunnels. When they finally stopped it was in a small
    chamber of curved steel. Several tunnels also had their terminus here,
    and at the farther end of the chamber Arthur could see a large circle of
    dim irritating light. It was irritating because it played tricks with the
    eyes, it was impossible to focus on it properly or tell how near or far it
    was. Arthur guessed (quite wrongly) that it might be ultra violet.

    Slartibartfast turned and regarded Arthur with his solemn old eyes.

    "Earthman," he said, "we are now deep in the heart of Magrathea."

    "How did you know I was an Earthman?" demanded Arthur.

    "These things will become clear to you," said the old man gently, "at
    least," he added with slight doubt in his voice, "clearer than they are at
    the moment."

    He continued: "I should warn you that the chamber we are about to pass
    into does not literally exist within our planet. It is a little too ... large.
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  5. #45

    We are about to pass through a gateway into a vast tract of hyperspace.
    It may disturb you."

    Arthur made nervous noises.

    Slartibartfast touched a button and added, not entirely reassuringly. "It
    scares the willies out of me. Hold tight."

    The car shot forward straight into the circle of light, and suddenly Arthur
    had a fairly clear idea of what infinity looked like.

    It wasn't infinity in fact. Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Look-
    ing up into the night sky is looking into infinity - distance is incompre-
    hensible and therefore meaningless. The chamber into which the aircar
    emerged was anything but infinite, it was just very very big, so that it
    gave the impression of infinity far better than infinity itself.

    Arthur's senses bobbed and span, as, travelling at the immense speed
    he knew the aircar attained, they climbed slowly through the open air
    leaving the gateway through which they had passed an invisible pinprick
    in the shimmering wall behind them.

    The wall.

    The wall defied the imagination - seduced it and defeated it. The wall
    was so paralysingly vast and sheer that its top, bottom and sides passed
    away beyond the reach of sight. The mere shock of vertigo could kill a

    The wall appeared perfectly flat. It would take the finest laser measur-
    ing equipment to detect that as it climbed, apparently to infinity, as
    it dropped dizzily away, as it planed out to either side, it also curved.
    It met itself again thirteen light seconds away. In other words the wall
    formed the inside of a hollow sphere, a sphere over three million miles
    across and flooded with unimaginable light.

    "Welcome," said Slartibartfast as the tiny speck that was the aircar,
    travelling now at three times the speed of sound, crept imperceptibly
    forward into the mindboggling space, "welcome," he said, "to our factory

    Arthur stared about him in a kind of wonderful horror. Ranged away
    before them, at distances he could neither judge nor even guess at, were
    a series of curious suspensions, delicate traceries of metal and light hung
    about shadowy spherical shapes that hung in the space.

    "This," said Slartibartfast, "is where we make most of our planets you

    "You mean," said Arthur, trying to form the words, "you mean you're
    starting it all up again now?"

    "No no, good heavens no," exclaimed the old man, "no, the Galaxy
    isn't nearly rich enough to support us yet. No, we've been awakened
    to perform just one extraordinary commission for very ... special clients
    from another dimension. It may interest you ... there in the distance in
    front of us."


    Arthur followed the old man's finger, till he was able to pick out the
    floating structure he was pointing out. It was indeed the only one of
    the many structures that betrayed any sign of activity about it, though
    this was more a sublimal impression than anything one could put one's
    finger on.

    At the moment however a flash of light arced through the structure
    and revealed in stark relief the patterns that were formed on the dark
    sphere within. Patterns that Arthur knew, rough blobby shapes that
    were as familiar to him as the shapes of words, part of the furniture
    of his mind. For a few seconds he sat in stunned silence as the images
    rushed around his mind and tried to find somewhere to settle down and
    make sense. Part of his brain told him that he knew perfectly well what
    he was looking at and what the shapes represented whilst another quite
    sensibly refused to countenance the idea and abdicated responsibility for
    any further thinking in that direction.

    The flash came again, and this time there could be no doubt.

    "The Earth ..." whispered Arthur.

    "Well, the Earth Mark Two in fact," said Slartibartfast cheery. "We're
    making a copy from our original blueprints."

    There was a pause.

    "Are you trying to tell me," said Arthur, slowly and with control, "that
    you originally ... made the Earth?"

    "Oh yes," said Slartibartfast. "Did you ever go to a place ... I think it
    was called Norway?"

    "No," said Arthur, "no, I didn't."

    "Pity," said Slartibartfast, "that was one of mine. Won an award you
    know. Lovely crinkly edges. I was most upset to hear about its destruc-

    "You were upset!"

    "Yes. Five minutes later and it wouldn't have mattered so much. It was
    a quite shocking ****-up."

    "Huh?" said Arthur.

    "The mice were furious."

    "The mice were furious?"

    "Oh yes," said the old man mildly.

    "Yes well so I expect were the dogs and cats and duckbilled platypuses,
    but ..."

    "Ah, but they hadn't paid for it you see, had they?"

    "Look," said Arthur, "would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up
    and went mad now?"

    For a while the aircar flew on in awkward silence. Then the old man
    tried patiently to explain.
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  6. #46

    "Earthman, the planet you lived on was commissioned, paid for, and
    run by mice. It was destroyed five minutes before the completion of the
    purpose for which it was built, and we've got to build another one."

    Only one word registered with Arthur.

    "Mice?" he said. "Indeed Earthman."

    "Look, sorry - are we talking about the little white furry things with the
    cheese fixation and women standing on tables screaming in early sixties
    sit coms?"

    Slartibartfast coughed politely.

    "Earthman," he said, "it is sometimes hard to follow your mode of
    speech. Remember I have been asleep inside this planet of Magrathea for
    five million years and know little of these early sixties sit coms of which
    you speak. These creatures you call mice, you see, they are not quite as
    they appear. They are merely the protrusion into our dimension of vast
    hyperintelligent pan- dimensional beings. The whole business with the
    cheese and the squeaking is just a front."

    The old man paused, and with a sympathetic frown continued.

    "They've been experimenting on you I'm afraid."

    Arthur thought about this for a second, and then his face cleared.

    "Ah no," he said, "I see the source of the misunderstanding now. No,
    look you see, what happened was that we used to do experiments on
    them. They were often used in behavioural research, Pavlov and all that
    sort of stuff. So what happened was hat the mice would be set all sorts
    of tests, learning to ring bells, run around mazes and things so that
    the whole nature of the learning process could be examined. From our
    observations of their behaviour we were able to learn all sorts of things
    about our own ..."

    Arthur's voice tailed off.

    "Such subtlety ..." said Slartibartfast, "one has to admire it."

    "What?" said Arthur.

    "How better to disguise their real natures, and how better to guide your
    thinking. Suddenly running down a maze the wrong way, eating the
    wrong bit of cheese, unexpectedly dropping dead of myxomatosis, - if
    it's finely calculated the cumulative effect is enormous."

    He paused for effect.

    "You see, Earthman, they really are particularly clever hyperintelligent
    pan-dimensional beings. Your planet and people have formed the matrix
    of an organic computer running a ten- million-year research programme

    "Let me tell you the whole story. It'll take a little time."

    "Time," said Arthur weakly, "is not currently one of my problems."



    There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some
    of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why
    do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital

    Many many millions of years ago a race of hyperintelligent pan- dimen-
    sional beings (whose physical manifestation in their own pan-dimensional
    universe is not dissimilar to our own) got so fed up with the con-
    stant bickering about the meaning of life which used to interrupt their
    favourite pastime of Brockian Ultra Cricket (a curious game which in-
    volved suddenly hitting people for no readily apparent reason and then
    running away) that they decided to sit down and solve their problems
    once and for all.

