Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

      To Jaine 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

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

                               Chapter 1

    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
Universe, and Everything.
    For seven and  a  half  million  years,  Deep  Thought  computed  and
calculated, 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 sense.
    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.

                              Chapter 2

    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 spotted 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
Hyperspace Planning Council, and  he  was  it  who  had  had  the  job  of
demolishing 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
Improbability 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.
Zaphod 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
chink 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
professional 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
    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
Vogon, you know? The natural and healthy  channelling  of  the  aggressive
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 behaviour for a psychiatrist. Good. We are clearly both  very  well
adjusted in our mental attitudes today. Now tell  me,  what  news  of  the
    - 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.
    - Yes?
    - And Zaphod Beeblebrox.
    For an instant Halfrunt's smile flickered.
    - Ah yes, - he said,  -  I  had  been  expecting  this.  It  is  most
    - 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
    - But Beeblebrox, you know, - he  said,  -  he  is  one  of  my  most
profitable clients. He had  personality  problems  beyond  the  dreams  of
    He toyed with this thought a little before reluctantly dismissing it.
    - Still, - he said, - you are ready for your task?
    - Yes.
    - 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
    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
another cup of the sickly liquid.
    He threw it away.
    - Share and enjoy, - the  machine  repeated  and  provided  him  with
another one.
    "Share and Enjoy" is the  company  motto  of  the  hugely  successful
Sirius 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
    - 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 business.
     - 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.

                              Chapter 3

    - 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
surfaces 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!
    - 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 anywhere 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  important
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...
    - Yes?
    - 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
    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
    - 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
    - Will you stop counting! - snarled Zaphod.
    - Yes, - said Ford  Prefect,  -  in  three  minutes  and  thirty-five
    Aboard the Vogon ship, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz  was  puzzled.  He  had
expected a chase, he had expected an exciting grapple with tractor  beams,
he had  expected  to  have  to  use  the  specially  installed  Sub-Cyclic
Normality  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
inexplicably locked off prior to becoming President of the Galaxy.
    - You want to talk to your great grandfather? - boggled Ford.
    - Yeah.
    - Does it have to be now?
    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
    - Yeah! - insisted Zaphod. - Listen Ford, I think he may be  able  to
help us.
    - 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.
    - What?
    - Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth. Concentrate!
    - The Fourth?
    - Yeah.   Listen,  I'm  Zaphod  Beeblebrox,  my  father  was   Zaphod
Beeblebrox the Second, my grandfather Zaphod Beeblebrox the Third...
    - What?
    - 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
    - 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.
Zaphod 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.
    - 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
Beeblebrox 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
exaggeration, 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
    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 astrallyminded!
    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?
    - 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 Beeblebrox?
    - 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.
    - 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 us?
    - Nobody else can, - whispered Zaphod.
    Ford nodded despondently.
    - Zaphod! - the ghost was saying,  -  you  became  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 me.
    - Zaphod, you knew when you were President  of  the  Galaxy,  as  did
Yooden Vranx  before  you,  that  the  President  is  nothing.  A  cipher.
Somewhere 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
    - Why?
    - 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
Improbability 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
    - 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. Understood?
    - 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...
    - Yeah?
    - 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.

                              Chapter 4

    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
subversive (also to the psychiatric profession)  experiment  to  find  the
Question to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe,  and  Everything,
he thought.
    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".

                              Chapter 5

    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
headlined 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
suspicious freak of topography consists  almost  entirely  of  subtropical
coastline. By an equally suspicious 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
dominant lifeforms on Ursa Minor  Beta,  who  spend  most  of  their  time
attempting to achieve spiritual enlightenment by  running  round  swimming
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
approaching 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,
shimmering on the white, palm-lined boulevards, glistening on the  healthy
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
consisting 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
    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 UMBetans 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
    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
dishevelled 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 bit.
    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
    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?
    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.

                              Chapter 6

    - 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 reception
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 something? 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
    - 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
    Zaphod Beeblebrox entered the foyer.  He  strode  up  to  the  insect
    - 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.
    - You are Zaphod Beeblebrox? - it squeaked.
    - Yeah, - said Zaphod, - but don't shout it out or they'll  all  want
    - 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
    - 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.
    - What!
    - 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 astonishment.
    - 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
Improbability Field I expect.
    - 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
Cybernetics 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 Galactic 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 talk?
    - 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?
    - Super.
    - 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 you?
    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 elevator.
    - Like what other possibilities? - he asked wearily.
    - Well, - the voice trickled on like honey on biscuits, - there's the
basement, the microfiles, the heating system... er...
    It paused.
    - Nothing particularly exciting,  -  it  admitted,  -  but  they  are
    - Holy Zarquon, - muttered Zaphod, - did I ask for an  existentialist
elevator? - 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? - 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 scheme?
    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
relation  to  a  Sirius  Cybernetics  Corporation  Happy  Vertical  People
Transporter 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
temporal 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  eliminating
all the tedious chatting, relaxing, and making friends  that  people  were
previously forced to do whist waiting for elevators.
    Not  unnaturally,  many  elevators  imbued  with   intelligence   and
precognition became terribly frustrated  with  the  mindless  business  of
going up and down, up and down, experimented briefly with  the  notion  of
going 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 elevators.
    At the fifteenth floor the elevator doors opened quickly.
    - Fifteenth, - said the elevator, - and remember, I'm only doing this
because 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.
    Zaphod 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
    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
    - 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
building'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.
    - 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
    - Holy photon, what's that?
    - A tank, - said the man, - Frogstar Scout robot class D come to  get
    - 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.
    - Yeah.
    - 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
    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.

                              Chapter 7

    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
    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 consternation.
    - 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
unmarked 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
notlying-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
    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 guess.
    - 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 again.
    - 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
    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
    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.

                              Chapter 8

    - 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
    Zaphod looked, and gaped.
    - 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 journey.
    - 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
before 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
    - Hey, where did you say this building  was  flying  to?  -  demanded
    - The Frogstar, - said Roosta, - the most totally evil place  in  the
    - 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 suspiciously, - what's in that?
    - Anti-depressants, - said Roosta.
    - I've gone right off this towel, you know, - said Zaphod handing  it
    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 Vortex!
    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.
    - Me?
    - 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.

                              Chapter 9

    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
crumbling 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
reputation 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
pockmarked 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.
    - Good luck, - he added, and walked out  of  the  door,  disappearing
from Zaphod's life as mysteriously as he had entered it.
    Zaphod leapt up and tried the door, but Roosta had already looked it.
He shrugged and returned to the corner.
    Two  minutes  later,  the  building  crashlanded  amongst  the  other
wreckage. Its escort of Frogstar Fighters deactivated  their  force  beams
and soared off into  the  air  again,  bound  for  Frogstar  World  A,  an
altogether more congenial spot. They never landed on Frogstar World B.  No
one did. No one ever walked on its surface other than the intended victims
of the Total Perspective Vortex.
    Zaphod was badly shaken by the crash. He  lay  for  a  while  in  the
silent dusty rubble to which most of the room had been  reduced.  He  felt
that he was at the lowest ebb he had ever reached in  his  life.  He  felt
bewildered, he felt lonely, he felt unloved. Eventually he felt  he  ought
to get whatever it was over with.
    He looked around the cracked and broken  room.  The  wall  had  split
round the door frame, and the door hung open. The window, by some  miracle
was closed and unbroken. For a while he hesitated, then he thought that if
his strange and recent companion had been through all  that  he  had  been
through just to tell him what he had told him, then there must be  a  good
reason for it. With Marvin's help he got the window open. Outside it,  the
cloud of dust aroused by the crash, and the hulks of the  other  buildings
with which this one was  surrounded,  effectively  prevented  Zaphod  from
seeing anything of the world outside.
    Not that this concerned him unduly. His main concern was what he  saw
when he looked down. Zarniwoop's office was on the  fifteenth  floor.  The
building had landed at a tilt of about forty-five degrees, but  still  the
descent looked heart-stopping.
    Eventually, stung by the continuous series of contemptuous looks that
Marvin appeared to be giving him, he took a deep breath and clambered  out
on to the steeply inclined side of the building. Marvin followed him,  and
together they began to crawl slowly and painfully down the fifteen  floors
that separated them from the ground.
    As he crawled, the dank air and  dust  choked  his  lungs,  his  eyes
smarted and the terrifying distance down made his heads spin.
    The occasional remark from Marvin of the order of "This is  the  sort
of thing you lifeforms enjoy is it? I ask  merely  for  information",  did
little to improve his state of mind.
    About half-way down the side of the shattered building  they  stopped
to rest. It seemed to Zaphod  as  he  lay  there  panting  with  fear  and
exhaustion that Marvin seemed a mite more cheerful than usual.  Eventually
he realized this wasn't so. The robot just seemed cheerful  in  comparison
with his own mood.
    A large, scraggy black bird came flapping through the slowly settling
clouds of dust and,  stretching  down  its  scrawny  legs,  landed  on  an
inclined window ledge a  couple  of  yards  from  Zaphod.  It  folded  its
ungainly wings and teetered awkwardly on its perch.
    Its wingspan must have been something like six feet, and its head and
neck seemed curiously large for a  bird.  Its  face  was  flat,  the  beak
underdeveloped, and half-way along the underside of its wings the vestiges
of something handlike could be clearly seen.
    In fact, it looked almost human.
    It turned its heavy  eyes  on  Zaphod  and  clicked  its  beak  in  a
desultory fashion.
    - Go away, - said Zaphod.
    - OK, - muttered the bird morosely and  flapped  off  into  the  dust
    Zaphod watched its departure in bewilderment.
    - Did that bird just talk to me? - he asked Marvin nervously. He  was
quite prepared to believe the alternative explanation, that he was in fact
    - Yes, - confirmed Marvin.
    - Poor souls, - said a deep, ethereal voice in Zaphod's ear.
    Twisting round violently to find  the  source  of  the  voice  nearly
caused Zaphod  to  fall  off  the  building.  He  grabbed  savagely  at  a
protruding window fitting and cut his hand on it. He  hung  on,  breathing
    The voice had no visible source whatever - there was  no  one  there.
Nevertheless, it spoke again.
    - A tragic history behind them, you know. A terrible blight.
    Zaphod looked wildly about. The voice was deep and  quiet.  In  other
circumstances it would even be described as soothing. There  is,  however,
nothing soothing about being addressed  by  a  disembodied  voice  out  of
nowhere, particularly if you are, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, not at your best
and hanging from a ledge eight storeys up a crashed building.
    - Hey, er... - he stammered.
    - Shall I tell you their story? - inquired the voice quietly.
    - Hey, who are you? - panted Zaphod. - Where are you?
    - Later then, perhaps, - murmured the voice. - I am Gargravarr. I  am
the Custodian of the Total Perspective Vortex.
    - Why can't I see...
    - You will find your progress down the building greatly  facilitated,
- the voice lifted, - if you move about two yards to your left. Why  don't
you try it?
    Zaphod looked and saw a series of short  horizontal  grooves  leading
all the way down the side of the building. Gratefully he  shifted  himself
across to them.
    - Why don't I see you again at the bottom? - said the  voice  in  his
ear, and as it spoke it faded.
    - Hey, - called out Zaphod, - Where are you...
    - It'll only take a couple  of  minutes...  -  said  the  voice  very
    - Marvin, - said Zaphod earnestly to the robot  squatting  dejectedly
next to him, - Did a... did a voice just...
    - Yes, - Marvin replied tersely.
    Zaphod nodded. He took out his Peril Sensitive Sunglasses again. They
were completely black, and by now quite badly scratched by the  unexpected
metal object in his pocket. He put them on. He would find his way down the
building more comfortably if he didn't actually have to look  at  what  he
was doing.
    Minutes later he clambered over the ripped and mangled foundations of
the building and, once more removing his sunglasses,  he  dropped  to  the
    Marvin joined him a moment or so later and lay face down in the  dust
and rubble, from which position he seemed too disinclined to move.
    - Ah, there you are, - said the voice suddenly  in  Zaphod's  ear,  -
excuse me leaving you like that, it's just that I have a terrible head for
heights. At least, - it added wistfully, - I did have a terrible head  for
    Zaphod looked around slowly and carefully, just  to  see  if  he  had
missed something which might be the source  of  the  voice.  All  he  saw,
however, was the dust, the rubble and the towering hulks of the encircling
    - Hey, er, why can't I see you? - he said, - why aren't you here?
    - I am here, - said the voice slowly, - my body wanted  to  come  but
it's a bit busy at the moment. Things to do, people to see. -  After  what
seemed like a sort of ethereal sigh it added, - You know how  it  is  with
    Zaphod wasn't sure about this.
    - I thought I did, - he said.
    - I only hope it's gone for a rest cure, - continued the voice, - the
way it's been living recently it must be on its last elbows.
    - Elbows? - said Zaphod, - don't you mean last legs?
    The voice said nothing for a while. Zaphod looked around uneasily. He
didn't know if it was gone or was still there or what it was  doing.  Then
the voice spoke again.
    - So, you are to be put into the Vortex, yes?
    - Er, well, - said Zaphod with a very poor attempt at nonchalance,  -
this cat's in no hurry, you know. I can just slouch about and  take  in  a
look at the local scenery, you know?
    - Have you seen the local scenery? - asked the voice of Gargravarr.
    - Er, no.
    Zaphod clambered over the rubble, and rounded the corner  of  one  of
the wrecked buildings that was obscuring his view.
    He looked out at the landscape of Frogstar World B.
    - Ah, OK, - he said, - I'll just sort of slouch about then.
    - No, - said Gargravarr, - the Vortex is ready for you now. You  must
come. Follow me.
    - Er, yeah? - said Zaphod, - and how am I meant to do that?
    - I'll hum for you, - said Gargravarr, - follow the humming.
    A soft keening sound drifted through the air, a pale, sad sound  that
seemed to be without any kind of focus. It  was  only  by  listening  very
carefully that Zaphod was able to detect the direction from which  it  was
coming. Slowly, dazedly, he stumbled off in its wake. What else was  there
to do?

                              Chapter 10

    The Universe, as has been observed before,  is  an  unsettlingly  big
place, a fact which for the sake of a  quiet  life  most  people  tend  to
    Many would happily move to somewhere  rather  smaller  of  their  own
devising, and this is what most beings in fact do.
    For instance, in one corner of the  Eastern  Galactic  Arm  lies  the
large forest planet Oglaroon, the entire "intelligent" population of which
lives permanently in one fairly small and crowded nut tree. In which  tree
they are born, live, fall in love, carve tiny speculative articles in  the
bark on the meaning of life, the futility of death and the  importance  of
birth control, fight a  few  extremely  minor  wars,  and  eventually  die
strapped to the underside of some of the less accessible outer branches.
    In fact the only Oglaroonians who ever leave their tree are those who
are hurled out of it for the heinous crime of wondering whether any of the
other trees might be capable of supporting life at all, or indeed  whether
the other trees are anything other than illusions brought on by eating too
many Oglanuts.
    Exotic though this behaviour may seem, there is no life form  in  the
Galaxy which is not in some way guilty of the same thing, which is why the
Total Perspective Vortex is as horrific as it is.
    For when you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary
glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere  in
it a tiny little marker, a microscopic dot on  a  microscopic  dot,  which
says "You are here."
    The grey plain stretched before Zaphod, a  ruined,  shattered  plain.
The wind whipped wildly over it.
    Visible in the middle  was  the  steel  pimple  of  the  dome.  This,
gathered Zaphod, was where he was going. This was  the  Total  Perspective
    As he stood and gazed bleakly at it, a sudden inhuman wail of  terror
emanated from it as of a man having his  soul  burnt  from  his  body.  It
screamed above the wind and died away.
    Zaphod started with fear and his  blood  seemed  to  turn  to  liquid
    - Hey, what was that? - he muttered voicelessly.
    - A recording, - said Gargravarr, - of the last man who  was  put  in
the Vortex. It is always played to the next victim. A sort of prelude.
    - Hey, it really sounds bad... -  stammered  Zaphod,  -  couldn't  we
maybe slope off to a party or something for a while, think it over?
    - For all I know, - said Gargravarr's ethereal voice, - I'm  probably
at one. My body that is. It goes to a lot of parties without  me.  Says  I
only get in the way. Hey ho.
    - What is all this with your body? - said Zaphod,  anxious  to  delay
whatever it was that was going to happen to him.
    - Well, it's... it's busy you know, - said Gargravarr hesitantly.
    - You mean it's got a mind of its own? - said Zaphod.
    There was a long and slightly chilly pause  before  Gargravarr  spoke
    - I have to say, - he replied eventually, - that I find  that  remark
in rather poor taste.
    Zaphod muttered a bewildered and embarrassed apology.
    - No matter, - said Gargravarr, - you weren't to know.
    The voice fluttered unhappily.
    - The truth is, - it continued in tones which suggested he was trying
very hard to keep it under control, - the truth is that we  are  currently
undergoing a period of legal trial separation. I suspect it  will  end  in
    The voice was still again, leaving Zaphod with no  idea  of  what  to
say. He mumbled uncertainly.
    - I think we are probably not very well  suited,  -  said  Gargravarr
again at length, - we never seemed to be happy doing the same  things.  We
always had the greatest arguments over  sex  and  fishing.  Eventually  we
tried to combine the two, but that  only  led  to  disaster,  as  you  can
probably imagine. And now my body refuses to let me in. It won't even  see
    He paused again, tragically. The wind whipped across the plain.
    - It says I only inhibit it. I pointed out that in fact I  was  meant
to inhibit it, and it said that that was exactly the sort  of  smart  alec
remark that got right up a body's left nostril, and so we left it. It will
probably get custody of my forename.
    - Oh... - said Zaphod faintly, - and what's that?
    - Pizpot, - said the voice, - My name is Pizpot Gargravarr.  Says  it
all really doesn't it?
    - Errr... - said Zaphod sympathetically.
    - And that is why I, as a disembodied mind, have this job,  Custodian
of the Total Perspective Vortex. No one will ever walk on  the  ground  of
this planet. Except the victims of the Vortex - they  don't  really  count
I'm afraid.
    - Ah...
    - I'll tell you the story. Would you like to hear it?
    - Er...
    - Many years ago this was a thriving, happy planet -  people,  cities
shops, a normal world. Except that on the high  streets  of  these  cities
there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary.
And slowly, insidiously, the numbers of these shoe shops were  increasing.
It's a well known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it  in  operation,
for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had  to  make  and
the worse and more unwearable they became. And  the  worse  they  were  to
wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the
shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the  place  passed  what  I
believe is termed  the  Shoe  Event  Horizon,  and  it  became  no  longer
economically possible to build anything other than shoe  shops.  Result  -
collapse, ruin and famine. Most of the population died out. Those few  who
had the right kind of genetic instability mutated into birds - you've seen
one of them - who cursed their feet, cursed the  ground,  and  vowed  that
none should walk on it again. Unhappy lot. Come, I must take  you  to  the
    Zaphod shook his head in bemusement and stumbled forward  across  the
    - And you, - he said, - you come from this hellhole pit do you?
    - No no, - said Gargravarr, taken aback, - I come from  the  Frogstar
World C. Beautiful place. Wonderful fishing. I  flit  back  there  in  the
evenings. Though all I can do now is watch. The Total  Perspective  Vortex
is the only thing on this planet with any  function.  It  was  built  here
because no one else wanted it on their doorstep.
    At that  moment  another  dismal  scream  rent  the  air  and  Zaphod
    - What can do that to a guy? - he breathed.
    - The Universe, -  said  Gargravarr  simply,  -  the  whole  infinite
Universe. The infinite suns, the  infinite  distances  between  them,  and
yourself an invisible dot on an invisible dot, infinitely small.
    - Hey, I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox, man, you know, - muttered Zaphod trying
to flap the last remnants of his ego.
    Gargravarr made no reply, but merely  resumed  his  mournful  humming
till they reached the tarnished steel dome in the middle of the plain.
    As they reached it, a door hummed open in the side, revealing a small
darkened chamber within.
    - Enter, - said Gargravarr.
    Zaphod started with fear.
    - Hey, what, now? - he said.
    - Now.
    Zaphod peered nervously inside. The chamber was very  small.  It  was
steel-lined and there was hardly space in it for more than one man.
    - It... er... it doesn't look like any kind of Vortex to me,  -  said
    - It isn't, - said Gargravarr, - it's just the elevator. Enter.
    With infinite trepidation Zaphod stepped into it.  He  was  aware  of
Gargravarr being in the elevator with him, though the disembodied man  was
not for the moment speaking.
    The elevator began its descent.
    - I must get myself into the right frame of mind for this, - muttered
    - There is no right frame of mind, - said Gargravarr sternly.
    - You really know how to make a guy feel inadequate.
    - I don't. The Vortex does.
    At the bottom of the shaft, the rear of the elevator  opened  up  and
Zaphod stumbled out into a smallish, functional, steel-lined chamber.
    At the far side of it stood a single upright steel  box,  just  large
enough for a man to stand in.
    It was that simple.
    It connected to a small pile of  components  and  instruments  via  a
single thick wire.
    - Is that it? - said Zaphod in surprise.
    - That is it.
    Didn't look too bad, thought Zaphod.
    - And I get in there do I? - said Zaphod.
    - You get in there, - said Gargravarr, - and I'm afraid you  must  do
it now.
    - OK, OK, - said Zaphod.
    He opened the door of the box and stepped in.
    Inside the box he waited.
    After five seconds there was a click, and  the  entire  Universe  was
there in the box with him.

                              Chapter 11

    The Total  Perspective  Vortex  derives  its  picture  of  the  whole
Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses.
    To explain - since every piece of matter in the Universe is  in  some
way affected by every other piece of matter in  the  Universe,  it  is  in
theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation -  every  sun,  every
planet, their orbits, their composition  and  their  economic  and  social
history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.
    The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in
order to annoy his wife.
    Trin Tragula - for that was his name - was a dreamer,  a  thinker,  a
speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.
    And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount
of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics  of
safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.
    - Have some sense of proportion! - she would say, sometimes as  often
as thirty-eight times in a single day.
    And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex - just to show her.
    And into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from
a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that
when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation
and herself in relation to it.
    To Trin Tragula's horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain;
but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved  conclusively  that
if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the  one  thing
it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.
    The door of the Vortex swung open.
    From his disembodied  mind  Gargravarr  watched  dejectedly.  He  had
rather liked Zaphod Beeblebrox in a strange sort of way. He was clearly  a
man of many qualities, even if they were mostly bad ones.
    He waited for him to flop forwards out of the box, as they all did.
    Instead, he stepped out.
    - Hi! - he said.
    - Beeblebrox... - gasped Gargravarr's mind in amazement.
    - Could I have a drink please? - said Zaphod.
    - You... you... have been in the Vortex? - stammered Gargravarr.
    - You saw me, kid.
    - And it was working?
    - Sure was.
    - And you saw the whole infinity of creation?
    - Sure. Really neat place, you know that?
    Gargravarr's mind was reeling in astonishment. Had his body been with
him it would have sat down heavily with its mouth hanging open.
    - And you saw yourself, - said Gargravarr, - in relation to it all?
    - Oh, yeah, yeah.
    - But... what did you experience?
    Zaphod shrugged smugly.
    - It just told me what I knew all the time. I'm a really terrific and
great guy. Didn't I tell you, baby, I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox!
    His gaze passed over the  machinery  which  powered  the  vortex  and
suddenly stopped, startled.
    He breathed heavily.
    - Hey, - he said, - is that really a piece of fairy cake?
    He ripped the small piece of  confectionery  from  the  sensors  with
which it was surrounded.
    - If I told you how much I needed this, - he  said  ravenously,  -  I
wouldn't have time to eat it.
    He ate it.

