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Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams

                                               Life, the universe and
                                               everything for Sally

                               Chapter 1

    The regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent
waking up and suddenly remembering where he was.
    It wasn't just that the cave was cold, it wasn't  just  that  it  was
damp and smelly. It was the fact that  the  cave  was  in  the  middle  of
Islington and there wasn't a bus due for two million years.
    Time is the worst place, so to speak, to get lost in, as Arthur  Dent
could testify, having been lost in both time and space  a  good  deal.  At
least being lost in space kept you busy.
    He was stranded in prehistoric Earth  as  the  result  of  a  complex
sequence of events which had involved him being alternately blown  up  and
insulted in more bizarre  regions  of  the  Galaxy  than  he  ever  dreamt
existed, and though his life had now turned very, very, very quiet, he was
still feeling jumpy.
    He hadn't been blown up now for five years.
    Since he had hardly seen anyone since he and Ford Prefect had  parted
company four years previously, he hadn't been insulted in  all  that  time
    Except just once.
    It had happened on a spring evening about two years previously.
    He was returning to his cave just a little after dusk when he  became
aware of lights flashing eerily through the clouds. He turned and  stared,
with hope suddenly clambering  through  his  heart.  Rescue.  Escape.  The
castaway's impossible dream - a ship.
    And as he watched, as he stared in  wonder  and  excitement,  a  long
silver ship descended through the warm evening air, quietly, without fuss,
its long legs unlocking in a smooth ballet of technology.
    It alighted gently  on  the  ground,  and  what  little  hum  it  had
generated died away, as if lulled by the evening calm.
    A ramp extended itself.
    Light streamed out.
    A tall figure appeared silhouetted in the hatchway.  It  walked  down
the ramp and stood in front of Arthur.
    - You're a jerk, Dent, - it said simply.
    It was alien, very  alien.  It  had  a  peculiar  alien  tallness,  a
peculiar  alien  flattened  head,  peculiar  slitty  little  alien   eyes,
extravagantly draped golden ropes with a peculiarly alien  collar  design,
and pale grey-green alien skin which had  about  it  that  lustrous  shine
which most grey-green faces can only acquire with plenty of  exercise  and
very expensive soap.
    Arthur boggled at it.
    It gazed levelly at him.
    Arthur's first sensations of hope and trepidation had instantly  been
overwhelmed by astonishment, and all sorts of thoughts were  battling  for
the use of his vocal chords at this moment.
    - Whh?.. - he said.
    - Bu... hu... uh... - he added.
    - Ru... ra... wah... who? - he managed finally to say and lapsed into
a frantic kind of silence. He was feeling the effects of having  not  said
anything to anybody for as long as he could remember.
    The alien creature frowned briefly and consulted what appeared to  be
some species of clipboard which he was holding in  his  thin  and  spindly
alien hand.
    - Arthur Dent? - it said.
    Arthur nodded helplessly.
    - Arthur Philip Dent? - pursued the alien in a kind of efficient yap.
    - Er... er... yes... er... er, - confirmed Arthur.
    - You're a jerk, - repeated the alien, - a complete asshole.
    - Er...
    The creature nodded to itself, made a  peculiar  alien  tick  on  its
clipboard and turned briskly back towards the ship.
    - Er... - said Arthur desperately, - er...
    - Don't give me that! - snapped the alien. It marched  up  the  ramp,
through the hatchway and  disappeared  into  the  ship.  The  ship  sealed
itself. It started to make a low throbbing hum.
    - Er, hey! - shouted Arthur, and started to  run  helplessly  towards
    - Wait a minute! - he called. - What is this? What? Wait a minute!
    The ship rose, as if shedding its weight like a cloak to the  ground,
and hovered briefly. It swept strangely up into the evening sky. It passed
up through the clouds, illuminating  them  briefly,  and  then  was  gone,
leaving Arthur alone in an immensity of land  dancing  a  helplessly  tiny
little dance.
    - What? - he screamed. - What? What? Hey, what? Come  back  here  and
say that!
    He jumped and danced until his legs trembled, and  shouted  till  his
lungs rasped. There was no answer from anyone. There was no  one  to  hear
him or speak to him.
    The alien ship was already thundering towards the  upper  reaches  of
the atmosphere, on its way out into the appalling void which separates the
very few things there are in the Universe from each other.
    Its occupant, the alien with the expensive complexion, leaned back in
its single seat. His name was Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. He was a
man with a purpose. Not a very good purpose, as he  would  have  been  the
first to admit, but it was at least a purpose and it did at least keep him
on the move.
    Wowbagger the  Infinitely  Prolonged  was - indeed, is - one  of  the
Universe's very small number of immortal beings.
    Those who are born immortal instinctively know how to cope  with  it,
but Wowbagger was not one of them. Indeed he had come to  hate  them,  the
load of serene bastards. He had had his immortality thrust upon him by  an
unfortunate accident with an irrational  particle  accelerator,  a  liquid
lunch and a pair of rubber bands. The precise details of the accident  are
not important because no one has  ever  managed  to  duplicate  the  exact
circumstances under which it happened,  and  many  people  have  ended  up
looking very silly, or dead, or both, trying.
    Wowbagger closed his eyes in a grim and weary  expression,  put  some
light jazz on the ship's stereo, and reflected that he could have made  it
if it hadn't been for Sunday afternoons, he really could have done.
    To begin with it was fun, he had a ball, living  dangerously,  taking
risks, cleaning up on high-yield long-term investments, and just generally
outliving the hell out of everybody.
    In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope  with,  and
that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2.55, when  you
know that you've had all the baths you can usefully have  that  day,  that
however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never
actually read it, or  use  the  revolutionary  new  pruning  technique  it
describes, and that as  you  stare  at  the  clock  the  hands  will  move
relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the long dark  teatime
of the soul.
    So things began to pall for him. The merry smiles he used to wear  at
other people's funerals began to fade. He began to despise the Universe in
general, and everyone in it in particular.
    This was the point at which he conceived his purpose, the thing which
would drive him on, and which, as far as he could see, would drive him  on
forever. It was this.
    He would insult the Universe.
    That is, he would insult everybody in it.  Individually,  personally,
one by one, and (this was the thing he really decided to  grit  his  teeth
over) in alphabetical order.
    When people protested to him, as they sometimes had  done,  that  the
plan was not merely misguided  but  actually  impossible  because  of  the
number of people being born and dying all the time, he  would  merely  fix
them with a steely look and say:
    - A man can dream can't he?
    And so he started out. He equipped a spaceship that was built to last
with the computer capable of handling all the data processing involved  in
keeping track of the entire population of the known Universe  and  working
out the horrifically complicated routes involved.
    His ship fled through the  inner  orbits  of  the  Sol  star  system,
preparing  to  slingshot  round  the  sun  and  fling  itself   out   into
interstellar space.
    - Computer, - he said.
    - Here, - yipped the computer.
    - Where next?
    - Computing that.
    Wowbagger gazed for a moment at the fantastic jewellery of the night,
the billions of tiny diamond worlds that dusted the infinite darkness with
light. Every one, every single one, was on his itinerary. Most of them  he
would be going to millions of times over.
    He imagined for a moment his itinerary connecting up all the dots  in
the sky like a child's numbered dots  puzzle.  He  hoped  that  from  some
vantage point in the Universe it might be seen to spell a very, very  rude
    The computer beeped tunelessly to indicate that it had  finished  its
    - Folfanga, - it said. It beeped.
    - Fourth world of the Folfanga system,  -  it  continued.  It  beeped
    - Estimated journey time, three weeks, -  it  continued  further.  It
beeped again.
    - There to meet with a small slug,  -  it  beeped,  -  of  the  genus
    - I believe, - it added, after a slight pause during which it beeped,
- that you had decided to call it a brainless prat.
    Wowbagger grunted. He watched the majesty  of  creation  outside  his
window for a moment or two.
    - I think I'll take a nap, - he said, and then added, - what  network
areas are we going to be passing through in the next few hours?
    The computer beeped.
    - Cosmovid, Thinkpix and Home Brain Box, - it said, and beeped.
    - Any movies I haven't seen thirty thousand times already?
    - No.
    - Uh.
    - There's Angst in Space. You've only seen that thirty-three thousand
five hundred and seventeen times.
    - Wake me for the second reel.
    The computer beeped.
    - Sleep well, - it said.
    The ship fled on through the night.
    Meanwhile, on Earth, it began to pour with rain and Arthur  Dent  sat
in his cave and had one of the most truly rotten evenings  of  his  entire
life, thinking of things he could have said  to  the  alien  and  swatting
flies, who also had a rotten evening.
    The next day he made himself a pouch out of rabbit  skin  because  he
thought it would be useful to keep things in.

                               Chapter 2

    This morning, two years later than that, was sweet and fragrant as he
emerged from the cave he called home until he could think of a better name
for it or find a better cave.
    Though his throat was sore again  from  his  early  morning  yell  of
horror, he was suddenly in  a  terrifically  good  mood.  He  wrapped  his
dilapidated dressing gown tightly around him  and  beamed  at  the  bright
    The air was clear and scented, the breeze flitted lightly through the
tall grass around his cave, the birds were chirruping at each  other,  the
butterflies were flitting about prettily, and the whole of  nature  seemed
to be conspiring to be as pleasant as it possibly could.
    It wasn't all the pastoral delights that were making Arthur  feel  so
cheery, though. He had just had a wonderful idea about how  to  cope  with
the terrible lonely isolation, the nightmares,  the  failure  of  all  his
attempts at horticulture, and the sheer futurelessness and futility of his
life here on prehistoric Earth, which was that he would go mad.
    He beamed again and took a bite out of a rabbit leg  left  over  from
his supper. He chewed happily for a few moments and then decided  formally
to announce his decision.
    He stood up straight and looked the world squarely in the fields  and
hills. To add weight to his words he stuck the rabbit bone in his hair. He
spread his arms out wide.
    - I will go mad! - he announced.
    - Good idea, - said Ford Prefect, clambering down from  the  rock  on
which he had been sitting.
    Arthur's brain somersaulted. His jaw did press-ups.
    - I went mad for a while, - said Ford, - did me no end of good.
    - You see, - said Ford, - ...
    - Where have you been? - interrupted Arthur, now that  his  head  had
finished working out.
    - Around, - said Ford, - around and about. - He grinned  in  what  he
accurately judged to be an infuriating manner. - I just took my  mind  off
the hook for a bit. I reckoned that if the world wanted me badly enough it
would call back. It did.

    He took out of his now terribly battered and dilapidated satchel  his
Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic.
    - At least, - he said, - I think it did. This has been playing  up  a
bit. - He shook it. - If it was a false alarm I shall go mad, - he said, -
    Arthur shook his head and sat down. He looked up.
    - I thought you must be dead... - he said simply.
    - So did I for a while, - said Ford, - and then I  decided  I  was  a
lemon for a couple of weeks. A kept myself amused all that time jumping in
and out of a gin and tonic.
    Arthur cleared his throat, and then did it again.
    - Where, - he said, - did you?..
    - Find a gin and tonic? - said Ford brightly. - I found a small  lake
that thought it was a gin and tonic, and jumped in and  out  of  that.  At
least, I think it thought it was a gin and tonic.
    - I may, - he added with a  grin  which  would  have  sent  sane  men
scampering into trees, - have been imagining it.
    He waited for a reaction from Arthur, but  Arthur  knew  better  than
    - Carry on, - he said levelly.
    - The point is, you see, - said Ford, - that there  is  no  point  in
driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself going mad. You might just  as
well give in and save your sanity for later.
    - And this is you sane again, is it? - said Arthur. -  I  ask  merely
for information.
    - I went to Africa, - said Ford.
    - Yes?
    - Yes.
    - What was that like?
    - And this is your cave is it? - said Ford.
    - Er, yes, - said Arthur. He felt very  strange.  After  nearly  four
years of total isolation he was so pleased and relieved to see  Ford  that
he could almost cry. Ford was, on the other hand,  an  almost  immediately
annoying person.
    - Very nice, - said Ford, in reference to Arthur's cave. -  You  must
hate it.
    Arthur didn't bother to reply.
    - Africa was very interesting, - said Ford, - I  behaved  very  oddly
    He gazed thoughtfully into the distance.
    - I took up being cruel to animals, - he said airily. - But  only,  -
he added, - as a hobby.
    - Oh yes, - said Arthur, warily.
    - Yes, - Ford assured him. - I won't disturb  you  with  the  details
because they would
    - What?
    - Disturb  you.  But  you  may  be  interested  to  know  that  I  am
singlehandedly responsible for the evolved shape of the animal you came to
know in later centuries as a giraffe. And I tried to learn to fly. Do  you
believe me?
    - Tell me, - said Arthur.
    - I'll tell you later. I'll just mention that the Guide says...
    - The?..
    - Guide. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You remember?
    - Yes. I remember throwing it in the river.
    - Yes, - said Ford, - but I fished it out.
    - You didn't tell me.
    - I didn't want you to throw it in again.
    - Fair enough, - admitted Arthur. - It says?
    - What?
    - The Guide says?
    - The Guide says there is an art to flying, - said Ford, - or  rather
a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself  at  the  ground
and miss. - He smiled weakly. He pointed at the knees of his trousers  and
held his arms up to show the elbows. They were all torn and worn through.
    - I haven't done very well so far, - he said. He stuck out his  hand.
- I'm very glad to see you again, Arthur, - he added.
    Arthur shook his head in a sudden access of emotion and bewilderment.
    - I haven't seen anyone for years, - he said, -  not  anyone.  I  can
hardly even remember how to speak. I keep forgetting words. I practise you
see. I practise by talking to...  talking  to...  what  are  those  things
people think you're mad if you talk to? Like George the Third.
    - Kings? - suggested Ford.
    - No, no, - said Arthur. - The things  he  used  to  talk  to.  We're
surrounded by them for heaven's sake. I've planted hundreds  myself.  They
all died. Trees! I practise by talking to trees. What's that for?
    Ford still  had  his  hand  stuck  out.  Arthur  looked  at  it  with
    - Shake, - prompted Ford.
    Arthur did, nervously at first, as if it might turn out to be a fish.
Then he grasped it vigorously with both hands in an overwhelming flood  of
relief. He shook it and shook it.
    After a while Ford found it necessary to disengage. They  climbed  to
the top of a nearby outcrop of rock and surveyed the scene around them.
    - What happened to the Golgafrinchans? - asked Ford.
    Arthur shrugged.
    - A lot of them didn't make it through the winter three years ago,  -
he said, - and the few who remained in  the  spring  said  they  needed  a
holiday  and  set  off  on  a  raft.  History  says  that  they  must have
    - Huh, - said Ford, - well well. - He stuck his hands on his hips and
looked round again at the empty world. Suddenly, there was  about  Ford  a
sense of energy and purpose.
    - We're going, - he said excitedly, and shivered with energy.
    - Where? How? - said Arthur.
    - I don't know, - said Ford, - but I  just  feel  that  the  time  is
right. Things are going to happen. We're on our way.
    He lowered his voice to a whisper.
    - I have detected, - he said, - disturbances in the wash.
    He gazed keenly into the distance and looked as  if  he  would  quite
like the wind to blow his hair back dramatically at that  point,  but  the
wind was busy fooling around with some leaves a little way off.
    Arthur asked him to repeat what he had just said  because  he  hadn't
quite taken his meaning. Ford repeated it.
    - The wash? - said Arthur.
    - The space-time wash, - said Ford, and as the wind blew briefly past
at that moment, he bared his teeth into it.
    Arthur nodded, and then cleared his throat.
    - Are we talking about, - he asked cautiously, - some sort  of  Vogon
laundromat, or what are we talking about?
    - Eddies, - said Ford, - in the space-time continuum.
    - Ah, - nodded Arthur, - is he? Is he? - He pushed his hands into the
pocket of his dressing gown and looked knowledgeably into the distance.
    - What? - said Ford.
    - Er, who, - said Arthur, - is Eddy, then, exactly?
    Ford looked angrily at him.
    - Will you listen? - he snapped.
    - I have been listening, - said Arthur,  -  but  I'm  not  sure  it's
    Ford grasped him by the lapels of his dressing gown and spoke to  him
as slowly and distinctly and patiently as  if  he  were  somebody  from  a
telephone company accounts department.
    - There seem... - he said, - to be some pools...  -  he  said,  -  of
instability... - he said, - in the fabric... - he said...
    Arthur looked foolishly at the cloth of his dressing gown where  Ford
was holding it. Ford swept on before Arthur could turn  the  foolish  look
into a foolish remark.
    - ...in the fabric of space-time, - he said.
    - Ah, that, - said Arthur.
    - Yes, that, - confirmed Ford.
    They stood there alone on a hill on prehistoric Earth and stared each
other resolutely in the face.
    - And it's done what? - said Arthur.
    - It, - said Ford, - has developed pools of instability.
    - Has it? - said Arthur, his eyes not wavering for a moment.
    - It has, - said Ford with a similar degree of ocular immobility.
    - Good, - said Arthur.
    - See? - said Ford.
    - No, - said Arthur.
    There was a quiet pause.
    - The difficulty with this conversation, - said Arthur after  a  sort
of pondering look had crawled slowly across his face  like  a  mountaineer
negotiating a tricky outcrop, - is that it's very different from  most  of
the ones I've had of late. Which, as I explained, have  mostly  been  with
trees. They weren't like this. Except perhaps some of the  ones  I've  had
with elms which sometimes get a bit bogged down.
    - Arthur, - said Ford.
    - Hello? Yes? - said Arthur.
    - Just believe everything I tell you, and it will all be  very,  very
    - Ah, well I'm not sure I believe that.
    They sat down and composed their thoughts.
    Ford got out his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic. It was making  vague  humming
noises and a tiny light on it was flickering faintly.
    - Flat battery? - said Arthur.
    - No, - said Ford, - there is a moving disturbance in the  fabric  of
space-time, an eddy, a pool of instability,  and  it's  somewhere  in  our
    - Where?
    Ford moved the device in a slow lightly bobbing semi-circle. Suddenly
the light flashed.
    - There! - said Ford, shooting out his  arm.  -  There,  behind  that
    Arthur  looked.  Much  to  his   surprise,   there   was   a   velvet
paisleycovered Chesterfield sofa in the field in front of them. He boggled
intelligently at it. Shrewd questions sprang into his mind.
    - Why, - he said, - is there a sofa in that field?
    - I told you! - shouted Ford, leaping to his feet. -  Eddies  in  the
space-time continuum!
    - And this is his sofa, is it? - asked Arthur, struggling to his feet
and, he hoped, though not very optimistically, to his senses.
    - Arthur! - shouted Ford at him, - that sofa is there because of  the
space-time instability I've been trying to get  your  terminally  softened
brain to get to grips with. It's been washed out of  the  continuum,  it's
space-time jetsam, it doesn't matter what it is, we've got  to  catch  it,
it's our only way out of here!
    He scrambled rapidly down the rocky outcrop and made off  across  the
    - Catch it? - muttered Arthur, then frowned in bemusement as  he  saw
that the Chesterfield was lazily  bobbing  and  wafting  away  across  the
    With a whoop of utterly unexpected delight he leapt down the rock and
plunged off in hectic pursuit of Ford Prefect and the irrational piece  of
    They careered wildly through the grass, leaping,  laughing,  shouting
instructions to each other to head the thing off this way or that way. The
sun shone dreamily on the swaying  grass,  tiny  field  animals  scattered
crazily in their wake.
    Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for  once
working out so much according to plan. Only  twenty  minutes  ago  he  had
decided he would go mad, and now he was  already  chasing  a  Chesterfield
sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth.
    The sofa bobbed this way and that and seemed simultaneously to be  as
solid as the trees as it drifted past some of them and hazy as a billowing
dream as it floated like a ghost through others.
    Ford and Arthur pounded chaotically  after  it,  but  it  dodged  and
weaved as if following its own complex mathematical topography,  which  it
was. Still they pursued, still it danced and span, and suddenly turned and
dipped as if crossing the lip  of  a  catastrophe  graph,  and  they  were
practically on top of it. With a heave and a shout they leapt on  it,  the
sun winked out, they fell through a  sickening  nothingness,  and  emerged
unexpectedly in the middle of the  pitch  at  Lord's  Cricked  Ground,  St
John's Wood, London, towards the  end  of  the  last  Test  Match  of  the
Australian Series in the year 198-, with England needing only twenty-eight
runs to win.

                               Chapter 3

    Important facts from Galactic history, number one:
    (Reproduced from the  Siderial  Daily  Mentioner's  Book  of  popular
Galactic History.)
    The night sky over the planet Krikkit is the least interesting  sight
in the entire Universe.

