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Thread: The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  1. #61
    37.2 About Ford Perfect

    Ford Prefect's original name is only pronuncible in an obscure Betel-
    geusian dialect, now virtually extinct since the Great Collapsing Hrung
    Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758 which wiped out all the old Praxibetel
    communities on Betelgeuse Seven. Ford's father was the only man on
    the entire planet to survive the Great Collapsing Hrung disaster, by
    an extraordinary coincidence that he was never able satisfactorily to
    explain. The whole episode is shrouded in deep mystery: in fact no one
    ever knew what a Hrung was nor why it had chosen to collapse on Betel-
    geuse Seven particularly. Ford's father, magnanimously waving aside the
    clouds of su****ion that had inevitably settled around him, came to live
    on Betelgeuse Five where he both fathered and uncled Ford; in memory
    of his now dead race he christened him in the ancient Praxibetel tongue.

    Because Ford never learned to say his original name, his father even-
    tually died of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts of
    the Galaxy. The other kids at school nicknamed him Ix, which in the
    language of Betelgeuse Five translates as "boy who is not able satisfac-
    torily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse
    on Betelgeuse Seven".
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  2. #62
    ***********************book 2************************
    ********************......................******** *************
    ****************.................................. ...*****************
    **********........................................ .....................************

    .......... "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe"................

    To Jane and James

    with many thanks

    to Geoffrey Perkins for achieving the Improbable

    to Paddy Kingsland, Lisa Braun and
    Alick Hale Munro for helping him

    to John Lloyd for his help with the original Milliways script

    to Simon Brett for starting the whole thing off

    to the Paul Simon album One Trick Pony which I played
    incessantly while writing this book. Five years is far too long

    And with very special thanks to Jacqui Graham for infinite
    patience, kindness and food in adversity
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  3. #63

    1.1 Introduction

    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what
    the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be
    replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

    1.2 Another Introduction

    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    The story so far:

    In the beginning the Universe was created.

    This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as
    a bad move.

    Many races believe that it was created by some sort of God, though
    the Jatravartid people of Viltvodle VI believe that the entire Universe
    was in fact sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green

    The Jatravartids, who live in perpetual fear of the time they call The
    Coming of The Great White Handkerchief, are small blue creatures with
    more than fifty arms each, who are therefore unique in being the only
    race in history to have invented the aerosol deodorant before the wheel.

    However, the Great Green Arkleseizure Theory is not widely accepted
    outside Viltvodle VI and so, the Universe being the puzzling place it is,
    other explanations are constantly being sought.

    For instance, a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings once built
    themselves a gigantic supercomputer called Deep Thought to calculate
    once and for all the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Uni-
    verse, and Everything.

    For seven and a half million years, Deep Thought computed and calcu-
    lated, and in the end announced that the answer was in fact Forty-two -
    and so another, even bigger, computer had to be built to find out what
    the actual question was.

    And this computer, which was called the Earth, was so large that it
    was frequently mistaken for a planet - especially by the strange ape-like
    beings who roamed its surface, totally unaware that they were simply
    part of a gigantic computer program. And this is very odd, because
    without that fairly simple and obvious piece of knowledge, nothing that
    ever happened on the Earth could possibly make the slightest bit of
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  4. #64

    Sadly however, just before the critical moment of readout, the Earth was
    unexpectedly demolished by the Vogons to make way - so they claimed
    - for a new hyperspace bypass, and so all hope of discovering a meaning
    for life was lost for ever.

    Or so it would seem.

    Two of there strange, ape-like creatures survived.

    Arthur Dent escaped at the very last moment because an old friend of
    his, Ford Prefect, suddenly turned out to be from a small planet in the
    vicinity of Betelgeuse and not from Guildford as he had hitherto claimed;
    and, more to the point, he knew how to hitch rides on flying saucers.

    Tricia McMillian - or Trillian - had skipped the planet six months earlier
    with Zaphod Beeblebrox, the then President of the Galaxy.

    Two survivors.

    They are all that remains of the greatest experiment ever conducted
    - to find the Ultimate Question and the Ultimate Answer of Life, the
    Universe, and Everything.

    And, less than half a million miles from where their starship is drifting
    lazily through the inky blackness of space, a Vogon ship is moving slowly
    towards them.

    Like all Vogon ships it looked as if it had been not so much designed
    as congealed. The unpleasant yellow lumps and edifices which protuded
    from it at unsightly angles would have disfigured the looks of most ships,
    but in this case that was sadly impossible. Uglier things have been spot-
    ted in the skies, but not by reliable witnesses.

    In fact to see anything much uglier than a Vogon ship you would have to
    go inside and look at a Vogon. If you are wise, however, this is precisely
    what you will avoid doing because the average Vogon will not think twice
    before doing something so pointlessly hideous to you that you will wish
    you had never been born - or (if you are a clearer minded thinker) that
    the Vogon had never been born.

    In fact, the average Vogon probably wouldn't even think once. They are
    simple-minded, thick-willed, slug-brained creatures, and thinking is not
    really something they are cut out for. Anatomical analysis of the Vogon
    reveals that its brain was originally a badly deformed, misplaced and
    dyspeptic liver. The fairest thing you can say about them, then, is that
    they know what they like, and what they like generally involves hurting
    people and, wherever possible, getting very angry.

    One thing they don't like is leaving a job unfinished - particularly this
    Vogon, and particularly - for various reasons - this job.


    This Vogon was Captain Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyper-
    space Planning Council, and he was it who had had the job of demol-
    ishing the so-called "planet" Earth.

    He heaved his monumentally vile body round in his ill-fitting, slimy seat
    and stared at the monitor screen on which the starship Heart of Gold
    was being systematically scanned.

    It mattered little to him that the Heart of Gold, with its Infinite Im-
    probability Drive, was the most beautiful and revolutionary ship ever
    built. Aesthetics and technology were closed books to him and, had he
    had his way, burnt and buried books as well.

    It mattered even less to him that Zaphod Beeblebrox was aboard. Za-
    phod Beeblebrox was now the ex-President of the Galaxy, and though
    every police force in the Galaxy was currently pursuing both him and
    this ship he had stolen, the Vogon was not interested.

    He had other fish to fry.

    It has been said that Vogons are not above a little bribery and corruption
    in the same way that the sea is not above the clouds, and this was
    certainly true in his case. When he heard the words "integrity" or "moral
    rectitude", he reached for his dictionary, and when he heard the ***** of
    ready money in large quantities he reached for the rule book and threw
    it away.

    In seeking so implacably the destruction of the Earth and all that therein
    lay he was moving somewhat above and beyond the call of his profes-
    sional duty. There was even some doubt as to whether the said bypass
    was actually going to be built, but the matter had been glossed over.

    He grunted a repellent grunt of satisfaction.

    "Computer," he croaked, "get me my brain care specialist on the line."

    Within a few seconds the face of Gag Halfrunt appeared on the screen,
    smiling the smile of a man who knew he was ten light years away from
    the Vogon face he was looking at. Mixed up somewhere in the smile was
    a glint of irony too. Though the Vogon persistently referred to him as
    "my private brain care specialist" there was not a lot of brain to take
    care of, and it was in fact Halfrunt who was employing the Vogon. He
    was paying him an awful lot of money to do some very dirty work. As
    one of the Galaxy's most prominent and successful psychiatrists, he and
    a consortium of his colleagues were quite prepared to spend an awful lot
    of money when it seemed that the entire future of psychiatry might be
    at stake. "Well," he said, "hello my Captain of Vogons Prostetnic, and
    how are we feeling today?"

    The Vogon captain told him that in the last few hours he had wiped out
    nearly half his crew in a disciplinary exercise.

    Halfrunt's smile did not flicker for an instant.

    "Well," he said, "I think this is perfectly normal behaviour for a Vo-
    gon, you know? The natural and healthy channelling of the aggressive
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  5. #65

    instincts into acts of senseless violence."

    "That," rumbled the Vogon, "is what you always say."

    "Well again," said Halfrunt, "I think that this is perfectly normal be-
    haviour for a psychiatrist. Good. We are clearly both very well adjusted
    in our mental attitudes today. Now tell me, what news of the mission?"

    "We have located the ship."

    "Wonderful," said Halfrunt, "wonderful! and the occupants?"

    "The Earthman is there."

    "Excellent! And ...?"

    "A female from the same planet. They are the last."

    "Good, good," beamed Halfrunt, "Who else?"

    "The man Prefect."


    "And Zaphod Beeblebrox."

    For an instant Halfrunt's smile flickered.

    "Ah yes," he said, "I had been expecting this. It is most regrettable."

    "A personal friend?" inquired the Vogon, who had heard the expression
    somewhere once and decided to try it out.

    "Ah, no," said Halfrunt, "in my profession you know, we do not make
    personal friends."

    "Ah," grunted the Vogon, "professional detachment."

    "No," said Halfrunt cheerfully, "we just don't have the knack."

    He paused. His mouth continued to smile, but his eyes frowned slightly.