                              Chapter 12

    A short while later he was running across the plain in the  direction
of the ruined city.
    The dank air wheezed heavily in his lungs and he frequently  stumbled
with the exhaustion he was still feeling. Night was beginning to fall too,
and the rough ground was treacherous.
    The elation of his recent experience was still with him  though.  The
whole Universe. He had seen the  whole  Universe  stretching  to  infinity
around him - everything. And with it had come the clear and  extraordinary
knowledge that he was the most important thing in it. Having  a  conceited
ego is one thing. Actually being told by a machine is another.
    He didn't have time to reflect on this matter.
    Gargravarr had told him that he would have to alert his masters as to
what had happened, but that he was prepared to  leave  a  decent  interval
before doing so. Enough time for Zaphod to make a break and find somewhere
to hide.
    What he was going to do he didn't know, but feeling that he  was  the
most important person in the Universe gave him the confidence  to  believe
that something would turn up.
    Nothing else on this blighted planet could give him much grounds  for
    He ran on, and soon reached the outskirts of the abandoned city.
    He walked along cracked and gaping roads riddled with scrawny  weeds,
the holes filled with rotting shoes.  The  buildings  he  passed  were  so
crumbled and decrepit he thought it unsafe to enter  any  of  them.  Where
could he hide? He hurried on.
    After a while the remains of a wide sweeping road led  off  from  the
one down which he was walking, and at its end lay  a  vast  low  building,
surrounded with sundry smaller ones, the whole surrounded by  the  remains
of a perimeter barrier. The large main building  still  seemed  reasonably
solid, and Zaphod turned off to see if it might provide him  with...  well
with anything.
    He approached the building. Along one side of it - the front it would
seem since it faced a wide concreted apron  area  -  were  three  gigantic
doors, maybe sixty feet high. The far one of these was open,  and  towards
this, Zaphod ran.
    Inside, all was gloom, dust and confusion.  Giant  cobwebs  lay  over
everything. Part of the infrastructure of the building had collapsed, part
of the rear wall had caved in, and a thick choking dust  lay  inches  over
the floor.
    Through the heavy gloom huge shapes loomed, covered with debris.
    The shapes were sometimes cylindrical, sometimes  bulbous,  sometimes
like eggs, or rather cracked eggs. Most of them were split open or falling
apart, some were mere skeletons.
    They were all spacecraft, all derelict.
    Zaphod wandered in frustration among the  hulks.  There  was  nothing
here that remotely approached the serviceable. Even the mere vibration  of
his footsteps caused one precarious wreck to collapse further into itself.
    Towards the rear of the building lay one old  ship,  slightly  larger
than the others, and buried beneath even deeper piles of dust and cobwebs.
Its outline, however, seemed unbroken. Zaphod approached it with interest,
and as he did so, he tripped over an old feedline.
    He tried to toss the feedline aside, and to his  surprise  discovered
that it was still connected to the ship.
    To his utter astonishment he realized  that  the  feedline  was  also
humming slightly.
    He stared at the ship  in  disbelief,  and  then  back  down  at  the
feedline in his hands.
    He tore off his jacket and threw it  aside.  Crawling  along  on  his
hands and knees he followed the feedline to the point where  it  connected
with the ship. The connection was sound, and the slight humming  vibration
was more distinct.
    His heart was beating fast. He wiped away some grime and laid an  ear
against the ship's side. He could only hear a faint, indeterminate noise.
    He rummaged feverishly amongst the debris  lying  on  the  floor  all
about him and found a short  length  of  tubing,  and  a  nonbiodegradable
plastic cup. Out of this he fashioned a crude stethoscope  and  placed  it
against the side of the ship.
    What he heard made his brains turn somersaults.
    The voice said:
    - Transtellar Cruise Lines would like to apologize to passengers  for
the continuing delay to this flight. We are currently awaiting the loading
of our complement of small lemon-soaked paper napkins  for  your  comfort,
refreshment and hygiene during the journey. Meanwhile  we  thank  you  for
your patience. The cabin crew will shortly be serving coffee and  biscuits
    Zaphod staggered backwards, staring wildly at the ship.
    He walked around for a few moments in a daze. In so doing he suddenly
caught sight of a giant departure board still hanging,  but  by  only  one
support, from the ceiling above him. It was covered with grime,  but  some
of the figures were still discernible.
    Zaphod's eyes searched amongst the  figures,  then  made  some  brief
calculations. His eyes widened.
    - Nine hundred years... - he breathed to himself. That was  how  late
the ship was.
    Two minutes later he was on board.
    As he stepped out of the airlock, the air that greeted him  was  cool
and fresh - the air conditioning was still working.
    The lights were still on.
    He moved out of the  small  entrance  chamber  into  a  short  narrow
corridor and stepped nervously down it.
    Suddenly a door opened and a figure stepped out in front of him.
    - Please return to your seat sir, - said the android stewardess  and,
turning her back on him, she walked on down the corridor in front of him.
    When his heart had started beating again he followed her. She  opened
the door at the end of the corridor and walked through.
    He followed her through the door.
    They were now in the passenger compartment and Zaphod's heart stopped
still again for a moment.
    In every seat sat a passenger, strapped into his or her seat.
    The passengers' hair was long and  unkempt,  their  fingernails  were
long, the men wore beards.
    All of them were quite clearly alive - but sleeping.
    Zaphod had the creeping horrors.
    He walked slowly down the aisle as in a dream. By  the  time  he  was
half-way down the aisle, the stewardess had reached  the  other  end.  She
turned and spoke.
    - Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, - she said  sweetly,  -  Thank
you for bearing with us during this slight delay. We will be taking off as
soon as we possibly can. If you would like to wake up now I will serve you
coffee and biscuits.
    There was a slight hum.
    At that moment, all the passengers awoke.
    They awoke screaming and clawing at their  straps  and  life  support
systems that held them tightly in their seats. They  screamed  and  bawled
and hollered till Zaphod thought his ears would shatter.
    They struggled and writhed as the stewardess patiently moved  up  the
aisle placing a small cup of coffee and a packet of biscuits in  front  of
each one of them.
    Then one of them rose from his seat.
    He turned and looked at Zaphod.
    Zaphod's skin was crawling all over his body as if it was  trying  to
get off. He turned and ran from the bedlam.
    He plunged through the door and back into the corridor.
    The man pursued him.
    He raced in a frenzy to the end of the corridor, through the entrance
chamber and beyond. He arrived on the flight deck, slammed and bolted  the
door behind him. He leant back against the door breathing hard.
    Within seconds, a hand started beating on the door.
    From somewhere on the flight deck a metallic voice addressed him.
    - Passengers are not allowed on the flight  deck.  Please  return  to
your seat, and wait for the ship to take  off.  Coffee  and  biscuits  are
being served. This is your autopilot speaking. Please return to your seat.
    Zaphod said nothing. He breathed hard, behind him, the hand continued
to knock on the door.
    - Please return to your seat, - repeated the autopilot. -  Passengers
are not allowed on the flight deck.
    - I'm not a passenger, - panted Zaphod.
    - Please return to your seat.
    - I am not a passenger! - shouted Zaphod again.
    - Please return to your seat.
    - I am not a... hello, can you hear me?
    - Please return to your seat.
    You're the autopilot?" said Zaphod.
    - Yes, - said the voice from the flight console.
    - You're in charge of this ship?
    - Yes, - said the voice again, - there has been a  delay.  Passengers
are to be kept temporarily in suspended animation, for their  comfort  and
convenience. Coffee and biscuits are being served every year, after  which
passengers are returned to suspended animation for their continued comfort
and convenience. Departure will take place  when  the  flight  stores  are
complete. We apologize for the delay.
    Zaphod moved away from the  door,  on  which  the  pounding  had  now
ceased. He approached the flight console.
    - Delay? - he cried, - Have you seen the  world  outside  this  ship?
It's a wasteland, a desert. Civilization's been and gone, man.  There  are
no lemon-soaked paper napkins on the way from anywhere!
    - The statistical likelihood, - continued the autopilot primly, -  is
that other civilizations will arise. There will one  day  be  lemon-soaked
paper napkins. Till then there will be a short  delay.  Please  return  to
your seat.
    - But...
    But at that moment the door opened. Zaphod span round to see the  man
who had pursued him standing there. He carried a large briefcase.  He  was
smartly dressed, and his hair was short. He  had  no  beard  and  no  long
    - Zaphod Beeblebrox, - he said, - My name is Zarniwoop. I believe you
wanted to see me.
    Zaphod Beeblebrox  wittered.  His  mouths  said  foolish  things.  He
dropped into a chair.
    - Oh man, oh man, where did you spring from? - he said.
    - I've been waiting here for you, - he said in a businesslike tone.
    He put the briefcase down and sat in another chair.
    - I am glad you followed instructions, - he  said,  -  I  was  a  bit
nervous that you might have left my office by the  door  rather  than  the
window. Then you would have been in trouble.
    Zaphod shook his heads at him and burbled.
    - When  you   entered  the  door  of  my  office,  you   entered   my
electronically synthesized Universe, - he explained, - if you had left  by
the door you would have been back in the  real  one.  The  artificial  one
works from here.
    He patted the briefcase smugly.
    Zaphod glared at him with resentment and loathing.
    - What's the difference? - he muttered.
    - Nothing, - said Zarniwoop, - they are identical. Oh - except that I
think the Frogstar Fighters are grey in the real Universe.
    - What's going on? - spat Zaphod.
    - Simple, - said Zarniwoop. His  self  assurance  and  smugness  made
Zaphod seethe.
    - Very simple, - repeated Zarniwoop, - I discovered  the  coordinated
at which this man could be found - the man who  rules  the  Universe,  and
discovered that his world was protected  by  an  Unprobability  field.  To
protect my secret - and myself - I retreated to the safety of this totally
artificial Universe and hid myself away in a forgotten cruise liner. I was
secure. Meanwhile, you and I...
    - You and I? - said Zaphod angrily, - you mean I knew you?
    - Yes, - said Zarniwoop, - we knew each other well.
    - I had no taste, - said Zaphod and resumed a sullen silence.
    - Meanwhile,  you   and  I  arranged  that  you   would   steal   the
Improbability Drive ship - the only one  which  could  reach  the  ruler's
world - and bring it to me here. This you have now done  I  trust,  and  I
congratulate you. - He smiled a tight little smile which Zaphod wanted  to
hit with a brick.
    - Oh, and in case you were  wondering,  -  added  Zarniwoop,  -  this
Universe was created specifically for you to come to.  You  are  therefore
the most important person in this Universe. You would  never,  -  he  said
with an even more brickable smile, - have survived the  Total  Perspective
Vortex in the real one. Shall we go?
    - Where? - said Zaphod sullenly. He felt collapsed.
    - To your ship. The Heart of Gold. You did bring it I trust?
    - No.
    - Where is your jacket?
    Zaphod looked at him in mystification.
    - My jacket? I took it off. It's outside.
    - Good, we will go and find it.
    Zarniwoop stood up and gestured to Zaphod to follow him.
    Out in the entrance chamber again, they could hear the screams of the
passengers being fed coffee and biscuits.
    - It has not been a pleasant  experience  waiting  for  you,  -  said
    - Not pleasant for you! - bawled Zaphod, - How do you think...
    Zarniwoop held up a silencing finger as the hatchway  swung  open.  A
few feet away from them they  could  see  Zaphod's  jacket  lying  in  the
    - A very remarkable and very  powerful  ship,  -  said  Zarniwoop,  -
    As they watched, the pocket on the jacket suddenly bulged. It  split,
it ripped. The small metal model of the Heart of Gold that Zaphod had been
bewildered to discover in his pocket was growing.
    It grew, it continued to grow. It reached,  after  two  minutes,  its
full size.
    - At an Improbability Level, - said Zarniwoop, -  of...  oh  I  don't
know, but something very large.
    Zaphod swayed.
    - You mean I had it with me all the time?
    - Zarniwoop smiled. He lifted up his briefcase and opened it.
    He twisted a single switch inside it.
    - Goodbye artificial Universe, - he said, - hello real one!
    The scene before them shimmered briefly - and reappeared  exactly  as
    - You see? - said Zarniwoop, - exactly the same.
    - You mean, - repeated Zaphod tautly, - that I had it with me all the
    - Oh yes, - said Zarniwoop, - of course. That was the whole point.
    - That's it, - said Zaphod, - you can count me out,  from  hereon  in
you can count me out. I've had all I want  of  this.  You  play  your  own
    - I'm afraid you cannot leave, - said Zarniwoop, - you  are  entwined
in the Improbability field. You cannot escape.
    He smiled the smile that Zaphod had  wanted  to  hit  and  this  time
Zaphod hit it.

                              Chapter 13

    Ford Prefect bounded up to the bridge of the Heart of Gold.
    - Trillian!  Arthur!  -  he  shouted,  -  it's  working!  The  ship's
    Trillian and Arthur were asleep on the floor.
    - Come on you guys, we're going off, we're off,  -  he  said  kicking
them awake.
    - Hi there guys! - twittered the computer, - it's really great to  be
back with you again, I can tell you, and I just want to say that...
    - Shut up, - said Ford, - tell us where the hell we are.
    - Frogstar World B, and man it's a dump, - said Zaphod running on  to
the bridge, - hi, guys, you must be so amazingly glad to see me you  don't
even find words to tell me what a cool frood I am.
    - What a what? - said Arthur blearily, picking himself  up  from  the
floor and not taking any of this in.
    - I know how you feel, - said Zaphod, -  I'm  so  great  even  I  get
tongue-tied talking to myself. Hey it's good to see  you  Trillian,  Ford,
Monkeyman. Hey, er, computer?..
    - Hi there, Mr Beeblebrox sir, sure is a great honor to...
    - Shut up and get us out of here, fast fast fast.
    - Sure thing, fella, where do you want to go?
    - Anywhere, doesn't matter, - shouted Zaphod, - yes  it  does!  -  he
said again, - we want to go to the nearest place to eat!
    - Sure thing, - said the computer happily  and  a  massive  explosion
rocket the bridge.
    When Zarniwoop entered a minute or so later  with  a  black  eye,  he
regarded the four wisps of smoke with interest.

                              Chapter 14

    Four inert bodies sank through spinning blackness. Consciousness  had
died, cold oblivion pulled the bodies  down  and  down  into  the  pit  of
unbeing. The roar of silence echoed dismally around them and they sank  at
last into a dark and bitter sea of heaving red that slowly engulfed  them,
seemingly for ever.
    After what seemed an eternity the sea receded and left them lying  on
a cold hard shore, the flotsam and jetsam  of  the  stream  of  Life,  the
Universe, and Everything.
    Cold spasms shook them, lights danced sickeningly  around  them.  The
cold hard shore tipped and span and then stood still. It shone darkly - it
was a very highly polished cold hard shore.
    A green blur watched them disapprovingly.
    It coughed.
    - Good evening, madam,  gentlemen,  -  it  said,  -  do  you  have  a
    Ford Prefect's consciousness snapped back like  elastic,  making  his
brain smart. He looked up woozily at the green blur.
    - Reservation? - he said weakly. - Yes, sir, - said the green blur.
    - Do you need a reservation for the afterlife?
    In so far as it is possible for a green blur  to  arch  its  eyebrows
disdainfully, this is what the green blur now did.
    - Afterlife, sir? - it said.
    Arthur Dent was grappling with his consciousness the way one grapples
with a lost bar of soap in the bath.
    - Is this the afterlife? - he stammered.
    - Well I assume so, - said Ford Prefect trying to work out which  way
was up. He tested the theory that it must lie in  the  opposite  direction
from the cold hard shore on which he was lying, and staggered to  what  he
hoped were his feet.
    - I mean, - he said, swaying gently, - there's no way we  could  have
survived that blast is there?
    - No, - muttered Arthur. He had raised himself on to his  elbows  but
it didn't seem to improve things. He slumped down again.
    - No, - said Trillian, standing up, - no way at all.
    A dull hoarse gurgling sound came  from  the  floor.  It  was  Zaphod
Beeblebrox attempting to speak.
    - I certainly didn't survive, - he gurgled, - I was  a  total  goner.
Wham bang and that was it.
    - Yeah, thanks to you, - said Ford, - We didn't stand  a  chance.  We
must have been blown to bits. Arms, legs everywhere.
    - Yeah, - said Zaphod struggling noisily to his feet.
    - If the lady and gentlemen would like to order drinks... - said  the
green blur, hovering impatiently beside them.
    - Kerpow, splat, - continued Zaphod, -  instantaneously  zonked  into
our component molecules. Hey, Ford, - he  said,  identifying  one  of  the
slowly solidifying blurs around him, - did you  get  that  thing  of  your
whole life flashing before you?
    - You got that too? - said Ford, - your whole life?
    - Yeah, - said Zaphod, - at least I assume it was mine. I spent a lot
of time out of my skulls you know.
    He looked at around him at the  various  shapes  that  were  at  last
becoming proper shapes instead of vague and wobbling shapeless shapes.
    - So... - he said.
    - So what? - said Ford.
    - So here we are, - said Zaphod hesitantly, - lying dead...
    - Standing, - Trillian corrected him.
    - Er, standing dead, - continued Zaphod, - in this desolate...
    - Restaurant, - said Arthur Dent who had got to his  feet  and  could
now, much to his surprise, see clearly. That is to  say,  the  thing  that
surprised him was not that he could see, but what he could see.
    - Here we are, - continued Zaphod doggedly, - standing dead  in  this
    - Five star... - said Trillian.
    - Restaurant, - concluded Zaphod.
    - Odd isn't it? - said Ford.
    - Er, yeah. -
    - Nice chandeliers though, - said Trillian.
    They looked about themselves in bemusement.
    - It's not so much an afterlife, - said Arthur,  -  more  a  sort  of
apres vie.
    The chandeliers were in fact a little on the flashy side and the  low
vaulted ceiling from which they hung would not, in an ideal Universe, have
been painted in that particular shade of deep turquoise, and  even  if  it
had been it wouldn't have been highlighted by concealed moodlighting. This
is not, however, an ideal  Universe,  as  was  further  evidenced  by  the
eye-crossing patterns of the inlaid marble floor, and the way in which the
fronting for the eighty-yard long marble-topped bar  had  been  made.  The
fronting for the eighty-yard long  marble-topped  bar  had  been  made  by
stitching together nearly twenty thousand Antarean  Mosaic  Lizard  skins,
despite the fact that the twenty thousand  lizards  concerned  had  needed
them to keep their insides in.
    A few smartly dressed creatures were lounging casually at the bar  or
relaxing in the richly coloured body-hugging seats that were deployed here
and there about the bar area.  A  young  Vl'Hurg  officer  and  his  green
steaming young lady passed through the large smoked glass doors at the far
end of the bar into the dazzling light of the main body of the  Restaurant
    Behind Arthur was a large curtained bay window. He pulled  aside  the
corner of the curtain and looked out at a  landscape  which  under  normal
circumstances would have given Arthur the  creeping  horrors.  These  were
not, however, normal circumstances, for the thing that froze his blood and
made his skin try to crawl up his back and off the top of his head was the
sky. The sky was...
    An attendant flunkey politely drew the curtain back into place.
    - All in good time, sir, - he said.
    Zaphod's eyes flashed.
    - Hey, hang about you dead guys, - he said, - I think  we're  missing
some ultra-important thing here you know. Something somebody said  and  we
missed it.
    Arthur was profoundly relieved to turn his attention from what he had
just seen.
    He said:
    - I said it was a sort of apres...
    - Yeah, and don't you wish you hadn't? - said Zaphod, - Ford?
    - I said it was odd.
    - Yeah, shrewd but dull, perhaps it was...
    - Perhaps, - interrupted the green blur who had by this time resolved
into the shape of a small wizened dark-suited green waiter, - perhaps  you
would care to discuss the matter over drinks...
    - Drinks! - cried Zaphod, - that was it! See what  you  miss  if  you
don't stay alert.
    - Indeed sir, -  said  the  waiter  patiently.  -  If  the  lady  and
gentlemen would care to order drinks before dinner...
    - Dinner! - Zaphod exclaimed with passion,  -  Listen,  little  green
person, my stomach could take you home and cuddle you all  night  for  the
mere idea.
    - ... and the Universe, - concluded the waiter, determined not to  be
deflected on his home stretch, - will explode later for your pleasure.
    Ford's head swivelled towards him. He spoke with feeling.
    - Wow, - he said, - What sort of drinks do you serve in this place?
    The waiter laughed a polite little waiter's laugh.
    - Ah, - he said, - I think sir has perhaps misunderstood me.
    - Oh, I hope not, - breathed Ford.
    The waiter coughed a polite little waiter's cough.
    - It is not unusual for our customers to be a little  disoriented  by
the time journey, - he said, - so if I might suggest...
    - Time journey? - said Zaphod.
    - Time journey? - said Ford.
    - Time journey? - said Trillian.
    - You mean this isn't the afterlife? - said Arthur.
    The waiter smiled a polite  little  waiter's  smile.  He  had  almost
exhausted his polite little waiter repertoire and would soon  be  slipping
into his role of a rather tight lipped and sarcastic little waiter.
    - Afterlife sir? - he said, - No sir.
    - And we're not dead? - said Arthur.
    The waiter tightened his lips.
    - Aha, ha, - he said, - Sir is  most  evidently  alive,  otherwise  I
would not attempt to serve sir.
    In  an  extraordinary  gesture  which  is  pointless  attempting   to
describe, Zaphod Beeblebrox slapped both his foreheads  with  two  of  his
arms and one of his thighs with the other.
    - Hey guys, - he said, - This is crazy. We finally did it. We finally
got to where we were going. This is Milliways!
    - Yes sir, - said the waiter, laying on the patience with a trowel, -
this is Milliways - the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
    - End of what? - said Arthur.
    - The Universe, - repeated the waiter, very clearly and unnecessarily
    - When did that end? - said Arthur.
    - In just a few minutes, sir, - said  the  waiter.  He  took  a  deep
breath. He didn't need to do this since his body  was  supplied  with  the
peculiar assortment of  gases  it  required  for  survival  from  a  small
intravenous device strapped to his leg. There  are  times,  however,  when
whatever your metabolism you have to take a deep breath.
    - Now, if you would care to order drinks at last, - he said, - I will
then show you to your table.
    Zaphod grinned two manic grins, sauntered over to the bar and  bought
most of it.

                              Chapter 15

     The Restaurant at the End  of  the  Universe  is  one  of  the  most
extraordinary ventures in the entire history  of  catering.  It  has  been
built   on   the  fragmented  remains  of...  it  will  be  built  on  the
fragmented...  that  is  to say it will have been built by this time,  and
indeed has been.
    One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not  that  of
accidentally becoming your own father  or  mother.  There  is  no  problem
involved in becoming your own father or  mother  that  a  broadminded  and
well-adjusted family can't cope with.  There  is  also  no  problem  about
changing the course of history - the course of  history  does  not  change
because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the important changes have
happened before the things they were supposed to change and it  all  sorts
itself out in the end.
    The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the  main  work
to consult in this matter is Dr  Dan  Streetmentioner's  Time  Traveller's
Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for  instance  how  to
describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before  you
avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in  order  to  avoid  it.  The
event will be described differently according to whether you  are  talking
about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in  the
further future, or a time in the further past and is  further  complicated
by the possibility of conducting conversations  whilst  you  are  actually
travelling from one time to another with the intention  of  becoming  your
own father or mother.
    Most readers get as far as  the  Future  Semi-Conditionally  Modified
Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up:  and  in
fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond  this  point  have
been left blank to save on printing costs.
    The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over  this  tangle
of academic abstraction, pausing  only  to  note  that  the  term  "Future
Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.
    To resume:
    The Restaurant at the  End  of  the  Universe  is  one  of  the  most
extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering.
    It is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined  planet
which is (wioll haven be) enclosed in a vast  time  bubble  and  projected
forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe.
    This is, many would say, impossible.
    In it, guests take (willan on-take) their places  at  table  and  eat
(willan on-eat) sumptuous meals  whilst  watching  (willing  watchen)  the
whole of creation explode around them.
    This is, many would say, equally impossible.
    You can arrive (mayan  arivan  on-when)  for  any  sitting  you  like
without  prior  (late  fore-when)  reservation  because   you   can   book
retrospectively, as it were when you return to your  own  time.  (you  can
have on-book haventa forewhen presooning returningwenta retrohome.)
    This is, many would now insist, absolutely impossible.
    At the Restaurant you can meet and dine with (mayan meetan  con  with
dinan on when) a fascinating cross-section of  the  entire  population  of
space and time.
    This, it can be explained patiently, is also impossible.
    You  can  visit  it  as  many  times  as  you  like  (mayan  on-visit
reonvisiting... and so on  -  for  further  tense-corrections  consult  Dr
Streetmentioner's book) and be sure of never meeting yourself, because  of
the embarrassment this usually causes.
    This, even if the  rest  were  true,  which  it  isn't,  is  patently
impossible, say the doubters.
    All you have to do is deposit one penny in a savings account in  your
own era, and when you arrive at the End of Time the operation of  compound
interest means that the fabulous cost of your meal has been paid for.
    This, many claim, is not merely impossible but clearly insane,  which
is why the advertising executives of the star system of Bastablon came  up
with this slogan: "If you've done six impossible things this morning,  why
not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of
the Universe?"

                              Chapter 16

    At the bar, Zaphod was rapidly becoming as tired as a newt. His heads
knocked together and his smiles were coming out of synch. He was miserably
    - Zaphod, - said Ford, - whilst you're still capable of speech, would
you care to tell me what the photon happened? Where have you  been?  Where
have we been? Small matter, but I'd like it cleared up.
    Zaphod's left head sobered up, leaving his right to sink further into
the obscurity of drink.
    - Yeah, - he said, - I've been around. They want me to find  the  man
who rules the Universe, but I don't care to meet him. I  believe  the  man
can't cook.
    His left head watched his right head saying this and then nodded.
    - True, - it said, - have another drink.
    Ford had another Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster,  the  drink  which  has
been described as the alcoholic equivalent of a mugging  -  expensive  and
bad for the head. Whatever had happened, Ford decided,  he  didn't  really
care too much.
    - Listen Ford, - said Zaphod, - everything's cool and froody.
    - You mean everything's under control.
    - No, - said Zaphod, - I do not mean everything's under control. That
would not be cool and froody. If you want to know what happened let's just
say I had the whole situation in my pocket. OK?
    Ford shrugged.
    Zaphod giggled into his drink. It frothed up over  the  side  of  the
glass and started to eat its way into the marble bar top.
    A wild-skinned sky-gypsy approached them and played  electric  violin
at them until Zaphod gave him a lot of money and  he  agreed  to  go  away
    The gypsy approached Arthur and Trillian sitting in another  part  of
the bar.
    - I don't know what this place is, - said Arthur, - but  I  think  it
gives me the creeps.
    - Have another drink, - said Trillian, - Enjoy yourself.
    - Which? - said Arthur, - the two are mutually exclusive.
    - Poor Arthur, you're not really cut out for this life are you?
    - You call this life?
    - You're beginning to sound like Marvin.
    - Marvin's the clearest thinker I know. How do you think we make this
violinist go away?
    The waiter approached.
    - Your table is ready, - he said.
    Seen from the outside, which it never is, the Restaurant resembles  a
giant glittering starfish beached on a forgotten rock. Each  of  its  arms
houses the bars, the kitchens, the forcefield generators which protect the
entire structure and the decayed planet on which it  sits,  and  the  Time
Turbines which slowly rock the whole affair backwards and forwards  across
the crucial moment.
    In the centre sits the gigantic golden dome, almost a complete globe,
and it was into this area that  Zaphod,  Ford,  Arthur  and  Trillian  now
    At least five tons of glitter alone had gone into it before them, and
covered every available surface. The other  surfaces  were  not  available
because they were already encrusted with jewels, precious sea shells  from
Santraginus,  gold  leaf,  mosaic  tiles,  lizard  skins  and  a   million
unidentifiable embellishments and  decorations.  Glass  glittered,  silver
shone, gold gleamed, Arthur Dent goggled.
    - Wowee, - said Zaphod, - Zappo.
    - Incredible! - breathed Arthur, - the people!.. The things!..
    - The things, - said Ford Prefect quietly, - are also people.
    - The people... - resumed Arthur, - the... other people...
    - The lights!.. - said Trillian.
    - The tables... - said Arthur.
    - The clothes!.. - said Trillian.
    The waiter thought they sounded like a couple of bailiffs.
    - The End of the Universe is very popular, -  said  Zaphod  threading
his way unsteadily through the throng of tables, some made of marble, some
of rich ultra-mahagony, some even of platinum, and  at  each  a  party  of
exotic creatures chatting amongst themselves and studying menus.
    - People like to dress up for it, - continued Zaphod, -  Gives  it  a
sense of occasion.
    The tables were fanned out in a large circle around a  central  stage
area where a small band were playing light  music,  at  least  a  thousand
tables was Arthur's guess, and  interspersed  amongst  them  were  swaying
palms,  hissing  fountains,  grotesque  statuary,   in   short   all   the
paraphernalia common to all Restaurants  where  little  expense  has  been
spared to give the impression that no  expense  has  been  spared.  Arthur
glanced around, half expecting to see someone making an  American  Express
    Zaphod lurched into Ford, who lurched back into Zaphod.
    - Wowee, - said Zaphod.
    - Zappo, - said Ford.
    - My great granddaddy must have  really  screwed  up  the  computer's
works, you know, - said Zaphod, - I told it to  take  us  to  the  nearest
place to eat and it sends us to the End of the Universe. Remind me  to  be
nice to it one day.
    He paused.
    - Hey, everybody's here you know. Everybody who was anybody.
    - Was? - said Arthur.
    - At the End of the Universe you have to use the past tense a lot,  -
said Zaphod, - 'cos everything's been done you know. Hi, guys, - he called
out to a nearby party of giant iguana lifeforms, - How did you do?
    - Is that Zaphod Beeblebrox? - asked one iguana of another iguana.
    - I think so, - replied the second iguana.
    - Well doesn't that just take the biscuit, - said the first iguana.
    - Funny old thing, life, - said the second iguana.
    - It's what you make of it, - said the first  and  they  lapsed  back
into silence. They were waiting for the greatest show in the Universe.
    - Hey, Zaphod, - said Ford, grabbing for his arm and, on  account  of
the third Pan Galactic Gargle  Blaster,  missing.  He  pointed  a  swaying
    - There's an old mate of mine, - he said, - Hotblack Desiato! See the
man at the platinum table with the platinum suit on?
    Zaphod tried to follow Ford's finger with his eyes but  it  made  him
feel dizzy. Finally he saw.
    - Oh yeah, - he said, then recognition came a moment later. - Hey,  -
he said, - did that guy ever make it megabig! Wow, bigger than the biggest
thing ever. Other than me.
    - Who's he supposed to be? - asked Trillian.
    - Hotblack Desiato? - said Zaphod in astonishment, - you don't  know?
You never heard of Disaster Area?
    - No, - said Trillian, who hadn't.
    - The biggest, - said Ford, - loudest...
    - Richest... - suggested Zaphod.
    - ... rock band in the history of... - he searched for the word.
    - ... history itself, - said Zaphod.
    - No, - said Trillian.
    - Zowee, - said Zaphod, - here we are at the End of the Universe  and
you haven't even lived yet. Did you miss out.
    He led her off to where the waiter had been waiting all this time  at
the table. Arthur followed them feeling very lost and alone.
    Ford waded off through the throng to renew an old acquaintance.
    - Hey, er, Hotblack, - he called out, - how you doing? Great  to  see
you big boy, how's the noise? You're looking great, really very, very  fat
and unwell. Amazing. - He slapped the man  on  the  back  and  was  mildly
surprised that it seemed to elict no response.  The  Pan  Galactic  Gargle
Blasters swirling round inside him told him to plunge on regardless.
    - Remember the old days? - he said, - We used to hang out, right? The
Bistro Illegal, remember? Slim's Throat Emporium? The Evildrome Boozarama,
great days eh?
    Hotblack Desiato offered no opinion as to  whether  they  were  great
days or not. Ford was not perturbed.
    - And when we were hungry we'd pose as public health inspectors,  you
remember that? And go around confiscating meals and drinks right? Till  we
got food poisoning. Oh, and then there were the long nights of talking and
drinking in those smelly rooms above the Cafe Lou in  Gretchen  Town,  New
Betel, and you were always in the next room trying to write songs on  your
ajuitar and we all hated them. And you said you didn't care, and  we  said
we did because we hated them so much. - Ford's eyes were beginning to mist
    - And you said you  didn't  want  to  be  a  star,  -  he  continued,
wallowing in nostalgia, - because you despised the  star  system.  And  we
said, Hadra and Sulijoo and me, that we didn't think you had  the  option.
And what do you do now? You buy star systems!
    He turned and solicited the attention of those at nearby tables.
    - Here, - he said, - is a man who buys star systems!
    Hotblack Desiato made no attempt either to confirm or deny this fact,
and the attention of the temporary audience waned rapidly.
    - I think someone's drunk, - muttered a purple bush-like  being  into
his wine glass.
    Ford staggered slightly, and sat down heavily  on  the  chair  facing
Hotblack Desiato.
    - What's that number you do? - he said, unwisely grabbing at a bottle
for support and tipping it over - into a nearby glass as it happened.  Not
to waste a happy accident, he drained the glass.
    - That really huge number, - he continued, - how does it go? - Bwarm!
Bwarm! Baderr!! - something, and in the stage act you do it ends  up  with
this ship crashing right into the sun, and you actually do it!
    Ford crashed his fist into his other hand  to  illustrate  this  feat
graphically. He knocked the bottle over again.
    - Ship! Sun! Wham bang! - he cried. - I mean forget lasers and stuff,
you guys are into solar flares and real sunburn! Oh, and terrible songs.
    His eyes followed the stream of liquid glugging out of the bottle  on
to the table. Something ought to be done about it, he thought.
    - Hey, you want a drink? -  he  said.  It  began  to  sink  into  his
squelching mind that something was missing from this reunion, and that the
missing something was in some way connected with the fact that the fat man
sitting opposite him in the platinum suit and the silvery trilby  had  not
yet said "Hi, Ford" or "Great to see you after all this time," or in  fact
anything at all. More to the point he had not yet even moved.
    - Hotblack? - said Ford.
    A large meaty hand landed on his shoulder from behind and pushed  him
aside. He slid gracelessly off his seat and peered upwards to  see  if  he
could spot the owner of this discourteous hand. The owner was not hard  to
spot, on account of his being something of the order of  seven  feet  tall
and not slightly built with it. In fact he was built the  way  one  builds
leather sofas, shiny, lumpy and with lots of solid stuffing. The suit into
which the man's body had been stuffed looked as if it's  only  purpose  in
life was to demonstrate how difficult it was to get this sort of body into
a suit. The face had the texture of an orange and the colour of an  apple,
but there the resemblance to anything sweet ended.
    - Kid... - said a voice which emerged from the man's mouth as  if  it
had been having a really rough time down in his chest.
    - Er, yeah? - said Ford conversationally. He staggered  back  to  his
feet again and was disappointed that the  top  of  his  head  didn't  come
further up the man's body.
    - Beat it, - said the man.
    - Oh yeah? - said Ford, wondering how wise he was being,  -  and  who
are you?
    The man considered this for a moment. He wasn't used to  being  asked
this sort of question. Nevertheless, after a while  he  came  up  with  an
    - I'm the guy who's telling you to beat it, - he said, -  before  you
get it beaten for you.
    - Now listen, - said Ford nervously - he wished his head  would  stop
spinning, settle down and get to grips with the situation - Now listen,  -
he continued, - I am one of Hotblack's oldest friends and...
    He glanced at Hotblack Desiato, who still hadn't moved so much as  an
    - ... and... - said Ford again, wondering what would be a  good  word
to say after "and".
    The large man came up with a whole sentence to  go  after  "and".  He
said it.
    - And I am Mr Desiato's bodyguard, - it went, - and I am  responsible
for his body, and I am not responsible for yours, so take it  away  before
it gets damaged.
    - Now wait a minute, - said Ford.
    - No minutes! - boomed the bodyguard, - no waiting! Mr Desiato speaks
to no one!
    - Well perhaps you'd let him say what  he  thinks  about  the  matter
himself, - said Ford.
    - He speaks to no one! - bellowed the bodyguard.
    Ford glanced anxiously at Hotblack again and was forced to  admit  to
himself that the bodyguard seemed to have the facts on his side. There was
still not the slightest sign of  movement,  let  alone  keen  interest  in
Ford's welfare.
    - Why? - said Ford, - What's the matter with him?
    The bodyguard told him.