                               Chapter 4

    It was a charming and delightful day at Lord's  as  Ford  and  Arthur
tumbled haphazardly out of a space-time anomaly  and  hit  the  immaculate
turf rather hard.
    The applause of the crowd was tremendous. It  wasn't  for  them,  but
instinctively they bowed anyway, which was fortunate because the small red
heavy ball which the crowd actually  had  been  applauding  whistled  mere
millimetres over Arthur's head. In the crowd a man collapsed.
    They threw themselves  back  to  the  ground  which  seemed  to  spin
hideously around them.
    - What was that? - hissed Arthur.
    - Something red, - hissed Ford back at him.
    - Where are we?
    - Er, somewhere green.
    - Shapes, - muttered Arthur. - I need shapes.
    The applause of the crowd had been  rapidly  succeeded  by  gasps  of
astonishment, and the awkward titters of hundreds of people who could  not
yet make up their minds about whether to believe what they had  just  seen
or not.
    - This your sofa? - said a voice.
    - What was that? - whispered Ford.
    Arthur looked up.
    - Something blue, - he said.
    - Shape? - said Ford.
    Arthur looked again.
    - It is  shaped,  -  he  hissed  at  Ford,  with  his  brow  savagely
furrowing, - like a policeman.
    They remained crouched there for a few moments, frowning deeply.  The
blue thing shaped like a policeman tapped them both on the shoulders.
    - Come on, you two, - the shape said, - let's be having you.
    These words had an electrifying effect on Arthur.  He  leapt  to  his
feet like an author hearing the phone ring and shot a series  of  startled
glanced at the panorama around him which had suddenly  settled  down  into
something of quite terrifying ordinariness.
    - Where did you get this from? - he yelled at the policeman shape.
    - What did you say? - said the startled shape.
    - This is Lord's Cricket Ground, isn't it? - snapped Arthur. -  Where
did you find it, how did you get it here? I think, -  he  added,  clasping
his hand to his brow, - that I had better calm down. -  He  squatted  down
abruptly in front of Ford.
    - It is a policeman, - he said, - What do we do?
    Ford shrugged.
    - What do you want to do? - he said.
    - I want you, - said Arthur, - to tell me that I have  been  dreaming
for the last five years.
    Ford shrugged again, and obliged.
    - You've been dreaming for the last five years, - he said.
    Arthur got to his feet.
    - It's all right, officer, - he said. - I've been  dreaming  for  the
last five years. Ask him, - he added, pointing at Ford, - he was in it.
    Having said this, he sauntered off towards the  edge  of  the  pitch,
brushing down his dressing gown. He then noticed  his  dressing  gown  and
stopped. He stared at it. He flung himself at the policeman.
    - So where did I get these clothes from? - he howled.
    He collapsed and lay twitching on the grass.
    Ford shook his head.
    - He's had a bad two million years, - he said to the  policeman,  and
together they heaved Arthur on to the sofa and carried him off  the  pitch
and were only briefly hampered by the sudden disappearance of the sofa  on
the way.
    Reaction to all this from the crowd were many and  various.  Most  of
them couldn't cope with watching it, and  listened  to  it  on  the  radio
    - Well, this is an interesting incident,  Brian,  -  said  one  radio
commentator to another. - I don't think there  have  been  any  mysterious
materializations on the pitch since, oh since, well I  don't  think  there
have been any - have there? - that I recall?
    - Edgbaston, 1932?
    - Ah, now what happened then...
    - Well, Peter, I think it was Canter facing Willcox coming up to bowl
from the pavilion end when a spectator suddenly ran  straight  across  the
    There was a pause while the first commentator considered this.
    - Ye... e... s... - he said, - yes,  there's  nothing  actually  very
mysterious about that, is there? He didn't actually materialize,  did  he?
Just ran on.
    - No,  that's   true,  but  he  did  claim  to  have  seen  something
materialize on the pitch.
    - Ah, did he?
    - Yes. An alligator, I think, of some description.
    - Ah. And had anyone else noticed it?
    - Apparently not. And  no  one  was  able  to  get  a  very  detailed
description from him, so only the most perfunctory search was made.
    - And what happened to the man?
    - Well, I think someone offered to take him off  and  give  him  some
lunch, but he explained that he'd already had a rather good  one,  so  the
matter was dropped and Warwickshire went on to win by three wickets.
    - So, not very like this current instance. For those  of  you  who've
just tuned in, you may be interested to know  that,  er...  two  men,  two
rather scruffily attired men, and indeed a sofa - a Chesterfield I think?
    - Yes, a Chesterfield.
    - Have just materialized here in the middle of Lord's Cricket Ground.
But I don't think they meant any  harm,  they've  been  very  good-natured
about it, and...
    - Sorry, can I interrupt you a moment Peter and say that the sofa has
just vanished.
    - So it has. Well, that's one mystery less.  Still,  it's  definitely
one for the record books I think, particularly occurring at this  dramatic
moment in play, England now needing  only  twenty-four  runs  to  win  the
series. The men are leaving the pitch in the company of a police  officer,
and I think everyone's settling down now and play is about to resume.
    - Now, sir, - said the  policeman  after  they  had  made  a  passage
through the curious crowd and laid Arthur's peacefully  inert  body  on  a
blanket, - perhaps you'd care to tell me who you are, where you come from,
and what that little scene was all about?
    Ford looked at the ground for a moment as if  steadying  himself  for
something, then he straightened up and aimed a look at the policeman which
hit him with the full force of every inch of the six hundred  light-years'
distance between Earth and Ford's home near Betelgeuse.
    - All right, - said Ford, very quietly, - I'll tell you.
    - Yes, well, that won't be necessary, - said the policeman hurriedly,
- just don't let whatever it was happen  again.  -  The  policeman  turned
around and wandered off in search of anyone who  wasn't  from  Betelgeuse.
Fortunately, the ground was full of them.
    Arthur's consciousness approached his body as from a great  distance,
and reluctantly. It had had some bad times in there. Slowly, nervously, it
entered and settled down in to its accustomed position.
    Arthur sat up.
    - Where am I? - he said.
    - Lord's Cricket Ground, - said Ford.
    - Fine, - said Arthur, and his consciousness stepped out again for  a
quick breather. His body flopped back on the grass.
    Ten minutes later, hunched over a cup of tea in the refreshment tent,
the colour started to come back to his haggard face.
    - How're you feeling? - said Ford.
    - I'm home, - said Arthur hoarsely. He closed his eyes  and  greedily
inhaled the steam from his tea as if it was - well, as far as  Arthur  was
concerned, as if it was tea, which it was.
    - I'm home, - he repeated, - home.  It's  England,  it's  today,  the
nightmare is over. - He opened his eyes again and smiled serenely.  -  I'm
where I belong, - he said in an emotional whisper.
    - There are two things I fell which I should tell you, -  said  Ford,
tossing a copy of the Guardian over the table at him.
    - I'm home, - said Arthur.
    - Yes, - said Ford. - One is, - he said pointing at the date  at  the
top of the paper, - that the Earth will be demolished in two days' time.
    - I'm home, - said Arthur. - Tea, - he said, - cricket,  -  he  added
with pleasure, - mown grass, wooden benches,  white  linen  jackets,  beer
    Slowly he began to focus on the newspaper. He cocked his head on  one
side with a slight frown.
    - I've seen that one before, - he said. His eyes wandered  slowly  up
to the date, which Ford was idly tapping at. His face froze for  a  second
or two and then began to do that terribly slow crashing trick which Arctic
ice-floes do so spectacularly in the spring.
    - And the other thing, - said Ford, - is that you appear  to  have  a
bone in your beard. - He tossed back his tea.
    Outside the refreshment tent, the sun was shining on a  happy  crowd.
It shone on white hats and red faces. It shone on ice lollies  and  melted
them. It shone on the tears of small children whose ice lollies  had  just
melted and fallen off the stick. It shone on the  trees,  it  flashed  off
whirling cricket bats, it gleamed off  the  utterly  extraordinary  object
which was parked behind the sight-screens and  which  nobody  appeared  to
have noticed. It beamed on Ford and Arthur as they emerged  blinking  from
the refreshment tent and surveyed the scene around them.
    Arthur was shaking.
    - Perhaps, - he said, - I should...
    - No, - said Ford sharply.
    - What? - said Arthur.
    - Don't try and phone yourself up at home.
    - How did you know?..
    Ford shrugged.
    - But why not? - said Arthur.
    - People who talk to themselves on the phone, - said  Ford,  -  never
learn anything to their advantage.
    - But...
    - Look, - said Ford. He picked up an imaginary phone and  dialled  an
imaginary dial.
    - Hello? - he said into the imaginary mouthpiece. -  Is  that  Arthur
Dent? Ah, hello, yes. This is Arthur Dent speaking. Don't hang up.
    He looked at the imaginary mouthpiece in disappointment.
    - He hung up, - he said, shrugged, and put the imaginary phone neatly
back on its imaginary hook.
    - This is not my first temporal anomaly, - he added.
    A glummer look replaced the already glum look on Arthur Dent's face.
    - So we're not home and dry, - he said.
    - We could not even be said,  -  replied  Ford,  -  to  be  home  and
vigorously towelling ourselves off.
    The game continued. The bowler approached the wicket  at  a  lope,  a
trot, and then a run. He suddenly exploded in a flurry of arms  and  legs,
out of which flew a ball. The batsman swung and  thwacked  it  behind  him
over the sight-screens. Ford's eyes followed the trajectory  of  the  ball
and jogged momentarily. He stiffened. He looked along the flight  path  of
the ball again and his eyes twitched again.
    - This isn't my towel, -  said  Arthur,  who  was  rummaging  in  his
rabbit-skin bag.
    - Shhh, - said Ford. He screwed his eyes up in concentration.
    - I had a Golgafrinchan jogging towel, - continued Arthur, -  it  was
blue with yellow stars on it. This isn't it.
    - Shhh, - said Ford again. He covered one eye  and  looked  with  the
    - This one's pink, - said Arthur, - it isn't yours is it?
    - I would like you to shut up about your towel, - said Ford.
    - It isn't my towel, - insisted Arthur, - that  is  the  point  I  am
trying to...
    - And the time at which I  would  like  you  to  shut  up  about  it,
continued Ford in a low growl, - is now.
    - All right, - said Arthur,  starting  to  stuff  it  back  into  the
primitively stitched rabbit-skin bag. - I realize that it is probably  not
important in the cosmic scale of things, it's just odd, that's all. A pink
towel suddenly, instead of a blue one with yellow stars.
    Ford was beginning to behave rather strangely, or rather not actually
beginning to behave strangely but beginning to behave in a way  which  was
strangely different from the other strange ways in which he more regularly
behaved. What he was doing was this. Regardless of the bemused  stares  it
was provoking from his fellow members of  the  crowd  gathered  round  the
pitch, he was waving his hands in sharp movements across his face, ducking
down behind some people, leaping up behind others, then standing still and
blinking a lot. After a moment or two of this he started to stalk  forward
slowly and stealthily wearing a puzzled frown  of  concentration,  like  a
leopard that's not sure whether it's just seen a  half-empty  tin  of  cat
food half a mile away across a hot and dusty plain.
    - This isn't my bag either, - said Arthur suddenly.
    Ford's spell of  concentration  was  broken.  He  turned  angrily  on
    - I wasn't talking about my towel, - said Arthur. - We've established
that that isn't mine. It's just that the bag into which I was putting  the
towel which is not mine is also not mine,  though  it  is  extraordinarily
similar. Now personally I think that that is extremely odd, especially  as
the bag was one I made myself on prehistoric Earth. These are also not  my
stones, - he added, pulling a few flat grey stones out of the bag. - I was
making a collection of interesting stones and these are clearly very  dull
    A roar of excitement  thrilled  through  the  crowd  and  obliterated
whatever it was that Ford said in reply to this piece of information.  The
cricket ball which had excited this reaction  fell  out  of  the  sky  and
dropped neatly into Arthur's mysterious rabbit-skin bag.
    - Now I would say that that was also a very  curious  event,  -  said
Arthur, rapidly closing the bag and pretending to look for the ball on the
    - I don't  think  it's  here,  -  he  said  to  the  small  boys  who
immediately clustered round him to join  in  the  search,  -  it  probably
rolled off somewhere. Over there I expect. - He  pointed  vaguely  in  the
direction in which he wished they would push off. One of the  boys  looked
at him quizzically.
    - You all right? - said the boy.
    - No, - said Arthur.
    - Then why you got a bone in your beard? - said the boy.
    - I'm training it to like being wherever it's put.  -  Arthur  prided
himself on saying this. It was, he thought,  exactly  the  sort  of  thing
which would entertain and stimulate young minds.
    - Oh, - said the small boy, putting his head to one side and thinking
about it. - What's your name?
    - Dent, - said Arthur, - Arthur Dent.
    - You're a jerk, Dent, - said the boy, - a complete  asshole.  -  The
boy looked past him at something else, to  show  that  he  wasn't  in  any
particular hurry to run away, and then wandered off scratching  his  nose.
Suddenly Arthur remembered that the Earth was going to be demolished again
in two days' time, and just this once didn't feel too bad about it.
    Play resumed with a new ball, the sun continued  to  shine  and  Ford
continued to jump up and down shaking his head and blinking.
    - Something's on your mind, isn't it? - said Arthur.
    - I think, - said Ford in  a  tone  of  voice  which  Arthur  by  now
recognized as one which presaged something utterly unintelligible, -  that
there's an SEP over there.
    He pointed. Curiously enough, the direction he pointed in was not the
one in which he was looking. Arthur looked in the one direction, which was
towards the sight-screens, and in the other which  was  at  the  field  of
play. He nodded, he shrugged. He shrugged again.
    - A what? - he said.
    - An SEP.
    - An S?..
    - ...EP.
    - And what's that?
    - Somebody Else's Problem.
    - Ah, good, - said Arthur and relaxed. He had no idea what  all  that
was about, but at least it seemed to be over. It wasn't.
    - Over there, - said Ford, again pointing at  the  sight-screens  and
looking at the pitch.
    - Where? - said Arthur.
    - There! - said Ford.
    - I see, - said Arthur, who didn't.
    - You do? - said Ford.
    - What? - said Arthur.
    - Can you see, - said Ford patiently, - the SEP?
    - I thought you said that was somebody else's problem.
    - That's right.
    Arthur nodded slowly, carefully and with an air of immense stupidity.
    - And I want to know, - said Ford, - if you can see it.
    - You do?
    - Yes.
    - What, - said Arthur, - does it look like?
    - Well, how should I know, you fool? - shouted Ford. - If you can see
it, you tell me.
    Arthur experienced that dull  throbbing  sensation  just  behind  the
temples which was a hallmark of so many of his  conversations  with  Ford.
His brain lurked like a frightened puppy in its kennel. Ford took  him  by
the arm.
    - An SEP, - he said, - is something that we can't see, or don't  see,
or our brain doesn't let us see,  because  we  think  that  it's  somebody
else's problem. That's what SEP means. Somebody Else's Problem. The  brain
just edits it out, it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly  you
won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only  hope  is  to
catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.
    - Ah, - said Arthur, - then that's why...
    - Yes, - said Ford, who knew what Arthur was going to say.
    - ...you've been jumping up and...
    - Yes.
    - ...down, and blinking...
    - Yes.
    - ...and...
    - I think you've got the message.
    - I can see it, - said Arthur, - it's a spaceship.
    For a moment Arthur was  stunned  by  the  reaction  this  revelation
provoked. A roar erupted from the crowd, and from every  direction  people
were running, shouting, yelling, tumbling over each other in a  tumult  of
confusion. He stumbled back in astonishment and glanced fearfully  around.
Then he glanced around again in even greater astonishment.
    - Exciting, isn't it? - said an apparition. The apparition wobbled in
front of Arthur's eyes, though the truth of the matter  is  probably  that
Arthur's eyes were wobbling in front of the apparition. His mouth  wobbled
as well.
    - W... w... w... w... - his mouth said.
    - I think your team have just won, - said the apparition.
    - W... w... w... w... - repeated Arthur, and punctuated  each  wobble
with a prod at Ford Prefect's back. Ford was  staring  at  the  tumult  in
    - You are English, aren't you? - said the apparition.
    - W... w... w... w... yes - said Arthur.
    - Well, your team, as I say, have just won. The match. It means  they
retain the Ashes. You must be very pleased. I must say, I'm rather fond of
cricket, though I wouldn't like anyone outside  this  planet  to  hear  me
saying that. Oh dear no.
    The  apparition  gave  what  looked  as  if  it  might  have  been  a
mischievous grin, but it was hard to tell because  the  sun  was  directly
behind him, creating a blinding halo round his head and  illuminating  his
silver hair and beard in a way which was awesome,  dramatic  and  hard  to
reconcile with mischievous grins.
    - Still, - he said, - it'll all be over in a couple  of  days,  won't
it? Though as I said to you when we last met, I was very sorry about that.
Still, whatever will have been, will have been.
    Arthur tried to speak, but gave up the unequal struggle.  He  prodded
Ford again.
    - I thought something terrible had happened, - said Ford, - but  it's
just the end of the game. We ought to get out. Oh, hello,  Slartibartfast,
what are you doing here?
    - Oh, pottering, pottering, - said the old man gravely.
    - That your ship? Can you give us a lift anywhere?
    - Patience, patience, - the old man admonished.
    - OK, - said Ford. -  It's  just  that  this  planet's  going  to  be
demolished pretty soon.
    - I know that, - said Slartibartfast.
    - And, well, I just wanted to make that point, - said Ford.
    - The point is taken.
    And if you feel that you really want to hang around a  cricket  pitch
at this point...
    - I do.
    - Then it's your ship.
    - It is.
    - I suppose. - Ford turned away sharply at this point.
    - Hello, Slartibartfast, - said Arthur at last.
    - Hello, Earthman, - said Slartibartfast.
    - After all, - said Ford, - we can only die once.
    The old man ignored this and stared keenly on to the pitch, with eyes
that seemed alive with expressions that had no apparent  bearing  on  what
was happening out there.  What  was  happening  was  that  the  crowd  was
gathering itself into a wide circle round the centre of  the  pitch.  What
Slartibartfast saw in it, he alone knew.
    Ford was  humming  something.  It  was  just  one  note  repeated  at
intervals. He was hoping that somebody would ask him what he was  humming,
but nobody did. If anybody had asked him he would have said he was humming
the first line of a Noel Coward song called "Mad About the Boy"  over  and
over again. It would then have been pointed out to him that  he  was  only
singing one note, to which he would have replied that for reasons which he
hoped would be apparent, he was omitting the "about the boy" bit.  He  was
annoyed that nobody asked.
    - It's just, - he burst out at last, - that if we don't go  soon,  we
might get caught in the middle of it all again. And there's  nothing  that
depresses me more than seeing a planet being  destroyed.  Except  possibly
still being on it when it happens. Or, -  he  added  in  an  undertone,  -
hanging around cricket matches.
    - Patience, - said Slartibartfast again. - Great things are afoot.
    - That's what you said last time we met, - said Arthur.
    - They were, - said Slartibartfast.
    - Yes, that's true, - admitted Arthur.
    All, however, that seemed to be afoot was a ceremony of some kind. It
was being  specially  staged  for  the  benefit  of  tv  rather  than  the
spectators, and all they could  gather  about  it  from  where  they  were
standing was what they heard from a nearby radio.  Ford  was  aggressively
    He fretted as he heard it explained that the Ashes were about  to  be
presented to the Captain of the English team out there on the pitch, fumed
when told that this was because they had now won them for  the  nth  time,
positively barked with annoyance at the information that  the  Ashes  were
the remains of a cricket stump, and when, further to this, he was asked to
contend with the fact that the cricket stump in question had been burnt in
Melbourne, Australia, in 1882, to signify the "death of English  cricket",
he rounded on Slartibartfast, took a deep breath, but didn't have a chance
to say anything because the old man wasn't there. He was marching  out  on
to the pitch with terrible purpose in his gait, his hair, beard and  robes
swept behind him, looking very much as Moses would have  looked  if  Sinai
had been a well-cut lawn instead of, as it is more usually represented,  a
fiery smoking mountain.
    - He said to meet him at his ship, - said Arthur.
    - What in the name of zarking fardwarks is  the  old  fool  doing?  -
exploded Ford.
    - Meeting us at his ship in two minutes, - said Arthur with  a  shrug
which indicated total abdication of thought. They started off towards  it.
Strange sounds reached their ears. They tried not to listen, but could not
help noticing that Slartibartfast was querulously  demanding  that  he  be
given the silver urn containing the  Ashes,  as  they  were,  he  said,  -
vitally important for the past, present and future safety of the Galaxy  -
, and that this was causing wild hilarity. They resolved to ignore it.
    What happened next they could not ignore. With a noise like a hundred
thousand people saying "wop", a steely white spaceship suddenly seemed  to
create itself out of nothing in the air directly above the  cricket  pitch
and hung there with infinite menace and a slight hum.
    Then for a while it did nothing, as if it expected  everybody  to  go
about their normal business and not mind it just hanging there.
    Then it did something quite extraordinary. Or rather,  it  opened  up
and let something  quite  extraordinary  come  out  of  it,  eleven  quite
extraordinary things.
    They were robots, white robots.
    What was most extraordinary about them was that they appeared to have
come dressed for the occasion. Not only were they white, but they  carried
what appeared to be cricket bats, and not only that, but they also carried
what appeared to be cricket balls, and not only that but they  wore  white
ribbing pads round  the  lower  parts  of  their  legs.  These  last  were
extraordinary because they appeared to contain jets  which  allowed  these
curiously civilized robots to fly down from their hovering  spaceship  and
start to kill people, which is what they did
    - Hello, - said Arthur, - something seems to be happening.
    - Get to the ship, - shouted Ford. - I don't want to  know,  I  don't
want to see, I don't want to hear, - he yelled as he ran, - this is not my
planet, I didn't choose to be here, I don't want to get involved, just get
me out of here, and get me to a party, with people I can relate to!
    Smoke and flame billowed from the pitch.
    - Well, the supernatural brigade certainly seems to be out  in  force
here today... - burbled a radio happily to itself.
    - What I need, - shouted Ford, by  way  of  clarifying  his  previous
remarks, - is a strong drink and a peer-group.  -  He  continued  to  run,
pausing only for a moment to grab Arthur's arm and  drag  him  along  with
him. Arthur had adopted his normal crisis role, which was  to  stand  with
his mouth hanging open and let it all wash over him.
    - They're playing cricket, - muttered Arthur, stumbling  along  after
Ford. - I swear they are playing cricket. I do not know why they are doing
this, but that is what they are doing. They're not  just  killing  people,
they're sending them up, - he shouted, - Ford, they're sending us up!
    It would have been hard to disbelieve this without  knowing  a  great
deal more Galactic history than Arthur had so far managed to  pick  up  in
his travels. The ghostly but violent shapes  that  could  be  seen  moving
within the thick pall of smoke seemed to be performing a series of bizarre
parodies of batting strokes, the difference being  that  every  ball  they
struck with their bats exploded wherever it landed. The very first one  of
these had dispelled Arthur's initial reaction, that the whole thing  might
just be a publicity stunt by Australian margarine manufacturers.
    And then, as suddenly as it had all started, it was over. The  eleven
white robots ascended through the seething cloud in a tight formation, and
with a few last flashes of flame entered  the  bowels  of  their  hovering
white ship, which, with the noise of  a  hundred  thousand  people  saying
"foop", promptly vanished into the thin air out of which it had wopped.
    For a moment there was a terrible stunned silence, and  then  out  of
the drifting smoke emerged the pale figure of Slartibartfast looking  even
more like Moses because in spite of the continued absence of the  mountain
he was at least now striding across a fiery and smoking well-mown lawn.
    He stared wildly about him until  he  saw  the  hurrying  figures  of
Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect forcing  their  way  through  the  frightened
crowd which was for the moment busy stampeding in the opposite  direction.
The crowd was clearly thinking to itself about what an  unusual  day  this
was turning out to be, and not really knowing which way, if any, to turn.
    Slartibartfast was gesturing urgently at Ford and Arthur and shouting
at them, as the three of them  gradually  converged  on  his  ship,  still
parked behind the sight-screens and  still  apparently  unnoticed  by  the
crowd stampeding past it who presumably had enough of their  own  problems
to cope with at that time.
    - They've garble warble farble! - shouted Slartibartfast in his  thin
tremulous voice.
    - What did he say? - panted Ford as he elbowed his way onwards.
    Arthur shook his head.
    - "They've..." something or other, - he said.
    - They've table warble farble! - shouted Slartibartfast again.
    Ford and Arthur shook their heads at each other.
    - It sounds urgent, - said Arthur. He stopped and shouted.
    - What?
    - They've garble warble fashes! - cried Slartibartfast, still  waving
at them.
    - He says, - said Arthur, - that they've taken  the  Ashes.  That  is
what I think he says. - They ran on.
    - The?.. - said Ford.
    - Ashes, - said Arthur tersely. - The  burnt  remains  of  a  cricket
stump. It's a trophy. That... - he was panting, - is... apparently... what
they... have come and taken. - He shook his head very slightly  as  if  he
was trying to get his brain to settle down lower in his skull.
    - Strange thing to want to tell us, - snapped Ford.
    - Strange thing to take.
    - Strange ship.
    They had arrived at it. The second strangest thing about the ship was
watching the Somebody Else's Problem field at work. They could now clearly
see the ship for what it was simply because they knew it was there. It was
quite apparent, however, that nobody else could. This  wasn't  because  it
was  actually  invisible  or  anything  hyper-impossible  like  that.  The
technology involved in making anything invisible is so infinitely  complex
that nine hundred and  ninety-nine  thousand  million,  nine  hundred  and
ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand,  nine  hundred
and ninety-nine times out of  a  billion  it  is  much  simpler  and  more
effective just to take the thing away and do without it. The  ultra-famous
sciento-magician Effrafax of Wug once bet his life that, given a year,  he
could render the great megamountain Magramal entirely invisible.
    Having  spent  most  of  the  year  jiggling  around   with   immense
LuxO-Valves  and  Refracto-Nullifiers  and  Spectrum-Bypass-O-Matics,   he
realized, with nine hours to go, that he wasn't going to make it.
    So, he and his friends, and his friends' friends,  and  his  friends'
friends' friends, and his friends' friends'  friends'  friends,  and  some
rather less good friends of theirs who happened to  own  a  major  stellar
trucking company, put in what  now  is  widely  recognized  as  being  the
hardest night's work in history, and, sure enough, on the  following  day,
Magramal was no longer visible. Effrafax lost his bet - and therefore  his
life - simply because some pedantic adjudicating official noticed (a) that
when walking around the area that Magramal ought to be he didn't trip over
or break his nose on anything, and (b) a suspicious-looking extra moon.
    The Somebody Else's Problem field is much simpler and more effective,
and what's more can be run for over a hundred  years  on  a  single  torch
battery. This is because it relies on people's natural disposition not  to
see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't  explain.  If
Effrafax had painted the mountain pink and  erected  a  cheap  and  simple
Somebody Else's Problem field on it, then people would  have  walked  past
the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have  noticed  that
the thing was there.
    And this is precisely what was happening with Slartibartfast's  ship.
It wasn't pink, but if it had been, that would have been the least of  its
visual problems and people were simply ignoring it like anything.
    The most extraordinary thing about it was that it looked only  partly
like a spaceship with guidance fins, rocket engines and escape hatches and
so on, and a great deal like a small upended Italian bistro.
    Ford and Arthur gazed up at it with wonderment  and  deeply  offended
    - Yes, I know, - said Slartibartfast, hurrying up  to  them  at  that
point, breathless and agitated, - but there is a reason. Come, we must go.
The ancient nightmare is come again. Doom confronts us all. We must  leave
at once.
    - I fancy somewhere sunny, - said Ford.
    Ford and Arthur followed Slartibartfast into the  ship  and  were  so
perplexed by what they saw inside it that they  were  totally  unaware  of
what happened next outside.
    A spaceship,  yet  another  one,  but  this  one  sleek  and  silver,
descended from the sky on to the pitch, quietly, without  fuss,  its  long
legs unlocking in a smooth ballet of technology.
    It landed gently. It extended a short ramp. A tall grey-green  figure
marched briskly out and approached the  small  knot  of  people  who  were
gathered in the centre of the pitch  tending  to  the  casualties  of  the
recent bizarre massacre. It moved people  aside  with  quiet,  understated
authority, and came at last to a man lying in a desperate pool  of  blood,
clearly now beyond the reach of any Earthly medicine, breathing,  coughing
his last. The figure knelt down quietly beside him.
    - Arthur Philip Deodat? - asked the figure.
    The man, with horrified confusion in eyes, nodded feebly.
    - You're a no-good dumbo nothing,  -  whispered  the  creature.  -  I
thought you should know that before you went.

                               Chapter 5

    Important facts from Galactic history, number two:
    (Reproduced from the  Siderial  Daily  Mentioner's  Book  of  popular
Galactic History.)
    Since this Galaxy began, vast civilizations have  risen  and  fallen,
risen and fallen, risen and fallen so often that it's  quite  tempting  to
think that life in the Galaxy must be
    (a) something akin to seasick - space-sick, time sick,  history  sick
or some such thing, and
    (b) stupid.

                               Chapter 6

    It seemed to Arthur as if the whole sky suddenly just stood aside and
let them through.
    It seemed to him that the atoms of his brain and  the  atoms  of  the
cosmos were streaming through each other.
    It seemed to him that he was blown on the wind of the  Universe,  and
that the wind was him.
    It seemed to him that he was one of the thoughts of the Universe  and
that the Universe was a thought of his.
    It seemed to the people at Lord's Cricket Ground that  another  North
London restaurant had just come and gone as they so  often  do,  and  that
this was Somebody Else's Problem.
    - What happened? - whispered Arthur in considerable awe.
    - We took off, - said Slartibartfast.
    Arthur lay in startled stillness on the acceleration couch. He wasn't
certain whether he had just got space-sickness or religion.
    - Nice mover, - said Ford in an unsuccessful attempt to disguise  the
degree to which he had been impressed by what  Slartibartfast's  ship  had
just done, - shame about the decor.
    For a moment or two the old man didn't reply. He was staring  at  the
instruments with the air of one who is trying  to  convert  fahrenheit  to
centigrade in his head whilst his house is burning  down.  Then  his  brow
cleared and he stared for a moment at the wide panoramic screen  in  front
of him, which displayed a bewildering complexity of stars  streaming  like
silver threads around them.
    His lips moved as if he was trying to spell something.  Suddenly  his
eyes darted in alarm back to his  instruments,  but  then  his  expression
merely subsided into a steady frown. He looked back up at the  screen.  He
felt his own pulse. His frown deepened for a moment, then he relaxed.
    - It's a mistake to try and understand mathematics, - he said, - they
only worry me. What did you say?
    - Decor, - said Ford. - Pity about it.
    - Deep in  the  fundamental  heart  of  mind  and  Universe,  -  said
Slartibartfast, - there is a reason.
    Ford glanced sharply around. He clearly thought this  was  taking  an
optimistic view of things.
    The interior of the flight deck was dark green, dark red, dark brown,
cramped and moodily lit. Inexplicably, the resemblance to a small  Italian
bistro had failed to end at the hatchway. Small pools of light picked  out
pot plants, glazed tiles and all  sorts  of  little  unidentifiable  brass
    Rafia-wrapped bottles lurked hideously in the shadows.
    The instruments which had occupied Slartibartfast's attention  seemed
to be mounted in the bottom of bottles which were set in concrete.
    Ford reached out and touched it.
    Fake concrete. Plastic. Fake bottles set in fake concrete.
    The fundamental heart of mind and Universe can take a  running  jump,
he thought to himself, this is rubbish. On the other hand, it could not be
denied that the way the ship had moved made the Heart of Gold seem like an
electric pram.
    He swung himself off the couch. He brushed himself down. He looked at
Arthur who was singing quietly to himself. He looked  at  the  screen  and
recognized nothing. He looked at Slartibartfast.
    - How far did we just travel? - he said.
    - About... - said Slartibartfast, -  about  two  thirds  of  the  way
across the Galactic disc, I would say, roughly. Yes, roughly two thirds, I
    - It's a strange thing, - said Arthur quietly, - that the further and
faster one travels across the Universe, the  more  one's  position  in  it
seems to be largely immaterial, and one is  filled  with  a  profound,  or
rather emptied of a...
    - Yes, very strange, - said Ford. - Where are we going?
    - We are going, - said  Slartibartfast,  -  to  confront  an  ancient
nightmare of the Universe.
    - And where are you going to drop us off?
    - I will need your help.
    - Tough. Look, there's somewhere you can take us where  we  can  have
fun, I'm trying to think of it, we can get drunk and maybe listen to  some
extremely evil music. Hold on, I'll look it up. - He dug out his  copy  of
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and tipped through  those  parts  of
the index primarily concerned with sex and drugs and rock and roll.
    - A curse has arisen from the mists of time, - said Slartibartfast.
    - Yes, I expect  so,  -  said  Ford.  -  Hey,  -  he  said,  lighting
accidentally on one particular reference entry, -  Eccentrica  Gallumbits,
did you ever meet her? The triple-breasted whore  of  Eroticon  Six.  Some
people say her erogenous zones start some four miles from her actual body.
Me, I disagree, I say five.
    - A curse, - said Slartibartfast, - which will engulf the  Galaxy  in
fire and destruction, and possibly bring the Universe to a premature doom.
I mean it, - he added.
    - Sounds like a bad time, - said Ford, -  with  look  I'll  be  drunk
enough not to notice. Here, - he said, stabbing his finger at  the  screen
of the Guide, - would be a really wicked place  to  go,  and  I  think  we
should. What do you say, Arthur? Stop mumbling mantras and pay  attention.
There's important stuff you're missing here.
    Arthur pushed himself up from his couch and shook his head.
    - Where are we going? - he said.
    - To confront an ancient night.
    - Can it, - said Ford. - Arthur, we are going out into the Galaxy  to
have some fun. Is that an idea you can cope with?
    - What's Slartibartfast looking so anxious about? - said Arthur.
    - Nothing, - said Ford.
    - Doom, - said Slartibartfast.  -  Come,  -  he  added,  with  sudden
authority, - there is much I must show and tell you.
    He  walked  towards  a  green  wrought-iron  spiral   staircase   set
incomprehensibly in the middle of the flight deck and started  to  ascend.
Arthur, with a frown, followed.
    Ford slung the Guide sullenly back into his satchel.
    - My doctor says that I have a  malformed  public-duty  gland  and  a
natural deficiency in moral fibre, - he muttered to himself, - and that  I
am therefore excused from saving Universes.
    Nevertheless, he stomped up the stairs behind them.
    What they found upstairs was just stupid, or so it seemed,  and  Ford
shook his head, buried his face in his hands and  slumped  against  a  pot
plant, crushing it against the wall.
    - The central computational area, - said Slartibartfast  unperturbed,
- this is where every  calculation  affecting  the  ship  in  any  way  is
performed. Yes I know what it looks like, but it  is  in  fact  a  complex
four-dimensional  topographical  map  of  a  series  of   highly   complex
mathematical functions.
    - It looks like a joke, - said Arthur.
    - I know what it looks like, - said Slartibartfast, and went into it.
As he did so, Arthur had a sudden vague flash of what it might  mean,  but
he refused to believe it. The Universe could not possibly work like  that,
he thought, cannot possibly. That, he thought  to  himself,  would  be  as
absurd as... he terminated that line  of  thinking.  Most  of  the  really
absurd things he could think of had already happened.
    And this was one of them.
    It was a large glass cage, or box - in fact a room.
    In it was a table, a long one. Around it were gathered about a  dozen
chairs, of the bentwood style. On it was a tablecloth - a grubby, red  and
white check tablecloth, scarred with the occasional cigarette burn,  each,
presumably, at a precise calculated mathematical position.
    And on the tablecloth sat some half-eaten Italian meals, hedged about
with half-eaten breadsticks and half-drunk glasses of wine, and toyed with
listlessly by robots.
    It was all completely artificial. The robot customers  were  attended
by a robot waiter, a  robot  wine  waiter  and  a  robot  maetre  d'.  The
furniture was artificial, the tablecloth artificial, and  each  particular
piece of food  was  clearly  capable  of  exhibiting  all  the  mechanical
characteristics of, say, a pollo sorpreso, without actually being one.
    And all participated in a little dance together - a  complex  routine
involving the manipulation of menus, bill  pads,  wallets,  cheque  books,
credit cards, watches, pencils and  paper  napkins,  which  seemed  to  be
hovering constantly on the edge of violence, but  never  actually  getting
    Slartibartfast hurried in, and then appeared to pass the time of  day
quite idly with the maetre d', whilst  one  of  the  customer  robots,  an
autorory, slid slowly under the table, mentioning what he intended  to  do
to some guy over some girl.
    Slartibartfast took over the seat which had  been  thus  vacated  and
passed a shrewd eye over the menu. The tempo  of  the  routine  round  the
table seemed somehow imperceptibly to quicken. Arguments broke out, people
attempted to prove things on napkins. They waved fiercely at  each  other,
and attempted to examine each other's pieces of chicken. The waiter's hand
began to move on the bill pad more quickly than a human hand could manage,
and then more quickly than a human eye could follow. The pace accelerated.
Soon, an extraordinary and insistent politeness overwhelmed the group, and
seconds later it seemed that a moment of consensus was suddenly  achieved.
A new vibration thrilled through the ship.
    Slartibartfast emerged from the glass room.
    - Bistromathics, - he said. - The most powerful  computational  force
known to parascience. Come to the Room of Informational Illusions.
    He swept past and carried them bewildered in his wake.