    And to this end they built themselves a stupendous super computer
    which was so amazingly intelligent that even before the data banks had
    been connected up it had started from I think therefore I am and got
    as far as the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone
    managed to turn it off.

    It was the size of a small city.

    Its main console was installed in a specially designed executive office,
    mounted on an enormous executive desk of finest ultramahagony topped
    with rich ultrared leather. The dark carpeting was discreetly sumptuous,
    exotic pot plants and tastefully engraved prints of the principal computer
    programmers and their families were deployed liberally about the room,
    and stately windows looked out upon a tree-lined public square.

    On the day of the Great On-Turning two soberly dressed programmers
    with brief cases arrived and were shown discreetly into the office. They
    were aware that this day they would represent their entire race in its
    greatest moment, but they conducted themselves calmly and quietly as
    they seated themselves deferentially before the desk, opened their brief
    cases and took out their leather-bound notebooks.

    Their names were Lunkwill and Fook.

    For a few moments they sat in respectful silence, then, after exchanging
    a quiet glance with Fook, Lunkwill leaned forward and touched a small
    black panel.

    The subtlest of hums indicated that the massive computer was now in
    total active mode. After a pause it spoke to them in a voice rich resonant
    and deep.

    It said: "What is this great task for which I, Deep Thought, the second
    greatest computer in the Universe of Time and Space have been called
    into existence?"

    Lunkwill and Fook glanced at each other in surprise.
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  7. #47

    "Your task, O Computer ..." began Fook. "No, wait a minute, this isn't
    right," said Lunkwill, worried. "We distinctly designed this computer to
    be the greatest one ever and we're not making do with second best. Deep
    Thought," he addressed the computer, "are you not as we designed you
    to be, the greatest most powerful computer in all time?"

    "I described myself as the second greatest," intoned Deep Thought, "and
    such I am."

    Another worried look passed between the two programmers. Lunkwill
    cleared his throat.

    "There must be some mistake," he said, "are you not a greatest computer
    than the Milliard Gargantubrain which can count all the atoms in a star
    in a millisecond?"

    "The Milliard Gargantubrain?" said Deep Thought with unconcealed
    contempt. "A mere abacus - mention it not."

    "And are you not," said Fook leaning anxiously forward, "a greater
    analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of
    Light and Ingenuity which can calculate the trajectory of every single
    dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?"

    "A five-week sand blizzard?" said Deep Thought haughtily. "You ask
    this of me who have contemplated the very vectors of the atoms in the
    Big Bang itself? Molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff."

    The two programmers sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment. Then
    Lunkwill leaned forward again.

    "But are you not," he said, "a more fiendish disputant than the Great
    Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler of Ciceronicus 12, the Magic
    and Indefatigable?"

    "The Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler," said Deep
    Thought thoroughly rolling the r's, "could talk all four legs off an Arc-
    turan MegaDonkey - but only I could persuade it to go for a walk after-

    "Then what," asked Fook, "is the problem?"

    "There is no problem," said Deep Thought with magnificent ringing
    tones. "I am simply the second greatest computer in the Universe of
    Space and Time."

    "But the second?" insisted Lunkwill. "Why do you keep saying the sec-
    ond? You're surely not thinking of the Multicorticoid Per****utron Titan
    Muller are you? Or the Pondermatic? Or the ..."

    Contemptuous lights flashed across the computer's console.

    "I spare not a single unit of thought on these cybernetic simpletons!" he
    boomed. "I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me!"
    Fook was losing patience. He pushed his notebook aside and muttered,
    "I think this is getting needlessly messianic."


    "You know nothing of future time," pronounced Deep Thought, "and
    yet in my teeming circuitry I can navigate the infinite delta streams of
    future probability and see that there must one day come a computer
    whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate, but
    which it will be my fate eventually to design."

    Fook sighed heavily and glanced across to Lunkwill.

    "Can we get on and ask the question?" he said.

    Lunkwill motioned him to wait.

    "What computer is this of which you speak?" he asked.

    "I will speak of it no further in this present time," said Deep Thought.
    "Now. Ask what else of me you will that I may function. Speak."

    They shrugged at each other. Fook composed himself.

    "O Deep Thought Computer," he said, "the task we have designed you
    to perform is this. We want you to tell us ..." he paused, "... the Answer!"

    "The answer?" said Deep Thought. "The answer to what?"

    "Life!" urged Fook.

    "The Universe!" said Lunkwill.

    "Everything!" they said in chorus.

    Deep Thought paused for a moment's reflection.

    "Tricky," he said finally.

    "But can you do it?"

    Again, a significant pause.

    "Yes," said Deep Thought, "I can do it."

    "There is an answer?" said Fook with breathless excitement."

    "A simple answer?" added Lunkwill.

    "Yes," said Deep Thought. "Life, the Universe, and Everything. There
    is an answer. But," he added, "I'll have to think about it."

    A sudden commotion destroyed the moment: the door flew open and
    two angry men wearing the coarse faded-blue robes and belts of the
    Cruxwan University burst into the room, thrusting aside the ineffectual
    flunkies who tried to bar their way. "We demand admission!" shouted
    the younger of the two men elbowing a pretty young secretary in the

    "Come on," shouted the older one, "you can't keep us out!" He pushed
    a junior programmer back through the door.

    "We demand that you can't keep us out!" bawled the younger one,
    though he was now firmly inside the room and no further attempts were
    being made to stop him.

    "Who are you?" said Lunkwill, rising angrily from his seat. "What do
    you want?"
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  8. #48

    "I am Majikthise!" announced the older one.

    "And I demand that I am Vroomfondel!" shouted the younger one.

    Majikthise turned on Vroomfondel. "It's alright," he explained angrily,
    "you don't need to demand that."

    "Alright!" bawled Vroomfondel banging on an nearby desk. "I am Vroom-
    fondel, and that is not a demand, that is a solid fact! What we demand
    is solid facts!"

    "No we don't!" exclaimed Majikthise in irritation. "That is precisely
    what we don't demand!"

    Scarcely pausing for breath, Vroomfondel shouted, "We don't demand
    solid facts! What we demand is a total absence of solid facts. I demand
    that I may or may not be Vroomfondel!"

    "But who the devil are you?" exclaimed an outraged Fook.

    "We," said Majikthise, "are Philosophers."

    "Though we may not be," said Vroomfondel waving a warning finger at
    the programmers.

    "Yes we are," insisted Majikthise. "We are quite definitely here as repre-
    sentatives of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries
    and Other Thinking Persons, and we want this machine off, and we want
    it off now!"

    "What's the problem?" said Lunkwill.

    "I'll tell you what the problem is mate," said Majikthise, "demarcation,
    that's the problem!"

    "We demand," yelled Vroomfondel, "that demarcation may or may not
    be the problem!"

    "You just let the machines get on with the adding up," warned Majik-
    thise, "and we'll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much.
    You want to check your legal position you do mate. Under law the Quest
    for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your
    working thinkers. Any bloody machine goes and actually finds it and
    we're straight out of a job aren't we? I mean what's the use of our sit-
    ting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if
    this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next

    "That's right!" shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas
    of doubt and uncertainty!"

    Suddenly a stentorian voice boomed across the room.

    "Might I make an observation at this point?" inquired Deep Thought.

    "We'll go on strike!" yelled Vroomfondel.

    "That's right!" agreed Majikthise. "You'll have a national Philosopher's
    strike on your hands!"