    "But Beeblebrox, you know," he said, "he is one of my most profitable
    clients. He had personality problems beyond the dreams of analysts."
    He toyed with this thought a little before reluctantly dismissing it.

    "Still," he said, "you are ready for your task?"


    "Good. Destroy the ship immediately."

    "What about Beeblebrox?"

    "Well," said Halfrunt brightly, "Zaphod's just this guy, you know?"

    He vanished from the screen.

    The Vogon Captain pressed a communicator button which connected
    him with the remains of his crew.

    "Attack," he said.

    At that precise moment Zaphod Beeblebrox was in his cabin swearing
    very loudly. Two hours ago, he had said that they would go for a quick
    bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, whereupon he had


    had a blazing row with the ship's computer and stormed off to his cabin
    shouting that he would work out the Improbability factors with a pencil.

    The Heart of Gold's Improbability Drive made it the most powerful
    and unpredictable ship in existence. There was nothing it couldn't do,
    provided you knew exactly how improbable it was that the thing you
    wanted it to do would ever happen.

    He had stolen it when, as President, he was meant to be launching it.
    He didn't know exactly why he had stolen it, except that he liked it.

    He didn't know why he had become President of the Galaxy, except that
    it seemed a fun thing to be.

    He did know that there were better reasons than these, but that they
    were buried in a dark, locked off section of his two brains. He wished the
    dark, locked off section of his two brains would go away because they
    occasionally surfaced momentarily and put strange thoughts into the
    light, fun sections of his mind and tried to deflect him from what he saw
    as being the basic business of his life, which was to have a wonderfully
    good time.

    At the moment he was not having a wonderfully good time. He had run
    out of patience and pencils and was feeling very hungry.

    "Starpox!" he shouted.

    At that same precise moment, Ford Prefect was in mid air. This was
    not because of anything wrong with the ship's artificial gravity field,
    but because he was leaping down the stair-well which led to the ship's
    personal cabins. It was a very high jump to do in one bound and he
    landed awkwardly, stumbled, recovered, raced down the corridor sending
    a couple of miniature service robots flying, skidded round the corner,
    burst into Zaphod's door and explained what was on his mind.

    "Vogons," he said.

    A short while before this, Arthur Dent had set out from his cabin in
    search of a cup of tea. It was not a quest he embarked upon with a great
    deal of optimism., because he knew that the only source of hot drinks
    on the entire ship was a benighted piece of equipment produced by
    the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. It was called a Nutri-Matic Drinks
    Synthesizer, and he had encountered it before.

    It claimed to produce the widest possible range of drinks personally
    matched to the tastes and metabolism of whoever cared to use it. When
    put to the test, however, it invariably produced a plastic cup filled with
    a liquid that was almost, but nit quite, entirely unlike tea.

    He attempted to reason with the thing.

    "Tea," he said.

    "Share and Enjoy," the machine replied and provided him with yet an-
    other cup of the sickly liquid.

    He threw it away.
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  6. #66

    "Share and enjoy," the machine repeated and provided him with another

    "Share and Enjoy" is the company motto of the hugely successful Sir-
    ius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints division, which now covers the
    major land masses of three medium sized planets and is the only part
    of the Corporation to have shown a consistent profit in recent years.

    The motto stands - or rather stood - in three mile high illuminated letters
    near the Complaints Department spaceport on Eadrax. Unfortunately
    its weight was such that shortly after it was erected, the ground beneath
    the letters caved in and they dropped for nearly half their length through
    the offices of many talented young complaints executives - now deceased.

    The protruding upper halves of the letters now appear, in the local
    language, to read "Go stick your head in a pig", and are no longer
    illuminated, except at times of special celebration.

    Arthur threw away a sixth cup of the liquid.

    "Listen, you machine," he said, "you claim you can synthesize any drink
    in existence, so why do you keep giving me the same undrinkable stuff?"

    "Nutrition and pleasurable sense data," burbled the machine. "Share
    and Enjoy."

    "It tastes filthy!" "If you have enjoyed the experience of this drink,"
    continued the machine, "why not share it with your friends?"

    "Because," said Arthur tartly, "I want to keep them. Will you try to
    comprehend what I'm telling you? That drink ..."

    "That drink," said the machine sweetly, "was individually tailored to
    meet your personal requirements for nutrition and pleasure."

    "Ah," said Arthur, "so I'm a masochist on diet am I?"

    "Share and Enjoy."

    "Oh shut up."

    "Will that be all?"

    Arthur decided to give up.

    "Yes," he said.

    Then he decided he'd be dammed if he'd give up.

    "No," he said, "look, it's very, very simple ... all I want ... is a cup of
    tea. You are going to make one for me. Keep quiet and listen."

    And he sat. He told the Nutri-Matic about India, he told it about China,
    he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun.
    He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons
    on the lawn. He told it about putting in the milk before the tea so it
    wouldn't get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the history of the
    East India Company.

    "So that's it, is it?" said the Nutri-Matic when he had finished.


    "Yes," said Arthur, "that is what I want."

    "You want the taste of dried leaves boiled in water?"

    "Er, yes. With milk."

    "Squirted out of a cow?"

    "Well, in a manner of speaking I suppose ..."

    "I'm going to need some help with this one," said the machine tersely.
    All the cheerful burbling had dropped out of its voice and it now meant

    "Well, anything I can do," said Arthur.

    "You've done quite enough," the Nutri-Matic informed him.

    It summoned up the ship's computer.

    "Hi there!" said the ship's computer. The Nutri-Matic explained about
    tea to the ship's computer. The computer boggled, linked logic circuits
    with the Nutri-Matic and together they lapsed into a grim silence.

    Arthur watched and waited for a while, but nothing further happened.

    He thumped it, but still nothing happened.

    Eventually he gave up and wandered up to the bridge.

    In the empty wastes of space, the Heart of Gold hung still. Around it
    blazed the billion pinpricks of the Galaxy. Towards it crept the ugly
    yellow lump of the Vogon ship.

    "Does anyone have a kettle?" Arthur asked as he walked on to the bridge,
    and instantly began to wonder why Trillian was yelling at the computer
    to talk to her, Ford was thumping it and Zaphod was kicking it, and
    also why there was a nasty yellow lump on the vision screen.

    He put down the empty cup he was carrying and walked over to them.

    "Hello?" he said.

    At that moment Zaphod flung himself over to the polished marble sur-
    faces that contained the instruments that controlled the conventional
    photon drive. They materialized beneath his hands and he flipped over
    to manual control. He pushed, he pulled, he pressed and he swore. The
    photon drive gave a sickly judder and cut out again.

    "Something up?" said Arthur.

    "Hey, didja hear that?" muttered Zaphod as he leapt now for the manual
    controls of the Infinite Improbability Drive, "the monkey spoke!"

    The Improbability Drive gave two small whines and then also cut out.

    "Pure history, man," said Zaphod, kicking the Improbability Drive, "a
    talking monkey!"
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  7. #67

    "If you're upset about something ..." said Arthur.

    "Vogons!" snapped Ford, "we're under attack!"

    Arthur gibbered.

    "Well what are you doing? Let's get out of here!"

    "Can't. Computer's jammed."

    "Jammed?" "It says all its circuits are occupied. There's no power any-
    where in the ship."

    Ford moved away from the computer terminal, wiped a sleeve across his
    forehead and slumped back against the wall.

    "Nothing we can do," he said. He glared at nothing and bit his lip.

    When Arthur had been a boy at school, long before the Earth had been
    demolished, he had used to play football. He had not been at all good
    at it, and his particular speciality had been scoring own goals in impor-
    tant matches. Whenever this happened he used to experience a peculiar
    tingling round the back of his neck that would slowly creep up across
    his cheeks and heat his brow. The image of mud and grass and lots of
    little jeering boys flinging it at him suddenly came vividly to his mind
    at this moment.

    A peculiar tingling sensation at the back of his neck was creeping up
    across his cheeks and heating his brow.

    He started to speak, and stopped.

    He started to speak again and stopped again.

    Finally he managed to speak.

    "Er," he said. He cleared his throat.

    "Tell me," he continued, and said it so nervously that the others all
    turned to stare at him. He glanced at the approaching yellow blob on
    the vision screen.

    "Tell me," he said again, "did the computer say what was occupying it?
    I just ask out of interest ..."

    Their eyes were riveted on him.

    "And, er ... well that's it really, just asking."

    Zaphod put out a hand and held Arthur by the scruff of the neck.

    "What have you done to it, Monkeyman?" he breathed.

    "Well," said Arthur, "nothing in fact. It's just that I think a short while
    ago it was trying to work out how to ..."


    "Make me some tea."

    "That's right guys," the computer sang out suddenly, "just coping with
    that problem right now, and wow, it's a biggy. Be with you in a while."


    It lapsed back into a silence that was only matched for sheer intensity
    by the silence of the three people staring at Arthur Dent.

    As if to relieve the tension, the Vogons chose that moment to start firing.