                               Chapter 7

    The Bistromatic Drive is a wonderful  new  method  of  crossing  vast
interstellar distances without  all  that  dangerous  mucking  about  with
Improbability Factors.
    Bistromathics  itself  is  simply  a   revolutionary   new   way   of
understanding the behaviour of numbers. Just  as  Einstein  observed  that
time was not an absolute but depended on the observer's movement in space,
and that space was  not  an  absolute,  but  depended  on  the  observer's
movement in time, so it is now realized that numbers are not absolute, but
depend on the observer's movement in restaurants.
    The first non-absolute number is the number of people  for  whom  the
table is reserved. This will vary during the course  of  the  first  three
telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent  relation  to
the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people  who
subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of
people who leave when they see who else has turned up.
    The second non-absolute number is the given time of arrival, which is
now known to be one of those most  bizarre  of  mathematical  concepts,  a
recipriversexcluson, a number whose existence can only be defined as being
anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of  arrival  is
the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any  member  of  the
party will arrive. Recipriversexclusons now play  a  vital  part  in  many
branches of maths, including statistics and accountancy and also form  the
basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else's Problem field.
    The third and most mysterious piece of non-absoluteness of  all  lies
in the relationship between the number of items on the bill, the  cost  of
each item, the number of people at the  table,  and  what  they  are  each
prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually  brought  any
money is only a sub-phenomenon in this field.)
    The baffling discrepancies which used to occur at this point remained
uninvestigated for centuries simply because no one  took  them  seriously.
They were at the time put down to such  things  as  politeness,  rudeness,
meanness, flashness, tiredness, emotionality, or the lateness of the hour,
and completely forgotten about on the following morning. They  were  never
tested under laboratory conditions, of course, because they never occurred
in laboratories - not in reputable laboratories at least.
    And so it was only with the  advent  of  pocket  computers  that  the
startling truth became finally apparent, and it was this:
    Numbers  written  on  restaurant  bills  within   the   confines   of
restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on
any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the Universe.
    This single fact took the scientific world by  storm.  It  completely
revolutionized it. So many mathematical conferences got held in such  good
restaurants that many of the finest minds of a generation died of  obesity
and heart failure and the science of maths was put back by years.
    Slowly, however, the implications of the idea began to be understood.
To begin with it had been too stark, too crazy, too much what the  man  in
the street would have said:
    - Oh yes, I could have told you that, - about. Then some phrases like
"Interactive Subjectivity Frameworks" were  invented,  and  everybody  was
able to relax and get on with it.
    The small groups of monks who had taken up hanging around  the  major
research institutes singing strange chants to the effect that the Universe
was only a figment of its own imagination were eventually given  a  street
theatre grant and went away.

                               Chapter 8

    - In space travel, you see, - said Slartibartfast, as he fiddled with
some instruments in the  Room  of  Informational  Illusions,  -  in  space
    He stopped and looked about him.
    The Room of Informational Illusions was a welcome  relief  after  the
visual monstrosities of the central computational area. There was  nothing
in it. No information, no illusions, just themselves, white  walls  and  a
few small instruments which looked as if they  were  meant  to  plug  into
something which Slartibartfast couldn't find.
    - Yes? - urged Arthur. He had picked  up  Slartibartfast's  sense  of
urgency but didn't know what to do with it.
    - Yes what? - said the old man.
    - You were saying?
    Slartibartfast looked at him sharply.
    - The numbers, - he said, - are awful. - He resumed his search.
    Arthur nodded wisely to himself. After a while he realized that  this
wasn't getting him anywhere and decided that he would  say  "what?"  after
    - In space travel, - repeated Slartibartfast, - all the  numbers  are
    Arthur nodded again and looked round to Ford for help, but  Ford  was
practising being sullen and getting quite good at it.
    - I was only, - said Slartibartfast with a sigh, - trying to save you
the trouble of asking me why all the ship's computations were  being  done
on a waiter's bill pad.
    Arthur frowned.
    - Why, - he said, - were all the ship's computations being done on  a
    He stopped.
    Slartibartfast said:
    - Because in space travel all the numbers are awful.
    He could tell that he wasn't getting his point across.
    - Listen, - he said. - On a waiter's bill pad numbers dance. You must
have encountered the phenomenon.
    - Well...
    - On a waiter's bill  pad,  -  said  Slartibartfast,  -  reality  and
unreality collide on such a fundamental level that each becomes the  other
and anything is possible, within certain parameters.
    - What parameters?
    - It's impossible to say, - said  Slartibartfast.  -  That's  one  of
them. Strange but true. At least, I think it's strange, - he added, -  and
I'm assured that it's true.
    At that moment he located the slot in the wall for which he had  been
searching, and clicked the instrument he was holding into it.
    - Do not be alarmed, - he said, and then suddenly darted  an  alarmed
look at himself, and lunged back, - it's...
    They didn't hear what he said, because at that moment the ship winked
out of existence around them and a starbattle-ship the  size  of  a  small
Midlands industrial city plunged out of the sundered night  towards  them,
star lasers ablaze.
    They gaped, pop-eyed, and were unable to scream.

                               Chapter 9

    Another world, another day, another dawn.
    The early morning's thinnest sliver of light appeared silently.
    Several billion trillion tons of superhot exploding  hydrogen  nuclei
rose slowly above the horizon and managed to look small, cold and slightly
    There is a moment in every dawn  when  light  floats,  there  is  the
possibility of magic. Creation holds its breath.
    The moment passed as it regularly did on Squornshellous Zeta, without
    The mist clung to the surface of the marshes. The  swamp  trees  were
grey with it, the tall reeds indistinct.  It  hung  motionless  like  held
    Nothing moved.
    There was silence.
    The sun struggled feebly with the mist,  tried  to  impart  a  little
warmth here, shed a little light there, but clearly today was going to  be
just another long haul across the sky.
    Nothing moved.
    Again, silence.
    Nothing moved.
    Very often on Squornshellous Zeta, whole days would go on like  this,
and this was indeed going to be one of them.
    Fourteen hours later the sun sank  hopelessly  beneath  the  opposite
horizon with a sense of totally wasted effort.
    And a few hours  later  it  reappeared,  squared  its  shoulders  and
started on up the sky again.
    This time, however, something was happening. A mattress had just  met
a robot.
    - Hello, robot, - said the mattress.
    - Bleah, - said the robot and continued what it was doing, which  was
walking round very slowly in a very tiny circle.
    - Happy? - said the mattress.
    The robot stopped and  looked  at  the  mattress.  It  looked  at  it
quizzically. It was clearly a very stupid mattress. It looked back at  him
with wide eyes.
    After what it had calculated to ten  significant  decimal  places  as
being the precise length of pause most likely to convey a general contempt
for all things mattressy, the robot  continued  to  walk  round  in  tight
    - We could have a conversation, - said the mattress, - would you like
    It was a large mattress, and probably one of quite high quality. Very
few things actually get manufactured these days, because in an  infinitely
large Universe such as, for instance, the  one  in  which  we  live,  most
things one could possibly imagine, and a lot of things  one  would  rather
not, grow somewhere. A forest was discovered recently in which most of the
trees grew ratchet screwdrivers  as  fruit.  The  life  cycle  of  ratchet
screwdriver fruit it quite interesting. Once picked it needs a dark  dusty
drawer in which it can lie  undisturbed  for  years.  Then  one  night  it
suddenly hatches, discards its outer skin which crumbles  into  dust,  and
emerges as a totally unidentifiable little metal object  with  flanges  at
both ends and a sort of ridge and a sort of hole for a screw.  This,  when
found, will get thrown away. No one knows what it is supposed to gain from
this. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, is presumably working on it.
    No one really knows what mattresses are  meant  to  gain  from  their
lives either. They are large, friendly, pocket-sprung creatures which live
quiet private lives in the marshes of Squornshellous Zeta.  Many  of  them
get caught, slaughtered, dried out, shipped out and slept on. None of them
seem to mind and all of them are called Zem.
    - No, - said Marvin.
    - My name, - said the mattress,  -  is  Zem.  We  could  discuss  the
weather a little.
    Marvin paused again in his weary circular plod.
    - The dew, - he observed, - has clearly fallen  with  a  particularly
sickening thud this morning.
    He resumed his walk, as if inspired by this  conversational  outburst
to fresh heights of gloom and despondency. He plodded tenaciously.  If  he
had had teeth he would have gritted them at  this  point.  He  hadn't.  He
didn't. The mere plod said it all.
    The mattress flolloped  around.  This  is  a  thing  that  only  live
mattresses in swamps are able to do, which is why the word is not in  more
common usage. It flolloped in a sympathetic sort of way, moving a  fairish
body of water as it did so. It blew a few bubbles  up  through  the  water
engagingly. Its blue and white  stripes  glistened  briefly  in  a  sudden
feeble ray of sun that had unexpectedly made it through the mist,  causing
the creature to bask momentarily.
    Marvin plodded.
    - You have something on your mind,  I  think,  -  said  the  mattress
    - More than you can possibly imagine, - dreaded Marvin. - My capacity
for mental activity of all kinds is as boundless as the  infinite  reaches
of space itself. Except of course for my capacity for happiness.
    Stomp, stomp, he went.
    - My capacity for happiness, - he added,  -  you  could  fit  into  a
matchbox without taking out the matches first.
    The  mattress  globbered.  This  is  the  noise  made  by   a   live,
swampdwelling mattress that  is  deeply  moved  by  a  story  of  personal
tragedy. The word can also, according to  The  Ultra-Complete  Maximegalon
Dictionary of Every Language Ever, mean the noise made by  the  Lord  High
Sanvalvwag of Hollop on discovering  that  he  has  forgotten  his  wife's
birthday for the second year running. Since there was only ever  one  Lord
High Sanvalvwag of Hollop, and he never married, the  word  is  only  ever
used in a negative or speculative sense, and there is  an  ever-increasing
body of opinion which holds that The Ultra-Complete Maximegalon Dictionary
is not worth the fleet of lorries it takes to cart its microstored edition
around in. Strangely enough, the dictionary  omits  the  word  "floopily",
which simply means "in the manner of something which is floopy".
    The mattress globbered again.
    - I sense a deep dejection in your diodes,  -  it  vollued  (for  the
meaning of the word "vollue", buy a copy of  Squornshellous  Swamptalk  at
any  remaindered  bookshop,  or  alternatively  buy   The   Ultra-Complete
Maximegalon Dictionary, as the University will be very glad to get it  off
their hands and regain some valuable parking lots), - and it  saddens  me.
You should be more mattresslike. We live quiet retired lives in the swamp,
where we are content to flollop and vollue and regard  the  wetness  in  a
fairly floopy manner. Some of us are killed, but all of us are called Zem,
so we never know which and globbering is thus kept to a minimum.  Why  are
you walking in circles?
    - Because my leg is stuck, - said Marvin simply.
    - It seems to me, - said the mattress eyeing  it  compassionately,  -
that it is a pretty poor sort of leg.
    - You are right, - said Marvin, - it is.
    - Voon, - said the mattress.
    - I expect so, - said Marvin, - and I also expect that you  find  the
idea of a robot with an artificial leg pretty  amusing.  You  should  tell
your friends Zem and Zem when you see them later; they'll laugh, if I know
them, which I don't of course - except insofar as I know all organic  life
forms, which is much better than I would wish to. Ha, but my life is but a
box of wormgears.
    He stomped around again in his tiny circle,  around  his  thin  steel
peg-leg which revolved in the mud but seemed otherwise stuck.
    - But why do you just keep  walking  round  and  round?  -  said  the
    - Just to make the point, - said Marvin,  and  continued,  round  and
    - Consider it made, my  dear  friend,  -  flurbled  the  mattress,  -
consider it made.
    - Just another million years, - said Marvin,  -  just  another  quick
million. Then I  might  try  it  backwards.  Just  for  the  variety,  you
    The mattress could feel deep in his innermost spring pockets that the
robot dearly wished to be asked how long he  had  been  trudging  in  this
futile and fruitless manner, and with another quiet flurble he did so.
    - Oh, just over the one-point-five-million mark, just  over,  -  said
Marvin airily. - Ask me if I ever get bored, go on, ask me.
    The mattress did.
    Marvin ignored the question, he merely trudged with added emphasis.
    - I  gave  a  speech  once,  -  he  said   suddenly,  and  apparently
unconnectedly. - You may not instantly see why I bring the subject up, but
that is because my mind works so phenomenally fast, and I am  at  a  rough
estimate thirty billion times more intelligent than you. Let me  give  you
an example. Think of a number, any number.
    - Er, five, - said the mattress.
    - Wrong, - said Marvin. - You see?
    The mattress was much impressed by this and realized that it  was  in
the presence of a not unremarkable mind. It  willomied  along  its  entire
length, sending excited little ripples through its  shallow  algae-covered
    It gupped.
    - Tell me, - it urged, - of the speech you once made, I long to  hear
    - It was received very badly, - said  Marvin,  -  for  a  variety  of
reasons. I delivered it, - he added, pausing to make  an  awkward  humping
sort of gesture with his not-exactly-good  arm,  but  his  arm  which  was
better than the other one which was dishearteningly  welded  to  his  left
side, - over there, about a mile distance.
    He was pointing as well as he could manage, and he  obviously  wanted
to make it totally clear that this was as well as he could manage, through
the mist, over the reeds, to a part of the marsh which looked exactly  the
same as every other part of the marsh.
    - There, - he repeated. - I was somewhat of a celebrity at the time.
    Excitement gripped the mattress. It had never heard of speeches being
delivered on Squornshellous Zeta, and certainly not by celebrities.  Water
spattered off it as a thrill glurried across its back.
    It did something which mattresses very rarely bother to do. Summoning
every bit of its strength, it reared its oblong body, heaved  it  up  into
the air and held it quivering there for a few  seconds  whilst  it  peered
through the mist over the reeds at the part of the marsh which Marvin  had
indicated, observing, without disappointment, that it was exactly the same
as every other part of the marsh. The effort was too much, and it  flodged
back into its pool, deluging Marvin with smelly mud, moss and weeds.
    - I was a celebrity, - droned the robot sadly, - for a short while on
account of my miraculous and bitterly resented escape from a  fate  almost
as good as death in the heart of a blazing sun.  You  can  guess  from  my
condition, - he added, - how narrow my escape was.  I  was  rescued  by  a
scrap-metal merchant, imagine that. Here I am, brain the size of...  never
    He trudged savagely for a few seconds.
    - He it was who fixed me up with this leg. Hateful, isn't it? He sold
me to a Mind Zoo. I was the star exhibit. I had to sit on a box  and  tell
my story whilst people told me to cheer up and think positive. "Give us  a
grin, little robot," they would shout at me, "give us a little chuckle." I
would explain to them that to get my face to grin wold take a good  couple
of hours in a workshop with a wrench, and that went down very well.
    - The speech, - urged the mattress. - I long to hear  of  the  speech
you gave in the marshes.
    - There was a bridge built  across  the  marshes.  A  cyberstructured
hyperbridge, hundreds  of  miles  in  length,  to  carry  ion-buggies  and
freighters over the swamp.
    - A bridge? - quirruled the mattress. - Here in the swamp?
    - A bridge, - confirmed Marvin, - here in the swamp. It was going  to
revitalize the economy of the Squornshellous System. They spent the entire
economy of the Squornshellous System building it. They asked  me  to  open
it. Poor fools.
    It began to rain a little, a fine spray slid through the mist.
    - I stood on the platform. For hundreds of miles in front of me,  and
hundreds of miles behind me, the bridge stretched.
    - Did it glitter? - enthused the mattress.
    - It glittered.
    - Did it span the miles majestically?
    - It spanned the miles majestically.
    - Did it stretch like a silver thread  far  out  into  the  invisible
    - Yes, - said Marvin. - Do you want to hear this story?
    - I want to hear your speech, - said the mattress.
    - This is what I said. I said, "I would like to say that it is a very
great pleasure, honour and privilege for me to open  this  bridge,  but  I
can't because my lying circuits are all out  of  commission.  I  hate  and
despise you all. I now declare this hapless  cyberstructure  open  to  the
unthinkable abuse of all who wantonly cross her."  And  I  plugged  myself
into the opening circuits.
    Marvin paused, remembering the moment.
    The  mattress  flurred  and  glurried.  It  flolloped,   gupped   and
willomied, doing this last in a particularly floopy way.
    - Voon, - it wurfed at last. - And it was a magnificent occasion?
    - Reasonably   magnificent.  The  entire  thousand-mile-long   bridge
spontaneously folded up its glittering spans and  sank  weeping  into  the
mire, taking everybody with it.
    There was a sad and terrible pause at this point in the  conversation
during which a hundred thousand people seemed unexpectedly  to  say  "wop"
and a team of white robots descended from the  sky  like  dandelion  seeds
drifting on the wind in tight military formation.  For  a  sudden  violent
moment they were all there, in the swamp,  wrenching  Marvin's  false  leg
off, and then they were gone again in their ship, which said "foop".
    - You see the sort of thing I have to contend with? - said Marvin  to
the gobbering mattress.
    Suddenly, a moment later, the robots  were  back  again  for  another
violent incident, and this time when they left, the mattress was alone  in
the swamp. He flolloped  around  in  astonishment  and  alarm.  He  almost
lurgled in fear. He reared himself to see over the reeds,  but  there  was
nothing to see, just more reeds. He listened, but there was  no  sound  on
the wind beyond the now familiar sound of half-crazed etymologists calling
distantly to each other across the sullen mire.

                               Chapter 10

    The body of Arthur Dent span.
    The Universe shattered into a million glittering fragments around it,
and each particular shard span silently through the  void,  reflecting  on
its silver surface some single searing holocaust of fire and destruction.
    And then  the  blackness  behind  the  Universe  exploded,  and  each
particular piece of blackness was the furious smoke of hell.
    And the nothingness behind the blackness behind the Universe erupted,
and behind the nothingness  behind  the  blackness  behind  the  shattered
Universe was at last the dark figure of an immense  man  speaking  immense
    - These,  then,  -  said  the  figure,  speaking  from  an  immensely
comfortable chair, - were the Krikkit Wars, the greatest devastation  ever
visited upon our Galaxy. What you have experienced...
    Slartibartfast floated past, waving.
    - It's just a documentary, - he called out. - This is not a good bit.
Terribly sorry, trying to find the rewind control...
    - ...is what billions of billions of innocent...
    - Do not, -  called  out  Slartibartfast  floating  past  again,  and
fiddling furiously with the thing that he had stuck into the wall  of  the
Room of Informational Illusions and which was in fact still stuck there, -
agree to buy anything at this point.
    - ...people, creatures, your fellow beings...
    Music swelled - again, it was  immense  music,  immense  chords.  And
behind the man, slowly, three tall pillars began  to  emerge  out  of  the
immensely swirling mist.
    - ...experienced, lived through - or,  more  often,  failed  to  live
through. Think of that, my friends. And let us not forget - and in just  a
moment I shall be able to suggest a way  which  will  help  us  always  to
remember - that before the Krikkit Wars, the  Galaxy  was  that  rare  and
wonderful thing a happy Galaxy!
    The music was going bananas with immensity at this point.
    - A Happy Galaxy, my friends, as represented by  the  symbol  of  the
Wikkit Gate!
    The three pillars stood out clearly now, three  pillars  topped  with
two cross pieces in a way which looked stupefyingly familiar  to  Arthur's
addled brain.
    - The three pillars, - thundered the man. - The  Steel  Pillar  which
represented the Strength and Power of the Galaxy!
    Searchlights seared out and danced  crazy  dances  up  and  down  the
pillar on the left which was, clearly, made of  steel  or  something  very
like it. The music thumped and bellowed.
    - The Perspex Pillar, - announced the man, - representing the  forces
of Science and Reason in the Galaxy!
    Other searchlights played  exotically  up  and  down  the  righthand,
transparent pillar creating dazzling  patterns  within  it  and  a  sudden
inexplicable craving for ice-cream in the stomach of Arthur Dent.
    - And, -  the  thunderous  voice  continued,  -  the  Wooden  Pillar,
representing... - and here his voice became just very slightly hoarse with
wonderful sentiments, - the forces of Nature and Spirituality.
    The lights picked out the central pillar. The music moved bravely  up
into the realms of complete unspeakability.
    - Between them supporting, - the voice  rolled  on,  approaching  its
climax, - the Golden Bail of Prosperity and the Silver Bail of Peace!
    The whole structure was now flooded with  dazzling  lights,  and  the
music had now, fortunately, gone far beyond the limits of the discernible.
At the top of the three pillars the two brilliantly gleaming bails sat and
dazzled. There seemed to be girls sitting on top of them,  or  maybe  they
were meant to be angels. Angels are usually represented  as  wearing  more
than that, though.
    Suddenly there was a dramatic hush in what was presumably meant to be
the Cosmos, and a darkening of the lights.
    - There is not a world, - thrilled the man's expert voice,  -  not  a
civilized world in the Galaxy where this symbol is not revered even today.
Even in primitive worlds it persists in racial memories. This it was  that
the forces of Krikkit destroyed, and this it is that now locks their world
away till the end of eternity!
    And with a flourish, the man produced in his hands  a  model  of  the
Wikkit gate. Scale was terribly hard to judge in this whole  extraordinary
spectacle, but the model looked as if it must have been about  three  feet
    - Not the original key, of  course.  That,  as  everyone  knows,  was
destroyed,  blasted  into  the  ever-whirling  eddies  of  the   spacetime
continuum and lost for ever. This is a remarkable replica, hand-tooled  by
skilled craftsmen, lovingly assembled using ancient craft secrets  into  a
memento you will be proud to own, in memory of  those  who  fell,  and  in
tribute to the Galaxy - our Galaxy - which they died to defend...
    Slartibartfast floated past again at this moment.
    - Found it, - he said. - We can lose all  this  rubbish.  Just  don't
nod, that's all.
    - Now, let us bow our heads in payment, - intoned the voice, and then
said it again, much faster and backwards.
    Lights came and went, the pillars disappeared, the man gabled himself
backwards into nothing, the Universe snappily  reassembled  itself  around
    - You get the gist? - said Slartibartfast.
    - I'm astonished, - said Arthur, - and bewildered.
    - I was asleep, - said Ford, who floated into view at this  point.  -
Did I miss anything?
    They found themselves once again teetering rather rapidly on the edge
of an agonizingly high cliff. The wind whipped out from  their  faces  and
across a bay on which the remains of one of the greatest and most powerful
space battle-fleets ever assembled  in  the  Galaxy  was  briskly  burning
itself back into existence. The sky was a sullen  pink,  darkening  via  a
rather curious colour to blue and upwards to black.  Smoke  billowed  down
out of it at an incredible lick.
    Events were now passing  back  by  them  almost  too  quickly  to  be
distinguished, and when, a short while later, a huge starbattleship rushed
away from them as if they'd said "boo", they only just  recognized  it  as
the point at which they had come in.
    But now things were too rapid, a video-tactile blur which brushed and
jiggled them through centuries of  galactic  history,  turning,  twisting,
flickering. The sound was a mere thin thrill.
    Periodically through the thickening  jumble  of  events  they  sensed
appalling catastrophes, deep horrors, cataclysmic shocks, and  these  were
always associated with certain recurring images,  the  only  images  which
ever stood out clearly from the avalance of  tumbling  history:  a  wicket
gate, a small hard red ball, hard white robots, and  also  something  less
distinct, something dark and cloudy.
    But there was also another sensation which rose clearly  out  of  the
thrilling passage of time.
    Just as a slow series  of  clicks  when  speeded  up  will  lose  the
definition of each individual click and gradually take on the quality of a
sustained and rising tone, so a series of individual impressions here took
on the quality of a sustained emotion - and yet not an emotion. If it  was
an emotion, it was a totally emotionless one. It  was  hatred,  implacable
hatred. It was cold, not like ice is cold, but like a wall is cold. It was
impersonal, not as a randomly flung fist in a  crowd  is  impersonal,  but
like a computer-issued parking summons is impersonal. And it was deadly  -
again, not like a bullet or a knife is  deadly,  but  like  a  brick  wall
across a motorway is deadly.
    And just as a rising tone  will  change  in  character  and  take  on
harmonics as it rises, so again, this emotionless emotion seemed  to  rise
to an unbearable if unheard scream and suddenly seemed to be a  scream  of
guilt and failure.
    And suddenly it stopped.
    They were left standing on a quiet hilltop on a tranquil evening.
    The sun was setting.
    All around them softly undulating green countryside rolled off gently
into the distance. Birds sang about what they thought of it all,  and  the
general opinion seemed to be good. A little way away could  be  heard  the
sound of children playing, and a little further  away  than  the  apparent
source of that sound could be  seen  in  the  dimming  evening  light  the
outlines of a small town.
    The town appeared to consist mostly of fairly low buildings  made  of
white stone. The skyline was of gentle pleasing curves.
    The sun had nearly set.
    As if out of nowhere, music began. Slartibartfast tugged at a  switch
and it stopped.
    A voice said, "This..." Slartibartfast tugged  at  a  switch  and  it
    - I will tell you about it, - he said quietly.
    The place was peaceful. Arthur felt happy. Even Ford seemed cheerful.
They  walked  a  short  way  in  the  direction  of  the  town,  and   the
Informational Illusion of the grass was pleasant and springy  under  their
feet, and the Informational  Illusion  of  the  flowers  smelt  sweet  and
fragrant. Only Slartibartfast seemed apprehensive and out of sorts.
    He stopped and looked up.
    It suddenly occurred to Arthur that, coming as this did at  the  end,
so to speak, or rather the beginning of  all  the  horror  they  had  just
blurredly experienced, something nasty must be about  to  happen.  He  was
distressed to think that something nasty  could  happen  to  somewhere  as
idyllic as this. He too glanced up. There was nothing in the sky.
    - They're not about to attack here, are they? - he said. He  realized
that this was merely a recording he was walking through, but he still felt
    - Nothing is about to attack here, - said Slartibartfast in  a  voice
which unexpectedly trembled with emotion. - This is where it all  started.
This is the place itself. This is Krikkit.
    He stared up into the sky.
    The sky, from one horizon to another, from east to west,  from  north
to south, was utterly and completely black.