                              Chapter 17

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy notes  that  Disaster  Area,  a
plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones, are generally held  to
be not only the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, but in fact  the  loudest
noise of any kind at all. Regular concert goers judge that the best  sound
balance is usually to be heard from within  large  concrete  bunkers  some
thirty-seven miles from the stage, whilst the  musicians  themselves  play
their instruments by  remote  control  from  within  a  heavily  insulated
spaceship which stays in orbit around the  planet  -  or  more  frequently
around a completely different planet.
    Their songs are on the  whole  very  simple  and  mostly  follow  the
familiar theme of boy-being meets girl-being beneath a silvery moon, which
then explodes for no adequately explored reason.
    Many worlds have now  banned  their  act  altogether,  sometimes  for
artistic reasons, but most commonly  because  the  band's  public  address
system contravenes local strategic arms limitations treaties.
    This has not, however, stopped their earnings from pushing  back  the
boundaries of pure hypermathematics, and their chief  research  accountant
has recently been appointed Professor of Neomathematics at the  University
of Maximegalon, in  recognition  of  both  his  General  and  his  Special
Theories of Disaster Area Tax Returns, in which he proves that  the  whole
fabric of the spacetime continuum is not merely  curved,  it  is  in  fact
totally bent.
    Ford staggered back to the table where Zaphod,  Arthur  and  Trillian
were sitting waiting for the fun to begin.
    - Gotta have some food, - said Ford.
    - Hi, Ford, - said Zaphod, - you speak to the big noise boy?
    Ford waggled his head noncommittally.
    - Hotblack? I sort of spoke to him, yeah.
    - What'd he say?
    - Well, not a lot really. He's... er...
    - Yeah?
    - He's spending a year dead for tax reasons. I've got to sit down.
    He sat down.
    The waiter approached.
    - Would you like to see the menu? - he said, - or would you  like  to
meet the Dish of the Day?
    - Huh? - said Ford.
    - Huh? - said Arthur.
    - Huh? - said Trillian.
    - That's cool, - said Zaphod, - we'll meet the meat.
    In a small room in one of the arms of the Restaurant complex a  tall,
thin, gangling figure pulled aside a curtain and oblivion  looked  him  in
the face.
    It was not a pretty face, perhaps because oblivion had looked him  in
it so many times. It was too long for a start, the eyes too sunken and too
hooded, the cheeks too hollow, his lips were too thin and  too  long,  and
when they parted his teeth looked too much like a  recently  polished  bay
window. The hands that held the curtain were long and thin too: they  were
also cold. They lay lightly along the folds of the curtain  and  gave  the
impression that if he didn't watch them like a hawk they would crawl  away
of their own accord and do something unspeakable in a corner.
    He let the curtain drop and the terrible light that had played on his
features went off to play somewhere more healthy. He  prowled  around  his
small chamber like a mantis contemplating an  evening's  preying,  finally
settling on a rickety chair by a trestle table, where he leafed through  a
few sheets of jokes.
    A bell rang.
    He pushed the thin sheaf of papers aside  and  stood  up.  His  hands
brushed limply over some of the one million rainbow-coloured sequins  with
which his jacket was festooned, and he was gone through the door.
    In the Restaurant the lights dimmed, the band quickened its  pace,  a
single spotlight stabbed down into the darkness of the stairway  that  led
up to the centre of the stage.
    Up the stairs bounded bounded a tall brilliantly coloured figure.  He
burst on to the stage, tripped lightly up to the  microphone,  removed  it
from its stand with one swoop of his long thin hand and stood for a moment
bowing left and right to the audience  acknowledging  their  applause  and
displaying to them his bay window. He waved to his particular  friends  in
the audience even though there weren't  any  there,  and  waited  for  the
applause to die down.
    He held up his hand and smiled a smile that stretched not merely from
ear to ear, but seemed to extend some way beyond the mere confines of  his
    - Thank you ladies and gentlemen! - he cried, - thank you very  much.
Thank you so much.
    He eyed them with a twinkling eye.
    - Ladies and gentlemen, - he said, - The Universe as we know  it  has
now been in existence for over one hundred and  seventy  thousand  million
billion years and will be ending in  a  little  over  half  an  hour.  So,
welcome one and all to  Milliways,  the  Restaurant  at  the  End  of  the
    With a gesture  he  deftly  conjured  another  round  of  spontaneous
applause. With another gesture he cut it.
    - I am  your  host  for  tonight,  -  he  said,  -  my  name  is  Max
Quordlepleen... - (Everybody knew this, his act was famous throughout  the
known Galaxy, but he said it for the fresh applause it generated, which he
acknowledged with a disclaiming smile and wave.) - ... and I've just  come
straight from the very very other end of time, where I've been  hosting  a
show at the Big Bang Burger Bar - where I can  tell  you  we  had  a  very
exciting evening ladies and gentlemen - and  I  will  be  with  you  right
through this historic occasion, the End of History itself!
    Another burst of applause died away quickly as the lights dimmed down
further.  On  every  table  candles  ignited   themselves   spontaneously,
eliciting a slight gasp from all  the  diners  and  wreathing  them  in  a
thousand tiny flickering lights and a million intimate shadows.  A  tremor
of excitement thrilled through the darkened Restaurant as the vast  golden
dome above them began very very slowly to dim, to darken, to fade.
    Max's voice was hushed as he continued.
    - So, ladies and gentlemen, - he breathed, - the candles are lit, the
band plays softly, and as the force-shielded  dome  above  us  fades  into
transparency, revealing a dark and sullen sky hung heavy with the  ancient
light of livid swollen stars, I can  see  we're  all  in  for  a  fabulous
evening's apocalypse!
    Even the soft tootling of  the  band  faded  away  as  stunned  shock
descended on all those who had not seen this sight before.
    A monstrous, grisly light poured in on them,
    - a hideous light,
    - a boiling, pestilential light,
    - a light that would have disfigured hell.
    The Universe was coming to an end.
    For a few interminable seconds the Restaurant span  silently  through
the raging void. Then Max spoke again.
    - For those of you who ever hoped to see the light at the end of  the
tunnel, - he said, - this is it.
    The band struck up again.
    - Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, - cried Max, - I'll be  back  with
you again in just a moment, and meanwhile I leave you in the very  capable
hands of Mr Reg Nullify and his cataclysmic Combo. Big hand please  ladies
and gentlemen for Reg and the boys!
    The baleful turmoil of the skies continued.
    Hesitantly the audience began to clap and after a moment or so normal
conversation resumed. Max began his round of the tables,  swapping  jokes,
shouting with laughter, earning his living.
    A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's  table,  a  large
fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns
and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.
    - Good evening, - it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, -  I
am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body? -  It
harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled  its  hind  quarters  into  a  more
comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them.
    Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewilderment  from  Arthur  and
Trillian, a resigned shrug from Ford Prefect and naked hunger from  Zaphod
    - Something off the shoulder  perhaps?  -  suggested  the  animal,  -
Braised in a white wine sauce?
    - Er, your shoulder? - said Arthur in a horrified whisper.
    - But naturally my shoulder, sir, - mooed the animal  contentedly,  -
nobody else's is mine to offer.
    Zaphod leapt to  his  feet  and  started  prodding  and  feeling  the
animal's shoulder appreciatively.
    - Or the rump is very good,  -  murmured  the  animal.  -  I've  been
exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there's a lot  of  good  meat
there. - It gave a mellow grunt, gurgled again and  started  to  chew  the
cud. It swallowed the cud again.
    - Or a casserole of me perhaps? - it added.
    - You mean this animal actually wants  us  to  eat  it?  -  whispered
Trillian to Ford.
    - Me? - said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes,  -  I  don't  mean
    - That's   absolutely  horrible,  -  exclaimed  Arthur,  -  the  most
revolting thing I've ever heard.
    - What's the problem Earthman? - said Zaphod,  now  transferring  his
attention to the animal's enormous rump.
    - I just don't want to eat an animal that's standing here inviting me
to, - said Arthur, - it's heartless.
    - Better than eating an animal that doesn't want to be eaten, -  said
    - That's not the point, - Arthur protested. Then he thought about  it
for a moment. - Alright, - he said, - maybe it is the point. I don't care,
I'm not going to think about it now. I'll just... er...
    The Universe raged about him in its death throes.
    - I think I'll just have a green salad, - he muttered.
    - May I urge you to consider my liver? - asked the animal, - it  must
be very rich and tender by now, I've been force-feeding myself for months.
    - A green salad, - said Arthur emphatically.
    - A green salad? - said the animal, rolling his  eyes  disapprovingly
at Arthur.
    - Are you going to tell me, - said Arthur, - that  I  shouldn't  have
green salad?
    - Well, - said the animal, - I know many  vegetables  that  are  very
clear on that point. Which is why it was eventually decided to cut through
the whole tangled problem and breed an animal that actually wanted  to  be
eaten and was capable of saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am.
    It managed a very slight bow.
    - Glass of water please, - said Arthur.
    - Look, - said Zaphod, - we want to eat, we don't want to make a meal
of the issues. Four rare steaks please, and hurry.  We  haven't  eaten  in
five hundred and seventy-six thousand million years.
    The animal staggered to its feet. It gave a mellow gurgle.
    - A very wise choice, sir, if I may say so. Very good, - it  said,  -
I'll just nip off and shoot myself.
    He turned and gave a friendly wink to Arthur.
    - Don't worry, sir, - he said, - I'll be very humane.
    It waddled unhurriedly off into the kitchen.
    A matter of minutes later the waiter arrived with four huge  steaming
steaks. Zaphod and Ford wolfed  straight  into  them  without  a  second's
hesitation. Trillian paused, then shrugged and started into hers.
    Arthur stared at his feeling slightly ill.
    - Hey, Earthman, - said Zaphod with a malicious grin on the face that
wasn't stuffing itself, - what's eating you?
    And the band played on.
    All around the Restaurant people and things relaxed and chatted.  The
air was filled with talk of this and that, and with the mingled scents  of
exotic plants, extravagant foods and  insidious  wines.  For  an  infinite
number of miles in every direction the universal cataclysm  was  gathering
to a stupefying climax. Glancing at his watch, Max returned to  the  stage
with a flourish.
    - And now, ladies and gentlemen, - he beamed, -  is  everyone  having
one last wonderful time?
    - Yes, - called out the sort of people  who  call  out  "  yes"  when
comedians ask them if they're having a wonderful time.
    - That's wonderful, - enthused Max, - absolutely  wonderful.  And  as
the photon storms gather in swirling crowds around us, preparing  to  tear
apart the last of the red hot suns, I know you're all going to settle back
and enjoy with me what I know we will find all an immensely  exciting  and
terminal experience.
    He paused. He caught the audience with a glittering eye.
    - Believe me, ladies and gentlemen, -  he  said,  -  there's  nothing
penultimate about this one.
    He paused again. Tonight his timing was immaculate. Time  after  time
he had done this show, night after night. Not that the word night had  any
meaning here at the extremity of time.  All  there  was  was  the  endless
repetition of the final moment, as the Restaurant  rocked  slowly  forward
over the brink of time's furthest edge - and back again. This "night"  was
good though, the audience was writhing in the palm of his sickly hand. His
voice dropped. They had to strain to hear him.
    - This, - he said, - really is the absolute end, the  final  chilling
desolation, in which the whole majestic sweep of creation becomes extinct.
This ladies and gentlemen is the proverbial "it".
    He dropped his voice still lower. In the stillness, a fly  would  not
have dared cleat its throat.
    - After this, -  he  said,  -  there  is  nothing.  Void.  Emptiness.
Oblivion. Absolute nothing...
    His eyes glittered again - or did they twinkle?
    - Nothing... except of course for  the  sweet  trolley,  and  a  fine
selection of Aldebaran liqueurs!
    The band gave him a musical sting. He wished they wouldn't, he didn't
need it, not an artist of his calibre. He could play the audience like his
own musical instrument. They were laughing with relief. He followed on.
    - And for once, - he cried cheerily, - you don't need to worry  about
having a hangover in the  morning  -  because  there  won't  be  any  more
    He beamed at his happy, laughing audience. He glanced up at the  sky,
going through the same dead routine every night, but his glance  was  only
for a fraction of  a  second.  He  trusted  it  to  do  its  job,  as  one
professional trusts another.
    - And now, - he said, strutting about the stage, -  at  the  risk  of
putting a damper on the wonderful sense of doom  and  futility  here  this
evening, I would like to welcome a few parties.
    He pulled a card from his pocket.
    - Do we have... - he put up a hand to hold back the cheers, -  Do  we
have a party here from  the  Zansellquasure  Flamarion  Bridge  Club  from
beyond the Vortvoid of Qvarne? Are they here?
    A rousing cheer came from the back, but he pretended not to hear.  He
peered around trying to find them.
    - Are they here? - he asked again, to elict a louder cheer.
    He got it, as he always did.
    - Ah, there they are.  Well,  last  bids  lads  -  and  no  cheating,
remember this is a very solemn moment.
    He lapped up the laughter.
    - And do we also have, do we have... a party of  minor  deities  from
the Halls of Asgard?
    Away to his right came a rumble of thunder.  Lightning  arced  across
the stage. A small group of  hairy  men  with  helmets  sat  looking  very
pleased with themselves, and raised their glasses to him.
    Hasbeens, he thought to himself.
    - Careful with that hammer, sir, - he said.
    They did their trick with the lightning again. Max gave them  a  very
thin lipped smile.
    - And thirdly, - he said, - thirdly a party  of  Young  Conservatives
from Sirius B, are they here?
    A party of smartly dressed young dogs stopped throwing rolls at  each
other and started throwing rolls at the  stage.  They  yapped  and  barked
    - Yes, - said Max, - well this is all your fault, you realize that?
    - And finally, - said Max, quieting the audience down and putting  on
his solemn face, - finally I believe we have with us here tonight, a party
of believers, very devout believers, from the Church of the Second  Coming
of the Great Prophet Zarquon.
    There were about twenty of them, sitting right out on the edge of the
floor, ascetically dressed, sipping mineral water nervously,  and  staying
apart from the festivities. They blinked resentfully as the spotlight  was
turned on them.
    - There they are, - said Max, - sitting  there,  patiently.  He  said
he'd come again, and he's kept you waiting a long time, so let's hope he's
hurrying fellas, because he's only got eight minutes left!
    The party of Zarquon's followers sat rigid, refusing to  be  buffeted
by the waves of uncharitable laughter which swept over them.
    Max restrained his audience.
    - No, but seriously though folks, seriously though, no offence meant.
No, I know we shouldn't make fun of deeply held beliefs, so I think a  big
hand please for the Great Prophet Zarquon...
    The audience clapped respectfully.
    - ... wherever he's got to!
    He blew a kiss to the stony-faced party and returned to the centre of
the stage.
    He grabbed a tall stool and sat on it.
    - It's marvellous though, - he rattled on, - to see so  many  of  you
here tonight - no isn't it though? Yes, absolutely marvellous.  Because  I
know that so many of you come here time and time again, which I  think  is
really wonderful, to come and watch this final end of everything, and then
return home to your own eras... and raise families,  strive  for  new  and
better societies, fight terrible wars for what you know to be right...  it
really gives one hope for the future of all lifekind. Except of course,  -
he waved at the blitzing turmoil above and around them, - that we know  it
hasn't got one...
    Arthur turned to Ford - he hadn't quite got this place worked out  in
his mind.
    - Look, surely, - he said, - if the Universe is about to end... don't
we go with it?
    Ford gave him  a  three-Pan-Galactic-Gargle-Blaster  look,  in  other
words a rather unsteady one.
    - No, - he said, - look, - he said, - as soon as you come  into  this
dive you get held in this sort of  amazing  force-shielded  temporal  warp
thing. I think.
    - Oh, - said Arthur. He turned his attention back to a bowl  of  soup
he'd managed to get from the waiter to replace his steak.
    - Look, - said Ford, - I'll show you.
    He grabbed at a napkin off the table and fumbled hopelessly with it.
    - Look, - he said  again,  -  imagine  this  napkin,  right,  as  the
temporal Universe, right? And this spoon as a transductional mode  in  the
matter curve...
    It took him a while to say  this  last  part,  and  Arthur  hated  to
interrupt him.
    - That's the spoon I was eating with, - he said.
    - Alright, - said Ford, - imagine this spoon... - he  found  a  small
wooden spoon on a tray of relishes, - this spoon... - but found it  rather
tricky to pick up, - no, better still this fork...
    - Hey would you let go of my fork? - snapped Zaphod.
    - Alright, - said Ford, - alright, alright. Why don't we  say...  why
don't we say that this wine glass is the temporal Universe...
    - What, the one you've just knocked on the floor?
    - Did I do that?
    - Yes.
    - Alright, - said Ford, - forget that. I mean... I mean, look, do you
know - do you know how the Universe actually began for a kick off?
    - Probably not, - said Arthur, who wished he'd never embarked on  any
of this.
    - Alright, - said Ford, - imagine this. Right.  You  get  this  bath.
Right. A large round bath. And it's made of ebony.
    - Where from? - said Arthur, - Harrods was destroyed by the Vogons.
    - Doesn't matter.
    - So you keep saying.
    - Listen.
    - Alright.
    - You get this bath, see? Imagine you've  got  this  bath.  And  it's
ebony. And it's conical.
    - Conical? - said Arthur, - What sort of...
    - Shhh! - said Ford. - It's conical. So what you do is, you see,  you
fill it with fine white sand, alright? Or sugar. Fine white  sand,  and/or
sugar. Anything. Doesn't matter. Sugar's fine. And  when  it's  full,  you
pull the plug out... are you listening?
    - I'm listening.
    - You pull the plug out, and it all just twirls away, twirls away you
see, out of the plughole.
    - I see.
    - You don't see. You don't see at all. I haven't got  to  the  clever
bit yet. You want to hear the clever bit?
    - Tell me the clever bit.
    - I'll tell you the clever bit.
    Ford thought for a moment, trying to remember  what  the  clever  bit
    - The clever bit, - he said, - is this. You film it happening.
    - Clever.
    - That's not the clever bit. This is the clever bit, I  remember  now
that this is the clever bit. The clever bit is that you  then  thread  the
film in the projector... backwards!
    - Backwards?
    - Yes. Threading it backwards is definitely the clever bit. So  then,
you just sit and watch it, and everything just appears to  spiral  upwards
out of the plughole and fill the bath. See?
    - And that's how the Universe began is it? - said Arthur.
    - No, - said Ford, - but it's a marvellous way to relax.
    He reached for his wine glass.
    - Where's my wine glass? - he said.
    - It's on the floor.
    - Ah.
    Tipping back his chair to look for it, Ford collided with  the  small
green waiter who was approaching the table carrying a portable telephone.
    Ford excused himself to the waiter explaining that it was because  he
was extremely drunk.
    The waiter said that that was quite alright  and  that  he  perfectly
    Ford thanked the waiter for his kind indulgence, attempted to tug his
forelock, missed by six inches and slid under the table.
    - Mr Zaphod Beeblebrox? - inquired the waiter.
    - Er, yeah? - said Zaphod, glancing up from his third steak.
    - There is a phone call for you.
    - Hey, what?
    - A phone call, sir.
    - For me? Here? Hey, but who knows where I am?
    One of his minds raced. The other dawdled lovingly over the  food  it
was still shovelling in.
    - Excuse me if I carry on, won't you? -  said  his  eating  head  and
carried on.
    There were now so many people after him he'd lost count. He shouldn't
have made such a conspicuous entrance. Hell, why not though,  he  thought.
How do you know you're having fun if there's no one watching you have it?
    - Maybe someone here tipped off the Galactic Police, - said Trillian.
- Everyone saw you come in.
    - You mean they want to arrest me over the phone? -  said  Zaphod,  -
Could be. I'm a pretty dangerous dude when I'm concerned.
    - Yeah, - said a voice from under the table, - you go  to  pieces  so
fast people get hit by the shrapnel.
    - Hey, what is this, Judgment Day? - snapped Zaphod.
    - Do we get to see that as well? - asked Arthur nervously.
    - I'm in no hurry, - muttered Zaphod, - OK, so who's the cat  on  the
phone? - He kicked Ford. - Hey get up there, kid, - he said to  him,  -  I
may need you.
    - I am not, - said the waiter, - personally acquainted with the metal
gentlemen in question, sir...
    - Metal?
    - Yes, sir.
    - Did you say metal?
    - Yes, sir. I said that I am not personally acquainted with the metal
gentleman in question...
    - OK, carry on.
    - But I am informed that he has  been  awaiting  your  return  for  a
considerable  number  of  millennia.  It  seems  you  left  here  somewhat
    - Left here? - said Zaphod, - are you being  strange?  We  only  just
arrived here.
    - Indeed, sir, - persisted the waiter  doggedly,  -  but  before  you
arrived here, sir, I understand that you left here.
    Zaphod tried this in one brain, then in the other.
    - You're saying, - he said, - that before we arrived  here,  we  left
    This is going to be a long night, thought the waiter.
    - Precisely, sir, - he said.
    - Put your analyst on danger money, baby, - advised Zaphod.
    - No, wait a minute, - said Ford, emerging above table level again, -
where exactly is here?
    - To be absolutely exact sir, it is Frogstar World B.
    - But we just left there, - protested Zaphod, -  we  left  there  and
came to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
    - Yes, sir, - said the waiter, feeling that he was now into the  home
stretch and running well, - the one was constructed on the  ruins  of  the
    - Oh, - said Arthur brightly, - you mean we've travelled in time  but
not in space.
    - Listen you semi-evolved simian, - cut in Zaphod, - go climb a  tree
will you?
    Arthur bristled.
    - Go bang your heads together four-eyes, - he advised Zaphod.
    - No, no, - the waiter said to Zaphod,  -  your  monkey  has  got  it
right, sir.
    Arthur stuttered  in  fury  and  said  nothing  apposite,  or  indeed
    - You jumped  forward...  I  believe  five  hundred  and  seventy-six
thousand million years  whilst  staying  in  exactly  the  same  place,  -
explained the waiter. He smiled. He had a wonderful feeling  that  he  had
finally won through against what had seemed to be insuperable odds.
    - That's it! - said Zaphod, - I got it. I told the computer  to  send
us to the nearest place to eat, that's exactly what it did. Give  or  take
five hundred and seventy-six thousand million years, we never moved. Neat.
    They all agreed this was very neat.
    - But who, - said Zaphod, - is the cat on the phone?
    - Whatever happened to Marvin? - said Trillian.
    Zaphod clapped his hands to his heads.
    - The Paranoid Android! I left him moping about on Frogstar B.
    - When was this?
    - Well, er, five hundred and seventy-six thousand million years ago I
suppose, - said Zaphod, - Hey, er, hand me the rap-rod, Plate Captain.
    The  little  waiter's  eyebrows  wandered  about  his   forehead   in
    - I beg your pardon, sir? - he said.
    - The phone, waiter, - said Zaphod, grabbing it off him. - Shee,  you
guys are so unhip it's a wonder your bums don't fall off.
    - Indeed, sir.
    - Hey, Marvin, is that you? - said Zaphod into the phone, -  How  you
doing, kid?
    There was a long pause before a thin low voice came up the line.
    - I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed, - it said.
    Zaphod cupped his hands over the phone.
    - It's Marvin, - he said.
    - Hey, Marvin, - he said into the phone again, - we're having a great
time. Food, wine, a little personal abuse and  the  Universe  going  foom.
Where can we find you?
    Again the pause.
    - You don't have to pretend to be interested in me you know,  -  said
Marvin at last, - I know perfectly well I'm only a menial robot.
    - OK, OK, - said Zaphod, - but where are you?
    - "Reverse primary thrust, Marvin," that's what they say to me, "open
airlock number three, Marvin. Marvin, can you pick up that piece of paper?
" Can I pick up that piece of paper! Here I am, brain the size of a planet
and they ask me to...
    - Yeah, yeah, - sympathized Zaphod hardly at all.
    - But I'm quite used to being humiliated, - droned Marvin,  -  I  can
even go and stick my head in a bucket of water if you like. Would you like
me to go and stick my head in a bucket of water? I've got one ready.  Wait
a minute.
    - Er, hey, Marvin... - interrupted Zaphod, but it was too  late.  Sad
little clunks and gurgles came up the line.
    - What's he saying? - asked Trillian.
    - Nothing, - said Zaphod, - he just phoned up to wash his head at us.
    - There, - said Marvin, coming back on the line and bubbling a bit, -
I hope that gave satisfaction...
    - Yeah, yeah, - said Zaphod, - now will you please tell us where  you
    - I'm in the car park, - said Marvin.
    - The car park? - said Zaphod, - what are you doing there?
    - Parking cars, what else does one do in a car park?
    - OK, hang in there, we'll be right down.
    In one movement Zaphod leapt to his feet, threw down  the  phone  and
wrote "Hotblack Desiato" on the bill.
    - Come on guys, - he said, - Marvin's in the car park. Let's  get  on
    - What's he doing in the car park? - asked Arthur.
    - Parking cars, what else? Dum dum.
    - But what about the End of the Universe? We'll miss the big moment.
    - I've seen it. It's rubbish, - said Zaphod, -  nothing  but  a  gnab
    - A what?
    - Opposite of a big bang. Come on, let's get zappy.
    Few of the other diners paid them any attention as they weaved  their
way through the Restaurant to the exit. Their eyes  were  riveted  on  the
horror of the skies.
    - An interesting effect to watch for, - Max was telling them, - is in
the upper left-hand quadrant of the sky, where if you look very  carefully
you can see the star system Hastromil boiling away into the  ultra-violet.
Anyone here from Hastromil?
    There were one or two slightly hesitant cheers from somewhere at  the
    - Well, - said Max beaming cheerfully at them, -  it's  too  late  to
worry about whether you left the gas on now.