    The hum level in the room suddenly increased as several ancillary bass
    driver units, mounted in sedately carved and varnished cabinet speakers
    around the room, cut in to give Deep Thought's voice a little more

    "All I wanted to say," bellowed the computer, "is that my circuits are
    now irrevocably committed to calculating the answer to the Ultimate
    Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything -" he paused and satisfied
    himself that he now had everyone's attention, before continuing more
    quietly, "but the programme will take me a little while to run."

    Fook glanced impatiently at his watch.

    "How long?" he said.

    "Seven and a half million years," said Deep Thought.

    Lunkwill and Fook blinked at each other.

    "Seven and a half million years ...!" they cried in chorus.

    "Yes," declaimed Deep Thought, "I said I'd have to think about it, didn't
    I? And it occurs to me that running a programme like this is bound
    to create an enormous amount of popular publicity for the whole area
    of philosophy in general. Everyone's going to have their own theories
    about what answer I'm eventually to come up with, and who better
    to capitalize on that media market than you yourself? So long as you
    can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and slagging each
    other off in the popular press, you can keep yourself on the gravy train
    for life. How does that sound?"

    The two philosophers gaped at him.

    "Bloody hell," said Majikthise, "now that is what I call thinking. Here
    Vroomfondel, why do we never think of things like that?"

    "Dunno," said Vroomfondel in an awed whisper, "think our brains must
    be too highly trained Majikthise."

    So saying, they turned on their heels and walked out of the door and
    into a lifestyle beyond their wildest dreams.


    "Yes, very salutary," said Arthur, after Slartibartfast had related the
    salient points of the story to him, "but I don't understand what all this
    has got to do with the Earth and mice and things."

    "That is but the first half of the story Earthman," said the old man.
    "If you would care to discover what happened seven and a half millions
    later, on the great day of the Answer, allow me to invite you to my
    study where you can experience the events yourself on our Sens-O-Tape
    records. That is unless you would care to take a quick stroll on the
    surface of New Earth. It's only half completed I'm afraid - we haven't
    even finished burying the artificial dinosaur skeletons in the crust yet,
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  9. #49

    then we have the Tertiary and Quarternary Periods of the Cenozoic Era
    to lay down, and ..."

    "No thank you," said Arthur, "it wouldn't be quite the same."

    "No," said Slartibartfast, "it won't be," and he turned the aircar round
    and headed back towards the mind-numbing wall.

    Slartibartfast's study was a total mess, like the results of an explosion
    in a public library. The old man frowned as they stepped in.

    "Terribly unfortunate," he said, "a diode blew in one of the life-support
    computers. When we tried to revive our cleaning staff we discovered
    they'd been dead for nearly thirty thousand years. Who's going to clear
    away the bodies, that's what I want to know. Look why don't you sit
    yourself down over there and let me plug you in?"

    He gestured Arthur towards a chair which looked as if it had been made
    out of the rib cage of a stegosaurus.

    "It was made out of the rib cage of a stegosaurus," explained the old
    man as he pottered about fishing bits of wire out from under tottering
    piles of paper and drawing instruments. "Here," he said, "hold these,"
    and passed a couple of stripped wire end to Arthur.

    The instant he took hold of them a bird flew straight through him.

    He was suspended in mid-air and totally invisible to himself. Beneath
    him was a pretty treelined city square, and all around it as far as the
    eye could see were white concrete buildings of airy spacious design but
    somewhat the worse for wear - many were cracked and stained with
    rain. Today however the sun was shining, a fresh breeze danced lightly
    through the trees, and the odd sensation that all the buildings were
    quietly humming was probably caused by the fact that the square and
    all the streets around it were thronged with cheerful excited people.
    Somewhere a band was playing, brightly coloured flags were fluttering
    in the breeze and the spirit of carnival was in the air.

    Arthur felt extraordinarily lonely stuck up in the air above it all without
    so much as a body to his name, but before he had time to reflect on this
    a voice rang out across the square and called for everyone's attention.

    A man standing on a brightly dressed dais before the building which
    clearly dominated the square was addressing the crowd over a Tannoy.

    "O people waiting in the Shadow of Deep Thought!" he cried out. "Hon-
    oured Descendants of Vroomfondel and Majikthise, the Greatest and
    Most Truly Interesting Pundits the Universe has ever known ... The
    Time of Waiting is over!"

    Wild cheers broke out amongst the crowd. Flags, streamers and wolf
    whistles sailed through the air. The narrower streets looked rather like


    centipedes rolled over on their backs and frantically waving their legs in
    the air.

    "Seven and a half million years our race has waited for this Great and
    Hopefully Enlightening Day!" cried the cheer leader. "The Day of the

    Hurrahs burst from the ecstatic crowd.

    "Never again," cried the man, "never again will we wake up in the morn-
    ing and think Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really,
    cosmically speaking, matter if I don't get up and go to work? For today
    we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all
    these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe and Everything!"

    As the crowd erupted once again, Arthur found himself gliding through
    the air and down towards one of the large stately windows on the first
    floor of the building behind the dais from which the speaker was ad-
    dressing the crowd.

    He experienced a moment's panic as he sailed straight through towards
    the window, which passed when a second or so later he found he had
    gone right through the solid glass without apparently touching it.

    No one in the room remarked on his peculiar arrival, which is hardly
    surprising as he wasn't there. He began to realize that the whole experi-
    ence was merely a recorded projection which knocked six-track seventy-
    millimetre into a cocked hat.

    The room was much as Slartibartfast had described it. In seven and a
    half million years it had been well looked after and cleaned regularly
    every century or so. The ultramahagony desk was worn at the edges,
    the carpet a little faded now, but the large computer terminal sat in
    sparkling glory on the desk's leather top, as bright as if it had been
    constructed yesterday. Two severely dressed men sat respectfully before
    the terminal and waited.

    "The time is nearly upon us," said one, and Arthur was surprised to see a
    word suddenly materialize in thin air just by the man's neck. The word
    was Loonquawl, and it flashed a couple of times and the disappeared
    again. Before Arthur was able to assimilate this the other man spoke
    and the word Phouchg appeared by his neck.

    "Seventy-five thousand generations ago, our ancestors set this program
    in motion," the second man said, "and in all that time we will be the
    first to hear the computer speak."

    "An awesome prospect, Phouchg," agreed the first man, and Arthur
    suddenly realized that he was watching a recording with subtitles.

    "We are the ones who will hear," said Phouchg, "the answer to the great
    question of Life ...!"

    "The Universe ...!" said Loonquawl.

    "And Everything ...!"
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  10. #50

    "Shhh," said Loonquawl with a slight gesture, "I think Deep Thought
    is preparing to speak!"

    There was a moment's expectant pause whilst panels slowly came to life
    on the front of the console. Lights flashed on and off experimentally and
    settled down into a businesslike pattern. A soft low hum came from the
    communication channel.

    "Good morning," said Deep Thought at last.

    "Er ... Good morning, O Deep Thought," said Loonquawl nervously, "do
    you have ... er, that is ..."

    "An answer for you?" interrupted Deep Thought majestically. "Yes. I

    The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in

    "There really is one?" breathed Phouchg.

    "There really is one," confirmed Deep Thought.

    "To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and Every-


    Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been
    a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would
    witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and
    squirming like excited children.

    "And you're ready to give it to us?" urged Loonquawl. "I am."


    "Now," said Deep Thought.

    They both licked their dry lips.

    "Though I don't think," added Deep Thought, "that you're going to like

    "Doesn't matter!" said Phouchg. "We must know it! Now!"

    "Now?" inquired Deep Thought.

    "Yes! Now ..."

    "Alright," said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men
    fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.

    "You're really not going to like it," observed Deep Thought.

    "Tell us!"

    "Alright," said Deep Thought. "The Answer to the Great Question ..."