                               Chapter 11

    Stomp stomp.
    - Pleased to be of service.
    - Shut up.
    - Thank you.
    Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp.
    - Thank you for making a simple door very happy.
    - Hope your diodes rot.
    - Thank you. Have a nice day.
    Stomp stomp stomp stomp.
    - It is my pleasure to open for you...
    - Zark off.
    - ...and my satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of  a  job
well done.
    - I said zark off.
    - Thank you for listening to this message.
    Stomp stomp stomp stomp.
    - Wop.
    Zaphod stopped stomping. He had been stomping  around  the  Heart  of
Gold for days, and so far no door had said "wop" to  him.  He  was  fairly
certain that no door had said "wop" to him now. It was  not  the  sort  of
thing doors said. Too concise. Furthermore, there were not  enough  doors.
It sounded as if a hundred thousand people had said "wop",  which  puzzled
him because he was the only person on the ship.
    It was dark. Most of the ship's  non-essential  systems  were  closed
down. It was drifting in a remote area of the Galaxy,  deep  in  the  inky
blackness of space. So which particular hundred thousand people would turn
up at this point and say a totally unexpected "wop"?
    He looked about him, up the corridor and down the  corridor.  It  was
all in deep shadow. There were just the very dim pinkish outlines  of  the
doors which glowed in the dark and pulsed whenever they spoke,  though  he
had tried every way he could think of of stopping them.
    The lights were off so that his heads could  avoid  looking  at  each
other, because neither of  them  was  currently  a  particularly  engaging
sight, and nor had they been since he had made the error of  looking  into
his soul.
    It had indeed been an error. It had been late one night - of course.
    It had been a difficult day - of course.
    There had been soulful music playing on the ship's sound system -  of
    And he had, of course, been slightly drunk.
    In other words, all the usual conditions which bring  on  a  bout  of
soul-searching had applied, but it  had,  nevertheless,  clearly  been  an
    Standing now, silent and alone in the dark corridor he remembered the
moment and shivered. His one head looked one way and his other  the  other
and each decided that the other was the way to go.
    He listened but could hear nothing.
    All there had been was the "wop".
    It seemed an awfully long way to bring an  awfully  large  number  of
people just to say one word.
    He started nervously to edge his way in the direction of the  bridge.
There at least he would feel in control. He stopped again. The way he  was
feeling he didn't think he was an awfully good person to be in control.
    The first shock of that moment, thinking back, had  been  discovering
that he actually had a soul.
    In fact he'd always more or less assumed that he had one as he had  a
full complement of everything else, and  indeed  two  of  somethings,  but
suddenly actually to encounter the thing lurking there deep within him had
giving him a severe jolt.
    And then to discover (this was the second shock) that it  wasn't  the
totally wonderful object which he felt a man in his position had a natural
right to expect had jolted him again.
    Then he had thought about what his  position  actually  was  and  the
renewed shock had nearly made him spill his drink. He drained  it  quickly
before anything serious happened to it. He then had another quick  one  to
follow the first one down and check that it was all right.
    - Freedom, - he said aloud.
    Trillian came on to  the  bridge  at  that  point  and  said  several
enthusiastic things on the subject of freedom.
    - I can't cope with it, - he said darkly, and sent a third drink down
to see why the second hadn't yet reported on the condition of  the  first.
He looked uncertainly at both of her and preferred the one on the right.
    He poured a drink down his other throat with the plan that  it  would
head the previous one off at the pass, join forces with it,  and  together
they would get the second to pull itself together. Then all three would go
off in search of the first, give it a good talking to and maybe a bit of a
sing as well.
    He felt uncertain as to whether the fourth drink had  understood  all
that, so he sent down a fifth to explain the plan more fully and  a  sixth
for moral support.
    - You're drinking too much, - said Trillian.
    His heads collided trying to sort out the four of her  he  could  now
see into a whole position. He gave up and looked at the navigation  screen
and was astonished to see a quite phenomenal number of stars.
    - Excitement and adventure and really wild things, - he muttered.
    - Look, - she said in a sympathetic tone of voice, and sat down  near
him, - it's quite understandable  that  you're  going  to  feel  a  little
aimless for a bit.
    He boggled at her. He had never seen anyone  sit  on  their  own  lap
    - Wow, - he said. He had another drink.
    - You've finished the mission you've been on for years.
    - I haven't been on it. I've tried to avoid being on it.
    - You've still finished it.
    He grunted. There seemed to be a  terrific  party  going  on  in  his
    - I think it finished me, - he said. - Here I am, Zaphod  Beeblebrox,
I can go anywhere, do anything. I have the greatest ship in the know  sky,
a girl with whom things seem to be working out pretty well...
    - Are they?
    - As far as I can tell I'm not an expert in personal relationships
    Trillian raised her eyebrows.
    - I am, - he added, - one hell of a guy, I can  do  anything  I  want
only I just don't have the faintest idea what.
    He paused.
    - One thing, - he further added, - has suddenly  ceased  to  lead  to
another - in  contradiction  of  which  he  had  another  drink  and  slid
gracelessly off his chair.
    Whilst he slept it off, Trillian did a little research in the  ship's
copy of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It had some advice to offer
on drunkenness.
    - Go to it, - it said, - and good luck.
    It was cross-referenced to the  entry  concerning  the  size  of  the
Universe and ways of coping with that.
    Then she found the entry on Han Wavel, an exotic holiday planet,  and
one of the wonders of the Galaxy.
    Han Wavel is a world which consists largely of  fabulous  ultraluxury
hotels and casinos, all of which have been formed by the  natural  erosion
of wind and rain.
    The chances of this happening  are  more  or  less  one  to  infinity
against. Little is known of how  this  came  about  because  none  of  the
geophysicists,    probability     statisticians,     meteoranalysts     or
bizzarrologists who are so keen to research it can afford to stay there.
    Terrific, thought Trillian to herself, and within  a  few  hours  the
great white running-shoe ship was slowly powering  down  out  of  the  sky
beneath a hot brilliant sun towards a brightly coloured  sandy  spaceport.
The ship was clearly causing a sensation on the ground, and  Trillian  was
enjoying herself. She heard Zaphod moving around and  whistling  somewhere
in the ship.
    - How are you? - she said over the general intercom.
    - Fine, - he said brightly, - terribly well.
    - Where are you?
    - In the bathroom.
    - What are you doing?
    - Staying here.
    After an hour or two it became plain that he meant it  and  the  ship
returned to the sky without having once opened its hatchway.
    - Heigh ho, - said Eddie the Computer.
    Trillian nodded patiently, tapped her fingers a couple of  times  and
pushed the intercom switch.
    - I think that enforced fun is probably not what  you  need  at  this
    - Probably not, - replied Zaphod from wherever he was.
    - I think a bit of physical challenge would  help  draw  you  out  of
    - Whatever you think, I think, - said Zaphod.
    "Recreational Impossibilities" was a heading which caught  Trillian's
eye when, a short while later, she sat down  to  flip  through  the  Guide
again, and as the  Heart  of  Gold  rushed  at  improbable  speeds  in  an
indeterminate direction, she sipped a cup of  something  undrinkable  from
the Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser and read about how to fly.
    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the  subject
of flying.
    There is an art, it says, or rather a knack to flying.
    The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at  the  ground  and
    Pick a nice day, it suggests, and try it.
    The first part is easy.
    All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward  with
all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt.
    That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground.
    Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they  are  really  trying
properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.
    Clearly, it's the second  point,  the  missing,  which  presents  the
One problem is that you have to miss the  ground  accidentally.  It's  no
good deliberately intending to miss the  ground  because  you  won't.  You
have to have your attention suddenly distracted  by  something  else  when
you're halfway there, so that you are no longer  thinking  about  falling,
or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you  fail  to
miss it.
    It is notoriously difficult to prise your attention away  from  these
three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most
people's  failure,  and   their   eventual   disillusionment   with   this
exhilarating and spectacular sport.
    If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention  momentarily
distracted at the  crucial  moment  by,  say,  a  gorgeous  pair  of  legs
(tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination)
or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely
rare species of  beetle  crawling  along  a  nearby  twig,  then  in  your
astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a
few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.
    This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration.
    Bob and float, float and bob.
    Ignore all considerations of your own weight and simply let  yourself
waft higher.
    Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because  they
are unlikely to say anything helpful.
    They are most likely to say something along the lines of, "Good  God,
you can't possibly be flying!"
    It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly  be
    Waft higher and higher.
    Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops
breathing regularly.
    Do not wave at anybody.
    When you have done this a few times  you  will  find  the  moment  of
distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve.
    You will then learn all sorts of things about  how  to  control  your
flight, your speed, your manoeuvrability, and the trick  usually  lies  in
not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing  it
to happen as if it was going to anyway.
    You will also learn how to land properly, which is something you will
almost certainly cock up, and cock up badly, on your first attempt.
    There are private flying clubs you can join which  help  you  achieve
the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with  surprising
bodies or opinions to leap out  from  behind  bushes  and  exhibit  and/or
explain them at the crucial moments. Few genuine hitch-hikers will be able
to afford to join these clubs, but some  may  be  able  to  get  temporary
employment at them.
    Trillian read this longingly, but  reluctantly  decided  that  Zaphod
wasn't really in the right frame of mind for attempting  to  fly,  or  for
walking through mountains or for trying  to  get  the  Brantisvogan  Civil
Service to acknowledge a change-of-address  card,  which  were  the  other
things listed under the heading "Recreational Impossibilities".
    Instead, she flew the ship to Allosimanius Syneca, a  world  of  ice,
snow, mind-hurtling beauty and stunning  cold.  The  trek  from  the  snow
plains of Liska to the summit of the Ice Crystal Pyramids of Sastantua  is
long and gruelling, even with jet skis and a team  of  Syneca  Snowhounds,
but the view from the top, a view which takes in the Stin Glacier  Fields,
the shimmering Prism Mountains and the far ethereal dancing icelights,  is
one which first freezes the mind and then slowly releases it  to  hitherto
unexperienced horizons of beauty, and Trillian, for  one,  felt  that  she
could do with a bit  of  having  her  mind  slowly  released  to  hitherto
unexperienced horizons of beauty.
    They went into a low orbit.  There  lay  the  silverwhite  beauty  of
Allosimanius Syneca beneath them. Zaphod stayed in bed with one head stuck
under a pillow and the other doing crosswords till late into the night.
    Trillian nodded patiently  again,  counted  to  a  sufficiently  high
number, and told herself that the important thing  now  was  just  to  get
Zaphod talking.
    She  prepared,  by  dint  of  deactivating  all  the  robot   kitchen
synthomatics, the most fabulously delicious  meal  she  could  contrive  -
delicately oiled meals, scented fruits, fragrant cheeses,  fine  Aldebaran
    She carried it through to him and  asked  if  he  felt  like  talking
things through.
    - Zark off, - said Zaphod.
    Trillian nodded patiently to  herself,  counted  to  an  even  higher
number, tossed the tray lightly aside, walked to the  transport  room  and
just teleported herself the hell out of his life.
    She didn't even programme any coordinates, she  hadn't  the  faintest
idea where she was going, she just went - a random  row  of  dots  flowing
through the Universe.
    - Anything, - she said to herself as she left, - is better than this.
    - Good job too, - muttered Zaphod to himself, turned over and  failed
to go to sleep.
    The next day he restlessly paced the empty  corridors  of  the  ship,
pretending not to look for her,  though  he  knew  she  wasn't  there.  He
ignored the computer's querulous demands to know just what  the  hell  was
going on around here by fitting a small electronic gag across  a  pair  of
its terminals.
    After a while he began to turn down the lights. There was nothing  to
see. Nothing was about to happen.
    Lying in bed one night - and night was now  virtually  continuous  on
the ship - he decided to pull himself together, to get  things  into  some
kind of perspective. He sat up sharply and started to pull clothes on.  He
decided that there must be someone in the Universe feeling more  wretched,
miserable and forsaken than himself, and he determined to set out and find
    Halfway to the bridge it occurred to him that it might be Marvin, and
he returned to bed.
    It was a few hours later than  this,  as  he  stomped  disconsolately
about the darkened corridors swearing at cheerful doors, that he heard the
"wop" said, and it made him very nervous.
    He leant tensely against the corridor wall and  frowned  like  a  man
trying to unbend a  corkscrew  by  telekinesis.  He  laid  his  fingertips
against the wall and felt an unusual vibration. And  now  he  could  quite
clearly hear slight noises, and could hear where they were coming  from  -
they were coming from the bridge.
    - Computer? - he hissed.
    - Mmmm? - said the computer terminal nearest him, equally quietly.
    - Is there someone on this ship?
    - Mmmmm, - said the computer.
    - Who is it?
    - Mmmmm mmm mmmmm, - said the computer.
    - What?
    - Mmmmm mmmm mm mmmmmmmm.
    Zaphod buried one of his faces in two of his hands.
    - Oh, Zarquon, - he muttered  to  himself.  Then  he  stared  up  the
corridor towards the entrance to the bridge in the dim distance from which
more and purposeful noises were coming, and in which the gagged  terminals
were situated.
    - Computer, - he hissed again.
    - Mmmmm?
    - When I ungag you...
    - Mmmmm.
    - Remind me to punch myself in the mouth.
    - Mmmmm mmm?
    - Either one. Now just tell me this. One for yes, two for no.  Is  it
    - Mmmmm.
    - It is?
    - Mmmm.
    - You didn't just go "mmmm" twice?
    - Mmmm mmmm.
    - Hmmmm.
    He inched his way up the corridor as if he would  rather  be  yarding
his way down it, which was true.
    He was within two yards of the door to the bridge  when  he  suddenly
realized to his horror that it was going to be nice to him, and he stopped
dead. He hadn't been able to turn off the doors' courtesy voice circuits.
    This doorway to the bridge was concealed from view within it  because
of the excitingly chunky way in which the  bridge  had  been  designed  to
curve round, and he had been hoping to enter unobserved.
    He leant despondently back against the wall again and said some words
which his other head was quite shocked to hear.
    He peered at the dim pink outline of the door, and discovered that in
the darkness of the corridor he could just about make out the Sensor Field
which extended out into the corridor and told  the  door  when  there  was
someone there for whom it must open and to whom it must make a cheery  and
pleasant remark.
    He pressed himself hard back  against  the  wall  and  edged  himself
towards the door, flattening his chest as much as  he  possibly  could  to
avoid brushing against the very, very dim perimeter of the field. He  held
his breath, and congratulated himself on having lain in  bed  sulking  for
the last few days rather than trying to work out  his  feelings  on  chest
expanders in the ship's gym.
    He then realized he was going to have to speak at this point.
    He took a series of very shallow breaths, and then  said  as  quickly
and as quietly as he could:
    - Door, if you can hear me, say so very, very quietly.
    Very, very quietly, the door murmured:
    - I can hear you.
    - Good. Now, in a moment, I'm going to ask you to open. When you open
I do not want you to say that you enjoyed it, OK?
    - OK.
    - And I don't want you to say to me that I have made  a  simple  door
very happy, or  that  it  is  your  pleasure  to  open  for  me  and  your
satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done, OK?
    - OK.
    - And I do not want you to ask me to have a nice day, understand?
    - I understand.
    - OK, - said Zaphod, tensing himself, - open now.
    The door slid open quietly. Zaphod slipped quietly through. The  door
closed quietly behind him.
    - Is that the way you like it, Mr Beeblebrox? -  said  the  door  out
    - I want you to imagine, - said Zaphod to the group of  white  robots
who swung round to stare at him at that point, - that I have an  extremely
powerful Kill-O-Zap blaster pistol in my hand.
    There was an immensely cold and savage silence. The  robots  regarded
him with hideously dead eyes. They stood very still. There  was  something
intensely macabre about their appearance, especially  to  Zaphod  who  had
never seen one before or even known anything about them. The Krikkit  Wars
belonged to the ancient past of the Galaxy, and Zaphod had spent  most  of
his early history lessons plotting how he was going to have sex  with  the
girl in the cybercubicle next to him, and since his teaching computer  had
been an integral part of this plot it had eventually had all  its  history
circuits wiped and replaced with an entirely different set of ideas  which
had then resulted in it being scrapped and sent to a home  for  Degenerate
Cybermats, whither it was followed  by  the  girl  who  had  inadvertently
fallen deeply in love with the unfortunate machine, with  the  result  (a)
that Zaphod never got near her and (b) that he missed out on a  period  of
ancient history that would have been of inestimable value to him  at  this
    He stared at them in shock.
    It was impossible to explain why, but their smooth  and  sleek  white
bodies seemed to be the utter embodiment of  clean,  clinical  evil.  From
their hideously dead eyes to  their  powerful  lifeless  feet,  they  were
clearly the calculated product of a  mind  that  wanted  simply  to  kill.
Zaphod gulped in cold fear.
    They had been dismantling part of  the  rear  bridge  wall,  and  had
forced a passage through some of the vital innards of  the  ship.  Through
the tangled wreckage Zaphod could see, with a further and worse  sense  of
shock, that they were tunnelling towards the very heart of the  ship,  the
heart of the Improbability Drive that had been so mysteriously created out
of thin air, the Heart of Gold itself.
    The robot closest to him was regarding  him  in  such  a  way  as  to
suggest that it was measuring every smallest particle of  his  body,  mind
and capability. And when it spoke,  what  it  said  seemed  to  bear  this
impression out. Before going on to what it  actually  said,  it  is  worth
recording at this point that Zaphod was the first living organic being  to
hear one of these creatures speak for something over ten billion years. If
he had paid more attention to his ancient history lessons and less to  his
organic being, he might have been more impressed by this honour.
    The robot's voice was like its body, cold, sleek and lifeless. It had
almost a cultured rasp to it. It sounded as ancient as it was.
    It said:
    - You do have a Kill-O-Zap blaster pistol in your hand.
    Zaphod didn't know what it meant for a moment, but  then  he  glanced
down at his own hand and was relieved  to  see  that  what  he  had  found
clipped to a wall bracket was indeed what he had thought it was.
    - Yeah, - he said in a kind of relieved sneer, which is quite tricky,
- well, I wouldn't want to overtax your imagination, robot. - For a  while
nobody said anything, and Zaphod realized that the robots  were  obviously
not here to make conversation, and that it was up to him.
    - I can't help noticing that you have parked your  ship,  -  he  said
with a nod of one of his heads in the  appropriate  direction,  -  through
    There was no denying this. Without regard  for  any  kind  of  proper
dimensional behaviour they had simply materialized  their  ship  precisely
where they wanted it to be, which meant that it was simply locked  through
the Heart of Gold as if they were nothing more than two combs.
    Again, they made no response to this,  and  Zaphod  wondered  if  the
conversation would gather any momentum if he phrased his part of it in the
form of questions.
    - ...haven't you? - he added.
    - Yes, - replied the robot.
    - Er, OK, - said Zaphod. - So what are you cats doing here?
    - Robots, - said Zaphod, - what are you robots doing here?
    - We have come, - rasped the robot, - for the Gold of the Bail.
    Zaphod nodded. He waggled his gun to invite further elaboration.  The
robot seemed to understand this.
    - The Gold Bail is part of the Key we seek, - continued the robot,  -
to release our Masters from Krikkit.
    Zaphod nodded again. He waggled his gun again.
    - The Key, - continued the robot simply, - was disintegrated in  time
and space. The Golden Bail is embedded in the  device  which  drives  your
ship. It will be reconstituted in the Key. Our Masters shall be  released.
The Universal Readjustment will continue.
    Zaphod nodded again.
    - What are you talking about? - he said.
    A slightly pained expression seemed  to  cross  the  robot's  totally
expressionless face. He seemed to be finding the conversation depressing.
    - Obliteration, - it said. - We seek the Key, -  it  repeated,  -  we
already have the Wooden Pillar, the Steel Pillar and the  Perspex  Pillar.
In a moment we will have the Gold Bail...
    - No you won't.
    - We will, - stated the robot.
    - No you won't. It makes my ship work.
    - In a moment, - repeated the robot patiently, -  we  will  have  the
Gold Bail...
    - You will not, - said Zaphod.
    - And then we must go, - said the robot, in all seriousness, -  to  a
    - Oh, - said Zaphod, startled. - Can I come?
    - No, - said the robot. - We are going to shoot you.
    - Oh yeah? - said Zaphod, waggling his gun.
    - Yes, - said the robot, and they shot him.
    Zaphod was so surprised that they had to shoot him  again  before  he
fell down.