    The ship shook, the ship thundered. Outside, the inch thick force-shield
    around it blistered, crackled and spat under the barrage of a dozen 30-
    Megahurt Definit-Kil Photrazon Cannon, and looked as if it wouldn't be
    around for long. Four minutes is how long Ford Prefect gave it."Three
    minutes and fifty seconds," he said a short while later.

    "Forty-five seconds," he added at the appropriate time. He flicked idly
    at some useless switches, then gave Arthur an unfriendly look.

    "Dying for a cup of tea, eh?" he said. "Three minutes and forty seconds."

    "Will you stop counting!" snarled Zaphod.

    "Yes," said Ford Prefect, "in three minutes and thirty-five seconds."

    Aboard the Vogon ship, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was puzzled. He had ex-
    pected a chase, he had expected an exciting grapple with tractor beams,
    he had expected to have to use the specially installed Sub-Cyclic Normal-
    ity Assert-i-Tron to counter the Heart of Gold's Infinite Improbability
    Drive, but the Sub-Cyclic Normality Assert-i-Tron lay idle as the Heart
    of Gold just sat there and took it.

    A dozen 30-Megahurt Definit-Kil Photrazon Cannon continued to blaze
    away at the Heart of Gold, and still it just sat there and took it.

    He tested every sensor at his disposal to see if there was any subtle
    trickery afoot, but no subtle trickery was to be found.

    He didn't know about the tea of course.

    Nor did he know exactly how the occupants of the Heart of Gold were
    spending the last three minutes and thirty seconds of life they had left
    to spend.

    Quite how Zaphod Beeblebrox arrived at the idea of holding a seance at
    this point is something he was never quite clear on.

    Obviously the subject of death was in the air, but more as something to
    be avoided than harped upon.

    Possibly the horror that Zaphod experienced at the prospect of being
    reunited with his deceased relatives led on to the thought that they
    might just feel the same way about him and, what's more, be able to do
    something about helping to postpone this reunion.

    Or again it might just have been one of the strange promptings that
    occasionally surfaced from that dark area of his mind that he had in-
    explicably locked off prior to becoming President of the Galaxy. "You
    want to talk to your great grandfather?" boggled Ford.


    "Does it have to be now?"
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  8. #68

    The ship continued to shake and thunder. The temperature was rising.
    The light was getting dimmer - all the energy the computer didn't require
    for thinking about tea was being pumped into the rapidly fading force-

    "Yeah!" insisted Zaphod. "Listen Ford, I think he may be able to help

    "Are you sure you mean think? Pick your words with care."

    "Suggest something else we can do."

    "Er, well ..."

    "OK, round the central console. Now. Come on! Trillian, Monkeyman,

    They clustered round the central console in confusion, sat down and,
    feeling exceptionally foolish, held hands. With his third hand Zaphod
    turned off the lights.

    Darkness gripped the ship.

    Outside, the thunderous roar of the Definit-Kil cannon continued to rip
    at the force-field.

    "Concentrate," hissed Zaphod, "on his name."

    "What is it?" asked Arthur.

    "Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth."


    "Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth. Concentrate!"

    "The Fourth?"

    "Yeah. Listen, I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox, my father was Zaphod Beeble-
    brox the Second, my grandfather Zaphod Beeblebrox the Third ..."


    "There was an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine. Now

    "Three minutes," said Ford Prefect.

    "Why," said Arthur Dent, "are we doing this?"

    "Shut up," suggested Zaphod Beeblebrox. Trillian said nothing. What,
    she thought, was there to say?

    The only light on the bridge came from two dim red triangles in a far
    corner where Marvin the Paranoid Android sat slumped, ignoring all
    and ignored by all, in a private and rather unpleasant world of his own.

    Round the central console four figures hunched in tight concentration
    trying to blot from their minds the terrifying shuddering of the ship and
    the fearful roar that echoed through it.

    They concentrated.

    Still they concentrated.


    And still they concentrated.

    The seconds ticked by.

    On Zaphod's brow stood beads of sweat, first of concentration, then of
    frustration and finally of embarrassment.

    At last he let out a cry of anger, snatched back his hands from Trillian
    and Ford and stabbed at the light switch.

    "Ah, I was beginning to think you'd never turn the lights on," said a
    voice. "No, not too bright please, my eyes aren't what they once were."

    Four figures jolted upright in their seats. Slowly they turned their heads
    to look, though their scalps showed a distinct propensity to try and stay
    in the same place.

    "Now. Who disturbs me at this time?" said the small, bent, gaunt figure
    standing by the sprays of fern at the far end of the bridge. His two small
    wispy-haired heads looked so ancient that it seemed they might hold dim
    memories of the birth of the galaxies themselves. One lolled in sleep, but
    the other squinted sharply at them. If his eyes weren't what they once
    were, they must once have been diamond cutters.

    Zaphod stuttered nervously for a moment. He gave the intricate little
    double nod which is the traditional Betelgeusian gesture of familial re-

    "Oh ... er, hi Great Granddad ..." he breathed.

    The little old figure moved closer towards them. He peered through the
    dim light. He thrust out a bony finger at his great grandson.

    "Ah," he snapped. "Zaphod Beeblebrox. The last of our great line. Za-
    phod Beeblebrox the Nothingth."

    "The First."

    "The Nothingth," spat the figure. Zaphod hated his voice. It always
    seemed to him to screech like fingernails across the blackboard of what
    he liked to think of as his soul.

    He shifted awkwardly in his seat.

    "Er, yeah," he muttered, "Er, look, I'm really sorry about the flowers,
    I meant to send them along, but you know, the shop was fresh out of
    wreaths and ..."

    "You forget!" snapped Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth.

    "Well ..."

    "Too busy. Never think of other people. The living are all the same."

    "Two minutes, Zaphod," whispered Ford in an awed whisper.

    Zaphod fidgeted nervously.

    "Yeah, but I did mean to send them," he said. "And I'll write to my
    great grandmother as well, just as soon as we get out of this ..."

    "Your great grandmother," mused the gaunt little figure to himself.
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  9. #69

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, "Er, how is she? Tell you what, I'll go and see her.
    But first we've just got to ..."

    "Your late great grandmother and I are very well," rasped Zaphod Bee-
    blebrox the Fourth.

    "Ah. Oh."

    "But very disappointed in you, young Zaphod ..."

    "Yeah well ..." Zaphod felt strangely powerless to take charge of this
    conversation, and Ford's heavy breathing at his side told him that the
    seconds were ticking away fast. The noise and the shaking had reached
    terrifying proportions. He saw Trillian and Arthur's faces white and
    unblinking in the gloom.

    "Er, Great Grandfather ..."

    "We've been following your progress with considerable despondency ..."

    "Yeah, look, just at the moment you see ..."

    "Not to say contempt!"

    "Could you sort of listen for a moment ..."

    "I mean what exactly are you doing with your life?"

    "I'm being attacked by a Vogon fleet!" cried Zaphod. It was an exagger-
    ation, but it was his only opportunity so far of getting the basic point
    of the exercise across. "Doesn't surprise me in the least," said the little
    old figure with a shrug.

    "Only it's happening right now you see," insisted Zaphod feverishly.

    The spectral ancestor nodded, picked up the cup Arthur Dent had
    brought in and looked at it with interest.

    "Er ... Great Granddad ..."

    "Did you know," interrupting the ghostly figure, fixing Zaphod with a
    stern look, "that Betelgeuse Five has developed a very slight eccentricy
    in its orbit?"

    Zaphod didn't and found the information hard to concentrate on what
    with all the noise and the imminence of death and so on.

    "Er, no ... look," he said.

    "Me spinning in my grave!" barked the ancestor. He slammed the cup
    down and pointed a quivering, stick-like see-through finger at Zaphod.

    "Your fault!" he screeched.

    "One minute thirty," muttered Ford, his head in his hands.

    "Yeah, look Great Granddad, can you actually help because ..."

    "Help?" exclaimed the old man as if he'd been asked for a stoat.

    "Yeah, help, and like, now, because otherwise ..."

    "Help!" repeated the old man as if he'd been asked for a lightly grilled
    stoat in a bun with French fries. He stood amazed.


    "You go swanning your way round the Galaxy with your ..." the ancestor
    waved a contemptuous hand, "with your disreputable friends, too busy
    to put flowers on my grave, plastic ones would have done, would have
    been quite appropriate from you, but no. Too busy. Too modern. Too
    sceptical - till you suddenly find yourself in a bit of a fix and come over
    suddenly all astrally- minded!"

    He shook his head - carefully, so as not to disturb the slumber of the
    other one, which was already becoming restive.

    "Well, I don't know, young Zaphod," he continued, "I think I'll have to
    think about this one."

    "One minute ten," said Ford hollowly.

    Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth peered at him curiously.

    "Why does that man keep talking in numbers?" he said.

    "Those numbers," said Zaphod tersely, "are the time we've got left to
    live." "Oh," said his great grandfather. He grunted to himself. "Doesn't
    apply to me, of course," he said and moved off to a dimmer recess of the
    bridge in search of something else to poke around at.