    "Yes ...!"

    "Of Life, the Universe and Everything ..." said Deep Thought.

    "Yes ...!"


    "Is ..." said Deep Thought, and paused.

    "Yes ...!"

    "Is ..."

    "Yes ...!!!...?"

    "Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

    It was a long time before anyone spoke.

    Out of the corner of his eye Phouchg could see the sea of tense expectant
    faces down in the square outside.

    "We're going to get lynched aren't we?" he whispered.

    "It was a tough assignment," said Deep Thought mildly.

    "Forty-two!" yelled Loonquawl. "Is that all you've got to show for seven
    and a half million years' work?" "I checked it very thoroughly," said the
    computer, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem,
    to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what
    the question is."

    "But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, the
    Universe and Everything!" howled Loonquawl.

    "Yes," said Deep Thought with the air of one who suffers fools gladly,
    "but what actually is it?"

    A slow stupefied silence crept over the men as they stared at the com-
    puter and then at each other.

    "Well, you know, it's just Everything ... Everything ..." offered Phouchg

    "Exactly!" said Deep Thought. "So once you do know what the question
    actually is, you'll know what the answer means."

    "Oh terrific," muttered Phouchg flinging aside his notebook and wiping
    away a tiny tear.

    "Look, alright, alright," said Loonquawl, "can you just please tell us the

    "The Ultimate Question?"


    "Of Life, the Universe, and Everything?"


    Deep Thought pondered this for a moment.

    "Tricky," he said.

    "But can you do it?" cried Loonquawl.
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  11. #51

    Deep Thought pondered this for another long moment.

    Finally: "No," he said firmly.

    Both men collapsed on to their chairs in despair.

    "But I'll tell you who can," said Deep Thought.

    They both looked up sharply.

    "Who?" "Tell us!"

    Suddenly Arthur began to feel his apparently non-existent scalp begin to
    crawl as he found himself moving slowly but inexorably forward towards
    the console, but it was only a dramatic zoom on the part of whoever
    had made the recording he assumed.

    "I speak of none other than the computer that is to come after me,"
    intoned Deep Thought, his voice regaining its accustomed declamatory
    tones. "A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not wor-
    thy to calculate - and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can
    calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such in-
    finite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its
    operational matrix. And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go
    down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year program! Yes!
    I shall design this computer for you. And I shall name it also unto you.
    And it shall be called ... The Earth."

    Phouchg gaped at Deep Thought.

    "What a dull name," he said and great incisions appeared down the
    length of his body. Loonquawl too suddenly sustained horrific gashed
    from nowhere. The Computer console blotched and cracked, the walls
    flickered and crumbled and the room crashed upwards into its own ceiling

    Slartibartfast was standing in front of Arthur holding the two wires.

    "End of the tape," he explained.

    "Zaphod! Wake up!"


    "Hey come on, wake up."

    "Just let me stick to what I'm good at, yeah?" muttered Zaphod and
    rolled away from the voice back to sleep.

    "Do you want me to kick you?" said Ford.

    "Would it give you a lot of pleasure?" said Zaphod, blearily.


    "Nor me. So what's the point? Stop bugging me." Zaphod curled himself


    "He got a double dose of the gas," said Trillian looking down at him,
    "two windpipes."

    "And stop talking," said Zaphod, "it's hard enough trying to sleep any-
    way. What's the matter with the ground? It's all cold and hard."

    "It's gold," said Ford.

    With an amazingly balletic movement Zaphod was standing and scan-
    ning the horizon, because that was how far the gold ground stretched
    in every direction, perfectly smooth and solid. It gleamed like ... it's
    impossible to say what it gleamed like because nothing in the Universe
    gleams in quite the same way that a planet of solid gold does. "Who put
    all that there?" yelped Zaphod, goggle-eyed.

    "Don't get excited," said Ford, "it's only a catalogue."

    "A who?"

    "A catalogue," said Trillian, "an illusion."

    "How can you say that?" cried Zaphod, falling to his hands and knees
    and staring at the ground. He poked it and prodded it with his fingernail.
    It was very heavy and very slightly soft - he could mark it with his
    fingernail. It was very yellow and very shiny, and when he breathed on
    it his breath evaporated off it in that very peculiar and special way that
    breath evaporates off solid gold.

    "Trillian and I came round a while ago," said Ford. "We shouted and
    yelled till somebody came and then carried on shouting and yelling till
    they got fed up and put us in their planet catalogue to keep us busy till
    they were ready to deal with us. This is all Sens-O-Tape."

    Zaphod stared at him bitterly.

    "Ah, ****," he said, "you wake me up from my own perfectly good dream
    to show me somebody else's." He sat down in a huff.

    "What's that series of valleys over there?" he said.

    "Hallmark," said Ford. "We had a look."

    "We didn't wake you earlier," said Trillian. "The last planet was knee
    deep in fish."


    "Some people like the oddest things."

    "And before that," said Ford, "we had platinum. Bit dull. We thought
    you'd like to see this one though."

    Seas of light glared at them in one solid blaze wherever they looked.

    "Very pretty," said Zaphod petulantly.

    In the sky a huge green catalogue number appeared. It flickered and
    changed, and when they looked around again so had the land.

    As with one voice they all went, "Yuch."
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  12. #52

    The sea was purple. The beach they were on was composed of tiny yellow
    and green pebbles - presumably terribly precious stones. The mountains
    in the distance seemed soft and undulating with red peaks. Nearby stood
    a solid silver beach table with a frilly mauve parasol and silver tassles.

    In the sky a huge sign appeared, replacing the catalogue number. It said,
    Whatever your tastes, Magrathea can cater for you. We are not proud.

    And five hundred entirely naked women dropped out of the sky on

    In a moment the scene vanished and left them in a springtime meadow
    full of cows.

    "Ow!" said Zaphod. "My brains!"

    "You want to talk about it?" said Ford.

    "Yeah, OK," said Zaphod, and all three sat down and ignored the scenes
    that came and went around them.

    "I figure this," said Zaphod. "Whatever happened to my mind, I did it.
    And I did it in such a way that it wouldn't be detected by the government
    screening tests. And I wasn't to know anything about it myself. Pretty
    crazy, right?"

    The other two nodded in agreement.

    "So I reckon, what's so secret that I can't let anybody know I know
    it, not the Galactic Government, not even myself? And the answer is I
    don't know. Obviously. But I put a few things together and I can begin
    to guess. When did I decide to run for President? Shortly after the death
    of President Yooden Vranx. You remember Yooden, Ford?"

    "Yeah," said Ford, "he was that guy we met when we were kids, the
    Arcturan captain. He was a gas. He gave us conkers when you bust your
    way into his megafreighter. Said you were the most amazing kid he'd
    ever met."

    "What's all this?" said Trillian.

    "Ancient history," said Ford, "when we were kids together on Betel-
    geuse. The Arcturan megafreighters used to carry most of the bulky
    trade between the Galactic Centre and the outlying regions The Betel-
    geuse trading scouts used to find the markets and the Arcturans would
    supply them. There was a lot of trouble with space pirates before they
    were wiped out in the Dordellis wars, and the megafreighters had to be
    equipped with the most fantastic defence shields known to Galactic sci-
    ence. They were real brutes of ships, and huge. In orbit round a planet
    they would eclipse the sun.