                               Chapter 12

    - Shhh, - said Slartibartfast. - Listen and watch.
    Night had now fallen on ancient Krikkit. The sky was dark and  empty.
The only light was coming  from  the  nearby  town,  from  which  pleasant
convivial sounds were drifting quietly on the breeze. They stood beneath a
tree from which heady fragrances wafted around them. Arthur  squatted  and
felt the Informational Illusion of the soil  and  the  grass.  He  ran  it
through his fingers. The soil seemed heavy and rich, the grass strong.  It
was hard to avoid the impression that this  was  a  thoroughly  delightful
place in all respects.
    The sky was, however, extremely blank and seemed to Arthur to cast  a
certain  chill  over  the  otherwise  idyllic,  if  currently   invisible,
landscape. Still, he supposed, it's a question of what you're used to.
    He felt a tap on his  shoulder  and  looked  up.  Slartibartfast  was
quietly directing his attention to something down the other  side  of  the
hill. He looked and could just see some faint lights dancing  and  waving,
and moving slowly in their direction.
    As they came nearer, sounds became audible  too,  and  soon  the  dim
lights and noises resolved themselves into a small  group  of  people  who
were walking home across the hill towards the town.
    They walked quite  near  the  watchers  beneath  the  tree,  swinging
lanterns which made soft and crazy lights dance among the trees and grass,
chattering contentedly, and actually singing a  song  about  how  terribly
nice everything was, how happy they were, how much they enjoyed working on
the farm, and how pleasant it was to be going home to see their wives  and
children, with a lilting chorus  to  the  effect  that  the  flowers  were
smelling particularly nice at this time of year and that it was a pity the
dog had died seeing as it liked them so much. Arthur could almost  imagine
Paul McCartney sitting with his feet up by the fire on evening, humming it
to Linda and wondering  what  to  buy  with  the  proceeds,  and  thinking
probably Essex.
    - The Masters of Krikkit, -  breathed  Slartibartfast  in  sepulchral
    Coming, as it did, so hard upon the heels of his own  thoughts  about
Essex this remark caused Arthur a moment's confusion. Then  the  logic  of
the situation imposed itself on his scattered mind, and he discovered that
he still didn't understand what the old man meant.
    - What? - he said.
    - The Masters of Krikkit, - said Slartibartfast  again,  and  if  his
breathing had been sepulchral before, this time he sounded like someone in
Hades with bronchitis.
    Arthur peered at the group and tried to make  sense  of  what  little
information he had at his disposal at this point.
    The people in the group were clearly  alien,  if  only  because  they
seemed a little tall, thin, angular and almost as pale as to be white, but
otherwise they appeared remarkably pleasant; a little  whimsical  perhaps,
one wouldn't necessarily want to spend a long coach journey with them, but
the  point  was  that  if  they  deviated  in  any  way  from  being  good
straightforward people it was in being perhaps too nice  rather  than  not
nice enough. So why all this rasping lungwork  from  Slartibartfast  which
would seem more appropriate to a radio commercial for one of  those  nasty
films about chainsaw operators taking their work home with them?
    Then, this Krikkit angle was  a  tough  one,  too.  He  hadn't  quite
fathomed the connection between what he knew as cricket, and what...
    Slartibartfast interrupted his train of thought at this point  as  if
sensing what was going through his mind.
    - The game you know as cricket, - he said, and his voice still seemed
to be wandering lost in subterranean passages, -  is  just  one  of  those
curious freaks of racial memory which can keep images alive  in  the  mind
aeons after their true significance has been lost in the mists of time. Of
all the races on the Galaxy, only the English could  possibly  revive  the
memory of the most horrific wars ever to sunder the Universe and transform
it into what I'm afraid is generally regarded as an incomprehensibly  dull
and pointless game.
    - Rather fond of it myself, - he added, - but in most  people's  eyes
you have been inadvertently  guilty  of  the  most  grotesque  bad  taste.
Particularly the bit about the little red ball hitting the wicket,  that's
very nasty.
    - Um, - said Arthur with a reflective  frown  to  indicate  that  his
cognitive synapses were coping with this as best as they could, - um. -
    - And these, - said Slartibartfast, slipping back into crypt guttural
and indicating the group of Krikkit men who had now walked  past  them,  -
are the ones who started it all, and it will start tonight. Come, we  will
follow, and see why.
    They slipped out from underneath the tree, and  followed  the  cheery
party along the dark hill  path.  Their  natural  instinct  was  to  tread
quietly and stealthily in pursuit of their quarry, though,  as  they  were
simply walking through a recorded Informational Illusion,  they  could  as
easily have been wearing euphoniums and woad  for  all  the  notice  their
quarry would have taken of them.
    Arthur noticed that a couple of members of the party were now singing
a different song. It came lilting back to them through the soft night air,
and was a sweet romantic ballad which would have netted McCartney Kent and
Sussex and enabled him to put in a fair offer for Hampshire.
    - You must surely know, - said Slartibartfast to Ford, - what  it  is
that is about to happen?
    - Me? - said Ford. - No.
    - Did you not learn Ancient Galactic History when you were a child?
    - I was in the cybercubicle behind Zaphod, - said Ford, - it was very
distracting. Which isn't to say that I didn't learn some  pretty  stunning
    At this point Arthur noticed a curious feature to the song  that  the
party were  singing.  The  middle  eight  bridge,  which  would  have  had
McCartney firmly consolidated in Winchester and gazing intently  over  the
Test Valley to the rich pickings  of  the  New  Forest  beyond,  had  some
curious lyrics. The songwriter was referring to meeting with  a  girl  not
"under the moon" or "beneath the  stars"  but  "above  the  grass",  which
struck Arthur a little prosaic. Then he looked up again at the bewildering
black sky, and had the distinct feeling that there was an important  point
here, if only he could grasp what it was. It gave him a feeling  of  being
alone in the Universe, and he said so.
    - No, - said Slartibartfast, with a slight quickening of his step,  -
the people of Krikkit have never thought to themselves "We  are  alone  in
the Universe." They are surrounded by a huge Dust Cloud,  you  see,  their
single sun with its single world, and they are right  out  on  the  utmost
eastern edge of the Galaxy. Because of the Dust Cloud there has never been
anything to see in the sky. At night it is totally blank, During  the  day
there is the sun, but you can't look directly at that so they don't.  They
are hardly aware of the sky. It's as  if  they  had  a  blind  spot  which
extended 180 degrees from horizon to horizon.
    - You see, the reason why they have never thought "We  are  alone  in
the Universe" is that until tonight they don't know  about  the  Universe.
Until tonight.
    He moved on, leaving the words ringing in the air behind him.
    - Imagine, - he said, - never even thinking  "We  are  alone"  simply
because it has never occurred to you to think that there's any  other  way
to be.
    He moved on again.
    - I'm afraid this is going to be a little unnerving, - he  added.  As
he spoke, they became aware of a very thin roaring scream high up  in  the
sightless sky above them. They glanced upwards in alarm, but for a  moment
or two could see nothing.
    Then Arthur noticed that the people in the party in front of them had
heard the noise, but that none of them seemed to know what to so with  it.
They were  glancing  around  themselves  in  consternation,  left,  right,
forwards, backwards, even at the ground. It never occurred to them to look
    The profoundness of the shock and horror they emanated a few  moments
later when the burning wreckage of a spaceship came hurtling and screaming
out of the sky and crashed about half a mile from where they were standing
was something that you had to be there to experience.
    Some speak of the Heart of Gold in hushed tones, some of the Starship
    Many speak of the legendary and gigantic Starship Titanic, a majestic
and luxurious cruise-liner launched from the great  shipbuilding  asteroid
complexes of Artifactovol some hundreds of years ago now,  and  with  good
    It  was  sensationally  beautiful,  staggeringly   huge,   and   more
pleasantly equipped than any ship in what now remains of history (see note
below on the Campaign for Real Time) but it had the misfortune to be built
in the very earliest days  of  Improbability  Physics,  long  before  this
difficult and cussed branch of knowledge was fully, or at all, understood.
    The designers and engineers decided, in their innocence, to  build  a
prototype Improbability Field into it, which  was  meant,  supposedly,  to
ensure that it was Infinitely Improbable that anything would ever go wrong
with any part of the ship.
    They did  not  realize  that  because  of  the  quasi-reciprocal  and
circular nature of  all  Improbability  calculations,  anything  that  was
Infinitely  Improbable  was  actually  very  likely   to   happen   almost
    The Starship Titanic was a monstrously pretty sight as it lay beached
like a silver Arcturan Megavoidwhale amongst the laserlit tracery  of  its
construction gantries, a brilliant cloud of  pins  and  needles  of  light
against the deep interstellar blackness; but when  launched,  it  did  not
even manage to complete its very first radio message -  an  SOS  -  before
undergoing a sudden and gratuitous total existence failure.
    However, the same event which  saw  the  disastrous  failure  of  one
science in its infancy also witnessed the apotheosis of  another.  It  was
conclusively proven that more people watched the  tri-d  coverage  of  the
launch than actually existed at the time, and this has now been recognized
as the greatest achievement ever in the science of audience research.
    Another spectacular media event of that time was the supernova  which
the star Ysllodins underwent a few hours  later.  Ysllodins  is  the  star
around which most of the Galaxy's major insurance  underwriters  live,  or
rather lived.
    But whilst these spaceships, and other great ones which come to mind,
such as the Galactic Fleet Battleships - the GSS Daring,  the  GSS  Audacy
and the GSS Suicidal Insanity  -  are  all  spoken  of  with  awe,  pride,
enthusiasm, affection, admiration, regret, jealousy, resentment,  in  fact
most of the better known emotions, the one which  regularly  commands  the
most actual astonishment was Krikkit One, the first spaceship  ever  built
by the people of Krikkit. This is not because it was a wonderful ship.  It
    It was a crazy piece of near junk.  It  looked  as  if  it  had  been
knocked up in somebody's backyard, and this was in fact precisely where it
had been knocked up. The astonishing thing about the ship was not that  it
was one well (it wasn't) but that it was done at all. The period  of  time
which had elapsed between the  moment  that  the  people  of  Krikkit  had
discovered that there was such a thing as space and the launching of their
first spaceship was almost exactly a year.
    Ford Prefect was extremely grateful, as he strapped himself in,  that
this was just another Informational Illusion, and that  he  was  therefore
completely safe. In real life it wasn't a ship he would have set  foot  in
for all the rice wine in China. "Extremely rickety" was one  phrase  which
sprang to mind, and "Please may I get out?" was another.
    - This is going to fly? - said Arthur, giving  gaunt  looks,  at  the
lashed-together pipework and wiring which festooned the  cramped  interior
of the ship.
    Slartibartfast assured him that it would, that  they  were  perfectly
safe and that it was all going to  be  extremely  instructive  and  not  a
little harrowing.
    Ford and Arthur decided just to relax and be harrowed.
    - Why not, - said Ford, - go mad?
    In front of them and, of course, totally unaware  of  their  presence
for the very good reason that they weren't actually there, were the  three
pilots. They had also constructed the ship. They had been on the hill path
that night singing wholesome heartwarming songs.  Their  brains  had  been
very slightly turned by the nearby crash of the alien spaceship. They  had
spent weeks stripping every tiniest last secret out  of  the  wreckage  of
that burnt-up spaceship, all the while singing lilting  spaceshipstripping
ditties. They had then built their own ship and  this  was  it.  This  was
their ship, and they were currently singing a little song about that  too,
expressing the twin joys of achievement and ownership. The  chorus  was  a
little poignant, and told of their sorrow that their work  had  kept  them
such long hours in the garage, away from the company of  their  wives  and
children, who had missed them terribly  but  had  kept  them  cheerful  by
bringing them continual stories of how nicely the puppy was growing up.
    Pow, they took off.
    They roared into the sky like a ship that knew precisely what it  was
    - No way, - said Ford a while later after they had recovered from the
shock  of  acceleration,  and  were  climbing  up  out  of  the   planet's
atmosphere, - no way, - he repeated, - does anyone design and build a ship
like this in a year, no matter how motivated. I don't believe it. Prove it
to me and I still won't believe it. - He shook his head  thoughtfully  and
gazed out of a tiny port at the nothingness outside it.
    The  trip  passed  uneventfully  for  a  while,  and   Slartibartfast
fastwound them through it.
    Very quickly, therefore, they arrived at the inner perimeter  of  the
hollow, spherical Dust Cloud which surrounded their sun and  home  planet,
occupying, as it were, the next orbit out.
    It was more as if there was a  gradual  change  in  the  texture  and
consistency of space. The darkness seemed now to  thrum  and  ripple  past
them. It was a very cold darkness, a very blank and heavy darkness, it was
the darkness of the night sky of Krikkit.
    The coldness and heaviness and blankness of it took a  slow  grip  on
Arthur's heart, and he felt acutely aware of the feelings of  the  Krikkit
pilots which hung in the air like a thick static charge. They were now  on
the very boundary of the historical knowledge of their race. This was  the
very limit beyond which none of them had ever speculated,  or  even  known
that there was any speculation to be done.
    The darkness of the cloud  buffeted  at  the  ship.  Inside  was  the
silence of history. Their historic mission was to find out  if  there  was
anything or anywhere on the other side of the sky, from which the  wrecked
spaceship  could   have   come,   another   world   maybe,   strange   and
incomprehensible though this thought was to the enclosed  minds  of  those
who had lived beneath the sky of Krikkit.
    History was gathering itself to deliver another blow.
    Still the darkness thrummed at them, the blank enclosing darkness. It
seemed closer and closer, thicker and thicker, heavier  and  heavier.  And
suddenly it was gone.
    They flew out of the cloud.
    They saw the staggering jewels of the night in  their  infinite  dust
and their minds sang with fear.
    For a while they flew on, motionless against the starry sweep of  the
Galaxy, itself motionless against the infinite sweep of the Universe.  And
then they turned round.
    - It'll have to go, - the men of Krikkit said as they headed back for
    On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on
the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life  and
the obliteration of all other life forms.

                               Chapter 13

    - So you see, - said Slartibartfast, slowly stirring his artificially
constructed coffee, and thereby also  stirring  the  whirlpool  interfaces
between real and unreal numbers, between the  interactive  perceptions  of
mind and Universe,  and  thus  generating  the  restructured  matrices  of
implicitly enfolded subjectivity which allowed his  ship  to  reshape  the
very concept of time and space, - how it is.
    - Yes, - said Arthur.
    - Yes, - said Ford.
    - What do I do, - said Arthur, - with this piece of chicken?
    Slartibartfast glanced at him gravely.
    - Toy with it, - he said, - toy with it.
    He demonstrated with his own piece.
    Arthur did so, and felt the slight tingle of a mathematical  function
thrilling through the chicken leg as it  moved  fourdimensionally  through
what Slartibartfast had assured him was five-dimensional space.
    - Overnight, - said Slartibartfast, - the whole population of Krikkit
was transformed from being charming, delightful, intelligent...
    - ...if whimsical... - interpolated Arthur.
    - ...ordinary   people,  -  said  Slartibartfast,  -  into  charming,
delightful, intelligent...
    - ...whimsical...
    - ...manic xenophobes. The idea of a Universe didn't fit  into  their
world picture, so to speak. They simply couldn't cope  with  it.  And  so,
charmingly, delightfully, intelligently, whimsically  if  you  like,  they
decided to destroy it. What's the matter now?
    - I don't like the wine very much, - said Arthur sniffing it.
    - Well, send it back. It's all part of the mathematics of it.
    Arthur did so. He didn't like the topography of the  waiter's  smile,
but he'd never liked graphs anyway.
    - Where are we going? - said Ford.
    - Back to the Room of Informational Illusions, - said Slartibartfast,
rising and patting his mouth with the  mathematical  representation  of  a
paper napkin, - for the second half.

                               Chapter 14

    - The people of  Krikkit,  -  said  His  High  Judgmental  Supremacy,
Judiciary Pag, LIVR (the Learned, Impartial and Very Relaxed) Chairman  of
the Board of Judges at the Krikkit War Crimes  Trial,  -  are,  well,  you
know, they're just a bunch of real sweet guys, you know, who  just  happen
to want to kill everybody. Hell, I feel the same way some mornings. Shit.
    - OK, - he continued, swinging his feet up on to the bench  in  front
of him and pausing a moment to pick a  thread  off  his  Ceremonial  Beach
Loafers, - so you wouldn't necessarily want to share a Galaxy  with  these
    This was true.
    The Krikkit attack on the Galaxy had  been  stunning.  Thousands  and
thousands of huge Krikkit warships had leapt suddenly  out  of  hyperspace
and simultaneously attacked thousands and thousands of major worlds, first
seizing vital material supplies for  building  the  next  wave,  and  then
calmly zapping those worlds out of existence.
    The Galaxy, which had been enjoying a period  of  unusual  peace  and
prosperity at the time, reeled like a man getting mugged in a meadow.
    - I mean, - continued Judiciary Pag, gazing  round  the  ultra-modern
(this was ten  billion  years  ago,  when  "ultra-modern"  meant  lots  of
stainless steel and brushed concrete) and huge courtroom, - these guys are
just obsessed.
    This too was true, and is the only explanation anyone has yet managed
to come up with for the  unimaginable  speed  with  which  the  people  of
Krikkit had pursued their new and absolute purpose -  the  destruction  of
everything that wasn't Krikkit.
    It is also the only explanation for their bewildering sudden grasp of
all  the  hypertechnology  involved  in  building   their   thousands   of
spaceships, and their millions of lethal white robots.
    These had really struck terror into the hearts of  everyone  who  had
encountered them - in  most  cases,  however,  the  terror  was  extremely
short-lived, as was the person experiencing the terror. They were  savage,
single-minded   flying   battle   machines.   They   wielded    formidable
multifunctional battleclubs which, brandished one way,  would  knock  down
buildings and, brandished another way, fired blistering Omni-Destructo Zap
Rays and, brandished a third way, launched a hideous arsenal of  grenades,
ranging from minor incendiary devices to Maxi-Slorta Hypernuclear  Devices
which could take out a major sun. Simply striking the  grenades  with  the
battleclubs simultaneously primed them, and launched them with  phenomenal
accuracy over distances ranging from mere yards to hundreds  of  thousands
of miles.
    - OK, - said Judiciary Pag again, - so we won. - He paused and chewed
a little gum. - We won, - he repeated, - but that's no big deal. I mean  a
medium-sized galaxy against one little world, and how long did it take us?
Clerk of the Court?
    - M'lud? - said the severe little man in black, rising.
    - How long, kiddo?
    - It is a trifle difficult, m'lud, to be precise in this matter. Time
and distance...
    - Relax, guy, be vague.
    - I hardly like to be vague, m'lud, over such a...
    - Bite the bullet and be it.
    The Clerk of the Court blinked at him. It was clear that like most of
the Galactic legal profession he  found  Judiciary  Pag  (or  Zipo  Bibrok
5/108, as his private name  was  known,  inexplicably,  to  be)  a  rather
distressing figure. He was clearly a bounder and a cad. He seemed to think
that the fact that he was the possessor of  the  finest  legal  mind  ever
discovered gave  him  the  right  to  behave  exactly  as  he  liked,  and
unfortunately he appeared to be right.
    - Er, well, m'lud, very approximately,  two  thousand  years,  -  the
Clerk murmured unhappily.
    - And how many guys zilched out?
    - Two grillion, m'lud. - The Clerk sat down. A hydrospectic photo  of
him at this point would have revealed that he was steaming slightly.
    Judiciary Pag gazed once more  around  the  courtroom,  wherein  were
assembled hundreds of the very highest officials of  the  entire  Galactic
administration, all in their ceremonial uniforms or bodies,  depending  on
metabolism and  custom.  Behind  a  wall  of  Zap-Proof  Crystal  stood  a
representative group of the people of Krikkit, looking with  calm,  polite
loathing at all the aliens gathered to pass judgment on them. This was the
most momentous occasion in legal history, and Judiciary Pag knew it.
    He took out his chewing gum and stuck it under his chair.
    - That's a whole lotta stiffs, - he said quietly.
    The grim silence in the courtroom seemed in accord with this view.
    - So, like I said, these are a bunch of really sweet  guys,  but  you
wouldn't want to share a Galaxy with them, not if they're just gonna  keep
at it, not if they're not gonna learn to relax a little. I mean it's  just
gonna be continual nervous time, isn't it, right? Pow, pow, pow, when  are
they next coming at us? Peaceful coexistence is just right out, right? Get
me some water somebody, thank you.
    He sat back and sipped reflectively.
    - OK, - he said, - hear me, hear me.  It's,  like,  these  guys,  you
know, are entitled to their own view of the  Universe.  And  according  to
their view, which the Universe forced on  them,  right,  they  did  right.
Sounds crazy, but I think you'll agree. They believe in...
    He consulted a piece of paper which he found in the  back  pocket  of
his Judicial jeans.
    - They believe in "peace, justice, morality, culture,  sport,  family
life, and the obliteration of all other life forms".
    He shrugged.
    - I've heard a lot worse, - he said.
    He scratched his crotch reflectively.
    - Freeeow, - he said. He took another sip of water, then held  it  up
to the light and frowned at it. He twisted it round.
    - Hey, is there something in this water? - he said.
    - Er, no, m'lud, - said the Court Usher who had brought  it  to  him,
rather nervously.
    - Then take it away, - snapped Judiciary Pag, - and put something  in
it. I got an idea.
    He pushed away the glass and leaned forward.
    - Hear me, hear me, - he said.
    The solution was brilliant, and went like this:
    The planet of Krikkit  was  to  be  enclosed  for  perpetuity  in  an
envelope of Slo-Time, inside which life would continue  almost  infinitely
slowly. All light would be deflected round the envelope so that  it  would
remain invisible and impenetrable.  Escape  from  the  envelope  would  be
utterly impossible unless it were locked from the outside.
    When the rest of the Universe came to its final end, when  the  whole
of creation reached its dying fall (this was all, of course, in  the  days
before it was known that the end of the Universe would  be  a  spectacular
catering venture) and life and matter ceased to exist, then the planet  of
Krikkit and its sun would emerge from its Slo-Time envelope and continue a
solitary existence, such as it craved, in the twilight  of  the  Universal
    The Lock would be  on  an  asteroid  which  would  slowly  orbit  the
    The key would be the symbol of the Galaxy - the Wikkit Gate.
    By the time the applause in the court had died  down,  Judiciary  Pag
was already in the Sens-O-Shower with a rather nice  member  of  the  jury
that he'd slipped a note to half an hour earlier.

                               Chapter 15

    Two months later, Zipo Bibrok 5/108  had  cut  the  bottoms  off  his
Galactic State jeans, and was  spending  part  of  the  enormous  fee  his
judgments commanded lying on a jewelled beach having Essence of  Qualactin
rubbed into his back by the same rather nice member of the jury. She was a
Soolfinian girl from beyond the Cloudworlds of Yaga.  She  had  skin  like
lemon silk and was very interested in legal bodies.
    - Did you hear the news? - she said.
    - Weeeeelaaaaah! - said Zipo Bibrok 5/108, and you would have had  to
have been there to know exactly why he said this. None of this was on  the
tape of Informational Illusions, and is all based on hearsay.
    - No,  -  he  added,  when  the  thing  that   had  made  him  say  -
Weeeeelaaaaah - had stopped happening. He moved his body round slightly to
catch the first rays of the third and greatest  of  primeval  Vod's  three
suns which was now creeping over the ludicrously  beautiful  horizon,  and
the sky now glittered with some of the greatest tanning power ever known.
    A fragrant breeze wandered up from the quiet sea, trailed  along  the
beach, and drifted back to sea again, wondering where to go next. On a mad
impulse it went up to the beach again. It drifted back to sea.
    - I hope it isn't good news, - muttered Zipo Bibrok 5/108, -  'cos  I
don't think I could bear it.
    - Your Krikkit judgment was  carried  out  today,  -  said  the  girl
sumptuously. There was  no  need  to  say  such  a  straightforward  thing
sumptuously, but she went ahead and did it anyway because it was that sort
of day. - I heard it on the radio, - she said, - when I went back  to  the
ship for the oil.
    - Uhuh, - muttered Zipo and rested his  head  back  on  the  jewelled
    - Something happened, - she said.
    - Mmmm?
    - Just after the Slo-Time envelope was locked, - she said, and paused
a moment from rubbing in the Essence of Qualactin,  -  a  Krikkit  warship
which had been missing presumed destroyed turned out to  be  just  missing
after all. It appeared and tried to seize the Key.
    Zipo sat up sharply.
    - Hey, what? - he said.
    - it's all right, - she said in a voice which would have  calmed  the
Big Bang down. - Apparently there was a short  battle.  The  Key  and  the
warship were disintegrated and  blasted  into  the  space-time  continuum.
Apparently they are lost for ever.
    She smiled, and ran a little more Essence  of  Qualactin  on  to  her
fingertips. He relaxed and lay back down.
    - Do what you did a moment or two ago, - he murmured.
    - That? - she said.
    - No, no, - he said, - that.
    She tried again.
    - That? - she asked.
    - Weeeeelaaaaah! -
    Again, you had to be there.
    The fragrant breeze drifted up from the sea again.
    A magician wandered along the beach, but no one needed him.

                               Chapter 16

    - Nothing  is  lost   for  ever,  -  said  Slartibartfast,  his  face
flickering redly in the light of the candle which  the  robot  waiter  was
trying to take away, - except for the Cathedral of Chalesm.
    - The what? - said Arthur with a start.
    - The Cathedral of Chalesm,  -  repeated  Slartibartfast.  -  It  was
during the course of my researches at the Campaign for Real Time that I...
    - The what? - said Arthur again.
    The old man paused and gathered his thoughts, for what he hoped would
be one last onslaught on his story. The robot  waiter  moved  through  the
space-time matrices in a way which spectacularly combined the  surly  with
the obsequious, made a snatch for the candle and got it. They had had  the
bill, had argued convincingly about who had had  the  cannelloni  and  how
many bottles of wine they had had, and, as Arthur had  been  dimly  aware,
had thereby successfully manoeuvred the ship out of subjective  space  and
into a parking orbit round a strange planet. The waiter was now anxious to
complete his part of the charade and clear the bistro.
    - All will become clear, - said Slartibartfast.
    - When?
    - In a minute. Listen.  The  time  streams  are  now  very  polluted.
There's a lot of muck floating about in them, flotsam and jetsam, and more
and more of it is now being regurgitated into the physical  world.  Eddies
in the space-time continuum, you see.
    - So I hear, - said Arthur.
    - Look, where are we going? - said Ford, pushing his chair back  from
the table with impatience. - Because I'm eager to get there.
    - We are going, - said Slartibartfast in a slow, measured voice, - to
try to prevent the war robots of Krikkit from regaining the whole  of  the
Key they need to unlock the planet of Krikkit from the  Slo-Time  envelope
and release the rest of their army and their mad Masters.
    - It's just, - said Ford, - that you mentioned a party.
    - I did, - said Slartibartfast, and hung his head.
    He realized that it had been a mistake, because the  idea  seemed  to
exercise a strange and unhealthy fascination on the mind of Ford  Prefect.
The more that Slartibartfast unravelled  the  dark  and  tragic  story  of
Krikkit and its people, the more Ford Prefect wanted to drink  a  lot  and
dance with girls.
    The old man felt that he should not have mentioned the party until he
absolutely had to. But there it was, the fact was out,  and  Ford  Prefect
had attached himself to it the way an Arcturan Megaleach  attaches  itself
to its victim  before  biting  his  head  off  and  making  off  with  his
    - When, - said Ford eagerly, - do we get there?
    - When I've finished telling you why we have to go there.
    - I know why I'm going, - said Ford, and leaned  back,  sticking  his
hands behind his head. He gave one of his smiles which made people twitch.
    Slartibartfast had hoped for an easy retirement.
    He had been planning to learn to play the octraventral heebiephone  -
a pleasantly futile task, he knew, because he  had  the  wrong  number  of
    He had also been planning to  write  an  eccentric  and  relentlessly
inaccurate monograph on the subject of equatorial fjords in order  to  set
the record wrong about one or two matters he saw as important.
    Instead, he had somehow got talked into doing some part-time work for
the Campaign for Real Time and had started to take it  all  seriously  for
the first time in his life. As a result he now found himself spending  his
fast-declining years combating evil and trying to save the Galaxy.
    He found it exhausting work and sighed heavily.
    - Listen, - he said, - at Camtim...
    - What? - said Arthur.
    - The Campaign for Real Time, which I will tell you  about  later.  I
noticed that five pieces of jetsam which had in  relatively  recent  times
plopped back into existence seemed to correspond to the five pieces of the
missing Key. Only two I could trace exactly -  the  Wooden  Pillar,  which
appeared on your planet, and the Silver Bail. It seems to be at some  sort
of party. We must go there to retrieve it before the Krikkit  robots  find
it, or who knows what may hap?
    - No, - said Ford firmly. - We must go to the party in order to drink
a lot and dance with girls.
    - But haven't you understood everything I?..
    - Yes, - said Ford, with a sudden and unexpected fierceness,  -  I've
understood it all perfectly well. That's why I want to have as many drinks
and dance with as many girls as possible while there are still  any  left.
If everything you've shown us is true...
    - True? Of course it's true.
    - ...then we don't stand a whelk's chance in a supernova.
    - A what? - said Arthur sharply again.  He  had  been  following  the
conversation doggedly up to this point, and  was  keen  not  to  lose  the
thread now.
    - A whelk's chance in a supernova, -  repeated  Ford  without  losing
momentum. - The...
    - What's a whelk got to do with a supernova? - said Arthur.
    - It doesn't, - said Ford levelly, - stand a chance in one.
    He paused to see if the  matter  was  now  cleared  up.  The  freshly
puzzled looks clambering across Arthur's face told him that it wasn't.
    - A supernova, - said Ford as quickly and as clearly as he  could,  -
is a star which explodes at almost half the speed of light and burns  with
the brightness of a billion suns  and  then  collapses  as  a  super-heavy
neutron star. It's a star which burns up  other  stars,  got  it?  Nothing
stands a chance in a supernova.
    - I see, - said Arthur.
    - The...
    - So why a whelk particularly?
    - Why not a whelk? Doesn't matter.
    Arthur accepted this, and Ford continued, picking up his early fierce
momentum as best he could.
    - The  point  is,  -  he  said,  -  that  people  like  you  and  me,
Slartibartfast, and Arthur - particularly and especially Arthur - are just
dilletantes, eccentrics, layabouts, fartarounds if you like.
    Slartibartfast frowned, partly in puzzlement and partly  in  umbrage.
He started to speak.
    - ... - is as far as he got.
    - We're not obsessed by anything, you see, - insisted Ford.
    - ...
    - And that's the deciding factor. We  can't  win  against  obsession.
They care, we don't. They win.
    - I care about lots of  things,  -  said  Slartibartfast,  his  voice
trembling partly with annoyance, but partly also with uncertainty.
    - Such as?
    - Well, - said the old man, - life, the Universe. Everything, really.
    - Would you die for them?
    - Fjords? - blinked Slartibartfast in surprise. - No.
    - Well then.
    - Wouldn't see the point, to be honest.
    - And I still can't see the connection, - said Arthur, - with whelks.
    Ford could feel the conversation slipping out  of  his  control,  and
refused to be sidetracked by anything at this point.
    - The point is, - he hissed, - that we are not obsessive people,  and
we don't stand a chance against...
    - Except for your sudden obsession with whelks, - pursued  Arthur,  -
which I still haven't understood.
    - Will you please leave whelks out of it?
    - I will if you will, - said Arthur. - You brought the subject up.
    - It was an error, - said Ford, - forget them. The point is this.
    He leant forward and rested his forehead on the tips of his fingers.
    - What was I talking about? - he said wearily.
    - Let's just go down to the  party,  -  said  Slartibartfast,  -  for
whatever reason. - He stood up, shaking his head.
    - I think that's what I was trying to say, - said Ford.
    For some unexplained  reason,  the  teleport  cubicles  were  in  the