    Zaphod felt he was teetering on the edge of madness and wondered if he
    shouldn't just jump over and have done with it.

    "Great Grandfather," he said, "It applies to us! We are still alive, and
    we are about to lose our lives."

    "Good job too."


    "What use is your life to anyone? When I think of what you've made of
    it the phrase `pig's ear' comes irresistibly to my mind."

    "But I was President of the Galaxy, man!"

    "Huh," muttered his ancestor, "And what kind of a job is that for a

    "Hey, what? Only President you know! Of the whole Galaxy!"

    "Conceited little megapuppy."

    Zaphod blinked in bewilderment.

    "Hey, er, what are you at, man? I mean Great Grandfather."

    The hunched up little figure stalked up to his great grandson and tapped
    him sternly on the knee. This had the effect of reminding Zaphod that
    he was talking to a ghost because he didn't feel a thing.

    "You know and I know what being President means, young Zaphod. You
    know because you've been it, and I know because I'm dead and it gives
    one such a wonderfully uncluttered perspective. We have a saying up
    here. `Life is wasted on the living.'"

    "Yeah," said Zaphod bitterly, "very good. Very deep. Right now I need
    aphorisms like I need holes in my heads."
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  10. #70

    "Fifty seconds," grunted Ford Prefect.

    "Where was I?" said Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth.

    "Pontificating," said Zaphod Beeblebrox.

    "Oh yes."

    "Can this guy," muttered Ford quietly to Zaphod, "actually in fact help

    "Nobody else can," whispered Zaphod.

    Ford nodded despondently. "Zaphod!" the ghost was saying, "you be-
    came President of the Galaxy for a reason. Have you forgotten?"

    "Could we go into this later?"

    "Have you forgotten!" insisted the ghost.

    "Yeah! Of course I forgot! I had to forget. They screen your brain when
    you get the job you know. If they'd found my head full of tricksy ideas I'd
    have been right out on the streets again with nothing but a fat pension,
    secretarial staff, a fleet of ships and a couple of slit throats."

    "Ah," nodded the ghost in satisfaction, "then you do remember!"

    He paused for a moment.

    "Good," he said and the noise stopped.

    "Forty-eight seconds," said Ford. He looked again at his watch and
    tapped it. He looked up.

    "Hey, the noise has stopped," he said.

    A mischievous twinkle gleamed in the ghost's hard little eyes.

    "I've slowed down time for a moment," he said, "just for a moment you
    understand. I would hate you to miss all I have to say."

    "No, you listen to me, you see-through old bat," said Zaphod leaping out
    of his chair, "A - thanks for stopping time and all that, great, terrific,
    wonderful, but B - no thanks for the homily, right? I don't know what
    this great think I'm meant to be doing is, and it looks to me as if I was
    supposed not to know. And I resent that, right?

    "The old me knew. The old me cared. Fine, so far so hoopy. Except that
    the old me cared so much that he actually got inside his own brain -
    my own brain - and locked off the bits that knew and cared, because if
    I knew and cared I wouldn't be able to do it. I wouldn't be able to go
    and be President, and I wouldn't be able to steal this ship, which must
    be the important thing.

    "But this former self of mine killed himself off, didn't he, by changing
    my brain? OK, that was his choice. This new me has its own choices to
    make, and by a strange coincidence those choices involve not knowing
    and not caring about this big number, whatever it is. That's what he
    wanted, that's what he got.


    "Except this old self of mine tried to leave himself in control, leaving
    orders for me in the bit of my brain he locked off. Well, I don't want to
    know, and I don't want to hear them. That's my choice. I'm not going
    to be anybody's puppet, particularly not my own."

    Zaphod banged the console in fury, oblivious to the dumbfolded looks
    he was attracting.

    "The old me is dead!" he raved, "Killed himself! The dead shouldn't
    hang about trying to interfere with the living!"

    "And yet you summon me up to help you out of a scrape," said the

    "Ah," said Zaphod, sitting down again, "well that's different isn't it?"

    He grinned at Trillian, weakly.

    "Zaphod," rasped the apparition, "I think the only reason I waste my
    breath on you is that being dead I don't have any other use for it."

    "OK," said Zaphod, "why don't you tell me what the big secret is. Try

    "Zaphod, you knew when you were President of the Galaxy, as did
    Yooden Vranx before you, that the President is nothing. A cipher. Some-
    where in the shadows behind is another man, being, something, with
    ultimate power. That man, or being, or something, you must find - the
    man who controls this Galaxy, and - we suspect - others. Possibly the
    entire Universe."


    "Why?" exclaimed an astonished ghost, "Why? Look around you lad,
    does it look to you as if it's in very good hands?"

    "It's alright."

    The old ghost glowered at him.

    "I will not argue with you. You will simply take this ship, this Improb-
    ability Drive ship to where it is needed. You will do it. Don't think you
    can escape your purpose. The Improbability Field controls you, you are
    in its grip. What's this?"

    He was standing tapping at one of the terminals of Eddie the Shipboard
    Computer. Zaphod told him.

    "What's it doing?"

    "It is trying," said Zaphod with wonderful restraint, "to make tea."

    "Good," said his great grandfather, "I approve of that. Now Zaphod,
    "he said, turning and wagging a finger at him, "I don't know if you are
    really capable of succeeding in your job. I think you will not be able to
    avoid it. However, I am too long dead and too tired to care as much as
    I did. The principal reason I am helping you now is that I couldn't bear
    the thought of you and your modern friends slouching about up here.
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  11. #71

    "Yeah, thanks a bundle."

    "Oh, and Zaphod?"

    "Er, yeah?" "If you ever find you need help again, you know, if you're
    in trouble, need a hand out of a tight corner ..."


    "Please don't hesitate to get lost."

    Within the space of one second, a bolt of light flashed from the wizened
    old ghost's hands to the computer, the ghost vanished, the bridge filled
    with billowing smoke and the Heart of Gold leapt an unknown distance
    through the dimensions of time and space.

    Ten light years away, Gag Halfrunt jacked up his smile by several notches.
    As he watched the picture on his vision screen, relayed across the sub-
    ether from the bridge of the Vogon ship, he saw the final shreds of the
    Heart of Gold's force-shield ripped away, and the ship itself vanish in a
    puff of smoke.

    Good, he thought.

    The end of the last stray survivors of the demolition he had ordered on
    the planet Earth, he thought.

    The final end of this dangerous (to the psychiatric profession) and sub-
    versive (also to the psychiatric profession) experiment to find the Ques-
    tion to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, he

    There would be some celebration with his fellows tonight, and in the
    morning they would meet again their unhappy, bewildered and highly
    profitable patients, secure in the knowledge that the Meaning of Life
    would not now be, once and for all, well and truly sorted out, he thought.

    "Family's always embarrassing isn't it?" said Ford to Zaphod as the
    smoke began to clear.

    He paused, then looked about.

    "Where's Zaphod?" he said.

    Arthur and Trillian looked about blankly. They were pale and shaken
    and didn't know where Zaphod was.

    "Marvin?" said Ford, "Where's Zaphod?"

    A moment later he said:

    "Where's Marvin?"

    The robot's corner was empty.


    The ship was utterly silent. It lay in thick black space. Occasionally it
    rocked and swayed. Every instrument was dead, every vision screen was
    dead. They consulted the computer. It said:

    "I regret that I have been temporarily closed to all communication.
    Meanwhile, here is some light music."

    They turned off the light music.

    They searched every corner of the ship in increasing bewilderment and
    alarm. Everywhere was dead and silent. Nowhere was there any trace of
    Zaphod or of Marvin.

    One of the last areas they checked was the small bay in which the Nutri-
    Matic machine was located.

    On the delivery plate of the Nutri-Matic Drink Synthesizer was a small
    tray, on which sat three bone china cups and saucers, a bone china jug
    of milk, a silver teapot full of the best tea Arthur had ever tasted, and
    a small printed note saying "Wait".

    Ursa Minor Beta is, some say, one of the most appalling places in the
    known Universe.

    Although it is excruciatingly rich, horrifyingly sunny and more full of
    wonderfully exciting people than a pomegranate is of pips, it can hardly
    be insignificant that when a recent edition of Playbeing magazine head-
    lined an article with the words "When you are tired of Ursa Minor Beta
    you are tired of life", the suicide rate quadrupled overnight.

    Not that there are any nights on Ursa Minor Beta.

    It is a West Zone planet which by an inexplicable and somewhat suspi-
    cious freak of topography consists almost entirely of sub- tropical coast-
    line. By an equally su****ious freak of temporal relastatics, it is nearly
    always Saturday afternoon just before the beach bars close.

    No adequate explanation for this has been forthcoming from the dom-
    inant lifeforms on Ursa Minor Beta, who spend most of their time at-
    tempting to achieve spiritual enlightenment by running round swim-
    ming pools, and inviting Investigation Officials form the Galactic Geo-
    Temporal Control Board to "have a nice diurnal anomaly".

    There is only one city on Ursa Minor Beta, and that is only called a city
    because the swimming pools are slightly thicker on the ground there
    than elsewhere.