                              Chapter 18

    The main reception foyer  was  almost  empty  but  Ford  nevertheless
weaved his way through it.
    Zaphod grasped him firmly by  the  arm  and  manoeuvred  him  into  a
cubicle standing to one side of the entrance hall.
    - What are you doing to him? - asked Arthur.
    - Sobering him up, - said Zaphod and  pushed  a  coin  into  a  slot.
Lights flashed, gases swirled.
    - Hi, - said Ford stepping out a moment later, - where are we going?
    - Down to the car park, come on.
    - What about the personnel Time Teleports? -  said  Ford,  -  Get  us
straight back to the Heart of Gold.
    - Yeah, but I've cooled on that ship. Zarniwoop can have it. I  don't
want to play his games. Let's see what we can find.
    A Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy  Vertical  People  Transporter
took them down deep into the substrata beneath the Restaurant.  They  were
glad to see it had been vandalized and didn't try to make  them  happy  as
well as take them down.
    At the bottom of the shaft the lift doors opened and a blast of  cold
stale air hit them.
    The first thing they saw on leaving the lift was a long concrete wall
with over fifty doors in it offering lavatory facilities for all of  fifty
major  lifeforms.  Nevertheless,  like  every  car  park  in  the   Galaxy
throughout  the  entire  history  of  car  parks,  this  car  park   smelt
predominantly of impatience.
    They turned a corner and found themselves on a  moving  catwalk  that
traversed a vast cavernous space that stretched off into the dim distance.
    It was divided off into bays each of which  contained  a  space  ship
belonging to one of the diners upstairs,  some  smallish  and  utilitarian
mass production models, others vast shining limoships, the  playthings  of
the very rich.
    Zaphod's eyes sparkled with something that may or may not  have  been
avarice as he passed over them. In fact it's best  to  be  clear  on  this
point - avarice is definitely what it was.
    - There he is, - said Trillian, - Marvin, down there.
    They looked where she was pointing. Dimly  they  could  see  a  small
metal figure listlessly rubbing a small rag on  one  remote  corner  of  a
giant silver suncruiser.
    At short intervals along the moving catwalk, wide  transparent  tubes
led down to floor level. Zaphod stepped  off  the  catwalk  into  one  and
floated gently downwards. The  others  followed.  Thinking  back  to  this
later, Arthur Dent thought it was the single most enjoyable experience  of
his travels in the Galaxy.
    - Hey, Marvin, - said Zaphod striding over towards  to  him,  -  Hey,
kid, are we pleased to see you.
    Marvin turned, and in so far as it is possible for  a  totally  inert
metal face to look reproachfully, this is what it did.
    - No you're not, - he said, - no one ever is.
    - Suit yourself, - said Zaphod and turned away  to  ogle  the  ships.
Ford went with him.
    Only Trillian and Arthur actually went up to Marvin.
    - No, really we are, - said Trillian and patted him in a way that  he
disliked intensely, - hanging around waiting for us all this time.
    - Five hundred and seventy-six thousand million, three thousand  five
hundred and seventy-nine years, - said Marvin, - I counted them.
    - Well, here we are now, - said Trillian, felling -  quite  correctly
in Marvin's view - that it was a slightly foolish thing to say.
    - The first ten million years were the worst, - said  Marvin,  -  and
the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The  third  million
years I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of decline.
    He paused just long enough to  make  them  feel  they  ought  to  say
something, and then interrupted.
    - It's the people you meet in this job that really get you down, - he
said and paused again.
    Trillian cleared her throat.
    - Is that...
    - The best conversation I had was over forty  million  years  ago,  -
continued Marvin.
    Again the pause.
    - Oh d...
    - And that was with a coffee machine.
    He waited.
    - That's a...
    - You don't like talking to me  do  you?  -  said  Marvin  in  a  low
desolate tone.
    Trillian talked to Arthur instead.
    Further down the chamber Ford Prefect had found something of which he
very much liked the look, several such things in fact.
    - Zaphod, - he said in a quiet voice, - just look at  some  of  these
little star trolleys...
    Zaphod looked and liked.
    The craft  they  were  looking  at  was  in  fact  pretty  small  but
extraordinary, and very much a rich kid's toy. It was not much to look at.
It resembled nothing so much as a paper dart about twenty feet  long  made
of thin but tough metal foil. At the  rear  end  was  a  small  horizontal
two-man cockpit. It had a tiny charmdrive engine, which was not capable of
moving it at any great speed. The  thing  it  did  have,  however,  was  a
    The heat-sink had a mass of some two thousand billion  tons  and  was
contained within a black hole mounted in an electromagnetic field situated
half-way along the length of the ship,  and  this  heat-sink  enabled  the
craft to be manoeuvred to within a few miles of a  yellow  sun,  there  to
catch and ride the solar flares that burst out from its surface.
    Flare-riding is one of the most exotic  and  exhilarating  sports  in
existence, and those who can dare and  afford  it  are  amongst  the  most
lionized men in the Galaxy. It is also of course stupefyingly dangerous  -
those who don't die riding invariably die of sexual exhaustion at  one  of
the Daedalus Club's ApresFlare parties.
    Ford and Zaphod looked and passed on.
    - And this baby, - said Ford, - the tangerine  star  buggy  with  the
black sunbusters...
    Again, the star buggy was a small ship - a totally  misnamed  one  in
fact, because the one thing it couldn't manage was interstellar distances.
Basically it was a sporty planet hopper dolled up to something it  wasn't.
Nice lines though. They passed on.
    The next one was a big one and thirty yards  long  -  a  coach  built
limoship and obviously designed with one aim in mind, that of  making  the
beholder sick with envy. The paintwork and accessory detail clearly said:
    - Not only am I rich enough to afford  this  ship,  I  am  also  rich
enough not to take it seriously. - It was wonderfully hideous.
    - Just look at it,  -  said  Zaphod,  -  multi-cluster  quark  drive,
perspulex running boards. Got to be a Lazlar Lyricon custom job.
    He examined every inch.
    - Yes, - he said,  -  look,  the  infra-pink  lizard  emblem  on  the
neutrino cowling. Lazlar's trade mark. The man has no shame.
    - I was passed by one of these mothers once, out by the Axel  Nebula,
- said Ford, - I was going flat out and this thing just strolled past  me,
star drive hardly ticking over. Just incredible.
    Zaphod whistled appreciatively.
    - Ten seconds later, - said Ford, -  it  smashed  straight  into  the
third moon of Jaglan Beta.
    - Yeah, right?
    - Amazing looking ship though. Looks like a fish, moves like a  fish,
steers like a cow.
    Ford looked round the other side.
    - Hey, come and see, - he called out, - there's a big  mural  painted
on this side. A bursting sun - Disaster Area's trade mark.  This  must  be
Hotblack's ship. Lucky old bugger. They do this  terrible  song  you  know
which ends with a stuntship crashing into the sun. Meant to be an  amazing
spectacle. Expensive in stunt ships though.
    Zaphod's attention however was elsewhere. His attention  was  riveted
on the ship standing next to Hotblack  Desiato's  limo.  His  mouths  hung
    - That, - he said, - that... is really bad for the eyes...
    Ford looked. He too stood astonished.
    It was a ship of classic, simple design,  like  a  flattened  salmon,
twenty yards long, very clean, very sleek. There was just  one  remarkable
thing about it.
    - It's so... black! - said Ford Prefect, - you can  hardly  make  out
its shape... light just seems to fall into it!
    Zaphod said nothing. He had simply fallen in love.
    The blackness of it was so extreme that it was almost  impossible  to
tell how close you were standing to it.
    - Your eyes just slide off it... - said Ford in  wonder.  It  was  an
emotional moment. He bit his lip.
    Zaphod moved forward to it, slowly, like a man possessed  -  or  more
accurately like a man who wanted to  possess.  His  hand  reached  out  to
stroke it. His hand stopped. His hand reached out to stroke it again.  His
hand stopped again.
    - Come and feel the surface, - he said in a hushed voice.
    Ford put his hand out to feel it. His hand stopped.
    - You... you can't... - he said.
    - See? - said Zaphod, - it's just totally frictionless. This must  be
one mother of a mover...
    He turned to look at Ford seriously. At least, one of his heads did -
the other stayed gazing in awe at the ship.
    - What do you reckon, Ford? - he said.
    - You mean... er... - Ford looked  over  his  shoulder.  -  You  mean
stroll off with it? You think we should?
    - No.
    - Nor do I.
    - But we're going to, aren't we?
    - How can we not?
    They gazed a little  longer,  till  Zaphod  suddenly  pulled  himself
    - We better shift soon, - he said. - In a moment or so  the  Universe
will have ended and all the Captain Creeps will be pouring  down  here  to
find their bourge-mobiles.
    - Zaphod, - said Ford.
    - Yeah?
    - How do we do it?
    - Simple, - said Zaphod. He turned. - Marvin! - he called.
    Slowly, laboriously, and with a million little clanking and  creaking
noises that he had learned to simulate, Marvin turned round to answer  the
    - Come on over here, - said Zaphod, - We've got a job for you.
    Marvin trudged towards them.
    - I won't enjoy it, - he said.
    - Yes you will, -  enthused  Zaphod,  -  there's  a  whole  new  life
stretching out ahead of you.
    - Oh, not another one, - groaned Marvin.
    - Will you shut up and listen! - hissed Zaphod, - this  time  there's
going to be excitement and adventure and really wild things.
    - Sounds awful, - Marvin said.
    - Marvin! All I'm trying to ask you...
    - I suppose you want me to open this spaceship for you?
    - What? Er... yes. Yeah, that's right, - said Zaphod jumpily. He  was
keeping at least three eyes on the entrance. Time was short.
    - Well I wish you'd just  tell  me  rather  than  try  to  engage  my
enthusiasm, - said Marvin, - because I haven't got one.
    He walked on up to the ship, touched it, and a hatchway swung open.
    Ford and Zaphod stared at the opening.
    - Don't mention it, - said Marvin, - Oh, you  didn't.  -  He  trudged
away again.
    Arthur and Trillian clustered round.
    - What's happening? - asked Arthur.
    - Look at this, - said Ford, - look at the interior of this ship.
    - Weirder and weirder, - breathed Zaphod.
    - It's  black,  -  said  Ford,  -  Everything in it is  just  totally  
    In the Restaurant, things were  fast  approaching  the  moment  after
which there wouldn't be any more moments.
    All eyes were fixed  on  the  dome,  other  than  those  of  Hotblack
Desiato's bodyguard, which were looking intently at Hotblack Desiato,  and
those of Hotblack Desiato himself which the bodyguard had  closed  out  of
    The bodyguard leaned forward over the  table.  Had  Hotblack  Desiato
been alive, he probably would have deemed this a good moment to lean back,
or even go for a short walk. His bodyguard was not a  man  which  improved
with proximity. On account of his unfortunate condition, however, Hotblack
Desiato remained totally inert.
    - Mr Desiato, sir? - whispered the bodyguard. Whenever he  spoke,  it
looked as if the muscles on either side of his mouth were clambering  over
each other to get out of the way.
    - Mr Desiato? Can you hear me?
    Hotblack Desiato, quit naturally, said nothing.
    - Hotblack? - hissed the bodyguard.
    Again,   quite   naturally,   Hotblack   Desiato   did   not   reply.
Supernaturally, however, he did.
    On the table in front of him a wine glass rattled, and a fork rose an
inch or so and tapped against the glass. It settled on the table again.
    The bodyguard gave a satisfied grunt.
    - It's time we get going, Mr Desiato, -  muttered  the  bodyguard,  -
don't want to get caught in the rush, not in your condition. You  want  to
get to the next gig nice and relaxed. There was a really big audience  for
it. One of the best. Kakrafoon. Five-hundred seventy-six thousand and  two
million years ago. Had you will have been looking forward to it?
    The fork rose again, waggled in  a  non-committal  sort  of  way  and
dropped again.
    - Ah, come on, - said the bodyguard, - it's going to have been great.
You  knocked  'em  cold.  -  The  bodyguard  would  have  given   Dr   Dan
Streetmentioner an apoplectic attack.
    - The black ship going into the sun always  gets  'em,  and  the  new
one's a beauty. Be real sorry to see it go. If we get on down there,  I'll
set the black ship autopilot and we'll cruise off in the limo. OK?
    The fork tapped once in agreement, and the glass of wine mysteriously
emptied itself.
    The bodyguard wheeled Hotblack Desiato's chair out of the Restaurant.
    - And now, - cried Max from the centre of the  stage,  -  the  moment
you've all been waiting for! - He flung his arms into the air. Behind him,
the band went into a frenzy of percussion and  rolling  synthochords.  Max
had argued with them about this but they  had  claimed  it  was  in  their
contract that that's what they would do. His agent would have to  sort  it
    - The skies begin to boil! - he cried. - Nature  collapses  into  the
screaming void! In twenty seconds' time, the Universe itself will be at an
end! See where the light of infinity bursts in upon us!
    The hideous fury of destruction blazed  about  them  -  and  at  that
moment a still small trumpet sounded as from an infinite  distance.  Max's
eyes swivelled round to glare at the band.  None  of  them  seemed  to  be
playing a trumpet. Suddenly a wisp of smoke was swirling and shimmering on
the stage next to him. The trumpet was joined by more trumpets. Over  five
hundred times Max had done this show,  and  nothing  like  this  had  ever
happened before. He drew back in alarm from the swirling smoke, and as  he
did so, a figure slowly materialized inside, the figure of an ancient man,
bearded, robed and wreathed in light. In his eyes were stars  and  on  his
brow a golden crown.
    - What's this? - whispered Max, wild-eyed, - what's happening?  -  At
the back of the Restaurant the stony-faced party from the  Church  of  the
Second Coming of the Great Prophet Zarquon  leapt  ecstatically  to  their
feet chanting and crying.
    Max blinked in amazement. He threw up his arms to the audience.
    - A big hand please, ladies and gentlemen, - he hollered, -  for  the
Great Prophet Zarquon! He has come! Zarquon has come again!
    Thunderous applause broke out as Max  strode  across  the  stage  and
handed his microphone to the Prophet.
    Zarquon coughed. He peered round  at  the  assembled  gathering.  The
stars in his  eyes  blinked  uneasily.  He  handled  the  microphone  with
    - Er... - he said, - hello. Er, look, I'm sorry I'm a bit late.  I've
had the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping  up  at  the  last
    He seemed nervous of the expectant awed hush. He cleared his throat.
    - Er, how are we for time? - he said, - have I just got a min.
    And so the Universe ended.

                              Chapter 19

    One of the major selling point of that wholly remarkable travel book,
the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, apart from its  relative  cheapness
and the fact that it has the words Don't Panic written in  large  friendly
letters on  its  cover,  is  its  compendious  and  occasionally  accurate
glossary.  The  statistics  relating  to  the  geo-social  nature  of  the
Universe, for instance, are deftly set out between pages nine hundred  and
thirty-eight thousand and twenty-four and nine  hundred  and  thirty-eight
thousand and twenty-six; and  the  simplistic  style  in  which  they  are
written is partly explained by the fact that the editors, having to meet a
publishing deadline, copied the information off the back of  a  packet  of
breakfast cereal, hastily embroidering it with a few footnoted in order to
avoid prosecution under the incomprehensibly tortuous  Galactic  Copyright
    It is interesting to note that a later and  wilier  editor  sent  the
book backwards in time through a temporal warp, and then successfully sued
the breakfast cereal company for infringement of the same laws.
    Here is a sample:
    The Universe - some information to help you live in it.
    1~Area: Infinite.
    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy offers this definition  of  the
word "Infinite".
    Infinite: Bigger than the biggest thing  ever  and  then  some.  Much
bigger than that in fact, really amazingly  immense,  a  totally  stunning
size, "wow, that's big", time. Infinity is just so big that by comparison,
bigness itself  looks  really  titchy.  Gigantic  multiplied  by  colossal
multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get
across here.
    2~Imports: None.
    It is impossible to import things into an infinite area, there  being
no outside to import things in from.
    3~Exports: None.
    See imports.
    4~Population: None.
    It is known that there are  an  infinite  number  of  worlds,  simply
because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be  in.  However,
not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore,  there  must  be  a  finite
number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by  infinity  is  as
near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average  population  of  all  the
planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows  that
the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you
may meet from  time  to  time  are  merely  the  products  of  a  deranged
    5~Monetary Units: None.
    In fact there are three freely convertible currencies in the  Galaxy,
but none of them count. The Altairan Dollar has  recently  collapsed,  the
Flaninian Pobble Bead is only  exchangeable  for  other  Flaninian  Pobble
Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own very special problems. Its exchange
rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a  Ningi  is  a
triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles across each  side,
no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Ningis are not  negotiable
currency because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change.
From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that  the  Galactibanks
are also the product of a deranged imagination.
    6~Art: None.
    The function of art is to hold the mirror up  to  nature,  and  there
simply isn't a mirror big enough - see point one.
    7~Sex: None.
    Well, in fact there is an awful lot of this, largely because  of  the
total lack of money, trade, banks, art, or anything else that  might  keep
all the non-existent people of the Universe occupied.
    However, it is not worth embarking on a long  discussion  of  it  now
because it really is terribly complicated.  For  further  information  see
Guide Chapters seven, nine, ten,  eleven,  fourteen,  sixteen,  seventeen,
nineteen, twenty-one to eighty-four inclusive, and in  fact  most  of  the
rest of the Guide.

                              Chapter 20

    The Restaurant continued existing, but everything else  had  stopped.
Temporal relastatics held it and protected it in a nothingness that wasn't
merely a vacuum, it was simply nothing - there  was  nothing  in  which  a
vacuum could be said to exist.
    The force-shielded dome had once  again  been  rendered  opaque,  the
party was over, the diners were leaving, Zarquon had vanished  along  with
the rest of the Universe, the Time Turbines were  preparing  to  pull  the
Restaurant back across the brink  of  time  in  readiness  for  the  lunch
sitting, and Max Quordlepleen was back in  his  small  curtained  dressing
room trying to raise his agent on the tempophone.
    In the car park stood the black ship, closed and silent.
    In to the car park came the late Mr Hotblack Desiato, propelled along
the moving catwalk by his bodyguard.
    They descended one of the tubes. As they approached  the  limoship  a
hatchway swung down from its side, engaged the wheels  of  the  wheelchair
and drew it inside. The bodyguard  followed,  and  having  seen  his  boss
safely connected up to his death-support system, moved  up  to  the  small
cockpit. Here he operated the remote control system  which  activated  the
autopilot in the black ship lying next to the  limo,  thus  causing  great
relief to Zaphod Beeblebrox who had been trying to  start  the  thing  for
over ten minutes.
    The black ship glided smoothly forward out of its  bay,  turned,  and
moved down the central  causeway  swiftly  and  quietly.  At  the  end  it
accelerated rapidly, flung itself into the  temporal  launch  chamber  and
began the long journey back into the distant past.
    The Milliways Lunch Menu quotes, by permission, a  passage  from  the
Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The passage is this:
    The History of  every  major  Galactic  Civilization  tends  to  pass
through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry
and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.
    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?"
    The Menu goes on to suggest that Milliways, the Restaurant at the End
of the Universe, would be a very agreeable  and  sophisticated  answer  to
that third question.
    What it doesn't go on to say is that though it will  usually  take  a
large civilization many thousands of years to pass through  the  How,  Why
and Where phases, small social groupings under  stressful  conditions  can
pass through them with extreme rapidity.
    - How are we doing? - said Arthur Dent.
    - Badly, - said Ford Prefect.
    - Where are we going? - said Trillian.
    - I don't know, - said Zaphod Beeblebrox.
    - Why not? - demanded Arthur Dent.
    - Shut up, - suggested Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect.
    - Basically, what you're trying to say, - said Arthur Dent,  ignoring
this suggestion, - is that we're out of control.
    The ship was rocking and swaying sickeningly as Ford and Zaphod tried
to wrest control from the autopilot. The engined howled  and  whined  like
tired children in a supermarket.
    - It's the wild colour scheme that freaks me,  -  said  Zaphod  whose
love affair with this ship  had  lasted  almost  three  minutes  into  the
flight, - Every time you try to operate on of these weird  black  controls
that are labelled in black on a black background,  a  little  black  light
lights up black to let you know you've done it. What is this? Some kind of
galactic hyperhearse?
    The walls of the swaying cabin  were  also  black,  the  ceiling  was
black, the seats - which were rudimentary since the  only  important  trip
this ship was designed for was supposed to be unmanned - were  black,  the
control panel was black, the instruments were  black,  the  little  screws
that held them in place were black, the thin tufted nylon  floor  covering
was black, and when they had lifted up a corner of it they had  discovered
that the foam underlay also was black.
    - Perhaps whoever designed it had eyes that  responded  to  different
wavelengths, - offered Trillian.
    - Or didn't have much imagination, - muttered Arthur.
    - Perhaps, - said Marvin, - he was feeling very depressed.
    In fact, though they weren't to know it, the decor had been chosen in
honour of its owner's sad, lamented, and tax-deductible condition.
    The ship gave a particularly sickening lurch.
    - Take it easy, - pleaded Arthur, - you're making me space sick.
    - Time sick, - said Ford, - we're plummeting backwards through time.
    - Thank you, - said Arthur, - now I think I really  am  going  to  be
    - Go ahead, - said Zaphod, - we could do with a little  colour  about
this place.
    - This is meant to be  a  polite  after-dinner  conversation  is  it?
snapped Arthur.
    Zaphod left the controls for Ford to figure out, and lurched over  to
    - Look, Earthman, - he said angrily, - you've got a job to do, right?
The Question to the Ultimate Answer, right?
    - What, that thing? - said Arthur, - I thought we'd  forgotten  about
    - Not me, baby. Like the mice said, it's worth a lot of money in  the
right quarters. And it's all locked up in that head thing of yours.
    - Yes but...
    - But nothing! Think about it.  The  Meaning  of  Life!  We  get  our
fingers on that we can hold every shrink in the Galaxy up to  ransom,  and
that's worth a bundle. I owe mine a mint.
    Arthur took a deep breath without much enthusiasm.
    - Alright, - he said, - but where do we start?  How  should  I  know?
They say the Ultimate Answer or whatever is Forty-two, how am  I  supposed
to know what the question is? It could be anything.  I  mean,  what's  six
times seven?
    Zaphod looked at him hard for a moment. Then  his  eyes  blazed  with
    - Forty-two! - he cried.
    Arthur wiped his palm across his forehead.
    - Yes, - he said patiently, - I know that.
    Zaphod's faces fell.
    - I'm just saying that the question could be anything at all, -  said
Arthur, - and I don't see how I am meant to know.
    - Because, - hissed Zaphod, - you were there when your planet did the
big firework.
    - We have a thing on Earth... - began Arthur.
    - Had, - corrected Zaphod.
    - ...called tact. Oh never mind. Look, I just don't know.
    A low voice echoed dully round the cabin.
    - I know, - said Marvin.
    Ford called out from the controls he  was  still  fighting  a  losing
battle with.
    - Stay out of this Marvin, - he said, - this is organism talk.
    - It's printed in the  Earthman's  brainwave  patterns,  -  continued
Marvin, - but I don't suppose you'll be very interested in knowing that.
    - You mean, - said Arthur, - you mean you can see into my mind?
    - Yes, - said Marvin.
    Arthur stared in astonishment.
    - And?.. - he said.
    - It amazes me how you can manage to live in anything that small.
    - Ah, - said Arthur, - abuse.
    - Yes, - confirmed Marvin.
    - Ah, ignore him, - said Zaphod, - he's only making it up.
    - Making it up? - said Marvin, swivelling his head  in  a  parody  of
astonishment, - Why should I want to make anything up? Life's  bad  enough
as it is without wanting to invent any more of it.
    - Marvin, - said Trillian in the gentle, kindly voice that  only  she
was still capable of assuming in talking to this misbegotten  creature,  -
if you knew all along, why then didn't you tell us?
    Marvin's head swivelled back to her.
    - You didn't ask, - he said simply.
    - Well, we're asking you now, metal man, - said Ford,  turning  round
to look at him.
    At that moment the ship suddenly stopped  rocking  and  swaying,  the
engine pitch settled down to a gentle hum.
    - Hey, Ford, - said Zaphod, - that sounds good. Have you  worked  out
the controls of this boat?
    - No, - said Ford, - I just stopped fiddling with them. I  reckon  we
just go to wherever this ship is going and get off it fast.
    - Yeah, right, - said Zaphod.
    - I could tell you weren't really interested, -  murmured  Marvin  to
himself and slumped into a corner and switched himself off.
    - Trouble is, - said Ford, - that the one instrument  in  this  while
ship that is giving any reading is worrying me. If it is what I  think  it
is, and if it's saying what I think it's saying, then we've  already  gone
too far back into the past. Maybe as much as two million years before  our
own time.
    Zaphod shrugged.
    - Time is bunk, - he said.
    - I wonder who this ship belongs to anyway, - said Arthur.
    - Me, - said Zaphod.
    - No. Who it really belongs to.
    - Really me, - insisted Zaphod, - look,  property  is  theft,  right?
Therefore theft is property. Therefore this ship is mine, OK?
    - Tell the ship that, - said Arthur.
    Zaphod strode over to the console.
    - Ship, - he said, banging on the panels, - this is  your  new  owner
speaking to...
    He got no further. Several things happened at once.
    The ship dropped out fo time travel mode  and  re-emerged  into  real
    All the controls on the console, which had been  shut  down  for  the
time trip now lit up.
    A large vision screen above the console winked into life revealing  a
wide starscape and a single very large sun dead ahead of them.
    None of these things, however, were responsible  for  the  fact  that
Zaphod was at the same moment hurled bodily backwards against the rear  of
the cabin, as were all the others.
    They were hurled back by a  single  thunderous  clap  of  noise  that
thuddered out of the monitor speakers surrounding the vision screen.