    "One day, young Zaphod here decides to raid one. On a tri-jet scooter
    designed for stratosphere work, a mere kid. I mean forget it, it was
    crazier than a mad monkey. I went along for the ride because I'd got
    some very safe money on him not doing it, and didn't want him coming
    back with fake evidence. So what happens? We got in his tri-jet which


    he had souped up into something totally other, crossed three parsecs
    in a matter of weeks, bust our way into a megafreighter I still don't
    know how, marched on to the bridge waving toy pistols and demanded
    conkers. A wilder thing I have not known. Lost me a year's pocket money.
    For what? Conkers." "The captain was this really amazing guy, Yooden
    Vranx," said Zaphod. "He gave us food, booze - stuff from really weird
    parts of the Galaxy - lots of conkers of course, and we had just the most
    incredible time. Then he teleported us back. Into the maximum security
    wing of Betelgeuse state prison. He was a cool guy. Went on to become
    President of the Galaxy."

    Zaphod paused.

    The scene around them was currently plunged into gloom. Dark mists
    swirled round them and elephantine shapes lurked indistinctly in the
    shadows. The air was occasionally rent with the sounds of illusory beings
    murdering other illusory beings. Presumably enough people must have
    liked this sort of thing to make it a paying proposition.

    "Ford," said Zaphod quietly.


    "Just before Yooden died he came to see me."

    "What? You never told me."


    "What did he say? What did he come to see you about?"

    "He told me about the Heart of Gold. It was his idea that I should steal

    "His idea?"

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, "and the only possible way of stealing it was to
    be at the launching ceremony."

    Ford gaped at him in astonishment for a moment, and then roared with

    "Are you telling me," he said, "that you set yourself up to become Pres-
    ident of the Galaxy just to steal that ship?"

    "That's it," said Zaphod with the sort of grin that would get most people
    locked away in a room with soft walls.

    "But why?" said Ford. "What's so important about having it?"

    "Dunno," said Zaphod, "I think if I'd consciously known what was so
    important about it and what I would need it for it would have showed
    up on the brain screening tests and I would never have passed. I think
    Yooden told me a lot of things that are still locked away."

    "So you think you went and mucked about inside your own brain as a
    result of Yooden talking to you?"

    "He was a hell of a talker." "Yeah, but Zaphod old mate, you want to
    look after yourself you know."
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  13. #53

    Zaphod shrugged.

    "I mean, don't you have any inkling of the reasons for all this?" asked

    Zaphod thought hard about this and doubts seemed to cross his minds.

    "No," he said at last, "I don't seem to be letting myself into any of my
    secrets. Still," he added on further reflection, "I can understand that. I
    wouldn't trust myself further than I could spit a rat."

    A moment later, the last planet in the catalogue vanished from beneath
    them and the solid world resolved itself again.

    They were sitting in a plush waiting room full of glass-top tables and
    design awards.

    A tall Magrathean man was standing in front of them.

    "The mice will see you now," he said.

    "So there you have it," said Slartibartfast, making a feeble and perfunc-
    tory attempt to clear away some of the appalling mess of his study. He
    picked up a paper from the top of a pile, but then couldn't think of
    anywhere else to put it, so he but it back on top of the original pile
    which promptly fell over. "Deep Thought designed the Earth, we built
    it and you lived on it."

    "And the Vogons came and destroyed it five minutes before the program
    was completed," added Arthur, not unbitterly.

    "Yes," said the old man, pausing to gaze hopelessly round the room.
    "Ten million years of planning and work gone just like that. Ten million
    years, Earthman ... can you conceive of that kind of time span? A galactic
    civilization could grow from a single worm five times over in that time.
    Gone." He paused.

    "Well that's bureaucracy for you," he added.

    "You know," said Arthur thoughtfully, "all this explains a lot of things.
    All through my life I've had this strange unaccountable feeling that
    something was going on in the world, something big, even sinister, and
    no one would tell me what it was."

    "No," said the old man, "that's just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone
    in the Universe has that."

    "Everyone?" said Arthur. "Well, if everyone has that perhaps it means
    something! Perhaps somewhere outside the Universe we know ..." "Maybe.
    Who cares?" said Slartibartfast before Arthur got too excited. "Perhaps
    I'm old and tired," he continued, "but I always think that the chances
    of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the
    only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself
    occupied. Look at me: I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway."


    He rummaged around in a pile of debris and pulled out a large perspex
    block with his name on it and a model of Norway moulded into it.

    "Where's the sense in that?" he said. "None that I've been able to make
    out. I've been doing fjords in all my life. For a fleeting moment they
    become fashionable and I get a major award."

    He turned it over in his hands with a shrug and tossed it aside carelessly,
    but not so carelessly that it didn't land on something soft.

    "In this replacement Earth we're building they've given me Africa to
    do and of course I'm doing it with all fjords again because I happen to
    like them, and I'm old fashioned enough to think that they give a lovely
    baroque feel to a continent. And they tell me it's not equatorial enough.
    Equatorial!" He gave a hollow laugh. "What does it matter? Science has
    achieved some wonderful things of course, but I'd far rather be happy
    than right any day."

    "And are you?"

    "No. That's where it all falls down of course."

    "Pity," said Arthur with sympathy. "It sounded like quite a good lifestyle

    Somewhere on the wall a small white light flashed.

    "Come," said Slartibartfast, "you are to meet the mice. Your arrival
    on the planet has caused considerable excitement. It has already been
    hailed, so I gather, as the third most improbable event in the history of
    the Universe."

    "What were the first two?"

    "Oh, probably just coincidences," said Slartibartfast carelessly. He opened
    the door and stood waiting for Arthur to follow.

    Arthur glanced around him once more, and then down at himself, at the
    sweaty dishevelled clothes he had been lying in the mud in on Thursday

    "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle," he mut-
    tered to himself.

    "I beg your pardon?" said the old man mildly.

    "Oh nothing," said Arthur, "only joking."

    It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale
    of the problem is not always appreciated.

    For instance, at the very moment that Arthur said "I seem to be having
    tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle," a freak wormhole opened up
    in the fabric of the space-time continuum and carried his words far far
    back in time across almost infinite reaches of space to a distant Galaxy
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  14. #54

    where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of frightful
    interstellar battle.

    The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time.

    A dreadful silence fell across the conference table as the commander of
    the Vl'hurgs, resplendent in his black jewelled battle shorts, gazed lev-
    elly at the G'Gugvuntt leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of green
    sweet-smelling steam, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed
    star cruisers poised to unleash electric death at his single word of com-
    mand, challenged the vile creature to take back what it had said about
    his mother.

    The creature stirred in his sickly broiling vapour, and at that very mo-
    ment the words I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my
    lifestyle drifted across the conference table.

    Unfortunately, in the Vl'hurg tongue this was the most dreadful insult
    imaginable, and there was nothing for it but to wage terrible war for

    Eventually of course, after their Galaxy had been decimated over a few
    thousand years, it was realized that the whole thing had been a ghastly
    mistake, and so the two opposing battle fleets settled their few remaining
    differences in order to launch a joint attack on our own Galaxy - now
    positively identified as the source of the offending remark.

    For thousands more years the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes
    of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came
    across - which happened to be the Earth - where due to a terrible mis-
    calculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by
    a small dog.

    Those who study the complex interplay of cause and effect in the history
    of the Universe say that this sort of thing is going on all the time, but
    that we are powerless to prevent it.

    "It's just life," they say.

    A short aircar trip brought Arthur and the old Magrathean to a doorway.
    They left the car and went through the door into a waiting room full
    of glass-topped tables and perspex awards. Almost immediately, a light
    flashed above the door at the other side of the room and they entered.

    "Arthur! You're safe!" a voice cried.

    "Am I?" said Arthur, rather startled. "Oh good."

    The lighting was rather subdued and it took him a moment or so to see
    Ford, Trillian and Zaphod sitting round a large table beautifully decked
    out with exotic dishes, strange sweetmeats and bizarre fruits. They were
    stuffing their faces.