                               Chapter 17

    Time travel is increasingly regarded as a menace.  History  is  being
    The Encyclopedia Galactica has much to say on the theory and practice
of time travel, most of which is incomprehensible  to  anyone  who  hasn't
spent at least four  lifetimes  studying  advanced  hypermathematics,  and
since it was impossible to do this before time travel was invented,  there
is a certain amount of confusion as to how the idea was arrived at in  the
first place. One rationalization of this problem states that  time  travel
was, by its very nature,  discovered  simultaneously  at  all  periods  of
history, but this is clearly bunk.
    The trouble is that a lot of history is now  quite  clearly  bunk  as
    Here is an example. It may not seem to be an important  one  to  some
people, but to others it is crucial. It is certainly significant  in  that
it was the single event which caused the Campaign for Real Time to be  set
up in the first place (or is it last? It depends which way round  you  see
history as happening, and this too is now an increasingly vexed question).
    There is, or was, a poet. His name was Lallafa, and he wrote what are
widely regarded throughout  the  Galaxy  as  being  the  finest  poems  in
existence, the Songs of the Long Land.
    They are/were unspeakably wonderful. That is  to  say,  you  couldn't
speak very much of them at once without being so  overcome  with  emotion,
truth and a sense of wholeness and oneness of  things  that  you  wouldn't
pretty soon need a brisk walk round the block, possibly pausing at  a  bar
on the way back for a quick glass of perspective and soda. They were  that
    Lallafa had lived in the forests of the Long Lands of Effa. He  lived
there, and he wrote his poems there. He wrote them on pages made of  dried
habra leaves, without the benefit of education  or  correcting  fluid.  He
wrote about the light in the forest and what he  thought  about  that.  He
wrote about the darkness in the forest, and what he thought about that. He
wrote about the girl who had left him and precisely what he thought  about
    Long after his death his poems were found and wondered over. News  of
them spread like morning sunlight.  For  centuries  they  illuminated  and
watered the lives of many people whose lives  might  otherwise  have  been
darker and drier.
    Then,  shortly  after  the  invention  of  time  travel,  some  major
correcting fluid manufacturers wondered whether his poems might have  been
better still if he had had access to some high-quality  correcting  fluid,
and whether he might be persuaded to say a few words on that effect.
    They travelled the time waves, they found  him,  they  explained  the
situation - with some difficulty - to him, and did indeed persuade him. In
fact they persuaded him to such an effect that he became extremely rich at
their hands, and the girl about whom he was otherwise  destined  to  write
which such precision never got around to leaving him,  and  in  fact  they
moved out of the forest to a rather nice pad in  town  and  he  frequently
commuted to the future to do chat shows, on which he sparkled wittily.
    He never got around to writing the poems,  of  course,  which  was  a
problem, but an easily solved one. The manufacturers of  correcting  fluid
simply packed him off for a week somewhere with a copy of a later  edition
of his book and a stack of dried habra leaves to  copy  them  out  on  to,
making the odd deliberate mistake and correction on the way.
    Many people now say that the poems  are  suddenly  worthless.  Others
argue that they are exactly the  same  as  they  always  were,  so  what's
changed? The first people say that that isn't the point. They aren't quite
sure what the point is, but they are quite sure that that isn't  it.  They
set up the Campaign for Real Time to try to stop this sort of thing  going
on. Their case was considerably strengthened by the fact that a week after
they had set themselves up,  news  broke  that  not  only  had  the  great
Cathedral of Chalesm been  pulled  down  in  order  to  build  a  new  ion
refinery, but that the construction of the refinery had taken so long, and
had had to extend so far  back  into  the  past  in  order  to  allow  ion
production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had  now  never
been built in the first place. Picture postcards of the cathedral suddenly
became immensely valuable.
    So a lot of history is now gone  for  ever.  The  Campaign  for  Real
Timers claim that just as easy travel eroded the differences  between  one
country and another, and between one world and another, so time travel  is
now eroding the differences between one age and another.
    - The past, - they say, - is now truly like a foreign  country.  They
do things exactly the same there.

                               Chapter 18

    Arthur materialized, and did so with  all  the  customary  staggering
about and clasping at his throat, heart and various limbs which  he  still
indulged himself in whenever he made any  of  these  hateful  and  painful
materializations that he was determined not to let himself get used to.
    He looked around for the others.
    They weren't there.
    He looked around for the others again.
    They still weren't there.
    He closed his eyes.
    He opened them
    He looked around for the others.
    They obstinately persisted in their absence.
    He closed his eyes  again,  preparatory  to  making  this  completely
futile exercise once more, and because it was only then, whilst  his  eyes
were closed, that his brain began to  register  what  his  eyes  had  been
looking at whilst they were open, a puzzled frown crept across his face.
    So he opened his eyes again to check his facts and the  frown  stayed
    If anything, it intensified, and got a good firm grip. If this was  a
party it was a very bad one, so bad, in  fact,  that  everybody  else  had
left. He abandoned this line of thought as futile. Obviously this wasn't a
party. It was a cave, or a labyrinth, or a tunnel of something - there was
insufficient light to tell. All was darkness, a damp shiny  darkness.  The
only sounds were the echoes of his own breathing, which  sounded  worried.
He coughed very slightly, and then had to listen to the thin ghostly  echo
of his  cough  trailing  away  amongst  winding  corridors  and  sightless
chambers, as of some great labyrinth, and eventually returning to him  via
the same unseen corridors, as if to say...
    - Yes?
    This happened to every slightest noise he made, and it unnerved  him.
He tried to hum a cheery tune, but by the time it returned to him it was a
hollow dirge and he stopped.
    His  mind  was  suddenly  full  of  images  from   the   story   that
Slartibartfast had been telling him.  He  half-expected  suddenly  to  see
lethal white robots step silently from the shadows and kill him. He caught
his breath. They didn't. He let it go again. He didn't know  what  he  did
    Someone or something, however, seemed to be  expecting  him,  for  at
that moment there lit up suddenly in the dark distance an eerie green neon
    It said, silently:
    You have been Diverted
    The sign flicked off again, in a way which  Arthur  was  not  at  all
certain he liked. It flicked off with a  sort  of  contemptuous  flourish.
Arthur then tried to assure himself that this was just a ridiculous  trick
of his imagination. A neon sign is either on or off, depending on  whether
it has electricity running through it or not. There was no  way,  he  told
himself, that it could possibly effect the transition from  one  state  to
the other with a contemptuous flourish. He hugged himself tightly  in  his
dressing gown and shivered, nevertheless.
    The neon sign in the depths now suddenly  lit  up,  bafflingly,  with
just three dots and a comma. Like this:

    Only in green neon.
    It was trying, Arthur realized after staring at this perplexedly  for
a second or two, to indicate  that  there  was  more  to  come,  that  the
sentence was not complete. Trying  with  almost  superhuman  pedantry,  he
reflected. Or at least, inhuman pedantry.
    The sentence then completed itself with these two words:
    Arthur Dent.
    He reeled. He steadied himself to have another clear look at  it.  It
still said Arthur Dent, so he reeled again.
    Once again, the sign flicked  off,  and  left  him  blinking  in  the
darkness with just the dim red image of his name jumping on his retina.
    Welcome, the sign now suddenly said.
    After a moment, it added:
    I Don't Think.
    The stone-cold fear which had been hovering  about  Arthur  all  this
time, waiting for its moment, recognized that its moment had now come  and
pounced on him. He tried to fight it off. He dropped into a kind of  alert
crouch that he had once seen somebody do on television, but it  must  have
been someone with stronger knees. He peered huntedly into the darkness.
    - Er, hello? - he said.
    He cleared his throat and said it again, more loudly and without  the
"er". At some distance down the corridor it seemed suddenly as if somebody
started to beat on a bass drum.
    He listened to it for a few seconds and realized that it was just his
heart beating.
    He listened for a few seconds more and realized that  it  wasn't  his
heart beating, it was somebody down the corridor beating on a bass drum.
    Beads of sweat formed on his brow, tensed themselves, and leapt  off.
He put a hand out on the floor to steady his alert  crouch,  which  wasn't
holding up very well. The sign changed itself again. It said:
    Do Not be Alarmed.
    After a pause, it added:
    Be Very Very Frightened, Arthur Dent.
    Once again it flicked off. Once again it left him  in  darkness.  His
eyes seemed to be popping out of his head. He wasn't certain if  this  was
because they were trying to see more clearly, or if they simply wanted  to
leave at this point.
    - Hello? - he said again, this time trying to put a  note  of  rugged
and aggressive self-assertion into it. - Is anyone there?
    There was no reply, nothing.
    This unnerved Arthur Dent even more than a reply would have done, and
he began to back away from the scary nothingness. And the more  he  backed
away, the more scared he became. After a while he realized that the reason
for this was because of all the films he had seen in which the hero  backs
further and further away from some imagined terror in front of  him,  only
to bump into it coming up from behind.
    Just then it suddenly occurred to him to turn round rather quickly.
    There was nothing there.
    Just blackness.
    This really unnerved him, and he started to back away from that, back
the way he had come.
    After doing this for a short while it suddenly occurred to  him  that
he was now backing towards whatever it was he had been backing  away  from
in the first place.
    This, he couldn't help thinking, must be a foolish thing  to  do.  He
decided he would be better off backing the way he had first been  backing,
and turned around again.
    It turned out at this point that his  second  impulse  had  been  the
correct one, because there was an indescribably hideous  monster  standing
quietly behind him. Arthur yawed wildly as his skin tried to jump one  way
and his skeleton the other, whilst his brain tried to work  out  which  of
his ears it most wanted to crawl out of.
    - Bet you weren't expecting to see me  again,  -  said  the  monster,
which Arthur couldn't help thinking was a strange remark for it  to  make,
seeing as he had never met the creature before.  He  could  tell  that  he
hadn't met the creature before from the simple fact that he  was  able  to
sleep at nights. It was... it was... it was...
    Arthur blinked at it. It stood very  still.  It  did  look  a  little
    A terrible cold calm came over him as he realized that  what  he  was
looking at was a six-foot-high hologram of a housefly.
    He wondered why anybody would be showing him a six-foot-high hologram
of a housefly at this time. He wondered whose voice he had heard.
    It was a terribly realistic hologram.
    It vanished.
    - Or perhaps you remember me better, - said the voice  suddenly,  and
it was a deep, hollow malevolent  voice  which  sounded  like  molten  tar
glurping out of a drum with evil on its mind, - as the rabbit.
    With a sudden ping, there was a rabbit there in the  black  labyrinth
with him, a huge, monstrously, hideously soft  and  lovable  rabbit  -  an
image again, but one on which every single soft and  lovable  hair  seemed
like a real and single thing growing in its soft and lovable coat.  Arthur
was startled to see his own reflection in its soft and lovable  unblinking
and extremely huge brown eyes.
    - Born in darkness, - rumbled the voice, - raised  in  darkness.  One
morning I poked my head for the first time into the bright new  world  and
got it split open by what felt suspiciously like some primitive instrument
made of flint.
    - Made by you, Arthur Dent, and wielded by  you.  Rather  hard  as  I
    - You turned my skin into a bag for keeping interesting stones in.  I
happen to know that because in my next life I came back as a fly again and
you swatted me. Again. Only this time you swatted me with  the  bag  you'd
made of my previous skin.
    - Arthur Dent, you are not merely a cruel and heartless man, you  are
also staggeringly tactless.
    The voice paused whilst Arthur gawped.
    - I see you have lost the bag, - said the voice. - Probably got bored
with it, did you?
    Arthur shook his head helplessly. He wanted to explain  that  he  had
been in fact very fond of the bag and had looked after it  very  well  and
had taken it with him wherever he went, but that  somehow  every  time  he
travelled anywhere he seemed inexplicably to end up with the wrong bag and
that, curiously enough, even as they stood there he was just noticing  for
the first time that the bag he had with him at the moment appeared  to  be
made out of rather nasty fake leopard skin, and wasn't the one he'd had  a
few moments ago before he arrived in  this  whatever  place  it  was,  and
wasn't one he would have chosen himself and heaven knew what would  be  in
it as it wasn't his, and he would much rather have his original bag  back,
except that he was of course terribly sorry  for  having  so  peremptorily
removed it, or rather its component parts, i.e. the rabbit skin, from  its
previous owner, viz. the rabbit  whom  he  currently  had  the  honour  of
attempting vainly to address.
    All he actually managed to say was "Erp".
    - Meet the newt you trod on, - said the voice.
    And there was, standing in the corridor with Arthur,  a  giant  green
scaly newt. Arthur turned, yelped,  leapt  backwards,  and  found  himself
standing in the middle of the rabbit. He  yelped  again,  but  could  find
nowhere to leap to.
    - That was me, too, - continued the voice in a low menacing rumble, -
as if you didn't know...
    - Know? - said Arthur with a start. - Know?
    - The interesting thing about reincarnation, - rasped the voice, - is
that most people, most spirits, are not aware  that  it  is  happening  to
    He paused for effect. As  far  as  Arthur  was  concerned  there  was
already quite enough effect going on.
    - I was aware, - hissed the voice, - that is, I became aware. Slowly.
    He, whoever he was, paused again and gathered breath.
    - I could hardly help it, could I? - he bellowed,  -  when  the  same
thing kept happening, over and over and over  again!  Every  life  I  ever
lived, I got killed by Arthur Dent. Any world, any  body,  any  time,  I'm
just getting settled down, along comes Arthur Dent - pow, he kills me.
    - Hard not to notice. Bit of a memory jogger. Bit of a  pointer.  Bit
of a bloody giveaway!
    - "That's funny," my spirit would say to itself as it winged its  way
back to the netherworld after another fruitless  Dent-ended  venture  into
the land of the living, "that man who just ran over me as  I  was  hopping
across the road to my favourite pond  looked  a  little  familiar..."  And
gradually I got to piece it together, Dent, you multiple-me-murderer!
    The echoes of his voice roared up  and  down  the  corridors.  Arthur
stood silent and cold, his head shaking with disbelief.
    - Here's the moment, Dent, -  shrieked  the  voice,  now  reaching  a
feverish pitch of hatred, - here's the moment when at last I knew!
    It was indescribably hideous, the thing that suddenly  opened  up  in
front of Arthur, making him gasp and gargle with  horror,  but  here's  an
attempt at a description of how hideous it was. It was a huge  palpitating
wet cave with a vast, slimy, rough, whale-like creature rolling around  it
and sliding over monstrous white tombstones. High above the  cave  rose  a
vast promontory in which could be seen the dark recesses  of  two  further
fearful caves, which...
    Arthur Dent suddenly realized that he was looking at his  own  mouth,
when his attention was meant to be directed at the live  oyster  that  was
being tipped helplessly into it.
    He staggered back with a cry and averted his eyes.
    When he looked again the appalling apparition had gone. The  corridor
was dark and, briefly, silent. He was alone with his thoughts.  They  were
extremely unpleasant thoughts and would rather have had a chaperone.
    The next noise, when it came, was the  low  heavy  roll  of  a  large
section of wall trundling aside, revealing,  for  the  moment,  just  dark
blackness behind it. Arthur looked into it in much the  same  way  that  a
mouse looks into a dark dog-kennel.
    And the voice spoke to him again.
    - Tell me it was a coincidence, Dent, - it said. - I dare you to tell
me it was a coincidence!
    - It was a coincidence, - said Arthur quickly.
    - It was not! - came the answering bellow.
    - It was, - said Arthur, - it was...
    - If it was a coincidence, then my name, - roared the voice, - is not
    - And presumably, - said Arthur, - you would claim that that was your
    - Yes! - hissed Agrajag, as if he had just completed  a  rather  deft
    - Well, I'm afraid it was still a coincidence, - said Arthur.
    - Come in here and say that! - howled the voice, in  sudden  apoplexy
    Arthur walked in and said that it was a coincidence, or at least,  he
nearly said that it was a coincidence. His tongue rather lost its  footing
towards the end of the last word because the lights came up  and  revealed
what it was he had walked into.
    It was a Cathedral of Hate.
    It was the product of  a  mind  that  was  not  merely  twisted,  but
actually sprained.
    It was huge. It was horrific.
    It had a Statue in it.
    We will come to the Statue in a moment.
    The vast, incomprehensibly vast chamber looked  as  if  it  had  been
carved out of the inside of a mountain, and the reason for this  was  that
that was precisely what it had been carved out of. It seemed to Arthur  to
spin sickeningly round his head as he stood and gaped at it.
    It was black.
    Where it wasn't black you were inclined to wish that it was,  because
the colours with which some of the unspeakable  details  were  picked  out
ranged horribly across the whole  spectrum  of  eye-defying  colours  from
Ultra Violent to Infra Dead, taking  in  Liver  Purple,  Loathsome  Lilac,
Matter Yellow, Burnt hombre and Gan Green on the way.
    The unspeakable details which these colours picked out were gargoyles
which would have put Francis Bacon off his lunch.
    The gargoyles all looked inwards from the walls,  from  the  pillars,
from the flying buttresses, from the choir stalls, towards the Statue,  to
which we will come in a moment.
    And if the gargoyles would have put Francis Bacon off his lunch, then
it was clear from the gargoyles' faces that the Statue would have put them
off theirs, had they been alive to eat it, which  they  weren't,  and  had
anybody tried to serve them some, which they wouldn't.
    Around the monumental walls  were  vast  engraved  stone  tablets  in
memory of those who had fallen to Arthur Dent.
    The names of some of  those  commemorated  were  underlined  and  had
asterisks against them. So, for instance, the name of a cow which had been
slaughtered and of which Arthur Dent had happened to eat  a  fillet  steak
would have the plainest engraving, whereas the name of a fish which Arthur
had himself caught and then decided he didn't like and left on the side of
the plate had a double underlining, three sets of asterisks and a bleeding
dagger added as decoration, just to make the point.
    And what was most disturbing about all this, apart from  the  Statue,
to which we are, by degrees, coming, was the very clear  implication  that
all these people and creatures were indeed the same person, over and  over
    And it was equally clear that  this  person  was,  however  unfairly,
extremely upset and annoyed.
    In fact it would be fair to say  that  he  had  reached  a  level  of
annoyance the like of which had never been seen in the Universe. It was an
annoyance of epic proportions, a burning searing flame  of  annoyance,  an
annoyance which now spanned the whole of time and space  in  its  infinite
    And this annoyance had been  given  its  fullest  expression  in  the
Statue in the centre of all this monstrosity, which was a statue of Arthur
Dent, and an unflattering one. Fifty feet tall if it was  an  inch,  there
was not an inch of it which wasn't crammed  with  insult  to  its  subject
matter, and fifty feet of that sort of thing would be enough to  make  any
subject feel bad. From the small pimple on the side of  his  nose  to  the
poorish cut of his dressing gown, there was no aspect of Arthur Dent which
wasn't lambasted and vilified by the sculptor.
    Arthur appeared as a gorgon, an evil, rapacious, ravenning,  bloodied
ogre, slaughtering his way through an innocent one-man Universe.
    With each of the thirty arms which the sculptor in a fit of  artistic
fervour had decided to give him, he was either braining a rabbit, swatting
a fly, pulling a wishbone, picking a  flea  out  of  his  hair,  or  doing
something which Arthur at first looking couldn't quite identify.
    His many feet were mostly stamping on ants.
    Arthur put his hands over his eyes, hung his head and shook it slowly
from side to side in sadness and horror at the craziness of things.
    And when he opened his eyes again, there in front of  him  stood  the
figure of the man or creature, or whatever it was, that he had  supposedly
been persecuting all this time.
    - HhhhhhrrrrrraaaaaaHHHHHH! - said Agrajag.
    He, or it, or whatever, looked like a mad fat bat. He waddled  slowly
around Arthur, and poked at him with bent claws.
    - Look!.. - protested Arthur.
    - HhhhhhrrrrrraaaaaaHHHHHH!!!  -  explained   Agrajag,   and   Arthur
reluctantly accepted this on the grounds that he was rather frightened  by
this hideous and strangely wrecked apparition.
    Agrajag was black, bloated, wrinkled and leathery.
    His batwings were somehow more frightening  for  being  the  pathetic
broken floundering things they were that if they had been strong, muscular
beaters of the air. The frightening thing was probably the tenacity of his
continued existence against all the physical odds.
    He had the most astounding collection of teeth.
    They looked as if they each came from a completely different  animal,
and they were ranged around his mouth at such  bizarre  angles  it  seemed
that if he ever actually tried to chew anything he'd lacerate half his own
face along with it, and possibly put an eye out as well.
    Each of his three eyes was small and intense and looked about as sane
as a fish in a privet bush.
    - I was at a cricket match, - he rasped.
    This seemed on the face of it such a preposterous notion that  Arthur
practically choked.
    - Not in this body, - screeched the creature, -  not  in  this  body!
This is my  last  body.  My  last  life.  This  is  my  revenge  body.  My
kill-Arthur-Dent body. My last chance. I had to fight to get it, too.
    - But...
    - I was at, - roared Agrajag, - a cricket match! I had a  weak  heart
condition, but what, I said to my wife, can happen  to  me  at  a  cricket
match? As I'm watching, what happens?
    - Two people quite maliciously appear out of thin air just  in  front
of me. The last thing I can't help but notice before my poor  heart  gives
out in shock is that one of them is Arthur Dent wearing a rabbit  bone  in
his beard. Coincidence?
    - Yes, - said Arthur.
    - Coincidence? -  screamed  the  creature,  painfully  thrashing  its
broken wings, and  opening  a  short  gash  on  its  right  cheek  with  a
particularly nasty tooth. On closer examination, such as he'd been  hoping
to avoid, Arthur noticed that much of  Agrajag's  face  was  covered  with
ragged strips of black sticky plasters.
    He backed away nervously. He tugged at his beard. He was appalled  to
discover that in fact he still had the rabbit bone in it. He pulled it out
and threw it away.
    - Look, - he said, - it's just fate playing silly buggers  with  you.
With me. With us. It's a complete coincidence.
    - What have you  got  against  me,  Dent?  -  snarled  the  creature,
advancing on him in a painful waddle.
    - Nothing, - insisted Arthur, - honestly, nothing.
    Agrajag fixed him with a beady stare.
    - Seems a strange way  to  relate  to  somebody  you've  got  nothing
against,  killing  them  all  the  time.  Very  curious  piece  of  social
interaction, I would call that. I'd also call it a lie!
    - But look, - said Arthur, - I'm very sorry. There's been a  terrible
misunderstanding. I've got to go. Have you got a clock? I'm  meant  to  be
helping save the Universe. - He backed away still further.
    Agrajag advanced still further.
    - At one point, - he hissed, - at one point, I decided  to  give  up.
Yes, I would not come back. I would stay  in  the  netherworld.  And  what
    Arthur indicated with random shakes of his head that he had  no  idea
and didn't want to have one either. He found he had backed up against  the
cold dark stone that had been carved by who  knew  what  Herculean  effort
into a monstrous travesty of his bedroom slippers. He glanced  up  at  his
own horrendously parodied image towering above him. He was  still  puzzled
as to what one of his hands was meant to be doing.
    - I got yanked involuntarily back into the physical world, -  pursued
Agrajag, - as a  bunch  of  petunias.  In,  I  might  add,  a  bowl.  This
particularly happy little lifetime  started  off  with  me,  in  my  bowl,
unsupported, three hundred miles above the surface of a particularly  grim
planet. Not a naturally tenable position for a bowl of petunias, you might
think. And you'd be right. That life ended a very short while later, three
hundred miles lower. In, I might add, the fresh wreckage of  a  whale.  My
spirit brother.
    He leered at Arthur with renewed hatred.
    - On the way down, -  he  snarled,  -  I  couldn't  help  noticing  a
flashy-looking white  spaceship.  And  looking  out  of  a  port  on  this
flashy-looking spaceship was a smug-looking Arthur Dent. Coincidence?!!
    - Yes! - yelped Arthur. He glanced up again, and  realized  that  the
arm that  had  puzzled  him  was  represented  as  wantonly  calling  into
existence a bowl of doomed petunias. This was not a  concept  which  leapt
easily to the eye.
    - I must go, - insisted Arthur.
    - You may go, - said Agrajag, - after I have killed you.
    - No, that won't be any use, - explained Arthur, beginning  to  climb
up the hard stone incline of his carved slipper, - because I have to  save
the Universe, you see. I have to find a Silver  Bail,  that's  the  point.
Tricky thing to do dead.
    - Save the Universe! - spat Agrajag with contempt. - You should  have
thought of that before you started your vendetta against  me!  What  about
the time you were on Stavromula Beta and someone...
    - I've never been there, - said Arthur.
    - ...tried to assassinate you and you ducked. Who do  you  think  the
bullet hit? What did you say?
    - Never been there, - repeated Arthur. - What are you talking  about?
I have to go.
    Agrajag stopped in his tracks.
    - You must have been there. You were responsible for my death  there,
as everywhere else. An innocent bystander! - He quivered.
    - I've never heard of the place, - insisted Arthur. - I've  certainly
never had anyone try to assassinate me. Other than you. Perhaps I go there
later, do you think?
    Agrajag blinked slowly in a kind of frozen logical horror.
    - You haven't been to Stavromula Beta... yet? - he whispered.
    - No, - said Arthur,  -  I  don't  know  anything  about  the  place.
Certainly never been to it, and don't have any plans to go.
    - Oh, you go there all right, - muttered Agrajag in a broken voice, -
you go there all right. Oh zark! - he tottered, and  stared  wildly  about
him at his huge Cathedral of Hate. - I've brought you here too soon!
    He started to scream and bellow.
    - I've brought you here too zarking soon!
    Suddenly he rallied, and turned a baleful, hating eye on Arthur.
    - I'm going to kill you anyway! - he roared. - Even if it's a logical
impossibility I'm going to zarking well try! I'm going to blow this  whole
mountain up! - He screamed, - Let's see you get out of this one, Dent!
    He rushed in a painful waddling hobble to what appeared to be a small
black sacrificial altar. He was shouting so wildly now that he was  really
carving his face up badly. Arthur leaped down from his  vantage  place  on
the  carving  of  his  own  foot  and  ran  to   try   to   restrain   the
three-quarters-crazed creature.
    He leaped upon him, and brought the strange monstrosity crashing down
on top of the altar.
    Agrajag screamed again, thrashed  wildly  for  a  brief  moment,  and
turned a wild eye on Arthur.
    - You know what you've done? - he gurgled painfully.  -  You've  only
gone and killed me again. i mean, what do you want from me, blood?
    He thrashed again in a brief apoplectic fit, quivered, and collapsed,
smacking a large red button on the altar as he did so.
    Arthur started with horror and fear, first at  what  he  appeared  to
have done, and then at the loud sirens and bells that  suddenly  shattered
the air to announce some clamouring emergency.  He  stared  wildly  around
    The only exit appeared to be the way he came in.  He  pelted  towards
it, throwing away the nasty fake leopard-skin bag as he did so.
    He dashed randomly, haphazardly through  the  labyrinthine  maze,  he
seemed to be pursued more and more fiercely by claxons,  sirens,  flashing
    Suddenly, he turned a corner and there was a light in front of him.
    It wasn't flashing. It was daylight.