    If you approach Light City by air - and there is no other way of ap-
    proaching it, no roads, no port facilities - if you don't fly they don't
    want to see you in Light City - you will see why it has this name. Here
    the sun shines brightest of all, glittering on the swimming pools, shim-
    mering on the white, palm-lined boulevards, glistening on the healthy
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  12. #72

    bronzed specks moving up and down them, gleaming off the villas, the
    hazy airpads, the beach bars and so on.

    Most particularly it shines on a building, a tall beautiful building con-
    sisting of two thirty-storey white towers connected by a bridge half-way
    up their length.

    The building is the home of a book, and was built here on the proceeds
    of an extraordinary copyright law suit fought between the book's editors
    and a breakfast cereal company.

    The book is a guide book, a travel book.

    It is one of the most remarkable, certainly the most successful, books ever
    to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor - more
    popular than Life Begins at Five Hundred and Fifty, better selling than
    The Big Bang Theory - A Personal View by Eccentrica Gallumbits (the
    triple breasted whore of Eroticon Six) and more controversial than Oolon
    Colluphid's latest blockbusting title Everything You Never Wanted To
    Know About Sex But Have Been Forced To Find Out.

    (And in many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim
    of the Galaxy, it has long surplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica
    as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it
    has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least
    wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older and more pedestrian work in
    two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper, and secondly it has
    the words Don't Panic printed in large friendly letters on its cover.)

    It is of course that invaluable companion for all those who want to see
    the marvels of the known Universe for less than thirty Altairan Dollars
    a day - The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    If you stood with your back to the main entrance lobby of the Guide
    offices (assuming you had landed by now and freshened up with a quick
    dip and shower) and then walked east, you would pass along the leafy
    shade of Life Boulevard, be amazed by the pale golden colour of the
    beaches stretching away to your left, astounded by the mind-surfers
    floating carelessly along two feet above the waves as if it was nothing
    special, surprised and eventually slightly irritated by the giant palm
    trees that hum toneless nothings throughout the daylight hours, in other
    words continuously.

    If you then walked to the end of Life Boulevard you would enter the
    Lalamatine district of shops, bolonut trees and pavement cafes where
    the UM-Betans come to relax after a hard afternoon's relaxation on
    the beach. The Lalamatine district is one of those very few areas which
    doesn't enjoy a perpetual Saturday afternoon - it enjoys instead the cool
    of a perpetual early Saturday evening. Behind it lie the night clubs.

    If, on this particular day, afternoon, stretch of eveningtime - call it what
    you will - you had approached the second pavement cafe on the right
    you would have seen the usual crowd of UM- Betans chatting, drinking,
    looking very relaxed, and casually glancing at each other's watches to


    see how expensive they were. You would also have seen a couple of rather
    dishevelled looking hitch-hikers from Algol who had recently arrived on
    an Arcturan Megafreighter aboard which they had been roughing it for a
    few days. They were angry and bewildered to discover that here, within
    sight of the Hitch Hiker's Guide building itself, a simple glass of fruit
    juice cost the equivalent of over sixty Altairan dollars.

    "Sell out," one of them said, bitterly.

    If at that moment you had then looked at the next table but one you
    would have seen Zaphod Beeblebrox sitting and looking very startled
    and confused.

    The reason for his confusion was that five seconds earlier he had been
    sitting on the bridge of the starship Heart of Gold.

    "Absolute sell out," said the voice again.

    Zaphod looked nervously out of the corners of his eyes at the two dishev-
    elled hitch-hikers at the next table. Where the hell was he? How had he
    got there? Where was his ship? His hand felt the arm of the chair on
    which he was sitting, and then the table in front of him. They seemed
    solid enough. He sat very still.

    "How can they sit and write a guide for hitch-hikers in a place like this?"
    continued the voice. "I mean look at it. Look at it!"

    Zaphod was looking at it. Nice place, he thought. But where? And why?

    He fished in his pocket for his two pairs of sunglasses. In the same
    pocket he felt a hard smooth, unidentified lump of very heavy metal.
    He pulled it out and looked at it. He blinked at it in surprise. Where
    had he got that? He returned it to his pocket and put on the sunglasses,
    annoyed to discover that the metal object had scratched one of the
    lenses. Nevertheless, he felt much more comfortable with them on. They
    were a double pair of Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive
    Sunglasses, which had been specially designed to help people develop a
    relaxed attitude to danger. At the first hint of trouble they turn totally
    black and thus prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you.

    Apart from the scratch the lenses were clear. He relaxed, but only a little

    The angry hitch-hiker continued to glare at his monstrously expensive
    fruit juice.

    "Worst thing that ever happened to the Guide, moving to Ursa Minor
    Beta," he grumbled, "they've all gone soft. You know, I've even heard
    that they've created a whole electronically synthesized Universe in one
    of their offices so they can go and research stories during the day and
    still go to parties in the evening. Not that day and evening mean much
    in this place."

    Ursa Minor Beta, thought Zaphod. At least he knew where he was now.
    He assumed that this must be his great grandfather's doing, but why?
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  13. #73

    Much to his annoyance, a thought popped into his mind. It was very clear
    and very distinct, and he had now come to recognize these thoughts for
    what they were. His instinct was to resist them. They were the pre-
    ordained promptings from the dark and locked off parts of his mind.

    He sat still and ignored the thought furiously. It nagged at him. He
    ignored it. It nagged at him. He ignored it. It nagged at him. He gave
    in to it.

    What the hell, he thought, go with the flow. He was too tired, confused
    and hungry to resist. He didn't even know what the thought meant.


    "Hello? Yes? Megadodo Publications, home of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to
    the Galaxy, the most totally remarkable book in the whole of the known
    Universe, can I help you?" said the large pink-winged insect into one of
    the seventy phones lined up along the vast chrome expanse of the recep-
    tion desk in the foyer of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy offices. It
    fluttered its wings and rolled its eyes. It glared at all the grubby people
    cluttering up the foyer, soiling the carpets and leaving dirty handmarks
    on the upholstery. It adored working for the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the
    Galaxy, it just wished there was some way of keeping all the hitch-hikers
    away. Weren't they meant to be hanging round dirty spaceports or some-
    thing? It was certain that it had read something somewhere in the book
    about the importance of hanging round dirty spaceports. Unfortunately
    most of them seemed to come and hang around in this nice clean shiny
    foyer after hanging around in extremely dirty spaceports. And all they
    ever did was complain. It shivered its wings.

    "What?" it said into the phone. "Yes, I passed on your message to Mr
    Zarniwoop, but I'm afraid he's too cool to see you right now. He's on an
    intergalactic cruise."

    It waved a petulant tentacle at one of the grubby people who was angrily
    trying to engage its attention. The petulant tentacle directed the angry
    person to look at the notice on the wall to its left and not to interrupt
    an important phone call.

    "Yes," said the insect, "he is in his office, but he's on an intergalactic
    cruise. Thank you so much for calling." It slammed down the phone.

    "Read the notice," it said to the angry man who was trying to complain
    about one of the more ludicrous and dangerous pieces of misinformation
    contained in the book.

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to
    all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and
    confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative
    on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where
    it is inaccurate it is at least definitely inaccurate. In cases of major
    discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong.


    This was the gist of the notice. It said "The Guide is definitive. Reality
    is frequently inaccurate."

    This has led to some interesting consequences. For instance, when the
    Editors of the Guide were sued by the families of those who had died as a
    result of taking the entry on the planet Traal literally (it said "Ravenous
    Bugblatter beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists"
    instead of "Ravenous Bugblatter beasts often make a very good meal of
    visiting tourists") they claimed that the first version of the sentence was
    the more aesthetically pleasing, summoned a qualified poet to testify
    under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty and hoped thereby to
    prove that the guilty party was Life itself for failing to be either beautiful
    or true. The judges concurred, and in a moving speech held that Life
    itself was in contempt of court, and duly confiscated it from all those
    there present before going off to enjoy a pleasant evening's ultragolf.

    Zaphod Beeblebrox entered the foyer. He strode up to the insect recep-

    "OK," he said, "Where's Zarniwoop? Get me Zarniwoop."

    "Excuse me, sir?" said the insect icily. It did not care to be addressed
    in this manner.

    "Zarniwoop. Get him, right? Get him now."

    "Well, sir," snapped the fragile little creature, "if you could be a little
    cool about it ..."

    "Look," said Zaphod, "I'm up to here with cool, OK? I'm so amazingly
    cool you could keep a side of meat inside me for a month. I am so hip
    I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis. Now will you move before you
    blow it?"

    "Well, if you'd let me explain, sir," said the insect tapping the most
    petulant of all the tentacles at its disposal, "I'm afraid that isn't possible
    right now as Mr Zarniwoop is on an intergalactic cruise."

    Hell, thought Zaphod.

    "When he's going to be back?" he said.

    "Back sir? He's in his office."

    Zaphod paused while he tried to sort this particular thought out in his
    mind. He didn't succeed.