    "What happened to you?" demanded Arthur.

    "Well," said Zaphod, attacking a boneful of grilled muscle, "our guests
    here have been gassing us and zapping our minds and being generally


    weird and have now given us a rather nice meal to make it up to us.
    Here," he said hoiking out a lump of evil smelling meat from a bowl,
    "have some Vegan Rhino's cutlet. It's delicious if you happen to like that
    sort of thing."

    "Hosts?" said Arthur. "What hosts? I don't see any ..."

    A small voice said, "Welcome to lunch, Earth creature."

    Arthur glanced around and suddenly yelped.

    "Ugh!" he said. "There are mice on the table!"

    There was an awkward silence as everyone looked pointedly at Arthur.

    He was busy staring at two white mice sitting in what looked like whisky
    glasses on the table. He heard the silence and glanced around at every-

    "Oh!" he said, with sudden realization. "Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't quite
    prepared for ..."

    "Let me introduce you," said Trillian. "Arthur this is Benji mouse."

    "Hi," said one of the mice. His whiskers stroked what must have been a
    touch sensitive panel on the inside of the whisky-glass like affair, and it
    moved forward slightly.

    "And this is Frankie mouse."

    The other mouse said, "Pleased to meet you," and did likewise.

    Arthur gaped.

    "But aren't they ..."

    "Yes," said Trillian, "they are the mice I brought with me from the

    She looked him in the eye and Arthur thought he detected the tiniest
    resigned shrug.

    "Could you pass me that bowl of grated Arcturan Megadonkey?" she

    Slartibartfast coughed politely.

    "Er, excuse me," he said. "Yes, thank you Slartibartfast," said Benji
    mouse sharply, "you may go."

    "What? Oh ... er, very well," said the old man, slightly taken aback,
    "I'll just go and get on with some of my fjords then."

    "Ah, well in fact that won't be necessary," said Frankie mouse. "It looks
    very much as if we won't be needing the new Earth any longer." He
    swivelled his pink little eyes. "Not now that we have found a native of
    the planet who was there seconds before it was destroyed."

    "What?" cried Slartibartfast, aghast. "You can't mean that! I've got a
    thousand glaciers poised and ready to roll over Africa!"

    "Well perhaps you can take a quick skiing holiday before you dismantle
    them," said Frankie, acidly.
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  15. #55

    "Skiing holiday!" cried the old man. "Those glaciers are works of art!
    Elegantly sculptured contours, soaring pinnacles of ice, deep majestic
    ravines! It would be sacrilege to go skiing on high art!"

    "Thank you Slartibartfast," said Benji firmly. "That will be all."

    "Yes sir," said the old man coldly, "thank you very much. Well, goodbye
    Earthman," he said to Arthur, "hope the lifestyle comes together."

    With a brief nod to the rest of the company he turned and walked sadly
    out of the room.

    Arthur stared after him not knowing what to say.

    "Now," said Benji mouse, "to business."

    Ford and Zaphod clinked their glasses together.

    "To business!" they said.

    "I beg your pardon?" said Benji.

    Ford looked round.

    "Sorry, I thought you were proposing a toast," he said.

    The two mice scuttled impatiently around in their glass transports. Fi-
    nally they composed themselves, and Benji moved forward to address

    "Now, Earth creature," he said, "the situation we have in effect is this.
    We have, as you know, been more or less running your planet for the last
    ten million years in order to find this wretched thing called the Ultimate

    "Why?" said Arthur, sharply.

    "No - we already thought of that one," said Frankie interrupting, "but
    it doesn't fit the answer. Why? - Forty-Two ... you see, it doesn't work."

    "No," said Arthur, "I mean why have you been doing it?"

    "Oh, I see," said Frankie. "Well, eventually just habit I think, to be
    brutally honest. And this is more or less the point - we're sick to the
    teeth with the whole thing, and the prospect of doing it all over again
    on account of those whinnet-ridden Vogons quite frankly gives me the
    screaming heeby jeebies, you know what I mean? It was by the merest
    lucky chance that Benji and I finished our particular job and left the
    planet early for a quick holiday, and have since manipulated our way
    back to Magrathea by the good offices of your friends."

    "Magrathea is a gateway back to our own dimension," put in Benji.

    "Since when," continued his murine colleague, "we have had an offer
    of a quite enormously fat contract to do the 5D chat show and lecture
    circuit back in our own dimensional neck of the woods, and we're very
    much inclined to take it."

    "I would, wouldn't you Ford?" said Zaphod promptingly.

    "Oh yes," said Ford, "jump at it, like a shot."


    Arthur glanced at them, wondering what all this was leading up to.

    "But we've got to have a product you see," said Frankie, "I mean ideally
    we still need the Ultimate Question in some form or other."

    Zaphod leaned forward to Arthur.

    "You see," he said, "if they're just sitting there in the studio looking
    very relaxed and, you know, just mentioning that they happen to know
    the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, and then eventually
    have to admit that in fact it's Forty-two, then the show's probably quite
    short. No follow-up, you see."

    "We have to have something that sounds good," said Benji.

    "Something that sounds good?" exclaimed Arthur. "An Ultimate Ques-
    tion that sounds good? From a couple of mice?"

    The mice bristled.

    "Well, I mean, yes idealism, yes the dignity of pure research, yes the
    pursuit of truth in all its forms, but there comes a point I'm afraid where
    you begin to suspect that if there's any real truth, it's that the entire
    multi-dimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run
    by a bunch of maniacs. And if it comes to a choice between spending
    yet another ten million years finding that out, and on the other hand
    just taking the money and running, then I for one could do with the
    exercise," said Frankie.

    "But ..." started Arthur, hopelessly. "Hey, will you get this, Earthman,"
    interrupted Zaphod. "You are a last generation product of that computer
    matrix, right, and you were there right up to the moment your planet
    got the finger, yeah?"

    "Er ..."

    "So your brain was an organic part of the penultimate configuration of
    the computer programme," said Ford, rather lucidly he thought.

    "Right?" said Zaphod.

    "Well," said Arthur doubtfully. He wasn't aware of ever having felt an
    organic part of anything. He had always seen this as one of his problems.

    "In other words," said Benji, steering his curious little vehicle right over
    to Arthur, "there's a good chance that the structure of the question is
    encoded in the structure of your brain - so we want to buy it off you."

    "What, the question?" said Arthur.

    "Yes," said Ford and Trillian.

    "For lots of money," said Zaphod.

    "No, no," said Frankie, "it's the brain we want to buy."


    "I thought you said you could just read his brain electronically," protes-
    ted Ford.
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  16. #56

    "Oh yes," said Frankie, "but we'd have to get it out first. It's got to be

    "Treated," said Benji.


    "Thank you," shouted Arthur, tipping up his chair and backing away
    from the table in horror.

    "It could always be replaced," said Benji reasonably, "if you think it's

    "Yes, an electronic brain," said Frankie, "a simple one would suffice."

    "A simple one!" wailed Arthur.

    "Yeah," said Zaphod with a sudden evil grin, "you'd just have to pro-
    gram it to say What? and I don't understand and Where's the tea? -
    who'd know the difference?"

    "What?" cried Arthur, backing away still further. "See what I mean?"
    said Zaphod and howled with pain because of something that Trillian
    did at that moment.

    "I'd notice the difference," said Arthur.

    "No you wouldn't," said Frankie mouse, "you'd be programmed not to."

    Ford made for the door.