                               Chapter 19

    Although it has been said that  on  Earth  alone  in  our  Galaxy  is
Krikkit (or cricket) treated as fit subject for a game, and that for  this
reason the Earth has been shunned, this does only apply to our Galaxy, and
more specifically to our dimension. In some of the higher dimensions  they
feel they can more or less please themselves,  and  have  been  playing  a
peculiar  game  called   Brockian   Ultra-Cricket   for   whatever   their
transdimensional equivalent of billions of years is.

    - Let's be blunt, it's a nasty game - (says The Hitch  Hiker's  Guide
to the Galaxy) - but then anyone  who  has  been  to  any  of  the  higher
dimensions will know that they're a pretty nasty heathen lot up there  who
should just be smashed and done in, and would be,  too,  if  anyone  could
work out a way of firing missiles at right-angles to reality.
    This is another example of the fact that The Hitch Hiker's  Guide  to
the Galaxy will employ anybody who wants  to  walk  straight  in  off  the
street and get ripped off, especially if they happen to walk  in  off  the
street during the afternoon, when very few of the regular staff are there.
    There is a fundamental point here.
    The history of The Hitch Hiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  is  one  of
idealism, struggle, despair, passion,  success,  failure,  and  enormously
long lunch-breaks.
    The earliest origins of the Guide are now, along  with  most  of  its
financial records, lost in the mists of time.
    For other, and more curious theories about where they are  lost,  see
    Most of the surviving stories, however, speak of  a  founding  editor
called Hurling Frootmig.
    Hurling Frootmig, it is said,  founded  the  Guide,  established  its
fundamental principles of honesty and idealism, and went bust.
    There followed many years of penury and heart-searching during  which
he consulted friends, sat in darkened rooms in  illegal  states  of  mind,
thought about this and that, fooled about with weights, and then, after  a
chance encounter with the Holy Lunching Friars  of  Voondon  (who  claimed
that just as lunch was at the centre of a man's temporal  day,  and  man's
temporal day could be seen as an analogy for his spiritual life, so  Lunch
    (a) be seen as the centre of a man's spiritual life, and
    (b) be held in jolly nice restaurants), he refounded the Guide,  laid
down its fundamental principles of honesty  and  idealism  and  where  you
could stuff them both, and led the Guide on to its first major  commercial
    He also started to develop and explore  the  role  of  the  editorial
lunch-break which was subsequently to play such  a  crucial  part  in  the
Guide's history, since it meant that most of the actual work got  done  by
any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices  on  an
afternoon and saw something worth doing.
    Shortly after this, the Guide was taken over by Megadodo Publications
of Ursa Minor Beta, thus putting the whole thing on a very sound financial
footing, and allowing the  fourth  editor,  Lig  Lury  Jr,  to  embark  on
lunch-breaks of such breathtaking scope that even the  efforts  of  recent
editors, who have started undertaking sponsored lunch-breaks for  charity,
seem like mere sandwiches in comparison.
    In fact, Lig never formally resigned his editorship - he merely  left
his office late one morning and has never since returned. Though well over
a century has now passed, many members of the guide staff still retain the
romantic notion that he has simply popped out for  a  ham  croissant,  and
will yet return to put in a solid afternoon's work.
    Strictly speaking, all editors since Lig Lury Jr have therefore  been
designated Acting Editors, and Lig's desk is still preserved  the  way  he
left it, with the addition of a small sign which says:
    - Lig Lury Jr, Editor, Missing, presumed Fed.
    Some very scurrilous and subversive sources hint at the idea that Lig
actually perished  in  the  Guide's  first  extraordinary  experiments  in
alternative book-keeping. Very little is known of  this,  and  less  still
said. Anyone who even notices, let alone calls attention to,  the  curious
but utter coincidental and meaningless fact that every world on which  the
Guide has ever set up an  accounting  department  has  shortly  afterwards
perished in warfare or some natural disaster, is liable  to  get  sued  to
    It is an interesting though utterly unrelated fact that  the  two  or
three days prior to the demolition of the planet Earth to make way  for  a
new hyperspace bypass  saw  a  dramatic  upsurge  in  the  number  of  UFO
sightings there, not only above Lords Cricket Ground in St.  John's  Wood,
London, but also above Glastonbury in Somerset.
    Glastonbury had long been associated with  myths  of  ancient  kings,
witchcraft, ley-lines an wart curing, and had now  been  selected  as  the
site for the new Hitch Hiker's Guide financial records office, and indeed,
ten years' worth of financial records were transferred  to  a  magic  hill
just outside the city mere hours before the Vogons arrived.
    None of these facts, however strange or inexplicable, is  as  strange
or inexplicable as the rules of the game  of  Brockian  Ultra-Cricket,  as
played in the higher dimensions. A full  set  of  rules  is  so  massively
complicated that the only time they were all bound together  in  a  single
volume, they underwent gravitational collapse and became a Black Hole.
    A brief summary, however, is as follows:
    Rule One: Grow at least three extra legs. You won't need them, but it
keeps the crowds amused.
    Rule Two: Find one good Brockian Ultra-Cricket player. Clone him  off
a few times. This saves  an  enormous  amount  of  tedious  selection  and
    Rule Three: Put your team and the opposing team in a large field  and
build a high wall round them.
    The reason for this is that, though the game  is  a  major  spectator
sport, the frustration experienced by the audience at not  actually  being
able to see what's going on leads them to imagine that  it's  a  lot  more
exciting than it really is. A crowd that has just watched a rather humdrum
game experiences far less lifeaffirmation than a crowd  that  believes  it
has just missed the most dramatic event in sporting history.
    Rule Four: Throw lots of assorted items of  sporting  equipment  over
the wall for the players. Anything will do - cricket bats, basecube  bats,
tennis guns, skis, anything you can get a good swing with.
    Rule Five: The players should now lay about themselves for  all  they
are worth with whatever they find to hand.  Whenever  a  player  scores  a
"hit" on another player, he should immediately run away and apologize from
a safe distance.
    Apologies should be concise, sincere and,  for  maximum  clarity  and
points, delivered through a megaphone.
    Rule Six: The winning team shall be the first team that wins.
    Curiously enough, the more the obsession with the game grows  in  the
higher dimensions, the less it is  actually  played,  since  most  of  the
competing teams are now in a state of permanent warfare  with  each  other
over the interpretation of these rules. This is all for the best,  because
in the long run a good solid war is less psychologically damaging  than  a
protracted game of Brockian Ultra-Cricket.

                               Chapter 20

    As Arthur ran darting, dashing and  panting  down  the  side  of  the
mountain he suddenly felt the whole bulk of the mountain move  very,  very
slightly beneath him. There was a rumble, a roar,  and  a  slight  blurred
movement, and a lick of heat in the distance behind and above him. He  ran
in a frenzy of fear. The land began to slide, and  he  suddenly  felt  the
force of the word "landslide" in a way which had never  been  apparent  to
him before. It had always just been a word to him, but now he was suddenly
and horribly aware that sliding is a strange and sickening thing for  land
to do. It was doing it with him on it. He felt ill with fear and  shaking.
The ground slid, the mountain slurred, he slipped, he fell, he  stood,  he
slipped again and ran. The avalance began.
    Stones, then rocks, then boulders which pranced past him like  clumsy
puppies, only much, much bigger, much, much harder and heavier, and almost
infinitely more likely to kill you if they fell on you.  His  eyes  danced
with them, his feet danced with the dancing ground. He ran as  if  running
was a terrible sweating sickness, his heart pounded to the rhythm  of  the
pounding geological frenzy around him.
    The logic of the situation, i.e. that he was clearly bound to survive
if  the  next  foreshadowed  incident  in  the  saga  of  his  inadvertent
persecution of Agrajag was to  happen,  was  utterly  failing  to  impinge
itself on his mind or exercise any restraining influence on  him  at  this
time. He ran with the fear of death  in  him,  under  him,  over  him  and
grabbing hold of his hair.
    And  suddenly  he  tripped  again  and  was  hurled  forward  by  his
considerable momentum. But just at the moment that he was about to hit the
ground astoundingly hard he saw lying directly in front  of  him  a  small
navy-blue  holdall  that  he  knew  for  a  fact  he  had  lost   in   the
baggage-retrieval system at Athens airport some ten years in his  personal
time-scale previously, and  in  his  astonishment  he  missed  the  ground
completely and bobbed off into the air with his brain singing.
    What he was doing was this: he was flying. He glanced around  him  in
surprise, but there could be no doubt that that was what he was doing.  No
part of him was  touching  the  ground,  and  no  part  of  him  was  even
approaching it. He  was  simply  floating  there  with  boulders  hurtling
through the air around him.
    He could now do something about that. Blinking with the  non-  effort
of it he wafted higher into the air, and now the  boulders  were  hurtling
through the air beneath him.
    He looked downwards with  intense  curiosity.  Between  him  and  the
shivering ground were now some thirty feet of empty air, empty that is  if
you discounted the boulders which didn't stay in it for long, but  bounded
downwards in the iron grip of the law  of  gravity;  the  same  law  which
seemed, all of a sudden, to have given Arthur a sabbatical.
    It occurred to him almost instantly, with the instinctive correctness
that self-preservation instils in the mind, that he mustn't try  to  think
about it, that if he did, the law of gravity would suddenly glance sharply
in his direction and demand to know what the hell he thought he was  doing
up there, and all would suddenly be lost.
    So he thought about tulips. It was difficult, but he did. He  thought
about the pleasing firm roundness of the  bottom  of  tulips,  he  thought
about the interesting variety of colours they came in, and  wondered  what
proportion of the total number of tulips that grew, or had grown,  on  the
Earth would be found within a radius of one mile from a windmill. After  a
while he got dangerously bored with this train of thought,  felt  the  air
slipping away beneath him, felt that he was drifting down into  the  paths
of the bouncing boulders that he was trying so hard not to think about, so
he thought about Athens airport for a  bit  and  that  kept  him  usefully
annoyed for about five minutes - at the end of which he  was  startled  to
discover that he was now  floating  about  two  hundred  yards  above  the
    He wondered for a moment how he was going to get back down to it, but
instantly shied away from that area of speculation  again,  and  tried  to
look at the situation steadily.
    He was flying, What was he going to do about it? He looked back  down
at the ground. He didn't look at it hard, but did his best just to give it
an idle glance, as it were, in passing. There were a couple of  things  he
couldn't help noticing. One was that the eruption of the  mountain  seemed
now to have spent itself - there was a crater just a  little  way  beneath
the peak, presumably where the rock had  caved  in  on  top  of  the  huge
cavernous cathedral, the statue of himself, and the sadly abused figure of
    The other was his hold-all, the one he had lost at Athens airport. It
was sitting pertly on a piece of clear  ground,  surrounded  by  exhausted
boulders but apparently hit by none of them. Why this should be  he  could
not speculate, but since this mystery was completely overshadowed  by  the
monstrous impossibility of the bag's being there in the  first  place,  it
was not a speculation he really felt strong enough for anyway.  The  thing
is, it was there. And the nasty, fake  leopard-skin  bag  seemed  to  have
disappeared, which was all to the good, if not entirely to the explicable.
    He was faced with the fact that he was going  to  have  to  pick  the
thing up. Here he was, flying along two hundred yards above the surface of
an alien planet the name of which he couldn't even remember. He could  not
ignore the plaintive posture of this tiny piece of what  used  to  be  his
life, here, so many light-years from the pulverized remains of his home.
    Furthermore, he realized, the bag, if it was still in  the  state  in
which he lost it, would contain a can which would  have  in  it  the  only
Greek olive oil still surviving in the Universe.
    Slowly, carefully, inch by inch, he began to bob downwards,  swinging
gently from side to side like a nervous sheet of  paper  feeling  its  way
towards the ground.
    It went well, he was feeling good. The air supported him, but let him
through. Two minutes later he was hovering a mere two feet above the  bag,
and was faced with some difficult decision. He bobbed  there  lightly.  He
frowned, but again, as lightly as he could.
    If he picked the bag up, could he carry it? Mightn't the extra weight
just pull him straight to the ground?
    Mightn't the mere act of touching something on  the  ground  suddenly
discharge whatever mysterious force it was that was  holding  him  in  the
    Mightn't he be better off just  being  sensible  at  this  point  and
stepping out of the air, back on to the ground for a moment or two?
    If he did, would he ever be able to fly again?
    The sensation, when he allowed himself to be  aware  of  it,  was  so
quietly ecstatic that he could not bear the thought of losing it,  perhaps
for ever. With this worry in mind he bobbed upwards a little  again,  just
to try the feel of it, the surprising and effortless movement  of  it.  He
bobbed, he floated. He tried a little swoop.
    The swoop was terrific. With his arms spread out in front of him, his
hair and dressing gown streaming out behind him, he dived down out of  the
sky, bellied along a body of air about two feet from the ground and  swung
back up again, catching himself at the top of the swing and holding.  Just
holding. He stayed there.
    It was wonderful.
    And that, he realized, was the way of picking up the  bag.  He  would
swoop down and catch hold of it just at the point of the upswing. He would
carry it on up with him. He might wobble a bit, but he was certain that he
could hold it.
    He tried one or two more practice swoops, and  they  got  better  and
better. The air on his face, the bounce and woof of his body, all combined
to make him feel an intoxication of the spirit that he hadn't felt  since,
since - well as far as he could work out, since he was  born.  He  drifted
away on the breeze and surveyed the countryside, which was, he discovered,
pretty nasty. It had a wasted ravaged look. He decided not to look  at  it
any more. He would just pick up the bag and then... he didn't know what he
was going to do after he had picked up the bag. He decided he  would  just
pick up the bag and see where things went from there.
    He judged himself against the wind, pushed up against it  and  turned
around. He floated on its body.  He  didn't  realize,  but  his  body  was
willoming at this point.
    He ducked down under the airstream, dipped - and dived.
    The air threw itself past him, he thrilled  through  it.  The  ground
wobbled uncertainly, straightened its ideas out and rose  smoothly  up  to
meet him, offering the bag, its cracked plastic handles up towards him.
    Halfway down there was a sudden dangerous moment  when  he  could  no
longer believe he was doing this, and therefore he very nearly wasn't, but
he recovered himself in time, skimmed over  the  ground,  slipped  an  arm
smoothly through the handles of the bag,  and  began  to  climb  back  up,
couldn't make it and all of a sudden  collapsed,  bruised,  scratched  and
shaking in the stony ground.
    He staggered instantly to his  feet  and  swayed  hopelessly  around,
swinging the bag round him in agony of grief and disappointment.
    His feet, suddenly, were stuck heavily to the ground in the way  they
always had been. His body seemed like an unwieldy sack  of  potatoes  that
reeled stumbling against the ground, his mind had all the lightness  of  a
bag of lead.
    He sagged and swayed and ached with giddiness. He tried hopelessly to
run, but his legs were suddenly too weak. He tripped and flopped  forward.
At that moment he remembered that in the bag he was now carrying  was  not
only a can of Greek olive oil but a duty-free allowance of retsina, and in
the pleasurable shock of that realization he failed to notice for at least
ten seconds that he was now flying again.
    He whooped and cried with relief and  pleasure,  and  sheer  physical
delight. He swooped, he wheeled, he skidded and whirled through  the  air.
Cheekily he sat on an updraught and  went  through  the  contents  of  the
hold-all. He felt the way he  imagined  an  angel  must  feel  during  its
celebrated  dance  on  the  head  of  a  pin  whilst  being   counted   by
philosophers. He laughed with pleasure at the discovery that the  bag  did
in fact contain the olive oil and the retsina as well as a pair of cracked
sunglasses, some sand-filled swimming trunks, some  creased  postcards  of
Santorini, a large and  unsightly  towel,  some  interesting  stones,  and
various scraps of paper with the addresses of people he  was  relieved  to
think he would never meet again, even if the reason why was a sad one.  He
dropped the stones, put on the sunglasses, and let  the  pieces  of  paper
whip away in the wind.
    Ten minutes later, drifting idly through a cloud, he got a large  and
extremely disreputable cocktail party in the small of the back.

                               Chapter 21

    The longest and most destructive party ever  held  is  now  into  its
fourth generation, and still no one shows any signs of  leaving.  Somebody
did once look at his watch, but that was eleven years ago, and  there  has
been no follow-up.
    The mess is extraordinary, and has to be seen to be believed, but  if
you don't have any particular need to believe it, then don't go and  look,
because you won't enjoy it.
    There have recently been some bangs and flashes up in the clouds, and
there is one theory that this is a battle being fought between the  fleets
of several rival carpet-cleaning companies who are hovering over the thing
like vultures, but you shouldn't believe anything you hear at parties, and
particularly not anything you hear at this one.
    One of the problems, and it's one which is  obviously  going  to  get
worse, is that all the people at the party are either the children or  the
grandchildren or the great-grandchildren of the people who wouldn't  leave
in the first place, and  because  of  all  the  business  about  selective
breeding and regressive genes and so on, it means that all the people  now
at the party are either  absolutely  fanatical  partygoers,  or  gibbering
idiots, or, more and more frequently, both.
    Either way, it means  that,  genetically  speaking,  each  succeeding
generation is now less likely to leave than the preceding one.
    So other factors come into operation, like when the drink is going to
run out.
    Now, because of certain things which have happened which seemed  like
a good idea at the time (and one of the problems with a party which  never
stops is that all the things which only seem like a good idea  at  parties
continue to seem like good ideas), that point seems still to be a long way
    One of the things which seemed like a good idea at the time was  that
the party should fly - not in the normal sense that parties are  meant  to
fly, but literally.
    One night, long ago, a band of drunken astro-engineers of  the  first
generation clambered round the building digging this, fixing that, banging
very hard on the other and when the sun rose the following morning, it was
startled to find itself shining on a building full of happy drunken people
which was now floating like a young and uncertain bird over the treetops.
    Not only that, but the flying party had also managed  to  arm  itself
rather heavily. If they were going to get involved in any petty  arguments
with wine merchants, they wanted to make sure  they  had  might  on  their
    The transition from full-time cocktail  party  to  part-time  raiding
party came with ease, and did much to add that extra bit of zest and swing
to the whole affair which was badly needed at this point  because  of  the
enormous number of times that the band had already played all the  numbers
it knew over the years.
    They looted, they raided, they held whole cities for ransom for fresh
supplies of cheese crackers, avocado dip, spare ribs and wine and spirits,
which would now get piped aboard from floating tankers.
    The problem of when the drink is going to run out is, however,  going
to have to be faced one day.
    The planet over which they are floating is no longer  the  planet  it
was when they first started floating over it.
    It is in bad shape.
    The party had attacked and raided an awful lot of it, and no one  has
ever succeeded in hitting it back because of the erratic and unpredictable
way in which it lurches round the sky.
    It is one hell of a party.
    It is also one hell of a thing to get hit by  in  the  small  of  the