    "This cat's on an intergalactic cruise ... in his office?" He leaned forward
    and gripped the tapping tentacle.

    "Listen, three eyes," he said, "don't you try to outweird me. I get
    stranger things than you free with my breakfast cereal." "Well, just who
    do you think you are, honey?" flounced the insect quivering its wings in
    rage, "Zaphod Beeblebrox or something?"

    "Count the heads," said Zaphod in a low rasp.

    The insect blinked at him. It blinked at him again.
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  14. #74

    "You are Zaphod Beeblebrox?" it squeaked.

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, "but don't shout it out or they'll all want one."

    "The Zaphod Beeblebrox?"

    "No, just a Zaphod Beeblebrox, didn't you hear I come in six packs?"

    The insect rattled its tentacles together in agitation.

    "But sir," it squealed, "I just heard on the sub-ether radio report. It
    said that you were dead ..."

    "Yeah, that's right," said Zaphod, "I just haven't stopped moving yet.
    Now. Where do I find Zarniwoop?"

    "Well, sir, his office is on the fifteenth floor, but ..."

    "But he's on an intergalactic cruise, yeah, yeah, how do I get to him."

    "The newly installed Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Vertical People
    Transporters are in the far corner sir. But sir ..."

    Zaphod was turning to go. He turned back.

    "Yeah?" he said.

    "Can I ask you why you want to see Mr Zarniwoop?"

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, who was unclear on this point himself, "I told
    myself I had to."

    "Come again sir?"

    Zaphod leaned forward, conspirationally.

    "I just materialized out of thin air in one of your cafes," he said, "as a
    result of an argument with the ghost of my great grandfather. No sooner
    had I got there that my former self, the one that operated on my brain,
    popped into my head and said `Go see Zarniwoop'. I have never heard
    of the cat. That is all I know. That and the fact that I've got to find the
    man who rules the Universe."

    He winked.

    "Mr Beeblebrox, sir," said the insect in awed wonder, "you're so weird
    you should be in movies." "Yeah," said Zaphod patting the thing on a
    glittering pink wing, "and you, baby, should be in real life."

    The insect paused for a moment to recover from its agitation and then
    reached out a tentacle to answer a ringing phone.

    A metal hand restrained it.

    "Excuse me," said the owner of the metal hand in a voice that would
    have made an insect of a more sentimental disposition collapse in tears.

    This was not such an insect, and it couldn't stand robots.

    "Yes, sir," it snapped, "can I help you?"

    "I doubt it," said Marvin.


    "Well in that case, if you'll just excuse me ..." Six of the phones were
    now ringing. A million things awaited the insect's attention.

    "No one can help me," intoned Marvin.

    "Yes, sir, well ..."

    "Not that anyone tried of course." The restraining metal hand fell limply
    by Marvin's side. His head hung forward very slightly.

    "Is that so," said the insect tartly.

    "Hardly worth anyone's while to help a menial robot is it?"

    "I'm sorry, sir, if ..."

    "I mean where's the percentage in being kind or helpful to a robot if it
    doesn't have any gratitude circuits?"

    "And you don't have any?" said the insect, who didn't seem to be able
    to drag itself out of this conversation.

    "I've never had occasion to find out," Marvin informed it.

    "Listen, you miserable heap of maladjusted metal ..."

    "Aren't you going to ask me what I want?"

    The insect paused. Its long thin tongue darted out and licked its eyes
    and darted back again.

    "Is it worth it?" it asked.

    "Is anything?" said Marvin immediately.

    "What ... do ... you ... want?"

    "I'm looking for someone." "Who?" hissed the insect.

    "Zaphod Beeblebrox," said Marvin, "he's over there."

    The insect shook with rage. It could hardly speak.

    "Then why did you ask me?" it screamed.

    "I just wanted something to talk to," said Marvin.


    "Pathetic isn't it?"

    With a grinding of gears Marvin turned and trundled off. He caught up
    with Zaphod approaching the elevators. Zaphod span round in astonish-

    "Hey ... Marvin!" he said, "Marvin! How did you get here?"

    Marvin was forced to say something which came very hard to him.

    "I don't know," he said.

    "But ..."

    "One moment I was sitting in your ship feeling very depressed, and the
    next moment I was standing here feeling utterly miserable. An Improb-
    ability Field I expect."
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  15. #75

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, "I expect my great grandfather sent you along to
    keep me company."

    "Thanks a bundle grandad," he added to himself under his breath.

    "So, how are you?" he said aloud.

    "Oh, fine," said Marvin, "if you happen to like being me which personally
    I don't."

    "Yeah, yeah," said Zaphod as the elevator doors opened.

    "Hello," said the elevator sweetly, "I am to be your elevator for this trip
    to the floor of your choice. I have been designed by the Sirius Cybernet-
    ics Corporation to take you, the visitor to the Hitch Hiker's Guide to
    the Galaxy, into these their offices. If you enjoy your ride, which will be
    swift and pleasurable, then you may care to experience some of the other
    elevators which have recently been installed in the offices of the Galac-
    tic tax department, Boobiloo Baby Foods and the Sirian State Mental
    Hospital, where many ex-Sirius Cybernetics Corporation executives will
    be delighted to welcome your visits, sympathy, and happy tales of the
    outside world."

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, stepping into it, "what else do you do besides

    "I go up," said the elevator, "or down." "Good," said Zaphod, "We're
    going up."

    "Or down," the elevator reminded him.

    "Yeah, OK, up please."

    There was a moment of silence.

    "Down's very nice," suggested the elevator hopefully.

    "Oh yeah?"


    "Good," said Zaphod, "Now will you take us up?"

    "May I ask you," inquired the elevator in its sweetest, most reasonable
    voice, "if you've considered all the possibilities that down might offer

    Zaphod knocked one of his heads against the inside wall. He didn't need
    this, he thought to himself, this of all things he had no need of. He hadn't
    asked to be here. If he was asked at this moment where he would like to
    be he would probably have said he would like to be lying on the beach
    with at least fifty beautiful women and a small team of experts working
    out new ways they could be nice to him, which was his usual reply. To
    this he would probably have added something passionate on the subject
    of food.

    One thing he didn't want to be doing was chasing after the man who
    ruled the Universe, who was only doing a job which he might as well
    keep at, because if it wasn't him it would only be someone else. Most


    of all he didn't want to be standing in an office block arguing with an

    "Like what other possibilities?" he asked wearily.

    "Well," the voice trickled on like honey on biscuits, "there's the base-
    ment, the microfiles, the heating system ... er ..."

    It paused.

    "Nothing particularly exciting," it admitted, "but they are alternatives."

    "Holy Zarquon," muttered Zaphod, "did I ask for an existentialist ele-
    vator?" he beat his fists against the wall.

    "What's the matter with the thing?" he spat.

    "It doesn't want to go up," said Marvin simply, "I think it's afraid."

    "Afraid?" cried Zaphod, "Of what? Heights? An elevator that's afraid
    of heights?"

    "No," said the elevator miserably, "of the future ..." "The future?"
    exclaimed Zaphod, "What does the wretched thing want, a pension

    At that moment a commotion broke out in the reception hall behind
    them. From the walls around them came the sound of suddenly active

    "We can all see into the future," whispered the elevator in what sounded
    like terror, "it's part of our programming."

    Zaphod looked out of the elevator - an agitated crowd had gathered
    round the elevator area, pointing and shouting.

    Every elevator in the building was coming down, very fast.

    He ducked back in.

    "Marvin," he said, "just get this elevator go up will you? We've got to
    get to Zarniwoop."

    "Why?" asked Marvin dolefully.

    "I don't know," said Zaphod, "but when I find him, he'd better have a
    very good reason for me wanting to see him."

    Modern elevators are strange and complex entities. The ancient electric
    winch and "maximum-capacity-eight-persons" jobs bear as much rela-
    tion to a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy Vertical People Trans-
    porter as a packet of mixed nuts does to the entire west wing of the
    Sirian State Mental Hospital.

    This is because they operate on the curios principle of "defocused tem-
    poral perception". In other words they have the capacity to see dimly
    into the immediate future, which enables the elevator to be on the right
    floor to pick you up even before you knew you wanted it, thus eliminat-
    ing all the tedious chatting, relaxing, and making friends that people
    were previously forced to do whist waiting for elevators.
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  16. #76

    Not unnaturally, many elevators imbued with intelligence and precogni-
    tion became terribly frustrated with the mindless business of going up
    and down, up and down, experimented briefly with the notion of go-
    ing sideways, as a sort of existential protest, demanded participation in
    the decision-making process and finally took to squatting in basements

    An impoverished hitch-hiker visiting any planets in the Sirius star system
    these days can pick up easy money working as a counsellor for neurotic

    At the fifteenth floor the elevator doors opened quickly.

    "Fifteenth," said the elevator, "and remember, I'm only doing this be-
    cause I like your robot."

    Zaphod and Marvin bundled out of the elevator which instantly snapped
    its doors shut and dropped as fast as its mechanism would take it. Za-
    phod looked around warily. The corridor was deserted and silent and
    gave no clue as to where Zarniwoop might be found. All the doors that
    led off the corridor were closed and unmarked.