    "Look, I'm sorry, mice old lads," he said. "I don't think we've got a

    "I rather think we have to have a deal," said the mice in chorus, all
    the charm vanishing fro their piping little voices in an instant. With
    a tiny whining shriek their two glass transports lifted themselves off
    the table, and swung through the air towards Arthur, who stumbled
    further backwards into a blind corner, utterly unable to cope or think
    of anything.

    Trillian grabbed him desperately by the arm and tried to drag him
    towards the door, which Ford and Zaphod were struggling to open, but
    Arthur was dead weight - he seemed hypnotized by the airborne rodents
    swooping towards him.

    She screamed at him, but he just gaped.

    With one more yank, Ford and Zaphod got the door open. On the other
    side of it was a small pack of rather ugly men who they could only assume
    were the heavy mob of Magrathea. Not only were they ugly themselves,
    but the medical equipment they carried with them was also far from
    pretty. They charged.

    So - Arthur was about to have his head cut open, Trillian was unable to
    help him, and Ford and Zaphod were about to be set upon by several
    thugs a great deal heavier and more sharply armed than they were.

    All in all it was extremely fortunate that at that moment every alarm
    on the planet burst into an earsplitting din.


    "Emergency! Emergency!" blared the klaxons throughout Magrathea.
    "Hostile ship has landed on planet. Armed intruders in section 8A. De-
    fence stations, defence stations!"

    The two mice sniffed irritably round the fragments of their glass trans-
    ports where they lay shattered on the floor.

    "Damnation," muttered Frankie mouse, "all that fuss over two pounds
    of Earthling brain." He scuttled round and about, his pink eyes flashing,
    his fine white coat bristling with static.

    "The only thing we can do now," said Benji, crouching and stroking
    his whiskers in thought, "is to try and fake a question, invent one that
    will sound plausible." "Difficult," said Frankie. He thought. "How about
    What's yellow and dangerous?"

    Benji considered this for a moment.

    "No, no good," he said. "Doesn't fit the answer."

    They sank into silence for a few seconds.

    "Alright," said Benji. "What do you get if you multiply six by seven?"

    "No, no, too literal, too factual," said Frankie, "wouldn't sustain the
    punters' interest."

    Again they thought.

    Then Frankie said: "Here's a thought. How many roads must a man walk

    "Ah," said Benji. "Aha, now that does sound promising!" He rolled the
    phrase around a little. "Yes," he said, "that's excellent! Sounds very
    significant without actually tying you down to meaning anything at all.
    How many roads must a man walk down? Forty-two. Excellent, excellent,
    that'll fox 'em. Frankie baby, we are made!"

    They performed a scampering dance in their excitement.

    Near them on the floor lay several rather ugly men who had been hit
    about the head with some heavy design awards.

    Half a mile away, four figures pounded up a corridor looking for a way
    out. They emerged into a wide open-plan computer bay. They glanced
    about wildly.

    "Which way do you reckon Zaphod?" said Ford.

    "At a wild guess, I'd say down here," said Zaphod, running off down to
    the right between a computer bank and the wall. As the others started
    after him he was brought up short by a Kill-O-Zap energy bolt that
    cracked through the air inches in front of him and fried a small section
    of adjacent wall.

    A voice on a loud hailer said, "OK Beeblebrox, hold it right there. We've
    got you covered."
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  17. #57

    "Cops!" hissed Zaphod, and span around in a crouch. "You want to try
    a guess at all, Ford?"

    "OK, this way," said Ford, and the four of them ran down a gangway
    between two computer banks.

    At the end of the gangway appeared a heavily armoured and space-
    suited figure waving a vicious Kill-O-Zap gun.

    "We don't want to shoot you, Beeblebrox!" shouted the figure. "Suits
    me fine!" shouted Zaphod back and dived down a wide gap between two
    data process units.

    The others swerved in behind him.

    "There are two of them," said Trillian. "We're cornered."

    They squeezed themselves down in an angle between a large computer
    data bank and the wall.

    They held their breath and waited.

    Suddenly the air exploded with energy bolts as both the cops opened
    fire on them simultaneously.

    "Hey, they're shooting at us," said Arthur, crouching in a tight ball, "I
    thought they said they didn't want to do that."

    "Yeah, I thought they said that," agreed Ford.

    Zaphod stuck a head up for a dangerous moment.

    "Hey," he said, "I thought you said you didn't want to shoot us!" and
    ducked again.

    They waited.

    After a moment a voice replied, "It isn't easy being a cop!"

    "What did he say?" whispered Ford in astonishment.

    "He said it isn't easy being a cop."

    "Well surely that's his problem isn't it?"

    "I'd have thought so."

    Ford shouted out, "Hey listen! I think we've got enough problems on
    our own having you shooting at us, so if you could avoid laying your
    problems on us as well, I think we'd all find it easier to cope!"

    Another pause, and then the loud hailer again.

    "Now see here, guy," said the voice on the loud hailer, "you're not dealing
    with any dumb two-bit trigger-pumping morons with low hairlines, little
    piggy eyes and no conversation, we're a couple of intelligent caring guys
    that you'd probably quite like if you met us socially! I don't go around
    gratuitously shooting people and then bragging about it afterwards in
    seedy space-rangers bars, like some cops I could mention! I go around
    shooting people gratuitously and then I agonize about it afterwards for
    hours to my girlfriend!"


    "And I write novels!" chimed in the other cop. "Though I haven't had
    any of them published yet, so I better warn you, I'm in a meeeean mood!"

    Ford's eyes popped halfway out of their sockets. "Who are these guys?"
    he said.

    "Dunno," said Zaphod, "I think I preferred it when they were shooting."

    "So are you going to come quietly," shouted one of the cops again, "or
    are you going to let us blast you out?"

    "Which would you prefer?" shouted Ford.

    A millisecond later the air about them started to fry again, as bolt after
    bolt of Kill-O-Zap hurled itself into the computer bank in front of them.

    The fusillade continued for several seconds at unbearable intensity.

    When it stopped, there were a few seconds of near quietness ad the
    echoes died away.

    "You still there?" called one of the cops.

    "Yes," they called back.

    "We didn't enjoy doing that at all," shouted the other cop.

    "We could tell," shouted Ford.

    "Now, listen to this, Beeblebrox, and you better listen good!"

    "Why?" shouted Back Zaphod.

    "Because," shouted the cop, "it's going to be very intelligent, and quite
    interesting and humane! Now either you all give yourselves up now and
    let us beat you up a bit, though not very much of course because we
    are firmly opposed to needless violence, or we blow up this entire planet
    and possibly one or two others we noticed on our way out here!"

    "But that's crazy!" cried Trillian. "You wouldn't do that!"

    "Oh yes we would," shouted the cop, "wouldn't we?" he asked the other

    "Oh yes, we'd have to, no question," the other one called back.

    "But why?" demanded Trillian.

    "Because there are some things you have to do even if you are an en-
    lightened liberal cop who knows all about sensitivity and everything!"

    "I just don't believe these guys," muttered Ford, shaking his head.

    One cop shouted to the other, "Shall we shoot them again for a bit?"

    "Yeah, why not?" They let fly another electric barrage.

    The heat and noise was quite fantastic. Slowly, the computer bank was
    beginning to disintegrate. The front had almost all melted away, and
    thick rivulets of molten metal were winding their way back towards
    where they were squatting. They huddled further back and waited for
    the end.
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  18. #58

    But the end never came, at least not then.

    Quite suddenly the barrage stopped, and the sudden silence afterwards
    was punctuated by a couple of strangled gurgles and thuds.

    The four stared at each other.

    "What happened?" said Arthur.

    "They stopped," said Zaphod with a shrug.


    "Dunno, do you want to go and ask them?"


    They waited.