                              Chapter 21

    Down on the dry, red world of Kakrafoon, in the middle  of  the  vast
Rudlit Desert, the stage technicians were testing the sound system.
    That is to say, the sound system was in the  desert,  not  the  stage
technicians. They had retreated to the safety  of  Disaster  Area's  giant
control ship which hung in orbit some four hundred miles above the surface
of the planet, and they were testing the sound system from  there.  Anyone
within five miles of the speaker silos wouldn't have survived  the  tuning
    If Arthur Dent had been within five miles of the speaker  silos  then
his expiring thought would have been that in both size and shape the sound
rig closely resembled Manhattan. Risen out of the silos, the neutron phase
speaker stacks towered monstrously against the sky, obscuring the banks of
plutonium reactors and seismic amps behind them.
    Buried deep in concrete bunkers beneath the city of speakers lay  the
instruments that the musicians would control from their ship, the  massive
photon-ajuitar, the bass detonator and the Megabang drum complex.
    It was going to be a noisy show.
    Aboard the giant control ship, all was activity and bustle.  Hotblack
Desiato's limoship, a mere tadpole beside it, had arrived and docked,  and
the lamented  gentleman  was  being  transported  down  the  high  vaulted
corridors to meet the medium  who  was  going  to  interpret  his  psychic
impulses on to the ajuitar keyboard.
    A doctor, a logician and a marine biologist had  also  just  arrived,
flown in at phenomenal expense from Maximegalon to try to reason with  the
lead singer who had locked himself in the bathroom with a bottle of  pills
and was refusing to come out till it could be proved conclusively  to  him
that he wasn't a fish.  The  bass  player  was  busy  machine-gunning  his
bedroom and the drummer was nowhere on board.
    Frantic inquiries led to the discovery that  he  was  standing  on  a
beach on Santraginus V over a hundred light years away where, he  claimed,
he had been happy over half an hour now and had found a small  stone  that
would be his friend.
    The band's manager was profoundly relieved. It  meant  that  for  the
seventeenth time on this tour the drums would be played  by  a  robot  and
that therefore the timing of the cymbalistics would be right.
    The sub-ether was  buzzing  with  the  communications  of  the  stage
technicians testing the speaker channels, and this it was that  was  being
relayed to the interior of the black ship.
    Its dazed occupants lay against the  back  wall  of  the  cabin,  and
listened to the voices on the monitor speakers.
    - OK, channel nine on power,  -  said  a  voice,  -  testing  channel
    Another thumping crack of noise walloped through the ship.
    - Channel fifteen AOK, - said another voice.
    A third voice cut in.
    - The black stunt ship is now in position, - it said, - it's  looking
good. Gonna be a great sundive. Stage computer on line?
    A computer voice answered.
    - On line, - it said.
    - Take control of the black ship.
    - Black ship locked into trajectory programme, on standby.
    - Testing channel twenty.
    Zaphod leaped across  the  cabin  and  switched  frequencies  on  the
sub-ether receiver before the next mind-pulverizing  noise  hit  them.  He
stood there quivering.
    - What, - said Trillian in a small quiet voice, - does sundive mean?
    - It means, - said Marvin, - that the ship os going to dive into  the
sun. Sun... Dive. It's very simple to understand. What do  you  expect  if
you steal Hotblack Desiato's stunt ship?
    - How do you know... - said Zaphod in a voice that would make a Vegan
snow lizard feel chilly, - that this is Hotblack Desiato's stuntship?
    - Simple, - said Marvin, - I parked it for him.
    - The why... didn't... you... tell us!
    - You said you  wanted  excitement  and  adventure  and  really  wild
    - This is awful, - said  Arthur  unnecessarily  in  the  pause  which
    - That's what I said, - confirmed Marvin.
    On a different frequency, the sub-ether  receiver  had  picked  up  a
public broadcast, which now echoed round the cabin.
    - ... fine weather for the concert here this afternoon. I'm  standing
here in front of the stage, - the reporter lied, - in the  middle  of  the
Rudlit Desert, and with the aid of hyperbinoptic glasses I can just  about
make out the huge audience cowering there on the horizon  all  around  me.
Behind me the speaker stacks rise like a sheer cliff face, and high  above
me the sun is shining away and doesn't know what's going to  hit  it.  The
environmentalist lobby do know what's going to hit it, and they claim that
the concert will cause earthquakes, tidal waves,  hurricanes,  irreparable
damage to the atmosphere, and all the usual things that  environmentalists
usually go on about.
    - But I've just had a report that a representative of  Disaster  Area
met with the environmentalists at lunchtime, and had  them  all  shot,  so
nothing now lies in the way of...
    Zaphod switched it off. He turned to Ford.
    - You know what I'm thinking? - he said.
    - I think so, - said Ford.
    - Tell me what you think I'm thinking.
    - I think you're thinking it's time we get off this ship.
    - I think you're right, - said Zaphod.
    - I think you're right, - said Ford.
    - How? - said Arthur.
    - Quiet, - said Ford and Zaphod, - we're thinking.
    - So this is it, - said Arthur, - we're going to die.
    - I wish you'd stop saying that, - said Ford.
    It is worth repeating at this point the theories that Ford  had  come
up with, on his first encounter with human beings, to  account  for  their
peculiar habit of continually stating and restating the very very obvious,
as it "It's a nice day", or "You're very tall", or "So this is  it,  we're
going to die".
    His first theory was that if  human  beings  didn't  keep  exercising
their lips, their mouths probably seized up.
    After a few months of observation  he  had  come  up  with  a  second
theory, which was this - "If human  beings  don't  keep  exercising  their
lips, their brains start working."
    In fact, this second theory is more literally true of  the  Belcebron
people of Kakrafoon.
    The Belcebron people used to cause great  resentment  and  insecurity
amongst  neighboring  races  by  being  one  of  the   most   enlightened,
accomplished, and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy.
    As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be  offensively
self righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that
most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently,  in  order  to
prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their
minds to anyone within a five mile radius, they  now  have  to  talk  very
loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches  and  pains,
the match this afternoon and what a noisy  place  Kakrafoon  had  suddenly
    Another method of temporarily blotting out their  minds  is  to  play
host to a Disaster Area concert.
    The timing of the concert was critical.
    The ship had to begin its dive before the concert began in  order  to
hit the sun six minutes and thirty-seven seconds before the climax of  the
song to which it related, so that the light of the solar flares  had  time
to travel out to Kakrafoon.
    The ship had already been diving for several minutes by the time that
Ford Prefect had completed his search of the  other  compartments  of  the
black ship. He burst back into the cabin.
    The sun of Kakrafoon loomed terrifyingly large on the vision  screen,
its blazing white inferno of fusing  hydrogen  nuclei  growing  moment  by
moment as the ship plunged onwards, unheeding the thumping and banging  of
Zaphod's hands on the control panel. Arthur and  Trillian  had  the  fixed
expressions of rabbits on a night road who think  that  the  best  way  of
dealing with approaching headlights is to stare them out.
    Zaphod span round, wild-eyed.
    - Ford, - he said, - how many escape capsules are there?
    - None, - said Ford.
    Zaphod gibbered.
    - Did you count them? - he yelled.
    - Twice, - said Ford, - did you manage to raise the stage crew on the
    - Yeah, - said Zaphod, bitterly, - I said there were a whole bunch of
people on board, and they said to say "hi" to everybody.
    Ford goggled.
    - Didn't you tell them who we were?
    - Oh yeah. They said it was a great honour. That and something  about
a restaurant bill and my executors.
    Ford pushed Arthur aside and leaned forward over the control console.
    - Does none of this function? - he said savagely.
    - All overridden.
    - Smash the autopilot.
    - Find it first. Nothing connects.
    There was a moment's cold silence.
    Arthur was  stumbling  round  the  back  of  the  cabin.  He  stopped
    - Incidentally, - he said, - what does teleport mean?
    Another moment passed.
    Slowly, the others turned to face him.
    - Probably the wrong moment to ask, - said  Arthur,  -  It's  just  I
remember hearing you use the word a short while ago and I only bring it up
    - Where, - said Ford Prefect quietly, - does it say teleport?
    - Well, just over here in fact, - said Arthur,  pointing  at  a  dark
control box in the rear of the cabin, - Just under the  word  "emergency",
above the word "system" and beside the sign saying "out of order".
    In the pandemonium that instantly followed, the only action to follow
was that of Ford Prefect lunging across the cabin to the small  black  box
that Arthur had indicated and stabbing  repeatedly  at  the  single  small
black button set into it.
    A six-foot square panel slid open beside it revealing  a  compartment
which resembled a multiple shower unit that had found a  new  function  in
life as an electrician's junk store. Halffinished  wiring  hung  from  the
ceiling, a jumble of abandoned components lay strewn on the floor, and the
programming panel lolled out of the cavity  in  the  wall  into  which  it
should have been secured.
    A junior Disaster Area accountant, visiting the shipyard  where  this
ship was being constructed, had demanded to know of the works foreman  why
the hell they were fitting an extremely expensive  teleport  into  a  ship
which only had one important journey  to  make,  and  that  unmanned.  The
foreman had explained that the teleport was available at a  ten  per  cent
discount and the accountant had explained that this  was  immaterial;  the
foreman  had  explained  that  it  was  the  finest,  most  powerful   and
sophisticated teleport  that  money  could  buy  and  the  accountant  had
explained that the money did not wish to buy it; the foreman had explained
that people would  still  need  to  enter  and  leave  the  ship  and  the
accountant had explained that the ship  sported  a  perfectly  serviceable
door; the foreman had explained that the accountant could go and boil  his
head and the accountant had  explained  to  the  foreman  that  the  thing
approaching him rapidly from his left was a knuckle  sandwich.  After  the
explanations had been concluded, work was  discontinued  on  the  teleport
which subsequently passed unnoticed on the invoice as "Sund.  explns."  at
five times the price.
    - Hell's donkeys, - muttered Zaphod as he and Ford attempted to  sort
through the tangle of wiring.
    After a moment or so Ford told him to stand back. He  tossed  a  coin
into the teleport and jiggled a switch on the lolling control panel.  With
a crackle and spit of light, the coin vanished.
    - That much of it works, - said Ford, - however, there is no guidance
system. A matter transference teleport without guidance programming  could
put you... well, anywhere.
    The sun of Kakrafoon loomed huge on the screen.
    - Who cares, - said Zaphod, - we go where we go.
    - And, - said Ford, - there is no autosystem.  We  couldn't  all  go.
Someone would have to stay and operate it.
    A solemn moment shuffled past. The sun loomed larger and larger.
    - Hey, Marvin kid, - said Zaphod brightly, - how you doing?
    - Very badly I suspect, - muttered Marvin.
    A  shortish  while  later,  the  concert  on  Kakrafoon  reached   an
unexpected climax.
    The black ship  with  its  single  morose  occupant  had  plunged  on
schedule into the nuclear furnace of the sun. Massive solar flares  licked
out from it millions of miles into space, thrilling and  in  a  few  cases
spilling the dozen or so Flare Riders who had been coasting close  to  the
surface of the sun in anticipation of the moment.
    Moments before the flare light reached Kakrafoon the pounding  desert
cracked along a deep faultline. A huge and hitherto undetected underground
river lying far beneath the surface gushed to the surface to  be  followed
seconds later by the eruption of millions of tons  of  boiling  lava  that
flowed hundreds of feet into the air, instantaneously vaporizing the river
both above and below the surface in an explosion that echoed  to  the  far
side of the world and back again.
    Those - very few - who witnessed the event and  survived  swear  that
the whole hundred thousand square miles of the desert rose  into  the  air
like a mile-thick pancake, flipped itself over and fell back down. At that
precise moment the solar radiation from the flares  filtered  through  the
clouds of vaporized water and struck the ground.
    A year later, the hundred thousand square mile desert was thick  with
flowers. The structure of the atmosphere  around  the  planet  was  subtly
altered. The sun blazed less harshly in the  summer,  the  cold  bit  less
bitterly in the winter, pleasant rain fell  more  often,  and  slowly  the
desert world of Kakrafoon became a paradise.  Even  the  telepathic  power
with which the  people  of  Kakrafoon  had  been  cursed  was  permanently
dispersed by the force of the explosion.
    A spokesman for  Disaster  Area  -  the  one  who  had  had  all  the
environmentalists shot - was later quoted as saying that it  had  been  "a
good gig".
    Many people spoke movingly of the healing  powers  of  music.  A  few
sceptical scientists examined the records of the events more closely,  and
claimed that they had discovered faint vestiges  of  a  vast  artificially
induced Improbability Field drifting in from a nearby region of space.

                              Chapter 22

   Arthur woke up and instantly regretted it.  Hangovers  he'd  had,  but
never anything on this scale. This was it, this was the big one, this  was
the ultimate pits. Matter transference beams,  he  decided,  were  not  as
much fun as, say, a good solid kick in the head.
    Being for the moment unwilling to move on account of a dull  stomping
throb he was experiencing, he lay a while and thought.  The  trouble  with
most forms of transport, he thought, is basically one of  them  not  being
worth all the bother. On Earth - when there had been an Earth,  before  it
was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass - the  problem  had
been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky
slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's
way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke  to  fill  the  air
with and pouring the rest  into  the  sea,  all  seemed  to  outweigh  the
advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to  another  -
particularly when the place you arrived  at  had  probably  become,  as  a
result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered  with
tar, full of smoke and short of fish.
    And what about matter transference beams? Any form of transport which
involved tearing you apart atom by atom, flinging those atoms through  the
sub-ether, and then jamming them back together again just when  they  were
getting their first taste of freedom for years had to be bad news.
    Many people had thought exactly this before Arthur Dent and had  even
gone to the lengths of writing songs about  it.  Here  is  one  that  used
regularly to be chanted by huge  crowds  outside  the  Sirius  Cybernetics
Corporation Teleport Systems factory on Happi-Werld III:

    Aldebaran's great, OK,
    Algol's pretty neat,
    Betelgeuse's pretty girls,
    Will knock you off your feet.
    They'll do anything you like,
    Real fast and then real slow,
    But if you have to take me apart to get me there,
    Then I don't want to go.
    Take me apart, take me apart,
    What a way to roam,
    And if you have to take me apart to get me there,
    I'd rather stay at home.
    Sirius is paved with gold
    So I've heard it said
    By nuts who then go on to say
    "See Tau before you're dead."
    I'll gladly take the high road
    Or even take the low,
    But if you have to take me apart to get me there,
    Then I, for one, won't go.
    Take me apart, take me apart, You must be off your head,
    And if you try to take me apart to get me there,
    I'll stay right here in bed.
    I teleported home one night,
    With Ron and Sid and Meg,
    Ron stole Meggie's heart away,
    And I got Sidney's leg.

    Arthur felt the waves of pain slowly receding, though  he  was  still
aware of a dull stomping throb. Slowly, carefully, he stood up.
    - Can you hear a dull stomping throb? - said Ford Prefect.
    Arthur  span  round  and  wobbled  uncertainly.  Ford   Prefect   was
approaching looking red eyed and pasty.
    - Where are we? - gasped Arthur.
    Ford looked around. They were standing in  a  long  curving  corridor
which stretched out of sight in both directions. The outer  steel  wall  -
which was painted in that sickly shade of pale green  which  they  use  in
schools, hospitals and mental asylums to keep the inmates subdued - curved
over the tops of their heads where it met  the  inner  perpendicular  wall
which, oddly enough was covered in dark  brown  hessian  wall  weave.  The
floor was of dark green ribbed rubber.
    Ford moved over to a very thick dark transparent  panel  set  in  the
outer wall. It was several layers  deep,  yet  through  it  he  could  see
pinpoints of distant stars.
    - I think we're in a spaceship of some kind, - he said.
    Down the corridor came the sound of a dull stomping throb.
    - Trillian? - called Arthur nervously, - Zaphod?
    Ford shrugged.
    - Nowhere about, - he said, - I've looked. They could be anywhere. An
unprogrammed teleport can throw you light years in any direction.  Judging
by the way I feel I should think we've travelled a very long way indeed.
    - How do you feel?
    - Bad.
    - Do you think they're...
    - Where they are, how they are, there's no way we can know and no way
we can do anything about it. Do what I do.
    - What?
    - Don't think about it.
    Arthur turned this thought over in  his  mind,  reluctantly  saw  the
wisdom of it, tucked it up and put it away. He took a deep breath.
    - Footsteps! - exclaimed Ford suddenly.
    - Where?
    - That noise. That stomping throb. Pounding feet. Listen!
    Arthur listened. The noise echoed round the corridor at them from  an
indeterminate distance. It was the muffled sound  of  pounding  footsteps,
and it was noticeably louder.
    - Let's move, - said Ford sharply. They  both  moved  -  in  opposite
    - Not that way, - said Ford, - that's where they're coming from.
    - No it's not, - said Arthur, - They're coming from that way.
    - They're not, they're...
    They both stopped. They both turned.  They  both  listened  intently.
They both agreed  with  each  other.  They  both  set  off  into  opposite
directions again.
    Fear gripped them.
    From both directions the noise was getting louder.
    A few yards to their left another corridor ran at right angles to the
inner wall. They ran to it and hurried along it. It  was  dark,  immensely
long and, as they passed down it, gave them the  impression  that  it  was
getting colder and colder. Other corridors gave off it  to  the  left  and
right, each very dark and each subjecting them to sharp blasts of icy  air
as they passed.
    They stopped for a moment in alarm. The  further  down  the  corridor
they went, the louder became the sound of pounding feet.
    They pressed themselves back  against  the  cold  wall  and  listened
furiously. The cold, the dark and the drumming  of  disembodied  feet  was
getting to them badly. Ford shivered, partly with  the  cold,  but  partly
with the memory of stories his favourite mother used to tell him  when  he
was  a  mere  slip  of  a  Betelgeusian,  ankle  high   to   an   Arcturan
Megagrasshopper:  stories  of  dead  ships,  haunted  hulks  that   roamed
restlessly round the obscurer regions of deep space infested  with  demons
or the ghosts of forgotten crews; stories too of incautious travellers who
found and entered such ships; stories of... -  then  Ford  remembered  the
brown hessian  wall  weave  in  the  first  corridor  and  pulled  himself
together. However ghosts and demons may choose  to  decorate  their  death
hulks, he thought to himself, he would lay any money you liked  it  wasn't
with hessian wall weave. He grasped Arthur by the arm.
    - Back the way we came, - he said firmly and they started to  retrace
their steps.
    A moment later they leap  like  startled  lizards  down  the  nearest
corridor junction as the owners of the drumming feet  suddenly  hove  into
view directly in front of them.
    Hidden behind the corner they goggled in amazement as about two dozen
overweight men and women pounded past them  in  track  suits  panting  and
wheezing in a manner that would make a heart surgeon gibber.
    Ford Prefect stared after them.
    - Joggers! - he hissed, as the sound of their feet echoed away up and
down the network of corridors.
    - Joggers? - whispered Arthur Dent.
    - Joggers, - said Ford prefect with a shrug.
    The corridor they were concealed in was not like the others.  It  was
very short, and ended at a large steel door. Ford examined it,  discovered
the opening mechanism and pushed it wide.
    The first thing that hit their eyes was what appeared to be a coffin.
    And the next four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine  things  that
hit their eyes were also coffins.

                              Chapter 23

    The vault was low ceilinged, dimly lit and gigantic. At the far  end,
about three hundred yards away an archway let through to what appeared  to
be a similar chamber, similarly occupied.
    Ford Prefect let out a low whistle as he stepped down on to the floor
of the vault.
    - Wild, - he said.
    - What's so great  about  dead  people?  -  asked  Arthur,  nervously
stepping down after him.
    - Dunno, - said Ford, - Let's find out shall we?
    On closer inspection the coffins seemed to be more  like  sarcophagi.
They stood about waist high and were constructed of what  appeared  to  be
white marble, which is almost certainly what it was - something that  only
appeared to be white marble. The tops were semi-translucent,  and  through
them could dimly be perceived the features of their  late  and  presumably
lamented occupants. They were humanoid, and had clearly left the  troubles
of whatever world it was they came from far behind them, but  beyond  that
little else could be discerned.
    Rolling slowly round the floor between the sarcophagi  was  a  heavy,
oily white gas which Arthur at first thought might be there  to  give  the
place a little atmosphere until he  discovered  that  it  also  froze  his
ankles. The sarcophagi too were intensely cold to the touch.
    Ford suddenly crouched down beside one of them. He pulled a corner of
his towel out of his satchel and started to rub furiously at something.
    - Look, there's a plaque on this one, - he  explained  to  Arthur,  -
It's frosted over.
    He rubbed the frost clear and examined the  engraved  characters.  To
Arthur they looked like the footprints of a spider that had  had  one  too
many of whatever it is  that  spiders  have  on  a  night  out,  but  Ford
instantly recognized an early form of Galactic Eezeereed.
    - It says "Golgafrincham Ark Fleet, Ship  B,  Hold  Seven,  Telephone
Sanitizer Second Class" - and a serial number.
    - A telephone sanitizer? - said Arthur, - a dead telephone sanitizer?
    - Best kind.
    - But what's he doing here?
    Ford peered through the top at the figure within.
    - Not a lot, - he said, and suddenly flashed one of  those  grins  of
his which always made people think he'd been overdoing things recently and
should try to get some rest.
    He scampered over to another sarcophagus. A moment's brisk towel work
and he announced:
    - This one's a dead hairdresser. Hoopy!
    The next sarcophagus revealed itself to be the last resting place  of
an  advertising  account  executive;  the  one  after  that  contained   a
second-hand car salesman, third class.
    An inspection  hatch  let  into  the  floor  suddenly  caught  Ford's
attention, and he squatted down to unfasten  it,  thrashing  away  at  the
clouds of freezing gas that threatened to envelope him.
    A thought occurred to Arthur.
    - If these are just coffins, - he said, - Why are they kept so cold?
    - Or, indeed, why are they kept  anyway,  -  said  Ford  tugging  the
hatchway open. The gas poured down through it. - Why  in  fact  is  anyone
going to all the trouble and expense of carting five thousand dead  bodies
through space?
    - Ten thousand, - said Arthur, pointing at the archway through  which
the next chamber was dimly visible.
    Ford stuck his head down through the floor  hatchway.  He  looked  up
    - Fifteen thousand, - he said, - there's another lot down there.
    - Fifteen million, - said a voice.
    - That's a lot, - said Ford, - A lot a lot.
    - Turn around slowly, - barked the voice, - and put  your  hands  up.
Any other move and I blast you into tiny tiny bits.
    - Hello? - said Ford, turning round slowly, putting his hands up  and
not making any other move.
    - Why, - said Arthur Dent, - isn't anyone ever pleased to see us?
    Standing silhouetted in the doorway through which  they  had  entered
the vault was the man who wasn't pleased to see them. His displeasure  was
communicated partly by the barking hectoring  quality  of  his  voice  and
partly by the viciousness with which he waved a long silver Kill-O-Zap gun
at them. The designer of the gun had clearly not been instructed  to  beat
about the bush.
    - Make it evil, - he'd been told. - Make it totally clear  that  this
gun has a right end and a wrong end.  Make  it  totally  clear  to  anyone
standing at the wrong end that things are going badly for  them.  If  that
means sticking all sort of spikes and prongs and blackened bits  all  over
it then so be it. This is not a gun for  hanging  over  the  fireplace  or
sticking in the umbrella stand, it is a  gun  for  going  out  and  making
people miserable with.
    Ford and Arthur looked at the gun unhappily.
    The man with the gun moved from the door and circled round  them.  As
he came into the light they could see his black and gold uniform on  which
the buttons were so highly polished that they shone with an intensity that
would have made an approaching motorist flash his lights in annoyance.
    He gestured at the door.
    - Out, - he said. People who can supply that  amount  of  fire  power
don't need to supply verbs as well. Ford  and  Arthur  went  out,  closely
followed by the wrong end of the Kill-O-Zap gun and the buttons.
    Turning into the corridor they were jostled by  twenty-four  oncoming
joggers, now showered and changed, who swept on past them into the  vault.
Arthur turned to watch them in confusion.
    - Move! - screamed their captor.
    Arthur moved.
    Ford shrugged and moved.
    In the vault the joggers went to twenty-four empty  sarcophagi  along
the side  wall,  opened  them,  climbed  in,  and  fell  into  twenty-four
dreamless sleeps.