    They were standing close to the bridge which led across from one tower
    of the building to the other. Through a large window the brilliant sun
    of Ursa Minor Beta threw blocks of light in which danced small specks
    of dust. A shadow flitted past momentarily.

    "Left in the lurch by a lift," muttered Zaphod, who was feeling at his
    least jaunty.

    They both stood and looked in both directions.

    "You know something?" said Zaphod to Marvin.

    "More that you can possibly imagine."

    "I'm dead certain this building shouldn't be shaking," Zaphod said.

    It was just a light tremor through the soles of his feet - and another one.
    In the sunbeams the flecks of dust danced more vigorously. Another
    shadow flitted past.

    Zaphod looked at the floor.

    "Either," he said, not very confidently, "they've got some vibro system
    for toning up your muscles while you work, or ..."

    He walked across to the window and suddenly stumbled because at that
    moment his Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive sunglasses
    had turned utterly black. A large shadow flitted past the window with
    a sharp buzz.

    Zaphod ripped off his sunglasses, and as he did so the building shook
    with a thunderous roar. He leapt to the window.

    "Or," he said, "this building's being bombed!"

    Another roar cracked through the building.


    "Who in the Galaxy would want to bomb a publishing company?" asked
    Zaphod, but never heard Marvin's reply because at that moment the
    building shook with another bomb attack. He tried to stagger back to
    the elevator - a pointless manoeuvre he realized, but the only one he
    could think of.

    Suddenly, at the end of the corridor leading at right angles from this
    one, he caught sight of a figure as it lunged into view, a man. The man
    saw him.

    "Beeblebrox, over here!" he shouted.

    Zaphod eyed him with distrust as another bomb blast rocked the build-

    "No," called Zaphod, "Beeblebrox over here! Who are you?" "A friend!"
    shouted back the man. He ran towards Zaphod.

    "Oh yeah?" said Zaphod, "Anyone's friend in particular, or just generally
    well disposed of people?"

    The man raced along the corridor, the floor bucking beneath his feet
    like an excited blanket. He was short, stocky and weatherbeaten and his
    clothes looked as if they'd been twice round the Galaxy and back with
    him in them.

    "Do you know," Zaphod shouted in his ear when he arrived, "your build-
    ing's being bombed?"

    The man indicated his awareness.

    It suddenly stopped being light. Glancing round at the window to see
    why, Zaphod gaped as a huge sluglike, gunmetal-green spacecraft crept
    through the air past the building. Two more followed it.

    "The government you deserted is out to get you, Zaphod," hissed the
    man, "they've sent a squadron of Frogstar Fighters."

    "Frogstar Fighters!" muttered Zaphod, "Zarquon!"

    "You get the picture?"

    "What are Frogstar Fighters?" Zaphod was sure he'd heard someone talk
    about them when he was President, but he never paid much attention
    to official matters.

    The man was pulling him back through a door. He went with him. With
    a searing whine a small black spider-like object shot through the air and
    disappeared down the corridor.

    "What was that?" hissed Zaphod.

    "Frogstar Scout robot class A out looking for you," said the man.

    "Hey yeah?"

    "Get down!"

    From the opposite direction came a larger black spider-like object. It
    zapped past them.
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  17. #77

    "And that was ...?"

    "A Frogstar Scout robot class B out looking for you."

    "And that?" said Zaphod, as a third one seared through the air.

    "A Frogstar Scout robot class C out looking for you."

    "Hey," chuckled Zaphod to himself, "pretty stupid robots eh?"

    From over the bridge came a massive rumbling hum. A gigantic black
    shape was moving over it from the opposite tower, the size and shape of
    a tank.

    "Holy photon, what's that?"

    "A tank," said the man, "Frogstar Scout robot class D come to get you."

    "Should we leave?"

    "I think we should."

    "Marvin!" called Zaphod.

    "What do you want?"

    Marvin rose from a pile of rubble further down the corridor and looked
    at them.

    "You see that robot coming towards us?"

    Marvin looked at the gigantic black shape edging forward towards them
    over the bridge. He looked down at his own small metal body. He looked
    back up at the tank.

    "I suppose you want me to stop it," he said.


    "Whilst you save your skins."

    "Yeah," said Zaphod, "get in there!"

    "Just so long," said Marvin, "as I know where I stand."

    The man tugged at Zaphod's arm, and Zaphod followed him off down
    the corridor.

    A point occurred to him about this.

    "Where are we going?" he said.

    "Zarniwoop's office."

    "Is this any time to keep an appointment?"

    "Come on."

    Marvin stood at the end of the bridge corridor. He was not in fact a
    particularly small robot. His silver body gleamed in the dusty sunbeams


    and shook with the continual barrage which the building was still un-

    He did, however, look pitifully small as the gigantic black tank rolled to
    a halt in front of him. The tank examined him with a probe. The probe
    withdrew. Marvin stood there.

    "Out of my way little robot," growled the tank.

    "I'm afraid," said Marvin, "that I've been left here to stop you."

    The probe extended again for a quick recheck. It withdrew again.

    "You? Stop me?" roared the tank. "Go on!"

    "No, really I have," said Marvin simply.

    "What are you armed with?" roared the tank in disbelief.

    "Guess," said Marvin.

    The tank's engines rumbled, its gears ground. Molecule-sized electronic
    relays deep in its micro-brain flipped backwards and forwards in con-

    "Guess?" said the tank.

    Zaphod and the as yet unnamed man lurched up one corridor, down a
    second and along a third. The building continued to rock and judder
    and this puzzled Zaphod. If they wanted to blow the building up, why
    was it taking so long?

    With difficulty they reached one of a number of totally anonymous un-
    marked doors and heaved at it. With a sudden jolt it opened and they
    fell inside.

    All this way, thought Zaphod, all this trouble, all this not- lying-on-the-
    beach-having-a-wonderful-time, and for what? A single chair, a single
    desk and a single dirty ashtray in an undecorated office. The desk, apart
    from a bit of dancing dust and single, revolutionary form of paper clip,
    was empty.

    "Where," said Zaphod, "is Zarniwoop?" feeling that his already tenuous
    grasp of the point of this whole exercise was beginning to slip.

    "He's on an intergalactic cruise," said the man.

    Zaphod tried to size the man up. Earnest type, he thought, not a barrel
    of laughs. He probably apportioned a fair whack of his time to running
    up and down heaving corridors, breaking down doors and making cryptic
    remarks in empty offices.

    "Let me introduce myself," the man said, "My name is Roosta, and this
    is my towel."

    "Hello Roosta," said Zaphod.

    "Hello, towel," he added as Roosta held out to him a rather nasty old
    flowery towel. Not knowing what to do with it, he shook it by the corner.
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  18. #78

    Outside the window, one of the huge slug-like, gunmetal-green spaceships
    growled past.

    "Yes, go on," said Marvin to the huge battle machine, "you'll never

    "Errmmm ..." said the machine, vibrating with unaccustomed thought,
    "laser beams?"

    Marvin shook his head solemnly.

    "No," muttered the machine in its deep guttural rumble, "Too obvious.
    Anti-matter ray?" it hazarded.

    "Far too obvious," admonished Marvin.

    "Yes," grumbled the machine, somewhat abashed, "Er ... how about an
    electron ram?"

    This was new to Marvin.

    "What's that?" he said.

    "One of these," said the machine with enthusiasm.

    From its turret emerged a sharp prong which spat a single lethal blaze
    of light. Behind Marvin a wall roared and collapsed as a heap of dust.
    The dust billowed briefly, then settled.

    "No," said Marvin, "not one of those."

    "Good though, isn't it?"

    "Very good," agreed Marvin.

    "I know," said the Frogstar battle machine, after another moment's
    consideration, "you must have one of those new Xanthic Re-Structron
    Destabilized Zenon Emitters!"

    "Nice, aren't they?" said Marvin.

    "That's what you've got?" said the machine in considerable awe.

    "No," said Marvin.

    "Oh," said the machine, disappointed, "then it must be ..."

    "You're thinking along the wrong lines," said Marvin, "You're failing to
    take into account something fairly basic in the relationship between men
    and robots."

    "Er, I know," said the battle machine, "is it ..." it tailed off into thought

    "Just think," urged Marvin, "they left me, an ordinary, menial robot,
    to stop you, a gigantic heavy-duty battle machine, whilst they ran off
    to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me with?"

    "Oooh, er," muttered the machine in alarm, "something pretty damn
    devastating I should expect."

    "Expect!" said Marvin, "oh yes, expect. I'll tell you what they gave me
    to protect myself with shall I@"


    "Yes, alright," said the battle machine, bracing itself.

    "Nothing," said Marvin.

    There was a dangerous pause.

    "Nothing?" roared the battle machine.

    "Nothing at all," intoned Marvin dismally, "not an electronic sausage."

    The machine heaved about with fury.