    "Hello?" called out Ford.

    No answer.

    "That's odd."

    "Perhaps it's a trap."

    "They haven't the wit."

    "What were those thuds?"


    They waited for a few more seconds.

    "Right," said Ford, "I'm going to have a look."

    He glanced round at the others.

    "Is no one going to say, No you can't possibly, let me go instead?"

    They all shook their heads.

    "Oh well," he said, and stood up. For a moment, nothing happened.

    Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen. Ford peered
    through the thick smoke that was billowing out of the burning computer.

    Cautiously he stepped out into the open.

    Still nothing happened.

    Twenty yards away he could dimly see through the smoke the space-
    suited figure of one of the cops. He was lying in a crumpled heap on the
    ground. Twenty yards in the other direction lay the second man. No one
    else was anywhere to be seen.

    This struck Ford as being extremely odd.

    Slowly, nervously, he walked towards the first one. The body lay reas-
    suringly still as he approached it, and continued to lie reassuringly still
    as he reached it and put his foot down on the Kill-O-Zap gun that still
    dangled from its limp fingers.


    He reached down and picked it up, meeting no resistance.

    The cop was quite clearly dead.

    A quick examination revealed him to be from Blagulon Kappa - he was
    a methane-breathing life form, dependent on his space suit for survival
    in the thin oxygen atmosphere of Magrathea.

    The tiny life-support system computer on his backpack appeared unex-
    pectedly to have blown up.

    Ford poked around in it in considerable astonishment. These miniature
    suit computers usually had the full back-up of the main computer back
    on the ship, with which they were directly linked through the sub-etha.
    Such a system was fail-safe in all circumstances other than total feedback
    malfunction, which was unheard of.

    He hurried over to the other prone figure, and discovered that exactly the
    same impossible thing had happened to him, presumably simultaneously.

    He called the others over to look. They came, shared his astonishment,
    but not his curiosity.

    "Let's get shot out of this hole," said Zaphod. "If whatever I'm supposed
    to be looking for is here, I don't want it." He grabbed the second Kill-O-
    Zap gun, blasted a perfectly harmless accounting computer and rushed
    out into the corridor, followed by the others. He very nearly blasted hell
    out of an aircar that stood waiting for them a few yards away.

    The aircar was empty, but Arthur recognized it as belonging to Slart-

    It had a note from him pinned to part of its sparse instrument panel.
    The note had an arrow drawn on it, pointing at one of the controls.

    It said, This is probably the best button to press.

    The aircar rocketed them at speeds in excess of R17 through the steel
    tunnels that lead out onto the appalling surface of the planet which
    was now in the grip of yet another drear morning twilight. Ghastly grey
    lights congealed on the land.

    R is a velocity measure, defined as a reasonable speed of travel that
    is consistent with health, mental wellbeing and not being more than
    say five minutes late. It is therefore clearly an almost infinitely variable
    figure according to circumstances, since the first two factors vary not
    only with speed taken as an absolute, but also with awareness of the
    third factor. Unless handled with tranquility this equation can result in
    considerable stress, ulcers and even death.

    R17 is not a fixed velocity, but it is clearly far too fast.

    The aircar flung itself through the air at R17 and above, deposited them
    next to the Heart of Gold which stood starkly on the frozen ground like a
    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?

  19. #59

    bleached bone, and then precipitately hurled itself back in the direction
    whence they had come, presumably on important business of its own.

    Shivering, the four of them stood and looked at the ship.

    Beside it stood another one.

    It was the Blagulon Kappa policecraft, a bulbous sharklike affair, slate
    green in colour and smothered with black stencilled letters of varying
    degrees of size and unfriendliness. The letters informed anyone who cared
    to read them as to where the ship was from, what section of the police
    it was assigned to, and where the power feeds should be connected.

    It seemed somehow unnaturally dark and silent, even for a ship whose
    two-man crew was at that moment lying asphyxicated in a smoke-filled
    chamber several miles beneath the ground. It is one of those curious
    things that is impossible to explain or define, but one can sense when a
    ship is completely dead.

    Ford could sense it and found it most mysterious - a ship and two po-
    licemen seemed to have gone spontaneously dead. In his experience the
    Universe simply didn't work like that.

    The other three could sense it too, but they could sense the bitter cold
    even more and hurried back into the Heart of Gold suffering from an
    acute attack of no curiosity.

    Ford stayed, and went to examine the Blagulon ship. As he walked, he
    nearly tripped over an inert steel figure lying face down in the cold dust.

    "Marvin!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing?" "Don't feel you have
    to take any notice of me, please," came a muffled drone.

    "But how are you, metalman?" said Ford.

    "Very depressed."

    "What's up?"

    "I don't know," said Marvin, "I've never been there."

    "Why," said Ford squatting down beside him and shivering, "are you
    lying face down in the dust?"

    "It's a very effective way of being wretched," said Marvin. "Don't pre-
    tend you want to talk to me, I know you hate me."

    "No I don't."

    "Yes you do, everybody does. It's part of the shape of the Universe. I
    only have to talk to somebody and they begin to hate me. Even robots
    hate me. If you just ignore me I expect I shall probably go away."

    He jacked himself up to his feet and stood resolutely facing the opposite

    "That ship hated me," he said dejectedly, indicating the policecraft.

    "That ship?" said Ford in sudden excitement. "What happened to it?
    Do you know?"


    "It hated me because I talked to it."

    "You talked to it?" exclaimed Ford. "What do you mean you talked to

    "Simple. I got very bored and depressed, so I went and plugged myself
    in to its external computer feed. I talked to the computer at great length
    and explained my view of the Universe to it," said Marvin.

    "And what happened?" pressed Ford.

    "It committed suicide," said Marvin and stalked off back to the Heart
    of Gold.

    That night, as the Heart of Gold was busy putting a few light years
    between itself and the Horsehead Nebula, Zaphod lounged under the
    small palm tree on the bridge trying to bang his brain into shape with
    massive Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters; Ford and Trillian sat in a corner
    discussing life and matters arising from it; and Arthur took to his bed
    to flip through Ford's copy of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    Since he was going to live in the place, he reasoned, he'd better start
    finding out something about it.

    He came across this entry.

    It said: 'The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass
    through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, In-
    quiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where

    "For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can
    we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by
    the question Where shall we have lunch?"

    He got no further before the ship's intercom buzzed into life.

    "Hey Earthman? You hungry kid?" said Zaphod's voice.

    "Er, well yes, a little peckish I suppose," said Arthur.

    "OK baby, hold tight," said Zaphod. "We'll take in a quick bite at the
    Restaurant at the End of the Universe."
    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. #60
    37.1 What's President?

    President: full title President of the Imperial Galactic Government.

    The term Imperial is kept though it is now an anachronism. The hered-
    itary Emperor is nearly dead and has been so for many centuries. In the last moments of his dying coma he was locked in a statis field which
    keeps him in a state of perpetual unchangingness. All his heirs are now
    long dead, and this means that without any drastic political upheaval,
    power has simply and effectively moved a rung or two down the lad-
    der, and is now seen to be vested in a body which used to act simply
    as advisers to the Emperor - an elected Governmental assembly headed
    by a President elected by that assembly. In fact it vests in no such place.

    The President in particular is very much a figurehead - he wields no
    real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but
    the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but
    those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a
    controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His
    job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those
    criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the
    Galaxy has ever had - he has already spent two of his ten Presidential
    years in prison for fraud. Very very few people realize that the President
    and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these very few
    people only six know whence ultimate political power is wielded. Most
    of the others secretly believe that the ultimate decision-making process
    is handled by a computer. They couldn't be more wrong.
    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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