                              Chapter 24

    - Er, captain...
    - Yes, Number One?
    - Just heard a sort of report thingy from Number Two.
    - Oh, dear.
    High up in the bridge of the ship, the Captain stared  out  into  the
infinite reaches of space with mild irritation.  From  where  he  reclined
beneath a wide domed bubble he could see before and above  them  the  vast
panorama of stars through which they were moving -  a  panorama  that  had
thinned out noticably during the course of the voyage. Turning and looking
backwards, over the vast two-mile bulk of the ship he could  see  the  far
denser mass of stars behind them which seemed to form almost a solid band.
This was the view  through  the  Galactic  centre  from  which  they  were
travelling, and indeed had been travelling for years, at a speed  that  he
couldn't quite remember at the moment, but he knew it was  terribly  fast.
It was something approaching the speed of something or other,  or  was  it
three times the speed of  something  else?  Jolly  impressive  anyway.  He
peered into the bright distance behind the ship, looking for something. He
did this every few minutes or so, but never found what he was looking for.
He didn't let it worry him though.  The  scientist  chaps  had  been  very
insistent that everything was going  to  be  perfectly  alright  providing
nobody panicked and everybody got on and  did  their  bit  in  an  orderly
    He wasn't panicking. As far as he was concerned everything was  going
splendidly. He dabbed at his shoulder with a large frothy sponge. It crept
back into his mind that he was feeling mildly irritated  about  something.
Now what was all that about? A slight cough alerted him to the  fact  that
the ship's first officer was still standing nearby.
    Nice chap, Number One. Not of the very brightest, had the odd spot of
difficulty doing up his shoe laces, but jolly good  officer  material  for
all that. The Captain wasn't a man to kick a chap when he was bending over
trying to do up his shoe laces, however long it took him.  Not  like  that
ghastly Number Two, strutting about all  over  the  place,  polishing  his
buttons, issuing reports  every  hour:  "Ship's  still  moving,  Captain."
"Still  on  course,  Captain."  "Oxygen  levels  still  being  maintained,
Captain." "Give it a miss," was the Captain's vote. Ah yes, that  was  the
thing that had been irritating him. He peered down at Number One.
    - Yes, Captain, he was shouting something or other about having found
some prisoners...
    The Captain thought about this. Seemed pretty unlikely to him, but he
wasn't one to stand in his officers' way.
    - Well, perhaps that'll keep him happy for a bit, - he said,  -  He's
always wanted some.
    Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent trudged onwards up the ship's apparently
endless corridors. Number Two marched behind them barking  the  occasional
order about not making any false moves or trying  any  funny  stuff.  They
seemed to have passed at least a mile of  continuous  brown  hessian  wall
weave. Finally they reached a large steel door which slid open when Number
Two shouted at it.
    They entered.
    To the eyes of Ford Prefect and  Arthur  Dent,  the  most  remarkable
thing  about  the  ship's  bridge  was  not  the   fifty   foot   diameter
hemispherical dome which  covered  it,  and  through  which  the  dazzling
display of stars shone down on them: to  people  who  have  eaten  at  the
Restaurant at the End of the Universe, such wonders are  commonplace.  Nor
was it  the  bewildering  array  of  instruments  that  crowded  the  long
circumferential  wall  around  them.  To  Arthur  this  was  exactly  what
spaceships were traditionally supposed to look like, and to Ford it looked
thoroughly antiquated: it confirmed his suspicions  that  Disaster  Area's
stuntship had taken them back at least a  million,  if  not  two  million,
years before their own time.
    No, the thing that really caught them off balance was the bath.
    The bath stood on a six  foot  pedestal  of  rough  hewn  blue  water
crystal and was of a  baroque  monstrosity  not  often  seen  outside  the
Maximegalon  Museum  of  Diseased  Imaginings.  An  intestinal  jumble  of
plumbing had been picked out in gold leaf rather than decently  buried  at
midnight in an unmarked grave; the taps and shower attachment  would  have
made a gargoyle jump.
    As the dominant centrepiece of a  starship  bridge  it  was  terribly
wrong, and it was with the embittered air of a  man  who  knew  this  that
Number Two approached it.
    - Captain, sir! - he shouted through clenched  teeth  -  a  difficult
trick but he'd had years during which to perfect it.
    A large genial face and a genial foam covered arm popped up above the
rim of the monstrous bath.
    - Ah, hello, Number Two, - said the Captain, waving a cheery  sponge,
- having a nice day?
    Number Two snapped even further to attention than he already was.
    - I have brought you the prisoners I located in  freezer  bay  seven,
sir! - he yapped.
    Ford and Arthur coughed in confusion.
    - Er... hello, - they said.
    The Captain beamed at them. So  Number  Two  had  really  found  some
prisoners. Well, good for him, thought the Captain, nice  to  see  a  chap
doing what he's best at.
    - Oh, hello there, - he said to them, - Excuse  me  not  getting  up,
having a quick bath. Well, jynnan tonnyx  all  round  then.  Look  in  the
fridge Number one.
    - Certainly sir.
    It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows  quite  how  much
importance to attach, that something like 85% of all known worlds  in  the
Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called
jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or  jinond-o-nicks,  or  any  one  of  a
thousand or more  variations  on  the  same  phonetic  theme.  The  drinks
themselves  are  not  the   same,   and   vary   between   the   Sivolvian
"chinanto/mnigs" which is ordinary water server  at  slightly  above  room
temperature, and the Gagrakackan "tzjin-anthony-ks" which kills cows at  a
hundred paces; and in fact the one common  factor  between  all  of  them,
beyond the fact that the names sound the  same,  is  that  they  were  all
invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other
    What can be made of this fact? It exists in total isolation.  As  far
as any theory of structural linguistics is concerned it is right  off  the
graph, and yet it persists. Old structural linguists get very  angry  when
young structural linguists go on about it. Young structural linguists  get
deeply excited about it and stay up late at night convinced that they  are
very close to something of profound importance, and end  up  becoming  old
structural linguists before their time, getting very angry with the  young
ones. Structural linguistics is a bitterly divided and unhappy discipline,
and a large number of its practitioners spend  too  many  nights  drowning
their problems in Ouisghian Zodahs.
    Number  Two  stood  before  the  Captain's  bathtub  trembling   with
    - Don't you want to interrogate the prisoners sir? - he squealed.
    The Captain peered at him in bemusement.
    - Why on Golgafrincham should I want to do that? - he asked.
    - To get information out of them, sir! To  find  out  why  they  came
    - Oh no, no, no, - said the Captain, - I expect they just dropped  in
for a quick jynnan tonnyx, don't you?
    - But sir, they're my prisoners! I must interrogate them!
    The Captain looked at them doubtfully.
    - Oh all right, - he said, - if you must. Ask them what they want  to
    A hard cold gleam came into Number Two's eyes. He advanced slowly  on
Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.
    - All right, you scum, - he growled, - you vermin... - He jabbed Ford
with the Kill-O-Zap gun.
    - Steady on, Number Two, - admonished the Captain gently.
    - What do you want to drink!!! - Number Two screamed.
    - Well the jynnan tonnyx sounds very nice to me, - said Ford, -  What
about you Arthur?
    Arthur blinked.
    - What? Oh, er, yes, - he said.
    - With ice or without? - bellowed Number Two.
    - Oh, with please, - said Ford.
    - Lemon??!!
    - Yes please, - said Ford, - and do you  have  any  of  those  little
biscuits? You know, the cheesy ones?
    - I'm asking the questions!!!! - howled Number Two, his body  quaking
with apoplectic fury.
    - Er, Number Two... - said the Captain softly.
    - Sir?!
    - Push off, would you, there's a good chap.  I'm  trying  to  have  a
relaxing bath.
    Number Two's eyes narrowed and became what are known in the  Shouting
and Killing People trade as cold slits, the idea presumably being to  give
your opponent the impression that you have lost your glasses or are having
difficulty  keeping  awake.  Why  this  is  frightening  is  an,  as  yet,
unresolved problem.
    He advanced on the captain, his (Number  Two's)  mouth  a  thin  hard
line. Again, tricky to know why this is understood as fighting  behaviour.
If, whilst wandering through the jungle of Traal,  you  were  suddenly  to
come upon the fabled Ravenous Bugblatter Beast, you would have  reason  to
be grateful if its mouth was a thin hard line rather than, as  it  usually
is, a gaping mass of slavering fangs.
    - May I remind you sir, - hissed Number Two at the  Captain,  -  that
you have now been in that bath for over three years?! -  This  final  shot
delivered, Number Two spun on his heel and stalked  off  to  a  corner  to
practise darting eye movements in the mirror.
    The Captain squirmed in his bath. He gave Ford Prefect a lame smile.
    - Well you need to relax a lot in a job like mine, - he said.
    Ford slowly lowered  his  hands.  It  provoked  no  reaction.  Arthur
lowered his.
    Treading very slowly and carefully,  Ford  moved  over  to  the  bath
pedestal. He patted it.
    - Nice, - he lied.
    He wondered if it was safe to grin. Very  slowly  and  carefully,  he
grinned. It was safe.
    - Er... - he said to the Captain.
    - Yes? - said the Captain.
    - I wonder, - said Ford, - could I ask you actually what your job  is
in fact?
    A hand tapped him on the shoulder. He span round.
    It was the first officer.
    - Your drinks, - he said.
    - Ah, thank you, - said Ford. He and Arthur took their jynnan tonnyx.
Arthur sipped his, and was surprised to discover it  tasted  very  like  a
whisky and soda.
    - I mean, I couldn't help noticing, - said Ford, also taking a sip, -
the bodies. In the hold.
    - Bodies? - said the Captain in surprise.
    Ford paused and thought to himself. Never take anything for  granted,
he thought. Could it be that the Captain doesn't  know  he's  got  fifteen
million dead bodies on his ship?
    The Captain was nodding cheerfully at him. He  also  appeared  to  be
playing with a rubber duck.
    Ford looked around. Number Two was staring at him in the mirror,  but
only for an instant: his eyes were  constantly  on  the  move.  The  first
officer was just standing  there  holding  the  drinks  tray  and  smiling
    - Bodies? - said the Captain again.
    Ford licked his lips.
    - Yes, - he said, - All those dead telephone sanitizers  and  account
executives, you know, down in the hold.
    The Captain stared at him.  Suddenly  he  threw  back  his  head  and
    - Oh they're not dead, - he said, - Good Lord no, no they're  frozen.
They're going to be revived.
    Ford did something he very rarely did. He blinked.
    Arthur seemed to come out of a trance.
    - You mean you've got a hold full of frozen hairdressers? - he said.
    - Oh yes, - said the Captain, - Millions of them. Hairdressers, tired
TV producers, insurance salesmen,  personnel  officers,  security  guards,
public relations executives, management consultants, you name them.  We're
going to colonize another planet.
    Ford wobbled very slightly.
    - Exciting isn't it? - said the Captain.
    - What, with that lot? - said Arthur.
    - Ah, now don't misunderstand me, - said the Captain,  -  we're  just
one of the ships in the Ark Fleet. We're the "B" Ark you see. Sorry, could
I just ask you to run a bit more hot water for me?
    Arthur obliged, and a cascade of pink frothy water swirled around the
bath. The Captain let out a sigh of pleasure.
    - Thank you so much my dear fellow. Do help yourselves to more drinks
of course.
    Ford tossed down his drink, took the bottle from the first  officer's
tray and refilled his glass to the top.
    - What, - he said, - is a "B" Ark?
    - This is, - said the Captain, and swished  the  foamy  water  around
joyfully with the duck.
    - Yes, - said Ford, - but...
    - Well what happened you see was, - said the Captain, -  our  planet,
the world from which we have come, was, so to speak, doomed.
    - Doomed?
    - Oh yes.  So  what  everyone  thought  was,  let's  pack  the  whole
population into some giant spaceships and go and settle on another planet.
    Having told this much of his story, he settled back with a  satisfied
    - You mean a less doomed one? - promoted Arthur.
    - What did you say dear fellow?
    - A less doomed planet. You were going to settle on.
    - Are going to settle on, yes. So  it  was  decided  to  build  three
ships, you see, three Arks in Space, and... I'm not boring you am I?
    - No, no, - said Ford firmly, - it's fascinating.
    - You know it's delightful,  -  reflected  the  Captain,  -  to  have
someone else to talk to for a change.
    Number Two's eyes darted feverishly about the  room  again  and  then
settled back on the mirror, like a pair of flies briefly  distracted  from
their favourite prey of months old meat.
    - Trouble with a long journey like this, - continued the  Captain,  -
is that you end up just talking to yourself a  lot,  which  gets  terribly
boring because half the time you know what you're going to say next.
    - Only half the time? - asked Arthur in surprise.
    The Captain thought for a moment.
    - Yes, about half I'd say. Anyway - where's the  soap?  -  He  fished
around and found it.
    - Yes, so anyway, - he resumed, - the idea was that  into  the  first
ship, the "A" ship, would go all the brilliant  leaders,  the  scientists,
the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or "C"
ship, would go all the people who did the actual work, who made things and
did things, and then into the "B" ship - that's us  -  would  go  everyone
else, the middlemen you see.
    He smiled happily at them.
    - And we were sent off first, - he concluded,  and  hummed  a  little
bathing tune.
    The little bathing tune, which had been composed for him  by  one  of
his world's most exciting and prolific jingle writer  (who  was  currently
asleep in hold thirty-six some nine hundred  yards  behind  them)  covered
what would otherwise have been an awkward  moment  of  silence.  Ford  and
Arthur shuffled their feet and furiously avoided each other's eyes.
    - Er... - said Arthur after a moment, - what exactly was it that  was
wrong with your planet then?
    - Oh, it was doomed, as I said, - said the Captain, -  Apparently  it
was going to crash into the sun or something. Or maybe  it  was  that  the
moon was going to  crash  into  us.  Something  of  the  kind.  Absolutely
terrifying prospect whatever it was.
    - Oh, - said the first officer suddenly, - I thought it was that  the
planet was going to be invaded by a gigantic swarm of twelve foot  piranha
bees. Wasn't that it?
    Number Two span around, eyes ablaze with a cold hard light that  only
comes with the amount of practise he was prepared to put in.
    - That's not what I was told! - he hissed, -  My  commanding  officer
told me that the entire planet was in imminent danger of being eaten by an
enormous mutant star goat!
    - Oh really... - said Ford Prefect.
    - Yes! A monstrous creature from the pit of hell with scything  teeth
ten thousand miles long, breath that would boil oceans, claws  that  could
tear continents from their roots, a thousand eyes  that  burned  like  the
sun, slavering jaws a million miles across, a monster  such  as  you  have
never... never... ever...
    - And they made sure they sent you lot off first did they? - inquired
    - Oh yes, - said the Captain, - well everyone  said,  very  nicely  I
thought, that it was very important for morale to feel that they would  be
arriving on a planet where they could be sure of a good haircut and  where
the phones were clean.
    - Oh yes, - agreed Ford, - I can see that would  be  very  important.
And the other ships, er... they followed on after you did they?
    For a moment the Captain did not answer. He twisted round in his bath
and gazed backwards over the huge bulk of  the  ship  towards  the  bright
galactic centre. He squinted into the inconceivable distance.
    - Ah. Well it's funny you should say that,  -  he  said  and  allowed
himself a slight frown at  Ford  Prefect,  "because  curiously  enough  we
haven't heard a peep out of them since we left five years ago... but  they
must be behind us somewhere.
    He peered off into the distance again.
    Ford peered with him and gave a thoughtful frown.
    - Unless  of  course,  -  he  said softly, - they were eaten  by  the  
    - Ah yes... - said the Captain with a slight hesitancy creeping  into
his voice, - the goat... - His eyes passed over the solid  shapes  of  the
instruments  and  computers  that  lined  the  bridge.  They  winked  away
innocently at him. He stared out at the stars, but none  of  them  said  a
word. He glanced at his first and second officers, but they seemed lost in
their own thoughts for a moment. He glanced at Ford Prefect who raised his
eyebrows at him.
    - It's a funny thing you know, - said the Captain at last, - but  now
that I actually come to tell the story to someone else... I mean  does  it
strike you as odd Number Two?
    - Errrrrrrrrrrr... - said Number Two.
    - Well, - said Ford, - I can see that you've  got  a  lot  of  things
you're going to talk about, so, thanks for the drinks, and  if  you  could
sort of drop us off at the nearest convenient planet...
    - Ah, well that's a little difficult you see, - said the  Captain,  -
because our trajectory thingy was preset before we left  Golgafrincham,  I
think partly because I'm not very good with figures...
    - You mean we're stuck here on this ship? - exclaimed  Ford  suddenly
losing patience with the whole  charade,  -  When  are  you  meant  to  be
reaching this planet you're meant to be colonizing?
    - Oh, we're nearly there I think, - said the Captain,  -  any  second
now. It's probably time I was getting out of this  bath  in  fact.  Oh,  I
don't know though, why stop just when I'm enjoying it?
    - So we're actually going to land in a minute?
    - Well not so much land, in fact, not actually land  as  such,  no...
    - What are you talking about? - said Ford sharply.
    - Well, - said  the  Captain,  picking  his  way  through  the  words
carefully, - I think as far as I can remember we were programmed to  crash
on it.
    - Crash? - shouted Ford and Arthur.
    - Er, yes, - said the Captain, - yes, it's all part  of  the  plan  I
think. There was a terribly  good  reason  for  it  which  I  can't  quite
remember at the moment. It was something to with... er...
    Ford exploded.
    - You're a load of useless bloody loonies! - he shouted.
    - Ah yes, that was it, - beamed the Captain, - that was the reason.

                              Chapter 25

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy  has  this  to  say  about  the
planet of Golgafrincham: It is a planet with  an  ancient  and  mysterious
history, rich in legend, red, and occasionally green  with  the  blood  of
those who sought in times gone by to conquer her; a land  of  parched  and
barren landscapes, of sweet and sultry air heady with  the  scent  of  the
perfumed springs that trickle over its hot and dusty rocks and nourish the
dark and musty lichens beneath; a land of fevered  brows  and  intoxicated
imaginings, particularly amongst those who taste the lichens; a land  also
of cool and shaded thoughts amongst those who have learnt to forswear  the
lichens and find a tree to sit beneath; a land also of steel and blood and
heroism; a land of the body and of the spirit. This was its history.
    And in all this ancient and mysterious history, the  most  mysterious
figures of all were without doubt those of the  Great  Circling  Poets  of
Arium. These Circling Poets used to live in remote mountain  passes  where
they would lie in wait for small bands of unwary travellers, circle  round
them, and throw rocks at them.
    And when the travellers cried out, saying why didn't they go away and
get on with writing some poems instead of pestering people with  all  this
rock-throwing business, they would suddenly stop, and then break into  one
of the seven hundred and ninety-four great Song Cycles of Vassilian. These
songs were all  of  extraordinary  beauty,  and  even  more  extraordinary
length, and all fell into exactly the same pattern.
    The first part of each song would tell how there once went forth from
the City of Vassilian a party of five sage princes with four  horses.  The
princes, who are of course brave, noble and wise, travel widely in distant
lands, fought giant ogres, pursue exotic philosophies, take tea with weird
gods and rescue beautiful monsters from ravening princesses before finally
announcing that they have achieved enlightenment and that their wanderings
are therefore accomplished.
    The second, and much longer, part of each song would then tell of all
their bickerings about which one of them is going to have to walk back.
    All this lay  in  the  planet's  remote  past.  It  was,  however,  a
descendant of one of these eccentric poets who invented the spurious tales
of impending doom  which  enabled  the  people  of  Golgafrincham  to  rid
themselves of an entire useless  third  of  their  population.  The  other
two-thirds stayed firmly at home and lived  full,  rich  and  happy  lives
until they were all suddenly wiped out by a  virulent  disease  contracted
from a dirty telephone.

                              Chapter 26

    That night the ship  crash-landed  on  to  an  utterly  insignificant
little green-blue planet which circled a small unregarded  yellow  sun  in
the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of  the  Western  spiral
arm of the Galaxy.
    In the hours preceding the crash Ford Prefect  had  fought  furiously
but in vain to unlock the controls of the  ship  from  their  pre-ordained
flight path. It had quickly become apparent to him that the ship had  been
programmed to convey its payload safely, in uncomfortably, to its new home
but to cripple itself beyond repair in the process.
    Its screaming, blazing descent through the  atmosphere  had  stripped
away most of  its  superstructure  and  outer  shielding,  and  its  final
inglorious bellyflop into a murky swamp had left its crew only a few hours
of darkness during  which  to  revive  and  offload  its  deep-frozen  and
unwanted cargo for the  ship  began  to  settle  almost  at  once,  slowly
upending its gigantic bulk in the stagnant slime. Once or twice during the
night it was starkly silhouetted against the sky as burning meteors -  the
detritus of its descent - flashed across the sky.
    In the grey pre-dawn light it let out an obscene roaring  gurgle  and
sank for ever into the stinking depths.
    When the sun came up that morning it shed its thin watery light  over
a  vast  area  heaving  with  wailing   hairdressers,   public   relations
executives,  opinion  pollsters  and  the  rest,  all  clawing  their  way
desperately to dry land.
    A less strong minded sun would probably have gone straight back  down
again, but it continued to climb its way through the sky and after a while
the influence of its warming rays began to have some restoring  effect  on
the feebly struggling creatures.
    Countless numbers had, unsurprisingly, been lost to the swamp in  the
night, and millions more had been sucked down with  the  ship,  but  those
that survived still numbered hundreds of thousands and as the day wore  on
they crawled out over the surrounding countryside, each looking for a  few
square feet of solid ground on which to collapse and  recover  from  their
nightmare ordeal.
    Two figures moved further afield.
    From a nearby hillside Ford  Prefect  and  Arthur  Dent  watched  the
horror of which they could not feel a part.
    - Filthy dirty trick to pull, - muttered Arthur.
    Ford scraped a stick along the ground and shrugged.
    - An imaginative solution to a problem I'd have thought, - he said.
    - Why can't people just learn to live together in peace and  harmony?
- said Arthur.
    Ford gave a loud, very hollow laugh.
    - Forty-two! - he said with a malicious grin,  -  No,  doesn't  work.
Never mind.
    Arthur looked at him as if he'd  gone  mad  and,  seeing  nothing  to
indicate the contrary, realized that it would be perfectly  reasonable  to
assume that this had in fact happened.
    - What do you think will happen to them all? - he said after a while.
    - In an infinite Universe anything can happen, - said  Ford,  -  Even
survival. Strange but true.
    A curious look came into his eyes as they passed over  the  landscape
and then settles again on the scene of misery below them.
    - I think they'll manage for a while, - he said.
    Arthur looked up sharply.
    - Why do you say that? - he said.
    Ford shrugged.
    - Just a hunch, - he said, and refused to be  drawn  to  any  further
    - Look, - he said suddenly.
    Arthur followed his  pointing  finger.  Down  amongst  the  sprawling
masses a figure was moving - or perhaps lurching would be a more  accurate
description. He appeared to be carrying something on his shoulder.  As  he
lurched from prostrate form to prostrate form he seemed to  wave  whatever
the something was at them in a drunken fashion. After a while he  gave  up
the struggle and collapsed in a heap.
    Arthur had no idea what this was meant to mean to him.
    - Movie camera, - said Ford. - Recording the historic movement.
    - Well, I don't know about you, - said Ford again after a  moment,  -
but I'm off.
    He sat a while in silence.
    After a while this seemed to require comment.
    - Er, when you say you're off, what  do  you  mean  exactly?  -  said
    - Good question, - said Ford, - I'm getting total silence.
    Looking over his shoulder Arthur saw that he was twiddling with knobs
on a small box. Ford  had  already  introduced  this  box  as  a  Sub-Etha
Sens-O-Matic, but Arthur had merely nodded absently and  not  pursued  the
matter. In his mind the Universe still divided into two parts - the Earth,
and everything else. The Earth having been demolished to make  way  for  a
new hyperspace bypass  meant  that  this  view  of  things  was  a  little
lopsided, but Arthur tended to cling to that  lopsidedness  as  being  his
last remaining contact with  his  home.  Sub-Etha  Sens-O-Matics  belonged
firmly in the "everything else" category.
    - Not a sausage, - said Ford, shaking the thing.
    Sausage, thought Arthur to himself as  he  gazed  listlessly  at  the
primitive world about him, what I wouldn't give for a good Earth sausage.
    - Would you believe, - said Ford in exasperation, - that there are no
transmissions of any kind within light years of this  benighted  tip?  Are
you listening to me?
    - What? - said Arthur.
    - We're in trouble, - said Ford.
    - Oh, - said Arthur. This sounded like month-old news to him.
    - Until we pick up anything on this  machine,  -  said  Ford,  -  our
chances of getting off this planet are zero. It may be some freak standing
wave effect in the planet's magnetic field - in which case we just  travel
round and round till we find a clear reception area. Coming?
    He picked up his gear and strode off.
    Arthur looked down the hill.  The  man  with  the  movie  camera  had
struggled back up to his feet just in time to film one of  his  colleagues
    Arthur picked a blade of grass and strode off after Ford.

                              Chapter 27

    - I trust you had a pleasant meal? - said  Zarniwoop  to  Zaphod  and
Trillian as they rematerialized on the bridge of  the  starship  Heart  of
Gold and lay panting on the floor.
    Zaphod opened some eyes and glowered at him.
    - You, - he spat. He staggered to his feet and stomped off to find  a
chair to slump into. He found one and slumped into it.
    - I have programmed the computer with the  Improbability  Coordinates
pertinent to our journey, - said Zarniwoop, - we will  arrive  there  very
shortly. Meanwhile, why don't you  relax  and  prepare  yourself  for  the
    Zaphod said nothing. He got up again and  marched  over  to  a  small
cabinet from which he pulled a bottle of old Janx spirit. He took  a  long
pull at it.
    - And when this is all done, - said Zaphod  savagely,  -  it's  done,
alright? I'm free to go and do what the hell I like and lie on beaches and
    - It depends what transpires from the meeting, - said Zarniwoop.
    - Zaphod, who is this man? - said Trillian shakily, wobbling  to  her
feet, - What's he doing here? Why's he on our ship?
    - He's a very stupid man, - said Zaphod, - who wants to meet the  man
who rules the Universe.
    - Ah, - said Trillian taking  the  bottle  from  Zaphod  and  helping
herself, - a social climber.

                              Chapter 28

    The major problem - one of the major problems, for there are  several
one of the many major problems with governing people is that of  whom  you
get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it  to
    To summarize: it is a well known fact, that  those  people  who  most
want to rule people are, ipso facto, those  least  suited  to  do  it.  To
summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of  getting  themselves  made
President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize  the
summary of the summary: people are a problem.
    And so this is the  situation  we  find:  a  succession  of  Galactic
Presidents who so much enjoy the fun and palaver of being  in  power  that
they very rarely notice that they're not.
    And somewhere in the shadows behind them - who?
    Who can possibly rule if no one who wants to do it can be allowed to?