    "Well, doesn't that just take the biscuit!" it roared, "Nothing, eh? Just
    don't think, do they?"

    "And me," said Marvin in a soft low voice, "with this terrible pain in
    all the diodes down my left side."

    "Makes you spit, doesn't it?"

    "Yes," agreed Marvin with feeling.

    "Hell that makes me angry," bellowed the machine, "think I'll smash
    that wall down!"

    The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took
    out the wall next to the machine.

    "How do you think I feel?" said Marvin bitterly.

    "Just ran off and left you, did they?" the machine thundered.

    "Yes," said Marvin.

    "I think I'll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!" raged the tank.

    It took out the ceiling of the bridge.

    "That's very impressive," murmured Marvin.

    "You ain't seeing nothing yet," promised the machine, "I can take out
    this floor too, no trouble!"

    It took out the floor, too.

    "Hell's bells!" the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and
    smashed itself to bits on the ground below.

    "What a depressingly stupid machine," said Marvin and trudged away.

    "So, do we just sit here, or what?" said Zaphod angrily, "what do these
    guys out here want?"

    "You, Beeblebrox," said Roosta, "they're going to take you to the Frogstar
    - the most totally evil world in the Galaxy."

    "Oh, yeah?" said Zaphod. "They'll have to come and get me first."

    "They have come and got you," said Roosta, "look out of the window."

    Zaphod looked, and gaped.
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  19. #79

    "The ground's going away!" he gasped, "where are they taking the

    "They're taking the building," said Roosta, "we're airborne."

    Clouds streaked past the office window.

    Out in the open air again Zaphod could see the ring of dark green
    Frogstar Fighters round the uprooted tower of the building. A network
    of force beams radiated in from them and held the tower in a firm grip.

    Zaphod shook his head in perplexity.

    "What have I done to deserve this?" he said, "I walk into a building,
    they take it away."

    "It's not what you've done they're worried about," said Roosta, "it's
    what you're going to do."

    "Well don't I get a say in that?"

    "You did, years ago. You'd better hold on, we're in for a fast and bumpy

    "If I ever meet myself," said Zaphod, "I'll hit myself so hard I won't
    know what's hit me."

    Marvin trudged in through the door, looked at Zaphod accusingly, slumped
    in a corner and switched himself off.

    On the bridge of the Heart of Gold, all was silent. Arthur stared at the
    rack in front of him and thought. He caught Trillian's eyes as she looked
    at him inquiringly. He looked back at the rack.

    Finally he saw it.

    He picked up five small plastic squares and laid them on the board that
    lay just in front of the rack.

    The five squares had on them the five letters E, X, Q, U and I. He laid
    them next to the letters S, I, T, E. "Exquisite," he said, "on a triple
    word score. Scores rather a lot I'm afraid."

    The ship bumped and scattered some of the letters for the 'n'th time.

    Trillian sighed and started to sort them out again.

    Up and down the silent corridors echoed Ford Prefect's feet as he stalked
    the ship thumping dead instruments.

    Why did the ship keep shaking? he thought.

    Why did it rock and sway?

    Why could he not find out where they were?

    Where, basically, were they?

    The left-hand tower of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy offices
    streaked through interstellar space at a speed never equalled either be-
    fore or since by any other office block in the Universe.

    In a room halfway up it, Zaphod Beeblebrox strode angrily.


    Roosta sat on the edge of the desk doing some routine towel mainte-

    "Hey, where did you say this building was flying to?" demanded Zaphod.

    "The Frogstar," said Roosta, "the most totally evil place in the Uni-

    "Do they have food there?" said Zaphod.

    "Food? You're going to the Frogstar and you're worried about whether
    they got food?"

    "Without food I may not make it to the Frogstar."

    Out of the window, they could see nothing but the flickering light of
    the force beams, and vague green streaks which were presumably the
    distorted shapes of the Frogstar Fighters. At this speed, space itself was
    invisible, and indeed unreal.

    "Here, suck this," said Roosta, offering Zaphod his towel.

    Zaphod stared at him as if he expected a cuckoo to leap out of his
    forehead on a small spring.

    "It's soaked in nutrients," explained Roosta.

    "What are you, a messy eater or something?" said Zaphod.

    "The yellow stripes are high in protein, the green ones have vitamin B
    and C complexes, the little pink flowers contain wheatgerm extracts."
    Zaphod took and looked at it in amazement.

    "What are the brown stains?" he asked.

    "Bar-B-Q sauce," said Roosta, "for when I get sick of wheatgerm."

    Zaphod sniffed it doubtfully.

    Even more doubtfully, he sucked a corner. He spat it out again.

    "Ugh," he stated.

    "Yes," said Roosta, "when I've had to suck that end I usually need to
    suck the other end a bit too."

    "Why," asked Zaphod su****iously, "what's in that?"

    "Anti-depressants," said Roosta.

    "I've gone right off this towel, you know," said Zaphod handing it back.

    Roosta took it back from him, swung himself off the desk, walked round
    it, sat in the chair and put his feet up.

    "Beeblebrox," he said, sticking his hands behind his head, "have you
    any idea what's going to happen to you on the Frogstar?"

    "They're going to feed me?" hazarded Zaphod hopefully.

    "They're going to feed you," said Roosta, "into the Total Perspective
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  20. #80

    Zaphod had never heard of this. He believed that he had heard of all
    the fun things in the Galaxy, so he assumed that the Total Perspective
    Vortex was not fun. He asked what it was.

    "Only," said Roosta, "the most savage psychic torture a sentinent being
    can undergo."

    Zaphod nodded a resigned nod.

    "So," he said, "no food, huh?"

    "Listen!" said Roosta urgently, "you can kill a man, destroy his body,
    break his spirit, but only the Total Perspective Vortex can annihilate a
    man's soul! The treatment lasts seconds, but the effect lasts the rest of
    your life!"

    "You ever had a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster?" asked Zaphod sharply.

    "This is worse."

    "Phreeow!" admitted Zaphod, much impressed.

    "Any idea why these guys might want to do this to me?" he added a
    moment later. "They believe it will be the best way of destroying you
    for ever. They know what you're after."

    "Could they drop me a note and let me know as well?"

    "You know," said Roosta, "you know, Beeblebrox. You want to meet
    the man who rules the Universe."

    "Can he cook?" said Zaphod. On reflection he added:

    "I doubt if he can. If he could cook a good meal he wouldn't worry about
    the rest of the Universe. I want to meet a cook."

    Roosta sighed heavily.

    "What are you doing here anyway?" demanded Zaphod, "what's all this
    got to so with you?"

    "I'm just one of those who planned this thing, along with Zarniwoop,
    along with Yooden Vranx, along with your great grandfather, along with
    you, Beeblebrox."


    "Yes, you. I was told you had changed, I didn't realize how much."

    "But ..."

    "I am here to do one job. I will do it before I leave you."

    "What job, man, what are you talking about?"

    "I will do it before I leave you."

    Roosta lapsed into an impenetrable silence.

    Zaphod was terribly glad.


    The air around the second planet of the Frogstar system was stale and

    The dank winds that swept continually over its surface swept over salt
    flats, dried up marshland, tangled and rotting vegetation and the crum-
    bling remains of ruined cities. No life moved across its surface. The
    ground, like that of many planets in this part of the Galaxy, had long
    been deserted.

    The howl of the wind was desolate enough as it gusted through the old
    decaying houses of the cities; it was more desolate as it whipped about
    the bottoms of the tall black towers that swayed uneasily here and there
    about the surface of this world. At the top of these towers lived colonies
    of large, scraggy, evil smelling birds, the sole survivors of the civilization
    that once lived here. The howl of the wind was at its most desolate,
    however, when it passed over a pimple of a place set in the middle of a
    wide grey plain on the outskirts of the largest of the abandoned cities.

    This pimple of a place was the thing that had earned this world the rep-
    utation of being the most totally evil place in the Galaxy. From without
    it was simply a steel dome about thirty feet across. From within it was
    something more monstrous than the mind can comprehend.

    About a hundred yards or so away, and separated from it by a pock-
    marked and blasted stretch of the most barren land imaginable was what
    would probably have to be described as a landing pad of sorts. That is
    to say that scattered over a largish area were the ungainly hulks of two
    or three dozen crash-landed buildings.

    Flitting over and around these buildings was a mind, a mind that was
    waiting for something.

    The mind directed its attention into the air, and before very long a
    distant speck appeared, surrounded by a ring of smaller specks.

    The larger speck was the left-hand tower of the Hitch Hiker's Guide
    to the Galaxy office building, descending through the stratosphere of
    Frogstar World B.

    As it descended, Roosta suddenly broke the long uncomfortable silence
    that had grown up between the two men.

    He stood up and gathered his towel into a bag. He said:

    "Beeblebrox, I will now do the job I was sent here to do."

    Zaphod looked up at him from where he was sitting in a corner sharing
    unspoken thoughts with Marvin.

    "Yeah?" he said.

    "The building will shortly be landing. When you leave the building, do
    not go out of the door," said Roosta, "go out of the window."
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