                              Chapter 29

    On a small obscure world  somewhere  in  the  middle  of  nowhere  in
particular - nowhere, that is, that could  ever  be  found,  since  it  is
protected by a vast field of unprobability to which only six men  in  this
galaxy have a key - it was raining.
    It was bucketing down, and had been for hours. It beat the top of the
sea into a mist, it pounded the trees, it churned and slopped a stretch of
scrubby land near the sea into a mudbath.
    The rain pelted and danced on the corrugated iron roof of  the  small
shack that stood  in  the  middle  of  this  patch  of  scrubby  land.  It
obliterated the small rough pathway that led from the shack  down  to  the
seashore and smashed apart the neat piles of interesting shells which  had
been placed there.
    The noise of the rain on the roof of the shack was deafening  within,
but went largely unnoticed by its occupant, whose attention was  otherwise
    He was a tall shambling man with rough straw-coloured hair  that  was
damp from the leaking roof. His clothes were shabby, his back was hunched,
and his eyes, though open, seemed closed.
    In his shack was an old beaten-up armchair, an old  scratched  table,
an old mattress, some cushions and a stove that was small but warm.
    There was also an old and slightly weatherbeaten cat,  and  this  was
currently the focus of the man's attention. He  bent  his  shambling  form
over it.
    - Pussy, pussy, pussy, - he said,  -  coochicoochicoochicoo...  pussy
want his fish? Nice piece of fish... pussy want it?
    The  cat  seemed  undecided  on   the   matter.   It   pawed   rather
condescendingly at the piece of fish the man was holding out, and then got
distracted by a piece of dust on the floor.
    - Pussy not eat his fish, pussy get thin and waste away, I  think,  -
said the man. Doubt crept into his voice.
    - I imagine this is what will happen, - he said,  -  but  how  can  I
    He proffered the fish again.
    - Pussy think, - he said, - eat fish or not eat fish. I think  it  is
better if I don't get involved. - He sighed.
    - I think fish is nice, but then I think that rain is wet, so who  am
I to judge?
    He left the fish on the floor for the cat, and retired to his seat.
    - Ah, I seem to see you eating it, - he said  at  last,  as  the  cat
exhausted the entertainment possibilities of the speck of dust and pounced
on to the fish.
    - I like it when I see you eat the fish, - said the man, - because in
my mind you will waste away if you don't.
    He picked up from the table a piece  of  paper  and  the  stub  of  a
pencil. He held  one  in  one  hand  and  the  other  in  the  other,  and
experimented with the different ways of bringing them together.  He  tried
holding the pencil under the paper, then over the paper, then next to  the
paper. He tried wrapping the paper round the pencil, he tried rubbing  the
stubby end of the pencil against the paper and then he tried  rubbing  the
sharp end of the pencil against the paper. It made  a  mark,  and  he  was
delighted with the discovery, as he was every day. He  picked  up  another
piece of paper from the table. This had a crossword on it. He  studied  it
briefly and filled in a couple of clues before losing interest.
    He tried sitting on one of his hands and was intrigued by the feel of
the bones of his hip.
    - Fish come from far away, - he said, - or  so  I'm  told.  Or  so  I
imagine I'm told. When the men come, or when in my mind the  men  come  in
their six black ships, do they come in your mind  too?  What  do  you  see
    He looked at the cat, which was more concerned with getting the  fish
down as rapidly as possible than it was with these speculations.
    - And when I hear their questions, do you  hear  questions?  What  do
their voices mean to you? Perhaps you just think they're singing songs  to
you. - He reflected on this, and saw the flaw in the supposition.
    - Perhaps they are singing songs to you, - he  said,  -  and  I  just
think they're asking me questions.
    He paused again. Sometimes he would pause for days, just to see  what
it was like.
    - Do you think they came today? - he said, - I do. There's mud on the
floor, cigarettes and whisky on the table, fish on a plate for you  and  a
memory of them in my mind. Hardly conclusive evidence I know, but then all
evidence is circumstantial. And look what else they've left me.
    He reached over to the table and pulled some things off it.
    - Crosswords, dictionaries, and a calculator.
    He played with the calculator for an hour, whilst  the  cat  went  to
sleep and the rain outside  continued  to  pour.  Eventually  he  put  the
calculator aside.
    - I think I must be right in thinking they ask  me  questions,  -  he
said, - To come all that way and leave all these things for the  privilege
of singing songs to you would be very strange behaviour. Or so it seems to
me. Who can tell, who can tell.
    From the table he picked up a cigarette and lit it with a spill  from
the stove. He inhaled deeply and sat back.
    - I think I saw another ship in the sky today, - he said at last. - A
big white one. I've never seen a big white one, just the six  black  ones.
And the six green ones. And the others who say they come from so far away.
Never a big white one. Perhaps six small black ones can look like one  big
white one at certain times. Perhaps I would like a glass of  whisky.  Yes,
that seems more likely.
    He stood up and found a glass that was lying  on  the  floor  by  the
mattress. He poured in a measure from his whisky bottle. He sat again.
    - Perhaps some other people are coming to see me, - he said.
    A hundred yards away, pelted by the torrential rain, lay the Heart of
    Its  hatchway  opened,  and  three  figures  emerged,  huddling  into
themselves to keep the rain off their faces.
    - In there? - shouted Trillian above the noise of the rain.
    - Yes, - said Zarniwoop.
    - That shack?
    - Yes.
    - Weird, - said Zaphod.
    - But it's in the middle of nowhere, - said Trillian, - we must  have
come to the wrong place. You can't rule the Universe from a shack.
    They hurried through the pouring rain, and arrived, wet  through,  at
the door. They knocked. They shivered.
    The door opened.
    - Hello? - said the man.
    - Ah, excuse me, - said Zarniwoop, - I have reason to believe...
    - Do you rule the Universe? - said Zaphod.
    The man smiled at him.
    - I try not to, - he said, - Are you wet?
    Zaphod looked at him in astonishment.
    - Wet? - he cried, - Doesn't it look as if we're wet?
    - That's how it looks to me, - said the man, - but how you feel about
it might be an altogether different matter. If you feel warmth  makes  you
dry, you'd better come in.
    They went in.
    They looked around the tiny shack, Zarniwoop  with  slight  distaste,
Trillian with interest, Zaphod with delight.
    - Hey, er... - said Zaphod, - what's your name?
    The man looked at them doubtfully.
    - I don't know. Why, do you think I should have one?  It  seems  very
odd to give a bundle of vague sensory perceptions a name.
    He invited Trillian to sit in the chair. He sat on the  edge  of  the
chair, Zarniwoop leaned stiffly against the table and Zaphod  lay  on  the
    - Wowee! - said Zaphod, - the seat of power! - He tickled the cat.
    - Listen, - said Zarniwoop, - I must ask you some questions.
    - Alright, - said the man kindly, - you can sing to  my  cat  if  you
    - Would he like that? - asked Zaphod.
    - You'd better ask him, - said the man.
    - Does he talk? - said Zaphod.
    - I have no memory of him talking, - said the man, - but  I  am  very
    Zarniwoop pulled some notes out of a pocket.
    - Now, - he said, - you do rule the Universe, do you?
    - How can I tell? - said the man.
    Zarniwoop ticked off a note on the paper.
    - How long have you been doing this?
    - Ah, - said the man, - this is a question about the past is it?
    Zarniwoop looked at him in puzzlement. This wasn't  exactly  what  he
had been expecting.
    - Yes, - he said.
    - How can I tell, - said the man, - that the  past  isn't  a  fiction
designed to account for the  discrepancy  between  my  immediate  physical
sensations and my state of mind?
    Zarniwoop stared at him. The steam began  to  rise  from  his  sodden
    - So you answer all questions like this? - he said.
    The man answered quickly.
    - I say what it occurs to me to say when I think I  hear  people  say
things. More I cannot say.
    Zaphod laughed happily.
    - I'll drink to that, - he said and pulled out  the  bottle  of  Janx
spirit. He leaped up and handed the bottle to the ruler of  the  Universe,
who took it with pleasure.
    - Good on you, great ruler, - he said, - tell it like it is.
    - No, listen to me, - said Zarniwoop, - people come to you  do  they?
In ships...
    - I think so, - said the man. He handed the bottle to Trillian.
    - And they ask you, - said Zarniwoop, - to take decisions  for  them?
About people's lives, about worlds, about  economies,  about  wars,  about
everything going on out there in the Universe?
    - Out there? - said the man, - out where?
    - Out there! - said Zarniwoop pointing at the door.
    - How can you tell  there's  anything  out  there,  -  said  the  man
politely, - the door's closed.
    The rain continued to pound the roof. Inside the shack it was warm.
    - But you know there's a whole Universe out there! - cried Zarniwoop.
- You can't dodge your responsibilities by saying they don't exist!
    The ruler of the Universe thought for a long while  whilst  Zarniwoop
quivered with anger.
    - You're very sure of your facts, - he said at  last,  -  I  couldn't
trust the thinking of a man who takes the Universe - if there is one - for
    Zarniwoop still quivered, but was silent.
    - I only decide about my Universe, - continued the man quietly. -  My
Universe is my eyes and my ears. Anything else is hearsay.
    - But don't you believe in anything?
    The man shrugged and picked up his cat.
    - I don't understand what you mean, - he said.
    - You don't understand that what you decide in this  shack  of  yours
affects the lives and fates of millions of people? This is all monstrously
    - I don't know. I've never met all these people  you  speak  of.  And
neither, I suspect, have you. They only exist in  words  we  hear.  It  is
folly to say you know what is happening to other people. Only  they  know,
if they exist. They have their own Universes of their own eyes and ears.
    Trillian said:
    - I think I'm just popping outside for a moment.
    She left and walked into the rain.
    - Do you believe other people exist? - insisted Zarniwoop.
    - I have no opinion. How can I say?
    - I'd better see what's up with Trillian, - said Zaphod  and  slipped
    Outside, he said to her:
    - I think the Universe is in pretty good hands, yeah?
    - Very good, - said Trillian. They walked off into the rain.
    Inside, Zarniwoop continued.
    - But don't you understand that people live or die on your word?
    The ruler of the Universe waited for as long as  he  could.  When  he
heard the faint sound of the ship's engines starting he spoke to cover it.
    - It's nothing to do with me, - he said, - I  am  not  involved  with
people. The Lord knows I am not a cruel man.
    - Ah! - barked Zarniwoop, -  you  say  "The  Lord".  You  believe  in
    - My cat, - said the man benignly, picking it up and stroking it, - I
call him The Lord. I am kind to him.
    - Alright, - said Zarniwoop, pressing home his point, -  How  do  you
know he exists? How do you know he knows you to be kind, or enjoys what he
thinks of as your kindness?
    - I don't, - said the man with a smile, - I have no idea.  It  merely
pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat. Do  you
behave any differently? Please, I think I am tired.
    Zarniwoop heaved a thoroughly dissatisfied sigh and looked about.
    - Where are the other two? - he said suddenly.
    - What other two? - said the ruler of  the  Universe,  settling  back
into his chair and refilling his whisky glass.
    - Beeblebrox and the girl! The two who were here!
    - I remember no one. The past is a fiction to account for...
    - Stuff it, - snapped Zarniwoop and ran out into the rain. There  was
no ship. The rain continued to churn the mud. There was no  sign  to  show
where the ship had been. He hollered into the rain. He turned and ran back
to the shack and found it locked.
    The ruler of the Universe dozed lightly in his chair. After  a  while
he played with the pencil and the paper again and was  delighted  when  he
discovered how to make a mark with the one on the  other.  Various  noises
continued outside, but he didn't know whether they were real  or  not.  He
then talked to his table for a week to see how it would react.

                              Chapter 30

    The stars came out that  night,  dazzling  in  their  brilliance  and
clarity. Ford and Arthur had walked more miles than they had any means  of
judging and finally stopped to rest. The night was cool and balmy, the air
pure, the Sub-Etha Sens.O.Matic totally silent.
    A wonderful stillness hung over  the  world,  a  magical  calm  which
combined with the soft fragrances of  the  woods,  the  quiet  chatter  of
insects and the brilliant light of  the  stars  to  soothe  their  jangled
spirits. Even Ford Prefect, who had seen more worlds than he  could  count
on a long afternoon, was moved to wonder if this was the most beautiful he
had ever seen. All that day they had passed through  rolling  green  hills
and valleys, richly covered with grasses, wild scented  flowers  and  tall
thickly leaved trees, the sun had warmed them, light breezes had kept them
cool, and Ford Prefect had checked his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic at  less  and
less frequent intervals, and had exhibited less and less annoyance at  its
continued silence. He was beginning to think he liked it here.
    Cool though the night air was they slept soundly and  comfortably  in
the open and awoke a few  hours  later  with  the  light  dewfall  feeling
refreshed but hungry. Ford had stuffed some small rolls into  his  satchel
at Milliways and they breakfasted off those before moving on.
    So far they had wandered purely at random, but now  they  struck  out
firmly eastwards, feeling that if they were going to  explore  this  world
they should have some clear idea of where they had  come  from  and  where
they were going.
    Shortly before noon they had their first indication  that  the  world
they had landed on was not  an  uninhabited  one:  a  half  glimpsed  face
amongst the trees, watching them. It vanished at the moment they both  saw
it, but the image they were both left with was  of  a  humanoid  creature,
curious to see them but not alarmed. Half  an  hour  later  they  glimpsed
another such face, and ten minutes after that another.
    A minute later they stumbled into a wide clearing and stopped short.
    Before them in the middle of the clearing stood a group of about  two
dozen men and women. They stood still and quiet facing  Ford  and  Arthur.
Around some of the women huddled some small children and behind the  group
was a ramshackle array of small dwellings made of mud and branches.
    Ford and Arthur held their breath. The tallest of  the  men  stood  a
little over five feet high, they all stooped forward slightly, had longish
arms and lowish foreheads, and clear bright eyes with  which  they  stared
intently at the strangers.
    Seeing that they carried no weapons and made no  move  towards  them,
Ford and Arthur relaxed slightly.
    For a while the two groups simply stared at each other, neither  side
making any move. The natives seemed puzzled by the intruders,  and  whilst
they showed no sign of aggression they were quite clearly not issuing  any
    For a full two minutes nothing continued to happen.
    After two minutes Ford decided it was time something happened.
    - Hello, - he said.
    The women drew their children slightly closer to them.
    The men  made  hardly  any  discernible  move  and  yet  their  whole
disposition made it clear that the greeting was not welcome - it  was  not
resented in any great degree, it was just not welcome.
    One of the men, who had been standing slightly forward of the rest of
the group and who might therefore have been their leader, stepped forward.
His face was quiet and calm, almost serene.
    - Ugghhhuuggghhhrrrr uh uh ruh uurgh, - he said quietly.
    This caught Arthur by surprise. He had grown so used to receiving  an
instantaneous and unconscious translation of everything he heard  via  the
Babel Fish lodged in his ear that he had ceased to be aware of it, and  he
was only reminded of its presence now by the fact that it didn't  seem  to
be working. Vague shadows of meaning had flickered  at  the  back  of  his
mind, but there was nothing he could get any firm grasp  on.  He  guessed,
correctly as it happens, that these people had as yet evolved no more than
the barest rudiments of language, and that the Babel  Fish  was  therefore
powerless to help. He glanced at Ford, who was infinitely more experienced
in these matters.
    - I think, - said Ford out of the corner of his mouth, - he's  asking
us if we'd mind walking on round the edge of the village.
    A moment later, a gesture from the  man-creature  seemed  to  confirm
    - Ruurgggghhhh urrgggh; urgh urgh (uh ruh) rruurruuh ug, -  continued
the man-creature.
    - The general gist, - said Ford, - as far as I can make out, is  that
we are welcome to continue our journey in any way we like, but if we would
walk round his village rather than through it it would make them all  very
    - So what do we do?
    - I think we make them happy, - said Ford.
    Slowly  and  watchfully  they  walked  round  the  perimeter  of  the
clearing. This seemed to go down very well with the natives who  bowed  to
them very slightly and then went about their business.
    Ford and Arthur continued their  journey  through  the  wood.  A  few
hundred yards past the clearing they suddenly came upon a  small  pile  of
fruit  lying  in  their  path  -  berries  that  looked  remarkably   like
raspberries and blackberries, and pulpy, green skinned fruit  that  looked
remarkably like pears.
    So far they had steered clear of the fruit and berries they had seen,
though the trees and bushed were laden with them.
    - Look at it this way, - Ford Prefect had said, - fruit  and  berries
on strange planets either make you live or make  you  die.  Therefore  the
point at which to start toying with them is when you're going  to  die  if
you don't. That way you stay ahead. The secret of healthy hitch-hiking  is
to eat junk food.
    They looked at the pile that lay in their  path  with  suspicion.  It
looked so good it made them almost dizzy with hunger.
    - Look at it this way, - said Ford, - er...
    - Yes? - said Arthur.
    - I'm trying to think of a way of looking at it which means we get to
eat it, - said Ford.
    The leaf-dappled sun gleamed on the pulp skins of  the  things  which
looked  like  pears.  The  things  which  looked  like   raspberries   and
strawberries were fatter and riper than any Arthur had ever seen, even  in
ice cream commercials.
    - Why don't we eat them and think about it afterwards? - he said.
    - Maybe that's what they want us to do.
    - Alright, look at it this way...
    - Sounds good so far.
    - It's there for us to eat. Either it's good or it's bad, either they
want to feed us or to poison us. If it's poisonous and  we  don't  eat  it
they'll just attack us some other way. If we don't eat, we lose out either
    - I like the way you're thinking, - said Ford, - Now eat one.
    Hesitantly, Arthur picked up one of those  things  that  looked  like
    - I always thought that about the Garden of Eden story, - said Ford.
    - Eh?
    - Garden of Eden. Tree. Apple. That bit, remember?
    - Yes of course I do.
    - Your God person puts an apple tree in the middle of  a  garden  and
says do what you  like  guys,  oh,  but  don't  eat  the  apple.  Surprise
surprise, they eat it and  he  leaps  out  from  behind  a  bush  shouting
"Gotcha". It wouldn't have made any difference if they hadn't eaten it.
    - Why not?
    - Because if you're  dealing  with  somebody  who  has  the  sort  of
mentality which likes leaving hats on the pavement with bricks under  them
you know perfectly well they won't give up. They'll get you in the end.
    - What are you talking about?
    - Never mind, eat the fruit.
    - You know, this place almost looks like the Garden of Eden.
    - Eat the fruit.
    - Sounds quite like it too.
    Arthur took a bite from the thing which looked like a pear.
    - It's a pear, - he said.
    A few moments later, when they had eaten the lot, Ford Prefect turned
round and called out.
    - Thank you. Thank you very much, - he called, - you're very kind.
    They went on their way.
    For the next fifty miles of  their  journey  eastward  they  kept  on
finding the occasional gift of fruit lying in their path, and though  they
once or twice had a quick glimpse of  a  native  mancreature  amongst  the
trees, they never again made direct  contact.  They  decided  they  rather
liked a race of people who made it clear that they were grateful simply to
be left alone.
    The fruit and berries stopped after fifty  miles,  because  that  was
where the sea started.
    Having no pressing calls on their time they built a raft and  crossed
the sea. It was reasonably calm, only about sixty miles wide and they  had
a reasonably pleasant crossing, landing in a country that was at least  as
beautiful as the one they had left.
    Life was, in short, ridiculously easy and for a while at  least  they
were able to cope with  the  problems  of  aimlessness  and  isolation  by
deciding to ignore them. When the craving for  company  became  too  great
they would know where to find it, but for the moment they  were  happy  to
feel that the Golgafrinchans were hundreds of miles behind them.
    Nevertheless, Ford Prefect began to  use  his  Sub-Etha  Sens-O-Matic
more often again. Only once did he pick up a signal, but that was so faint
and from such enormous distance  that  it  depressed  him  more  than  the
silence that had otherwise continued unbroken.
    On a whim they turned northwards. After weeks of travelling they came
to another sea, built another raft and crossed it. This time it was harder
going, the climate was  getting  colder.  Arthur  suspected  a  streak  of
masochism in Ford Prefect -  the  increasing  difficulty  of  the  journey
seemed to give him a sense of  purpose  that  was  otherwise  lacking.  He
strode onwards relentlessly.
    Their journey northwards brought them into steep mountainous  terrain
of breathtaking sweep and beauty. The vast,  jagged,  snow  covered  peaks
ravished their senses. The cold began to bite into their bones.
    They wrapped themselves in animal skins and furs which  Ford  Prefect
acquired by a technique he once learned from a couple of ex-Pralite  monks
running a Mind-Surfing resort in the Hills of Hunian.
    The galaxy is littered  with  ex-Pralite  monks,  all  on  the  make,
because the mental control techniques the Order have evolved as a form  of
devotional  discipline  are,  frankly,  sensational  -  and  extraordinary
numbers of monks leave the Order  just  after  they  have  finished  their
devotional training and just before they take their  final  vows  to  stay
locked in small metal boxes for the rest of their lives.
    Ford's technique seemed to consist mainly of  standing  still  for  a
while and smiling.
    After a while an animal - a deer perhaps - would appear from  out  of
the trees and watch him cautiously. Ford would continue to  smile  at  it,
his eyes would soften and shine, and he would seem to radiate a  deep  and
universal love, a love which reached out to embrace  all  of  creation.  A
wonderful quietness would descend on the surrounding countryside, peaceful
and serene, emanating from this transfigured man. Slowly  the  deer  would
approach, step by step, until it was almost nuzzling him,  whereupon  Ford
Prefect would reach out to it and break its neck.
    - Pheromone control, - he said it was, - you just have to know how to
generate the right smell.

                              Chapter 31

    A few days  after  landing  in  this  mountainous  land  they  hit  a
coastline which swept diagonally before them from the  south-west  to  the
north-east, a coastline of monumental  grandeur:  deep  majestic  ravines,
soaring pinnacles of ice - fjords.
    For two further days they scrambled and climbed over  the  rocks  and
glaciers, awe-struck with beauty.
    - Arthur! - yelled Ford suddenly.
    It was the afternoon of the second day. Arthur was sitting on a  high
rock watching the  thundering  sea  smashing  itself  against  the  craggy
    - Arthur! - yelled Ford again.
    Arthur looked to where Ford's voice had come from, carried faintly in
the wind.
    Ford had gone to examine  a  glacier,  and  Arthur  found  him  there
crouching by the solid wall of blue ice. He was tense  with  excitement  -
his eyes darted up to meet Arthur's.
    - Look, - he said, - look!
    Arthur looked. He saw the solid wall of blue ice.
    - Yes, - he said, - it's a glacier. I've already seen it.
    - No, - said Ford, - you've looked at it, you haven't seen it. Look!
    Ford was pointing deep into the heart of the ice.
    Arthur peered - he saw nothing but vague shadows.
    - Move back from it, - insisted Ford, - look again.
    Arthur moved back and looked again.
    - No, - he said, and shrugged. - What am I  supposed  to  be  looking
    And suddenly he saw it.
    - You see it?
    He saw it.
    His mouth started to speak, but  his  brain  decided  it  hadn't  got
anything to say yet and shut it again. His brain then started  to  contend
with the problem of what his eyes told it they were  looking  at,  but  in
doing so relinquished control of the mouth which promptly fell open again.
Once more gathering up the jaw, his brain lost control of  his  left  hand
which then wandered around in an aimless fashion. For a second or  so  the
brain tried to catch the left hand without letting go  of  the  mouth  and
simultaneously tried to think about what was buried in the ice,  which  is
probably why the legs went and Arthur dropped restfully to the ground.
    The thing that had been causing all this neural upset was  a  network
of shadows in the ice, about eighteen inches beneath the  surface.  Looked
at it from the right angle they resolved into the solid shapes of  letters
from an alien alphabet, each about three feet high; and  for  those,  like
Arthur, who couldn't read Magrathean  there  was  above  the  letters  the
outline of a face hanging in the ice.
    It was an old face, thin and distinguished, careworn but not unkind.
    It was the face of the man who had won an  award  for  designing  the
coastline they now knew themselves to be standing on.

                              Chapter 32

    A thin whine filled the air. It whirled and howled through the  trees
upsetting the squirrels. A few birds flew off in disgust. The noise danced
and skittered round the clearing. It  whooped,  it  rasped,  it  generally
    The Captain, however, regarded the lone bagpiper  with  an  indulgent
eye. Little could disturb his equanimity; indeed, once he had got over the
loss of his gorgeous bath during that  unpleasantness  in  the  swamp  all
those months ago he had begun to find his new life remarkably congenial. A
hollow had been scooped out of a large rock which stood in the  middle  of
the clearing, and in this he would bask daily  whilst  attendants  sloshed
water over him. Not particularly warm water, it  must  be  said,  as  they
hadn't yet worked out a way of heating it. Never mind,  that  would  come,
and in the meantime search parties were scouring the countryside  far  and
wide for a hot spring, preferably one in a nice leafy glade, and if it was
near a soap mine - perfection. To those who said that they had  a  feeling
soap wasn't found in mines, the  Captain  had  ventured  to  suggest  that
perhaps that  was  because  no  one  had  looked  hard  enough,  and  this
possibility had been reluctantly acknowledged.
    No, life was very pleasant, and the greatest thing about it was  that
when the hot spring was found, complete with leafy  glade  en  suite,  and
when in the fullness of time the cry came reverberating across  the  hills
that the soap mine had been located and was producing five hundred cakes a
day it would be more pleasant still. It was very important to have  things
to look forward to.
    Wail, wail, screech, wail, howl,  honk,  squeak  went  the  bagpipes,
increasing the Captain's already considerable pleasure at the thought that
any moment now they might stop. That was something he looked forward to as
    What else was pleasant, he asked himself? Well, so many  things:  the
red and gold of the trees, now that autumn was approaching;  the  peaceful
chatter  of  scissors  a  few  feet  from  his  bath  where  a  couple  of
hairdressers were exercising their skills on a dozing art director and his
assistant; the sunlight gleaming off the six  shiny  telephones  lined  up
along the edge of his rock-hewn bath. The only thing nicer  than  a  phone
that didn't ring all the time (or indeed  at  all)  was  six  phones  that
didn't ring all the time (or indeed at all).
    Nicest of all was the happy murmur of  all  the  hundreds  of  people
slowly assembling in the  clearing  around  him  to  watch  the  afternoon
committee meeting.
    The Captain punched his  rubber  duck  playfully  on  the  beak.  The
afternoon committee meetings were his favourite.
    Other eyes watched the assembling crowds. High in a tree on the  edge
of the clearing  squatted  Ford  Prefect,  lately  returned  from  foreign
climes. After his six month journey he was  lean  and  healthy,  his  eyes
gleamed, he wore a reindeer-skin coat; his beard was as thick and his face
as bronzed as a country-rock singer's.
     He and Arthur Dent had been watching the Golgafrinchans  for  almost
a week now, and Ford had decided to stir things up a bit.
    The clearing was now full. Hundreds of men and women lounged  around,
chatting, eating fruit,  playing  cards  and  generally  having  a  fairly
relaxed time of it. Their track suits were now all dirty  and  even  torn,
but they all had immaculately styled hair. Ford was puzzled  to  see  that
many of them had stuffed their track suits full of leaves and wondered  if
this was meant to be some form of insulation against  the  coming  winter.
Ford's eyes narrowed. They couldn't be interested in botany  of  a  sudden
could they?
    In the middle of these speculations the Captain's  voice  rose  above
the hubbub.
    - Alright, - he said, - I'd like to call this meeting to some sort of
order if that's at all possible. Is that  alright  with  everybody?  -  He
smiled genially. - In a minute. When you're all ready.
    The talking gradually died away and the clearing fell silent,  except
for the bagpiper who seemed to be in some wild and  uninhabitable  musical
world of his own. A few of those in  his  immediate  vicinity  threw  some
leaves to him. If there was any reason  for  this  then  it  escaped  Ford
Prefect for the moment.
    A small group of people had clustered round the Captain  and  one  of
them was clearly beginning to speak. He did this by standing up,  clearing
his throat and then gazing off into the distance as if to signify  to  the
crowd that he would be with them in a minute.
    The crowd of course were riveted and all turned their eyes on him.
    A moment of silence followed, which  Ford  judged  to  be  the  right
dramatic moment to make his entry. The man turned to speak.
    Ford dropped down out of the tree.
    - Hi there, - he said.
    The crowd swivelled round.
    - Ah my dear fellow, - called out the Captain, - Got any  matches  on
you? Or a lighter? Anything like that?
    - No, - said Ford, sounding a little deflated. It  wasn't  what  he'd
prepared. He decided he'd better be a little stronger on the subject.
    - No I haven't, - he continued, - No matches.  Instead  I  bring  you
    - Pity, - said the Captain, - We've all run out you see. Haven't  had
a hot bath in weeks.
    Ford refused to be headed off.
    - I bring you news, - he said, - of a discovery that  might  interest
    - Is it on the agenda? - snapped the man whom Ford had interrupted.
    Ford smiled a broad country-rock singer smile.
    - Now, come on, - he said.
    - Well I'm sorry, - said  the  man  huffily,  -  but  speaking  as  a
management consultant of many  years'  standing,  I  must  insist  on  the
importance of observing the committee structure.
    Ford looked round the crowd.
    - He's mad you know, - he said, - this is a prehistoric planet.
    - Address the chair! - snapped the  management  consultant.  -  There
isn't chair," explained Ford, "there's only a rock.
    The  management  consultant  decided  that  testiness  was  what  the
situation now called for.
    - Well, call it a chair, - he said testily.
    - Why not call it a rock? - asked Ford.
    - You obviously have no conception," said the management  consultant,
not abandoning testiness in favour of  good  old  fashioned  hauteur,  "of
modern business methods.
    - And you have no conception of where you are, - said Ford.
    A girl with a strident voice leapt to her feet and used it.
    - Shut up, you two, - she said, - I want to table a motion.
    - You mean boulder a motion, - tittered a hairdresser.
    - Order, order! - yapped the management consultant.
    - Alright, - said Ford, - let's see how you are doing. -  He  plonked
himself down on the ground to see how long he could keep his temper.
    The Captain made a sort of conciliatory harrumphing noise.
    - I would like to call to order, - he said  pleasantly,  -  the  five
hundred  and  seventy-third  meeting  of  the  colonization  committee  of
    Ten seconds, thought Ford as he leapt to his feet again.
    - This is futile, - he exclaimed, - five  hundred  and  seventy-three
committee meetings and you haven't even discovered fire yet!
    - If you would care, - said the girl with the strident  voice,  -  to
examine the agenda sheet...
    - Agenda rock, - trilled the hairdresser happily.
    - Thank you, I've made that point, - muttered Ford.
    - ... you... will... see... - continued the girl firmly,  -  that  we
are having a report from the hairdressers' Fire Development  Sub-Committee
    - Oh... ah - - said the hairdresser with a  sheepish  look  which  is
recognized the whole Galaxy over as meaning - Er, will next Tuesday do?
    - Alright, - said Ford, rounding on him, - what have you  done?  What
are you going to do? What are your thoughts on fire development?
    - Well I don't know, - said the hairdresser, - All they gave me was a
couple of sticks...
    - So what have you done with them?
    Nervously, the hairdresser fished in his track suit  top  and  handed
over the fruits of his labour to Ford.
    Ford held them up for all to see.
    - Curling tongs, - he said.
    The crowd applauded.
    - Never mind, - said Ford, - Rome wasn't burnt in a day.
    The crowd hadn't the faintest idea what he  was  talking  about,  but
they loved it nevertheless. They applauded.
    - Well, you're obviously being totally naive of course,  -  said  the
girl, - When you've been in marketing as long as I have you'll  know  that
before any new product can be developed it has to be properly  researched.
We've got to find out what people want from fire, how they relate  to  it,
what sort of image it has for them.
    The crowd were tense. They were expecting  something  wonderful  from
    - Stick it up your nose, - he said.
    - Which is precisely the sort of thing we need to  know,  -  insisted
the girl, - Do people want fire that can be applied nasally?
    - Do you? - Ford asked the crowd.
    - Yes! - shouted some.
    - No! - shouted others happily.
    They didn't know, they just thought it was great.
    - And the wheel, - said the Captain, - What about this wheel  thingy?
It sounds a terribly interesting project.
    - Ah, - said the marketing  girl,  -  Well,  we're  having  a  little
difficulty there.
    - Difficulty? - exclaimed Ford,  -  Difficulty?  What  do  you  mean,
difficulty? It's the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!
    The marketing girl soured him with a look.
    - Alright, Mr Wiseguy, - she said, - you're so clever,  you  tell  us
what colour it should have.
    The crowd went wild. One up to the  home  team,  they  thought.  Ford
shrugged his shoulders and sat down again.
    - Almighty Zarquon, - he said, - have none of you done anything?
    As if in answer to his question there was a sudden clamour  of  noise
from the entrance to the clearing. The crowd couldn't believe  the  amount
of entertainment they were getting this afternoon: in marched a  squad  of
about a dozen men dressed in  the  remnants  of  their  Golgafrincham  3rd
Regiment dress uniforms. About half of them still carried Kill-O-Zap guns,
the rest now carried spears which they struck together  as  they  marched.
They looked bronzed, healthy, and utterly exhausted and  bedraggled.  They
clattered to a halt and banged to attention. One of  them  fell  over  and
never moved again.
    - Captain, sir! - cried Number Two - for he  was  their  leader  -  -
Permission to report sir!
    - Yes, alright Number Two, welcome back and all that.  Find  any  hot
springs? - said the Captain despondently.
    - No sir!
    - Thought you wouldn't.
    Number Two strode through the crowd and  presented  arms  before  the
    - We have discovered another continent!
    - When was this?
    - It lies across the sea... - said Number  Two,  narrowing  his  eyes
significantly, - to the east!
    - Ah.
    Number Two turned to face the crowd. He  raised  his  gun  above  his
head. This is going to be great, thought the crowd.
    - We have declared war on it!
    Wild abandoned cheering broke out in all corners of  the  clearing  -
this was beyond all expectation.
    - Wait a minute, - shouted Ford Prefect, - wait a minute!
    He leapt to his feet and demanded silence. After a while he  got  it,
or at least the best silence he could hope for  under  the  circumstances:
the circumstances were that the bagpiper  was  spontaneously  composing  a
national anthem.
    - Do we have to have the piper? - demanded Ford.
    - Oh yes, - said the Captain, - we've given him a grant.
    Ford considered opening this idea up for debate but  quickly  decided
that that way madness lay. Instead he slung a  well  judged  rock  at  the
piper and turned to face Number Two.
    - War? - he said.
    - Yes! - Number Two gazed contemptuously at Ford Prefect.
    - On the next continent?
    - Yes! Total warfare! The war to end all wars!
    - But there's no one even living there yet!
    Ah, interesting, thought the crowd, nice point.
    Number Two's gaze hovered undisturbed. In this respect his eyes  were
like a couple of mosquitos that hover purposefully three inches from  your
nose and refuse to be deflected by  arm  thrashes,  fly  swats  or  rolled
    - I know that, - he said, - but there will be one  day!  So  we  have
left an open-ended ultimatum.
    - What?
    - And blown up a few military installations.
    The Captain leaned forward out of his bath.
    - Military installations Number Two? - he said.
    For a moment the eyes wavered.
    - Yes sir, well potential military installations. Alright... trees.
    The moment of uncertainty passed - his eyes flickered like whips over
his audience.
    - And, - he roared, - we interrogated a gazelle!
    He flipped his Kill-O-Zap gun smartly under his arm and  marched  off
through the pandemonium that  had  now  erupted  throughout  the  ecstatic
crowd. A few steps was all he managed before he was caught up and  carried
shoulder high for a lap of honour round the clearing.
    Ford sat and idly tapped a couple of stones together.
    - So what else have you done? - he inquired  after  the  celebrations
had died down.
    - We have started a culture, - said the marketing girl.
    - Oh yes? - said Ford.
    - Yes. One of our film producers  is  already  making  a  fascinating
documentary about the indigenous cavemen of the area.
    - They're not cavemen.
    - They look like cavemen.
    - Do they live in caves?
    - Well...
    - They live in huts.
    - Perhaps they're having their caves redecorated, - called out a  wag
from the crowd.
    Ford rounded on him angrily.
    - Very funny, - he said, - but have you noticed  that  they're  dying
    On their journey back, Ford and Arthur had come across  two  derelict
villages and the bodies of many natives in the woods, where they had crept
away to die. Those that still lived were stricken and listless, as if they
were suffering some disease of the spirit rather than the body. They moved
sluggishly and with an infinite sadness. Their future had been taken  away
from them.
    - Dying out! - repeated Ford. - Do you know what that means?
    - Er... we shouldn't sell them any life insurance? - called  out  the
wag again.
    Ford ignored him, and appealed to the whole crowd.
    - Can you try and understand, - he said, - that it's just since we've
arrived that they've started dying out!
    - In fact that comes over terribly well in  this  film,  -  said  the
marketing girl, - and just gives it  that  poignant  twist  which  is  the
hallmark of the really great documentary. The producer's very committed.
    - He should be, - muttered Ford.
    - I gather, - said the girl, turning to address the Captain  who  was
beginning to nod off, - that he wants to make one about you next, Captain.
    - Oh really? - he said, coming to with  a  start,  -  that's  awfully
    - He's got a very strong  angle  on  it,  you  know,  the  burden  of
responsibility, the loneliness of command... -
    The Captain hummed and hahed about this for a moment.
    - Well, I wouldn't  overstress  that  angle,  you  know,  -  he  said
finally, - one's never alone with a rubber duck.
    He held the duck aloft and it got  an  appreciative  round  from  the
    All the while, the Management Consultant had been  sitting  in  stony
silence, his finger tips pressed to his temples to indicate  that  he  was
waiting and would wait all day if it was necessary.
    At this point he decided he would not wait  all  day  after  all,  he
would merely pretend that the last half hour hadn't happened.
    He rose to his feet.
    - If, - he said tersely, - we could for  a  moment  move  on  to  the
subject of fiscal policy...
    - Fiscal policy! - whooped Ford Prefect, - Fiscal policy!
    The Management Consultant gave him a look that only a lungfish  could
have copied.
    - Fiscal policy... - he repeated, - that is what I said.
    - How can you have money, - demanded Ford, - if none of you  actually
produces anything? It doesn't grow on trees you know.
    - If you would allow me to continue...
    Ford nodded dejectedly.
    - Thank you. Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt  the  leaf  as
legal tender, we have, of course, all become immensely rich.
    Ford  stared  in  disbelief  at  the   crowd   who   were   murmuring
appreciatively at this and greedily fingering  the  wads  of  leaves  with
which their track suits were stuffed.
    - But we have also, - continued the Management Consultant, - run into
a  small  inflation  problem  on  account  of  the  high  level  of   leaf
availability, which means that, I  gather,  the  current  going  rate  has
something like three deciduous forests buying one ship's peanut.
    Murmurs of alarm came from the crowd. The Management Consultant waved
them down.
    - So in order  to  obviate  this  problem,  -  he  continued,  -  and
effectively revaluate the leaf, we  are  about  to  embark  on  a  massive
defoliation campaign, and... er, burn down all the forests. I think you'll
all agree that's a sensible move under the circumstances.
    The crowd seemed a little uncertain about this for a  second  or  two
until someone pointed out how much this would increase the  value  of  the
leaves in their pockets whereupon they let out whoops of delight and  gave
the Management Consultant a standing ovation. The accountants amongst them
looked forward to a profitable Autumn.
    - You're all mad, - explained Ford Prefect.
    - You're absolutely barmy, - he suggested.
    - You're a bunch of raving nutters, - he opined.
    The tide of opinion started to turn against him. What had started out
as excellent entertainment had now, in the crowd's view, deteriorated into
mere abuse, and since this abuse was in the main  directed  at  them  they
wearied of it.
    Sensing this shift in the wind, the marketing girl turned on him.
    - Is it perhaps in order, - she demanded, - to  inquire  what  you've
been doing all these months then? You and that other interloper have  been
missing since the day we arrived.
    - We've been on a journey, - said Ford, - We went to try and find out
something about this planet.
    - Oh, - said the girl archly, - doesn't sound very productive to me.
    - No? Well have I got news for you, my love. We have discovered  this
planet's future.
    Ford waited for this statement to have its  effect.  It  didn't  have
any. They didn't know what he was talking about.
    He continued.
    - It doesn't matter a pair of fetid  dingo's  kidneys  what  you  all
choose to do from now on. Burn down the forests, anything, it won't make a
scrap of difference. Your future history has already happened. Two million
years you've got and that's it. At the end of that time your race will  be
dead, gone and good riddance to you. Remember that, two million years!
    The crowd muttered to itself in annoyance. People as rich as they had
suddenly become shouldn't be obliged to listen to this sort of  gibberish.
Perhaps they could tip the fellow a leaf or two and he would go away.
    They didn't need to bother. Ford was  already  stalking  out  of  the
clearing, pausing only to shake his head at Number  Two  who  was  already
firing his Kill-O-Zap gun into some neighbouring trees.
    He turned back once.
    - Two million years! - he said and laughed.
    - Well, - said the Captain with a soothing smile, - still time for  a
few more baths. Could someone pass me the sponge? I just dropped  it  over
the side.

                              Chapter 33

    A mile or so away through  the  wood,  Arthur  Dent  was  too  busily
engrossed with what he was doing to hear Ford Prefect approach.
    What he was doing was rather curious, and this is what it was:  on  a
wide flat piece of rock he had scratched out the shape of a large  square,
subdivided into one hundred and sixty-nine smaller squares, thirteen to  a
    Furthermore he had collected together a  pile  of  smallish  flattish
stones and scratched the shape of a letter on to  each.  Sitting  morosely
round the rock were a couple of the surviving local native men whom Arthur
Dent was trying to introduce the curious concept embodied in these stones.
    So far they had not done well. They had  attempted  to  eat  some  of
them, bury others and throw the rest of  them  away.  Arthur  had  finally
encouraged one of them to lay a couple of  stones  on  the  board  he  had
scratched out, which was not even as far as he'd managed to  get  the  day
before. Along  with  the  rapid  deterioration  in  the  morale  of  these
creatures, there seemed to  be  a  corresponding  deterioration  in  their
actual intelligence.
    In an attempt to egg them along, Arthur set out a number  of  letters
on the board himself, and then tried to encourage the natives to add  some
more themselves.
    It was not going well.
    Ford watched quietly from beside a nearby tree.
    - No, - said Arthur to one of the natives who had just shuffled  some
of the letters round in a fit of abysmal dejection, -  Q  scores  ten  you
see, and it's on a triple word score, so... look, I've explained the rules
to you... no no, look please, put  down  that  jawbone...  alright,  we'll
start again. And try to concentrate this time.
    Ford leaned his elbow against the tree and his hand against his head.
    - What are you doing, Arthur? - he asked quietly.
    Arthur looked up with a start. He suddenly had  a  feeling  that  all
this might look slightly foolish. All he knew was that it had worked  like
a dream on him when he was a chid. But  things  were  different  then,  or
rather would be.
    - I'm trying to teach the cavemen to play Scrabble, - he said.
    - They're not cavemen, - said Ford.
    - They look like cavemen.
    Ford let it pass.
    - I see, - he said.
    - It's uphill work, - said Arthur wearily, - the only word they  know
is grunt and they can't spell it.
    He sighed and sat back.
    - What's that supposed to achieve? - asked Ford.
    - We've got to encourage them to evolve! To develop! -  Arthur  burst
out angrily. He hoped that the weary sigh and  then  the  anger  might  do
something to counteract the overriding feeling of foolishness  from  which
he was currently suffering. It didn't. He jumped to his feet.
    - Can you imagine what a world would be like descended from  those...
cretins we arrived with? - he said.
    - Imagine? - said Ford, rising his  eyebrows.  -  We  don't  have  to
imagine. We've seen it.
    - But... - Arthur waved his arms about hopelessly.
    - We've seen it, - said Ford, - there's no escape.
    Arthur kicked at a stone.
    - Did you tell them what we've discovered? - he asked.
    - Hmmmm? - said Ford, not really concentrating.
    - Norway, - said Arthur, - Slartibartfast's signature in the glacier.
Did you tell them?
    - What's the point? - said Ford, - What would it mean to them?
    - Mean? - said Arthur, - Mean? You know perfectly well what it means.
It means that this planet is the Earth! It's my home!  It's  where  I  was
    - Was? - said Ford.
    - Alright, will be.
    - Yes, in two million years' time. Why don't you tell them  that?  Go
and say to them, "Excuse me, I'd just  like  to  point  out  that  in  two
million years' time I will be born just a few miles from here."  See  what
they say. They'll chase you up a tree and set fire to it.
    Arthur absorbed this unhappily.
    - Face it, - said Ford, - those zeebs over there are your  ancestors,
not these poor creatures here.
    He went over to where the apemen creatures were rummaging  listlessly
with the stone letters. He shook his head.
    - Put the Scrabble away, Arthur, - he said, - it won't save the human
race, because this lot aren't going to be the human race. The  human  race
is currently sitting round a rock on the other side of  this  hill  making
documentaries about themselves.
    Arthur winced.
    - There must be something we can do, - he said. A terrible  sense  of
desolation thrilled through his body that he should be here, on the Earth,
the Earth which had lost its future in a horrifying arbitrary  catastrophe
and which now seemed set to lose its past as well.
    - No, - said Ford, - there's nothing we can do. This  doesn't  change
the history of the Earth, you see, this is the history of the Earth.  Like
it or leave it, the Golgafrinchans are the people you are descended  from.
in two million years they get destroyed by the Vogons.  History  is  never
altered you see, it just fits together like a  jigsaw.  Funny  old  thing,
life, isn't it?
    He picked up the letter Q and hurled it into  a  distant  pivet  bush
where it hit a young rabbit. The rabbit hurtled off in terror  and  didn't
stop till it was set upon and eaten by a fox which choked on  one  of  its
bones and died on the bank of a stream which subsequently washed it away.
    During the following weeks  Ford  Prefect  swallowed  his  pride  and
struck up a relationship with a girl who had been a personnel  officer  on
Golgafrincham, and he was terribly upset when she suddenly passed away  as
a result of drinking water from a pool that had been polluted by the  body
of a dead fox. The only moral it is possible to draw from  this  story  is
that one  should  never  throw  the  letter  Q  into  a  pivet  bush,  but
unfortunately there are times when it is unavoidable.
    Like most of the really crucial things in life, this chain of  events
was completely invisible to  Ford  Prefect  and  Arthur  Dent.  They  were
looking sadly at one of the natives morosely  pushing  the  other  letters
    - Poor bloody caveman, - said Arthur.
    - They're not...
    - What?
    - Oh never mind.
    The wretched creature let out a pathetic howling noise and banged  on
the rock.
    - It's all been a bit of waste of time for them, hasn't  it?  -  said
    - Uh uh urghhhhh, - muttered the native and banged on the rock again.
    - They've been outevolved by telephone sanitizers.
    - Urgh, gr gr, gruh! - insisted the native, continuing to bang on the
    - Why does he keep banging on the rock? - said Arthur.
    - I think he probably wants you to Scrabble with him  again,  -  said
Ford, - he's pointing at the letters.
    - Probably spelt  crzjgrdwldiwdc  again,  poor  bastard.  I  keep  on
telling him there's only one g in crzjgrdwldiwdc.
    The native banged on the rock again.
    They looked over his shoulder.
    Their eyes popped.
    There amongst the jumble of letters were eight that had been laid out
in a clear straight line.
    They spelt two words.
    The words were these:
    - Forty-Two.
    - Grrrurgh guh guh, - explained the  native.  He  swept  the  letters
angrily away and went and mooched under a nearby tree with his colleague.
    Ford and Arthur stared at him. Then they stared at each other.
    - Did that say what I thought it said?  -  they  both  said  to  each
    - Yes, - they both said.
    - Forty-two, - said Arthur.
    - Forty-two, - said Ford.
    Arthur ran over to the two natives.
    - What are you trying to tell us? - he shouted. - What's it  supposed
to mean?
    One of them rolled over on the ground, kicked his legs up in the air,
rolled over again and went to sleep.
    The other bounded up the tree  and  threw  horse  chestnuts  at  Ford
Prefect. Whatever it was they had to say, they had already said it.
    - You know what this means, - said Ford.
    - Not entirely.
    - Forty-two is the number Deep Thought gave  as  being  the  Ultimate
    - Yes.
    And the Earth is the computer Deep  Thought  designed  and  built  to
calculate the "Question to the Ultimate Answer."
    - So we are led to believe.
    - And organic life was part of the computer matrix.
    - If you say so.
    - I do say so. That means that these natives,  these  apemen  are  an
integral part of the computer program, and that we and the  Golgafrinchans
are not.
    - But the cavemen are dying out and the Golgafrinchans are  obviously
set to replace them.
    - Exactly. So do you see what this means?
    - What?
    - Cock up, - said Ford Prefect.
    Arthur looked around him.
    - This planet is having a pretty bloody time of it, - he said.
    Ford puzzled for a moment.
    - Still, something must have come out of it, - he  said  at  last,  -
because Marvin said he could see the Question printed in your  brain  wave
    - But...
    - Probably the wrong one, or a distortion of the right one. It  might
give us a clue though if we could find it. I don't see how we can though.
    They moped about for a bit. Arthur sat  on  the  ground  and  started
pulling up bits of grass, but found that it wasn't an occupation he  could
get deeply engrossed in. It wasn't grass he could believe  in,  the  trees
seemed pointless, the rolling hills seemed to be rolling  to  nowhere  and
the future seemed just a tunnel to be crawled through.
    Ford fiddled with his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic. It was silent. He sighed
and put it away.
    Arthur picked up one of the letter stones from his home-made Scrabble
set. It was a T. He sighed and out it down again. The letter he  put  down
next to it was an I. That spelt IT. He tossed another  couple  of  letters
next to them They were an S  and  an  H  as  it  happened.  By  a  curious
coincidence the resulting word perfectly  expressed  the  way  Arthur  was
feeling about things just then. He stared at it for a  moment.  He  hadn't
done it deliberately, it was just a random chance. His  brain  got  slowly
into first gear.
    - Ford, - he said suddenly, - look, if that Question is printed in my
brain wave patterns but I'm  not  consciously  aware  of  it  it  must  be
somewhere in my unconscious.
    - Yes, I suppose so.
    - There might be a way of bringing that unconscious pattern forward.
    - Oh yes?
    - Yes, by introducing some random element that can be shaped by  that
    - Like how?
    - Like by pulling Scrabble letters out of a bag blindfolded.
    Ford leapt to his feet.
    - Brilliant! - he said. He tugged his towel out of  his  satchel  and
with a few deft knots transformed it into a bag.
    - Totally mad, - he said, - utter nonsense. But we'll do  it  because
it's brilliant nonsense. Come on, come on.
    The sun passed respectfully behind a cloud. A few small sad raindrops
    They piled together all the remaining letters and dropped  them  into
the bag. They shook them up.
    - Right, - said Ford, - close your eyes. Pull them out. Come on  come
on, come on.
    Arthur closed his eyes and plunged his  hand  into  the  towelful  of
stones. He jiggled them about, pulled out four and handed  them  to  Ford.
Ford laid them along the ground in the order he got them.
    - W, - said Ford, - H, A, T... What!
    He blinked.
    - I think it's working! - he said.
    Arthur pushed three more at him.
    - D, O, Y... Doy. Oh perhaps it isn't working, - said Ford.
    - Here's the next three.
    - O, U, G... Doyoug... It's not making sense I'm afraid.
    Arthur pulled another two from the bag. Ford put them in place.
    - E, T, doyouget... Do you get! - shouted Ford, - it is working! This
is amazing, it really is working!
    - More here. - Arthur was throwing them out feverishly as fast as  he
could go.
    - I, F, - said Ford, - Y, O, U,... M, U, L, T, I, P, L, Y,... What do
you get if you multiply,... S, I, X,... six, B, Y, by, six by...  what  do
you get if you multiply six by... N, I, N,  E,  ...six  by  nine...  -  He
paused. - Come on, where's the next one?
    - Er, that's the lot, - said Arthur, - that's all there were.
    He sat back, nonplussed.
    He rooted around again in the knotted up towel but there were no more
    - You mean that's it? - said Ford.
    - That's it.
    - Six by nine. Forty-two.
    - That's it. That's all there is.

                              Chapter 34

    The sun came out and beamed cheerfully at them. A bird sang.  A  warm
breeze wafted through the trees and  lifted  the  heads  of  the  flowers,
carrying their scent away through the woods. An insect droned past on  its
way to do whatever it is that insects do in the late afternoon. The  sound
of voices lilted through the trees followed a moment later  by  two  girls
who stopped in surprise at the sight  of  Ford  Prefect  and  Arthur  Dent
apparently lying on  the  ground  in  agony,  but  in  fact  rocking  with
noiseless laughter.
    - No, don't go, - called Ford Prefect between gasps, - we'll be  with
you in a moment.
    - What's the matter? - asked one of the girls. She was the taller and
slimmer of the two. On Golgafrincham  she  had  been  a  junior  personnel
officer, but hadn't liked it much.
    Ford pulled himself together.
    - Excuse me,  -  he  said,  -  hello.  My  friend  and  I  were  just
contemplating the meaning of life. Frivolous exercise.
    - Oh it's you, - said the girl, - you made a bit of  a  spectacle  of
yourself this afternoon. You were quite funny to begin with  but  you  did
bang on a bit.
    - Did I? Oh yes.
    - Yes, what was all that for? -  asked  the  other  girl,  a  shorter
round-faced girl who had been an art  director  for  a  small  advertising
company on Golgafrincham. Whatever the privations of this world were,  she
went to sleep every night profoundly grateful for the fact  that  whatever
she had to face in the morning it wouldn't be a hundred  almost  identical
photographs of moodily lit tubes of toothpaste.
    - For? For nothing. Nothing's  for  anything,  -  said  Ford  Prefect
happily. - Come and join us. I'm Ford, this is Arthur. We were just  about
to do nothing at all for a while but it can wait.
    The girls looked at them doubtfully.
    - I'm Agda, - said the tall one, - this is Mella.
    - Hello Agda, hello Mella, - said Ford.
    - Do you talk at all? - said Mella to Arthur.
    - Oh, eventually, - said Arthur with a smile, - but not  as  much  as
    - Good.
    There was a slight pause.
    - What did you mean, - asked Agda, - about only  having  two  million
years? I couldn't make sense of what you were saying.
    - Oh that, - said Ford, - it doesn't matter.
    - It's just that  the  world  gets  demolished  to  make  way  for  a
hyperspace bypass, - said Arthur with a shrug, - but  that's  two  million
years away, and anyway it's just Vogons doing what Vogons do.
    - Vogons? - said Mella.
    - Yes, you wouldn't know them.
    - Where'd you get this idea from?
    - It really doesn't matter. It's just like a dream from the past,  or
the future. - Arthur smiled and looked away.
    - Does it worry you that you don't talk any kind of  sense?  -  asked
    - Listen, forget it, -  said  Ford,  -  forget  all  of  it.  Nothing
matters. Look, it's a beautiful day, enjoy it. The sun, the green  of  the
hills, the river down in the valley, the burning trees.
    - Even if it's only a dream, it's a  pretty  horrible  idea,  -  said
Mella, - destroying a world just to make a bypass.
    - Oh, I've heard of worse, - said Ford, - I read of one planet off in
the seventh dimension that got used as a ball in a game  of  intergalactic
bar billiards. Got potted straight into a black hole. Killed  ten  billion
    - That's mad, - said Mella.
    - Yes, only scored thirty points too.
    Agda and Mella exchanged glances.
    - Look, - said Agda, - there's a party after  the  committee  meeting
tonight. You can come along if you like.
    - Yeah, OK, - said Ford.
    - I'd like to, - said Arthur.
    Many hours later Arthur and Mella sat and watched the moon rise  over
the dull red glow of the trees.
    - That story about the world being destroyed... - began Mella.
    - In two million years, yes.
    - You say it as if you really think it's true.
    - Yes, I think it is. I think I was there.
    She shook her head in puzzlement.
    - You're very strange, - she said.
    - No, I'm very ordinary, - said  Arthur,  -  but  some  very  strange
things have happened to me. You could say  I'm  more  differed  from  than
    - And that other world your friend talked about,  the  one  that  got
pushed into a black hole.
    - Ah, that I don't know about. It  sounds  like  something  from  the
    - What book?
    Arthur paused.
    - The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, - he said at last.
    - What's that?
    - Oh, just something I threw into the river  this  evening.  I  don't
think I'll be wanting it any more, - said Arthur Dent.

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