                               Chapter 22

    Arthur lay floundering in pain on a piece of ripped  and  dismembered
reinforced concrete, flicked at by wisps of passing cloud and confused  by
the sounds of flabby merrymaking somewhere indistinctly behind him.
    There was a sound he couldn't immediately identify, partly because he
didn't know the tune "I Left my Leg in Jaglan Beta" and partly because the
band playing it were very tired, and some members of it were playing it in
three-four time, some in fourfour, and some in a kind of pie-eyed r2, each
according to the amount of sleep he'd managed to grab recently.
    He lay, panting heavily in the wet air, and  tried  feeling  bits  of
himself to see where he might be hurt. Wherever  he  touched  himself,  he
encountered a pain. After a short  while  he  worked  out  that  this  was
because it was his hand that was hurting. He seemed to have  sprained  his
wrist. His back, too, was hurting, but he soon satisfied himself  that  he
was not badly hurt, but just bruised and a little shaken, as who  wouldn't
be? He couldn't understand what a building would be doing  flying  through
the clouds.
    On the other hand, he would have been a little hard-pressed  to  come
up with any convincing explanation of his own presence, so he decided that
he and the building were just going to  have  to  accept  each  other.  He
looked up from where he was lying. A wall of pale but stained stone  slabs
rose up behind him, the building proper. He seemed to be stretched out  on
some sort of ledge or lip which extended outwards for about three or  four
feet all the way around. It was a hunk of the ground in  which  the  party
building had had its foundations, and which it had taken along with itself
to keep itself bound together at the bottom end.
    Nervously, he stood up and, suddenly, looking out over the  edge,  he
felt nauseous with vertigo. He pressed himself back against the wall,  wet
with mist and sweat. His head was swimming freestyle, but someone  in  his
stomach was doing the butterfly.
    Even though he had got up here under his own power, he could now  not
even bear to contemplate the hideous drop in front  of  him.  He  was  not
about to try his luck jumping. He was not about to move an inch closer  to
the edge.
    Clutching his hold-all he edged along the  wall,  hoping  to  find  a
doorway in. The solid  weight  of  the  can  of  olive  oil  was  a  great
reassurance to him.
    He was edging in the direction of the nearest  corner,  in  the  hope
that the wall around the corner might offer more in the way  of  entrances
than this one, which offered none.
    The unsteadiness of the building's flight made  him  feel  sick  with
fear, and after a short while he took the towel from out of  his  hold-all
and did something with it which once again justified its supreme  position
in the list of useful things to take with you when  you  hitch-hike  round
the Galaxy. He put it over his head so he wouldn't have to see what he was
    His feet edged along the ground. His outstretched  hand  edged  along
the wall.
    Finally he came to the corner, and as his hand rounded the corner  it
encountered something which gave him such a  shock  that  he  nearly  fell
straight off. It was another hand.
    The two hands gripped each other.
    He desperately wanted to use his other hand to pull  the  towel  back
from his eyes, but it was holding the hold-all with  the  olive  oil,  the
retsina and the postcards from Santorini, and he very much didn't want  to
put it down.
    He experienced one of those "self" moments, one of those moments when
you suddenly turn around and look at yourself and think "Who am I? What am
I up to? What have I  achieved?  Am  I  doing  well?"  He  whimpered  very
    He tried to free his hand,  but  he  couldn't.  The  other  hand  was
holding his tightly. He had no recourse but to edge  onwards  towards  the
corner. He leaned around it and shook his head in an attempt  to  dislodge
the towel. This seemed to  provoke  a  sharp  cry  of  some  unfashionable
emotion from the owner of the other hand.
    The towel was whipped from his head and he  found  his  eyes  peering
into those of Ford Prefect. Beyond him stood  Slartibartfast,  and  beyond
them he could clearly see a porchway and a large closed door.
    They were both pressed back against the wall, eyes wild  with  terror
as they stared out into the thick blind cloud around them,  and  tried  to
resist the lurching and swaying of the building.
    - Where the zarking photon  have  you  been?  -  hissed  Ford,  panic
    - Er, well, - stuttered Arthur, not really knowing how to sum it  all
up that briefly. - Here and there. What are you doing here?
    Ford turned his wild eyes on Arthur again.
    - They won't let us in without a bottle, - he hissed.
    The first thing Arthur noticed as they entered into the thick of  the
party, apart from the noise, the suffocating heat, the wild  profusion  of
colours that protuded dimly through the atmosphere  of  heavy  smoke,  the
carpets thick with ground glass, ash and avocado droppings, and the  small
group  of  pterodactyl-like  creatures  in  lurex  who  descended  on  his
cherished bottle of retsina, squawking, "A new pleasure, a new  pleasure",
was Trillian being chatted up by a Thunder God.
    - Didn't I see you at Milliways? - he was saying.
    - Were you the one with the hammer?
    - Yes. I much prefer it here. So much less reputable,  so  much  more
    Squeals of some hideous pleasure rang  around  the  room,  the  outer
dimensions of which were invisible through the heaving  throng  of  happy,
noisy creatures, cheerfully yelling things that nobody could hear at  each
other and occasionally having crises.
    - Seems fun, - said Trillian. - What did you say, Arthur?
    - I said, how the hell did you get here?
    - I was a row of dots flowing randomly through the Universe. Have you
met Thor? He makes thunder.
    - Hello, - said Arthur. - I expect that must be very interesting.
    - Hi, - said Thor. - It is. Have you got a drink?
    - Er, no actually...
    - Then why don't you go and get one?
    - See you later, Arthur, - said Trillian.
    Something jogged Arthur's mind, and he looked around huntedly.
    - Zaphod isn't here, is he? - he said.
    - See you, - said Trillian firmly, - later.
    Thor glared at him with hard coal-black  eyes,  his  beard  bristled,
what little light was there was in the place mustered its  forces  briefly
to glint menacingly off the horns of his helmet.
    He took Trillian's elbow in his extremely large hand and the  muscles
in his upper arm moved around each other  like  a  couple  of  Volkswagens
    He led her away.
    - One of the interesting things about being immortal, -  he  said,  -
    - One   of  the  interesting  things  about  space,  -  Arthur  heard
Slartibartfast saying to a large and voluminous creature who  looked  like
someone losing a fight with a pink duvet and was gazing raptly at the  old
man's deep eyes and silver beard, - is how dull it is.
    - Dull? - said the creature, and  blinked  her  rather  wrinkled  and
bloodshot eyes.
    - Yes, - said Slartibartfast, - staggeringly dull. Bewilderingly  so.
You see, there's so much of it and so little in it. Would you like  me  to
quote some statistics?
    - Er, well...
    - Please, I would like to. They, too, are quite sensationally dull.
    - I'll come back and hear them in a moment, - she said,  patting  him
on the arm, lifted up her skirts like a hovercraft and moved off into  the
heaving crown.
    - I  thought  she'd  never  go,  -  growled  the  old  man.  -  Come,
    - Arthur.
    - We must find the Silver Bail, it is here somewhere.
    - Can't we just relax a little? - Arthur said. -  I've  had  a  tough
day. Trillian's here,  incidentally,  she  didn't  say  how,  it  probably
doesn't matter.
    - Think of the danger to the Universe...
    - The Universe, - said Arthur, - is big enough and old enough to look
after itself for half an hour. All right,  -  he  added,  in  response  to
Slartibartfast's increasing agitation, - I'll  wander  round  and  see  if
anybody's seen it.
    - Good, good, - said Slartibartfast, - good. - He  plunged  into  the
crowd himself, and was told to relax by everybody he passed.
    - Have you seen a bail anywhere? - said Arthur to a  little  man  who
seemed to be standing eagerly waiting to listen to somebody. -  It's  made
of silver, vitally important for the future safety of  the  Universe,  and
about this long.
    - No, - said the enthusiastically wizened little man, - but do have a
drink and tell me all about it.
    Ford Prefect writhed past, dancing a wild, frenetic and not  entirely
unobscene dance with someone who looked as if she was wearing Sydney Opera
House on her head. He was yelling a futile conversation at her  above  the
    - I like that hat! - he bawled.
    - What?
    - I said, I like the hat.
    - I'm not wearing a hat.
    - Well, I like the head, then.
    - What?
    - I said, I like the head. Interesting bone-structure.
    - What?
    Ford worked a shrug into the complex routine of  other  movements  he
was performing.
    - I said, you dance great, - he shouted, - just don't nod so much.
    - What?
    - It's just that every time you nod, - said Ford, - ...ow! - he added
as his partner nodded forward to say - What? - and once again  pecked  him
sharply on the forehead with the sharp end of her swept-forward skull.
    - My planet was blown up one morning, - said Arthur,  who  had  found
himself quite unexpectedly telling the little man his life  story  or,  at
least, edited highlights of it, - that's why I'm dressed like this, in  my
dressing gown. My planet was blown up with all my clothes in it, you  see.
I didn't realize I'd be coming to a party.
    The little man nodded enthusiastically.
    - Later, I was thrown off a spaceship. Still  in  my  dressing  gown.
Rather than the space suit one would normally expect. Shortly after that I
discovered that my planet had originally been built for a bunch  of  mice.
You can imagine how I felt about that. I was then shot at for a while  and
blown up. In fact I have  been  blown  up  ridiculously  often,  shot  at,
insulted, regularly disintegrated, deprived of tea, and recently I crashed
into a swamp and had to spend five years in a damp cave.
    - Ah, - effervesced the little man, - and did you  have  a  wonderful
    Arthur started to choke violently on his drink.
    - What a wonderful exciting cough,  -  said  the  little  man,  quite
startled by it, - do you mind if I join you?
    And with that he launched into the most extraordinary and spectacular
fit of coughing which caught Arthur so much by surprise that he started to
choke violently, discovered he was already doing  it  and  got  thoroughly
    Together they performed a lung-busting duet which went on  for  fully
two minutes before Arthur managed to cough and splutter to a halt.
    - So invigorating, - said the little man, panting  and  wiping  tears
from his eyes. - What an exciting life you must lead. Thank you very much.
    He shook Arthur warmly by the hand and walked  off  into  the  crowd.
Arthur shook his head in astonishment.
    A youngish-looking man came up to  him,  an  aggressive-looking  type
with a hook mouth, a lantern nose, and small beady little  cheekbones.  He
was wearing black trousers, a black silk shirt open to what was presumably
his navel, though Arthur had learnt never to make  assumptions  about  the
anatomies of the sort of people he tended to meet these days, and had  all
sorts of nasty dangly gold things  hanging  round  his  neck.  He  carried
something in a black bag, and clearly wanted  people  to  notice  that  he
didn't want them to notice it.
    - Hey, er, did I hear you say your name just now? - he said.
    This was one of the many things that Arthur had told the enthusiastic
little man.
    - Yes, it's Arthur Dent.
    The man seemed to be dancing slightly to some rhythm other  than  any
of the several that the band were grimly pushing out.
    - Yeah, - he said, - only there was a man in a mountain wanted to see
    - I met him.
    - Yeah, only he seemed pretty anxious about it, you know.
    - Yes, I met him.
    - Yeah, well I think you should know that.
    - I do. I met him.
    The man paused to chew a little gum. Then he clapped  Arthur  on  the
    - OK, - he said, - all right.  I'm  just  telling  you,  right?  Good
night, good luck, win awards.
    - What? - said Arthur, who was beginning  to  flounder  seriously  at
this point.
    - Whatever. Do what you do. Do it well. - He made a sort of  clucking
noise with whatever he was chewing and then some vaguely dynamic gesture.
    - Why? - said Arthur.
    - Do it badly, - said the man, - who cares? Who gives a shit?  -  The
blood suddenly seemed to pump angrily into the man's face and  he  started
to shout.
    - Why not go mad? - he said. - Go away, get off  my  back  will  you,
guy. Just zark off!!!
    - OK, I'm going, - said Arthur hurriedly.
    - It's been real. - The man gave a sharp  wave  and  disappeared  off
into the throng.
    - What was that about? - said Arthur to  a  girl  he  found  standing
beside him. - Why did he tell me to win awards?
    - Just showbiz talk, - shrugged the girl. - He's just won an award at
the Annual  Ursa  Minor  Alpha  Recreational  Illusions  Institute  Awards
Ceremony, and was hoping to be able to  pass  it  off  lightly,  only  you
didn't mention it, so he couldn't.
    - Oh, - said Arthur, - oh, well I'm sorry I didn't. What was it for?
    - The Most Gratuitous Use Of The Word "Fuck" In A Serious Screenplay.
It's very prestigious.
    - I see, - said Arthur, - yes, and what do you get for that?
    - A Rory. It's just a small silver thing set on a large  black  base.
What did you say?
    - I didn't say anything. I was just about to ask what the silver...
    - Oh, I thought you said "wop".
    - Said what?
    - Wop.
    People had been  dropping  in  on  the  party  now  for  some  years,
fashionable gatecrashers from other worlds,  and  for  some  time  it  had
occurred to the partygoers as they had  looked  out  at  their  own  world
beneath them, with its wrecked  cities,  its  ravaged  avocado  farms  and
blighted vineyards, its vast tracts  of  new  desert,  its  seas  full  of
biscuit crumbs and worse, that their world was in  some  tiny  and  almost
imperceptible ways not quite as much fun as it had been. Some of them  had
begun to wonder if they could manage to stay sober for long enough to make
the entire party spaceworthy and maybe take it off to some other  people's
worlds where the air might be fresher and give them fewer headaches.
    The few undernourished farmers who still managed  to  scratch  out  a
feeble existence on the half-dead ground of  the  planet's  surface  would
have been extremely pleased to hear this, but that day, as the party  came
screaming out of the clouds and the farmers looked up in haggard  fear  of
yet another cheese-and-wine raid, it became clear that the party  was  not
going to be going anywhere else for a while, that the party would soon  be
over. Very soon it would be time to gather up hats and coats  and  stagger
blearily outside to find out what time of day it was, what time of year it
was, and whether in any of this burnt and ravaged land there  was  a  taxi
going anywhere.
    The party was locked in a  horrible  embrace  with  a  strange  white
spaceship which seemed to be half sticking through it. Together they  were
lurching, heaving and spinning  their  way  round  the  sky  in  grotesque
disregard of their own weight.
    The clouds parted. The air roared and leapt out of their way.
    The party and the Krikkit  warship  looked,  in  their  writhings,  a
little like two ducks, one of which is trying to make a third duck  inside
the second duck, whilst the second duck is trying  very  hard  to  explain
that it doesn't feel ready for a third duck right now, is  uncertain  that
it would want any putative third duck to be made by this particular  first
duck anyway, and certainly not  whilst  it,  the  second  duck,  was  busy
    The sky sang and screamed with the rage of it all  and  buffeted  the
ground with shock waves.
    And suddenly, with a foop, the Krikkit ship was gone.
    The party blundered helplessly across the  sky  like  a  man  leaning
against an unexpectedly open door. It span and wobbled on its hover  jets.
It tried to right itself and wronged itself  instead.  It  staggered  back
across the sky again.
    For a while these staggerings continued, but clearly they  could  not
continue for long. The party was now a mortally wounded party. All the fun
had gone out of it, as the occasional  brokenbacked  pirouette  could  not
    The longer, at this point, that it avoided the  ground,  the  heavier
was going to be the crash when finally it hit it.
    Inside,  things  were  not  going  well  either.  They   were   going
monstrously badly, in fact, and  people  were  hating  it  and  saying  so
loudly. The Krikkit robots had been.
    They had removed the Award for The Most Gratuitous Use  Of  The  Word
"Fuck" In A Serious Screenplay, and in its  place  had  left  a  scene  of
devastation that left Arthur feeling almost as sick as a runner-up  for  a
    - We would love to stay and help, - shouted  Ford,  picking  his  way
over the mangled debris, - only we're not going to.
    The party lurched again, provoking feverish  cries  and  groans  from
amongst the smoking wreckage.
    - We have to go and save the Universe, you see, - said Ford. - And if
that sounds like a pretty lame excuse, then you may be right. Either  way,
we're off.
    He suddenly  came  across  an  unopened  bottle  lying,  miraculously
unbroken, on the ground.
    - Do you mind if we take this? - he said. - You won't be needing it.
    He took a packet of potato crisps too.
    - Trillian? - shouted Arthur in a shocked and weakened voice. In  the
smoking mess he could see nothing.
    - Earthman, we must go, - said Slartibartfast nervously.
    - Trillian? - shouted Arthur again.
    A moment or  two  later,  Trillian  staggered,  shaking,  into  view,
supported by her new friend the Thunder God.
    - The girl stays with me, - said Thor. - There's a great party  going
on in Valhalla, we'll be flying off...
    - Where were you when all this was going on? - said Arthur.
    - Upstairs, - said Thor, - I was  weighing  her.  Flying's  a  tricky
business you see, you have to calculate wind...
    - She comes with us, - said Arthur.
    - Hey, - said Trillian, - don't I...
    - No, - said Arthur, - you come with us.
    Thor looked at him with slowly smouldering eyes. He was  making  some
point about godliness and it had nothing to do with being clean.
    - She comes with me, - he said quietly.
    - Come on, Earthman, -  said  Slartibartfast  nervously,  picking  at
Arthur's sleeve.
    - Come on, Slartibartfast, - said Ford,  picking  at  the  old  man's
sleeve. Slartibartfast had the teleport device.
    The party lurched and swayed, sending everyone  reeling,  except  for
Thor and except for Arthur, who stared, shaking, into  the  Thunder  God's
black eyes.
    Slowly, incredibly, Arthur put up what appeared to be his tiny little
    - Want to make something of it? - he said.
    - I beg your minuscule pardon? - roared Thor.
    - I said, - repeated Arthur, and he could not keep the quavering  out
of his voice, - do you want to make something of  it?  -  He  waggled  his
fists ridiculously.
    Thor looked at him with incredulity. Then  a  little  wisp  of  smoke
curled upwards from his nostril. There was a tiny little flame in it too.
    He gripped his belt.
    He expanded his chest to make it totally clear that here was the sort
of man you only dared to cross if you had a team of Sherpas with you.
    He unhooked the shaft of his hammer from his belt. He held it  up  in
his hands to reveal the massive iron head. He thus cleared up any possible
misunderstanding that he might merely have been carrying a telegraph  pole
around with him.
    - Do I want, - he said, with a hiss like a river  flowing  through  a
steel mill, - to make something of it?
    - Yes, - said Arthur, his voice suddenly and  extraordinarily  strong
and belligerent. He waggled his fists again, this time as if he meant it.
    - You want to step outside? - he snarled at Thor.
    - All right! - bellowed Thor, like an enraged bull (or in  fact  like
an enraged Thunder God, which is a great deal more  impressive),  and  did
    - Good, - said Arthur, - that's got rid of him. Slarty, get us out of

                               Chapter 23

    - All right, - shouted Ford at Arthur, - so I'm a coward,  the  point
is I'm still alive. - They were back aboard the  Starship  Bistromath,  so
was Slartibartfast, so was Trillian. Harmony and concord were not.
    - Well, so am I alive, aren't I? - retaliated  Arthur,  haggard  with
adventure and anger. His eyebrows were leaping up  and  down  as  if  they
wanted to punch each other.
    - You damn nearly weren't, - exploded Ford.
    Arthur turned sharply to Slartibartfast, who was sitting in his pilot
couch on the flight deck gazing thoughtfully into the bottom of  a  bottle
which was telling him something he clearly couldn't fathom. He appealed to
    - Do you think he understands the first word I've been saying?  -  he
said, quivering with emotion.
    - I don't know, - replied Slartibartfast, a  little  abstractedly.  -
I'm not sure, - he added, glancing up very briefly, -  that  I  do.  -  He
stared at his instruments with renewed vigor and bafflement. - You'll have
to explain it to us again, - he said.
    - Well...
    - But later. Terrible things are afoot.
    He tapped the pseudo-glass of the bottle bottom.
    - We fared rather pathetically at the party, I'm afraid, - he said, -
and our only hope now is to try to prevent the robots from using  the  Key
in the Lock. How in heaven we do that I don't know, - he muttered. -  Just
have to go there, I suppose. Can't say I like the idea  at  all.  Probably
end up dead.
    - Where is Trillian anyway? - said Arthur with a  sudden  affectation
of unconcern. What he had been angry about was that Ford had  berated  him
for wasting time over all the business with  the  Thunder  God  when  they
could have been making a rather more rapid escape. Arthur's  own  opinion,
and he had offered it for whatever anybody might have felt it  was  worth,
was that he had been extraordinarily brave and resourceful.
    The prevailing view seemed to be that his opinion  was  not  worth  a
pair of fetid dingo's kidneys. What really hurt, though, was that Trillian
didn't seem to react much one way  or  the  other  and  had  wandered  off
    - And where are my potato crisps? - said Ford.
    - They are both, - said Slartibartfast, without looking up, - in  the
Room of Informational Illusions. I think that your young  lady  friend  is
trying to understand some problems of Galactic history. I think the potato
crisps are probably helping her.

                               Chapter 24

    It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems  just  with
    For instance, there was once an insanely aggressive  race  of  people
called the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax. That was just  the  name  of
their race. The name of their army was something quite  horrific.  Luckily
they lived even further back in Galactic history than anything we have  so
far encountered - twenty billion years ago - when the Galaxy was young and
fresh, and every idea worth fighting for was a new one.
    And fighting was what the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax were good
at, and being good at it, they did a lot. They fought their enemies  (i.e.
everybody else), they fought each  other.  Their  planet  was  a  complete
wreck.  The  surface  was  littered  with  abandoned  cities  which   were
surrounded by abandoned war machines, which were  in  turn  surrounded  by
deep bunkers in which the Silastic Armorfiends lived  and  squabbled  with
each other.
    The best way to pick a fight with a Silastic Armorfiend was  just  to
be born. They didn't like it, they got resentful. And when  an  Armorfiend
got resentful, someone got hurt. An exhausting  way  of  life,  one  might
think, but they did seem to have an awful lot of energy.
    The best way of dealing with a Silastic Armorfiend  was  to  put  him
into a room of his own, because sooner  or  later  he  would  simply  beat
himself up.
    Eventually they realized that this was something they were  going  to
have to sort out, and they passed a law decreeing that anyone who  had  to
carry a weapon as part of his normal Silastic  work  (policemen,  security
guards, primary school teachers, etc.) had to spend  at  least  forty-five
minutes every day punching a sack of potatoes in order to work off his  or
her surplus aggressions.
    For a while this worked well, until someone thought that it would  be
much more efficient and less time-consuming if they just shot the potatoes
    This led to a renewed enthusiasm for shooting all  sorts  of  things,
and they all got very excited at the prospect of their first major war for
    Another achievement of the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax is  that
they were the first race who ever managed to shock a computer.
    It was a gigantic spaceborne computer called Hactar,  which  to  this
day is remembered as one of the most powerful ever built. It was the first
to be built like a natural brain, in that every cellular  particle  of  it
carried the pattern of the whole within it, which enabled it to think more
flexibly and imaginatively, and also, it seemed, to be shocked.
    The Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax were engaged in  one  of  their
regular wars with the Strenuous Garfighters of Stug, and were not enjoying
it as much as usual because it involved an awful lot of  trekking  through
the Radiation Swamps of  Cwulzenda,  and  across  the  Fire  Mountains  of
Frazfraga, neither of which terrains they felt at home in.
    So when the Strangulous Stilettans of Jajazikstak joined in the  fray
and forced them to fight another front in the Gamma Caves of  Carfrax  and
the Ice Storms of Varlengooten, they decided that enough was  enough,  and
they ordered Hactar to design for them an Ultimate Weapon.
    - What do you mean, - asked Hactar, - by Ultimate?
    To which the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax said:
    - Read a bloody dictionary, - and plunged back into the fray.
    So Hactar designed an Ultimate Weapon.
    It was a very, very small bomb which was simply  a  junction  box  in
hyperspace that would, when activated, connect the heart  of  every  major
sun with the heart of every other major sun simultaneously and  thus  turn
the entire Universe in to one gigantic hyperspatial supernova.
    When  the  Silastic  Armorfiends  tried  to  use  it  to  blow  up  a
Strangulous Stilettan munitions dump in one of the Gamma Caves, they  were
extremely irritated that it didn't work, and said so.
    Hactar had been shocked by the whole idea.
    He tried to explain that he had been  thinking  about  this  Ultimate
Weapon business,  and  had  worked  out  that  there  was  no  conceivable
consequence of not setting the bomb off that  was  worse  than  the  known
consequence of setting it off, and he had therefore taken the  liberty  of
introducing a small flaw into the design of the bomb, and  he  hoped  that
everyone involved would, on sober reflection, feel that...
    The Silastic Armorfiends disagreed and pulverized the computer.
    Later they thought better of it, and destroyed  the  faulty  bomb  as
    Then, pausing only to smash the hell out of the Strenuous Garfighters
of Stug, and the Strangulous Stilettans of Jajazikstak, they  went  on  to
find an entirely new way of blowing themselves up, which  was  a  profound
relief to everyone else in the Galaxy, particularly the  Garfighters,  the
Stilettans and the potatoes.
    Trillian had watched all this, as well as the story of  Krikkit.  She
emerged from the Room of informational  Illusions  thoughtfully,  just  in
time to discover that they had arrived too late.

                               Chapter 25

    Even as the Starship Bistromath flickered into objective being on the
top of a small cliff on the mile-wide asteroid which pursued a lonely  and
eternal path in orbit around the enclosed star system of Krikkit, its crew
was aware that they were in time only to be witnesses  to  an  unstoppable
historic event.
    They didn't realize they were going to see two.
    They stood cold, lonely and helpless on the cliff  edge  and  watched
the activity below. Lances of light wheeled in sinister arcs  against  the
void from a point only about a hundred yards below and in front of them.
    They stared into the blinding event.
    An extension of the ship's field enabled them to stand there, by once
again exploiting the mind's predisposition to have tricks  played  on  it:
the problems of falling up off the tiny mass of the asteroid,  or  of  not
being able to breathe, simply became Somebody Else's.
    The white Krikkit warship was parked amongst the stark grey crags  of
the asteroid, alternately  flaring  under  arclights  or  disappearing  in
shadow. The blackness of the shaped shadows cast by the hard rocks  danced
together in wild choreography as the arclights swept round them.
    The eleven white robots were bearing, in procession, the  Wikkit  Key
out into the middle of a circle of swinging lights.
    The Wikkit Key was rebuilt. Its components shone and  glittered:  the
Steel Pillar (or Marvin's leg) of Strength and Power, the  Gold  Bail  (or
Heart of the Improbability Drive) of Prosperity, the  Perspex  Pillar  (or
Argabuthon Sceptre of Justice) of Science and Reason, the Silver Bail  (or
Rory Award for The Most Gratuitous Use Of The Word  "Fuck"  In  A  Serious
Screenplay) and the now reconstituted Wooden Pillar (or Ashes of  a  burnt
stump signifying the death of English cricket) of Nature and Spirituality.
    - I suppose there is nothing we can do at this point? - asked  Arthur
    - No, - sighed Slartibartfast.
    The expression of disappointment which crossed Arthur's  face  was  a
complete failure, and, since  he  was  standing  obscured  by  shadow,  he
allowed it to collapse into one of relief.
    - Pity, - he said.
    - We have no weapons, - said Slartibartfast, - stupidly.
    - Damn, - said Arthur very quietly.
    Ford said nothing.
    Trillian said nothing, but in a peculiarly  thoughtful  and  distinct
way. She was staring at the blankness of the space beyond the asteroid.
    The asteroid circled the Dust Cloud  which  surrounded  the  Slo-Time
envelope which enclosed the world on which lived the  people  of  Krikkit,
the Masters of Krikkit and their killer robots.
    The helpless group had no way of knowing whether or not  the  Krikkit
robots were aware of their presence. They could only assume that they must
be, but that they felt, quite rightly in the circumstances, that they  had
nothing to fear. They had an historic task to perform, and their  audience
could be regarded with contempt.
    - Terrible impotent feeling, isn't it? - said Arthur, but the  others
ignored him.
    In the centre of the area of light which the robots were approaching,
a square-shaped crack appeared in the ground.  The  crack  defined  itself
more and more distinctly, and soon it became clear that  a  block  of  the
ground, about six feet square, was slowly rising.
    At the same time they became aware of some other movement, but it was
almost sublimal, and for a moment or two it was not clear what it was that
was moving.
    Then it became clear.
    The asteroid was moving. It was moving slowly  in  towards  the  Dust
Cloud, as if being hauled in inexorably by some celestial  angler  in  its
    They were to make in real life the journey through  the  Cloud  which
they had already made in the Room of Informational Illusions.  They  stood
frozen in silence. Trillian frowned.
    An age seemed to pass. Events seemed to pass with spinning  slowness,
as the leading edge of the asteroid passed into the vague and  soft  outer
perimeter of the Cloud.
    And soon they were engulfed in a thin  and  dancing  obscurity.  They
passed on through it, on and on, dimly aware of vague  shapes  and  whorls
indistinguishable in the darkness except in the corner of the eye.
    The Dust  dimmed  the  shafts  of  brilliant  light.  The  shafts  of
brilliant light twinkled on the myriad specks of Dust.
    Trillian, again, regarded the passage from within  her  own  frowning
    And they were through it. Whether it had taken a minute  or  half  an
hour they weren't sure, but they were through it  and  confronted  with  a
fresh blankness, as if space were pinched out of  existence  in  front  of
    And now things moved quickly.
    A blinding shaft of light seemed almost to explode from  out  of  the
block which had risen three feet out of the ground, and out of that rose a
smaller Perspex block, dazzling with interior dancing colours.
    The block was slotted with deep groves, three upright and two across,
clearly designed to accept the Wikkit key.
    The robots approached the Lock, slotted the Key  into  its  home  and
stepped back again. The block twisted round of is own  accord,  and  space
began to alter.
    As space unpinched itself, it seemed agonizingly to twist the eyes of
the watchers in their sockets. They found themselves staring, blinded,  at
an unravelled sun which stood now before them where it seemed only seconds
before there had not been even empty space. It was a second or two  before
they were even sufficiently aware of what  had  happened  to  throw  their
hands up over their horrified blinded eyes. In that second  or  two,  they
were aware of a tiny speck moving slowly across the eye of that sun.
    They staggered back, and heard ringing in their  ears  the  thin  and
unexpected chant of the robots crying out in unison.
    - Krikkit! Krikkit! Krikkit! Krikkit!
    The sound chilled them. It was harsh, it was cold, it was  empty,  it
was mechanically dismal.
    It was also triumphant.
    They were so stunned by these two sensory  shocks  that  they  almost
missed the second historic event.
    Zaphod Beeblebrox, the only man in history to survive a direct  blast
attack from the Krikkit robots, ran out of the Krikkit warship brandishing
a Zap gun.
    - OK, - he cried, - the situation is totally under control as of this
moment in time.
    The single robot guarding the hatchway to the ship silently swung his
battleclub, and connected it with the back of Zaphod's left head.
    - Who the zark did that? - said the left head, and lolled sickeningly
    His right head gazed keenly into the middle distance.
    - Who did what? - it said.
    The club connected with the back of his right head.
    Zaphod measured his length as a rather strange shape on the ground.
    Within a matter of seconds the whole event was  over.  A  few  blasts
from the robots were sufficient to destroy the Lock for ever. It split and
melted and splayed its contents brokenly. The robots marched  grimly  and,
it almost seemed, in a  slightly  disheartened  manner,  back  into  their
warship which, with a "foop", was gone.
    Trillian and Ford ran hectically round and down the steep incline  to
the dark, still body of Zaphod Beeblebrox.

                               Chapter 26

    - I don't know, - said Zaphod,  for  what  seemed  to  him  like  the
thirty-seventh time, - they could have killed me, but they  didn't.  Maybe
they just thought I was a kind of wonderful  guy  or  something.  I  could
understand that.
    The others silently registered their opinions of this theory.
    Zaphod lay on the cold floor of the flight deck. His back  seemed  to
wrestle the floor as pain thudded through him and banged at his heads.
    - I think, - he whispered, - that there is something wrong with those
anodized dudes, something fundamentally weird.
    - They are programmed to kill  everybody,  -  Slartibartfast  pointed
    - That, - wheezed Zaphod between the whacking thuds, - could be it. -
He didn't seem altogether convinced.
    - Hey, baby, - he said to Trillian, hoping this would make up for his
previous behaviour.
    - You all right? - she said gently.
    - Yeah, - he said, - I'm fine.
    - Good, - she said, and walked away to think. She stared at the  huge
visiscreen over the flight couches and, twisting  a  switch,  she  flipped
local images over it. One image was the blankness of the Dust  Cloud.  One
was the sun of Krikkit. One was Krikkit itself. She flipped  between  them
    - Well, that's goodbye Galaxy, then,  -  said  Arthur,  slapping  his
knees and standing up.
    - No, - said Slartibartfast, gravely. - Our course  is  clear.  -  He
furrowed his brow until you could grow some of the smaller root vegetables
in it. He stood up, he paced around. When he spoke  again,  what  he  said
frightened him so much he had to sit down again.
    - We must go down to Krikkit, - he said. A deep sigh  shook  his  old
frame and his eyes seemed almost to rattle in their sockets.
    - Once again, -  he  said,  -  we  have  failed  pathetically.  Quite
    - That, - said Ford quietly, - is because we  don't  care  enough.  I
told you.
    He swung his feet up on the instrument panel and picked  fitfully  at
something on one of his fingernails.
    - But unless we  determine  to  take  action,  -  said  the  old  man
querulously, as if struggling against something deeply insouciant  in  his
nature, - then we shall all be destroyed, we shall all die. Surely we care
about that?
    - Not enough to want to get killed over it, - said Ford. He put on  a
sort of hollow smile and flipped it round the room at anyone who wanted to
see it.
    Slartibartfast clearly found this point of view  extremely  seductive
and he fought against it. He turned again to Zaphod who was  gritting  his
teeth and sweating with the pain.
    - You surely must have some idea, - he said, -  of  why  they  spared
your life. It seems most strange and unusual.
    - I kind of think they didn't even know, - shrugged Zaphod. - I  told
you. They hit me with the most feeble blast, just knocked me  out,  right?
They lugged me into their ship, dumped me into a corner  and  ignored  me.
Like they were embarrassed about me being there. If I said  anything  they
knocked me out again. We had some great conversations. "Hey...  ugh!"  "Hi
there... ugh!" "I wonder...ugh!" Kept me amused for hours, you know. -  He
winced again.
    He was toying with something in his fingers. He held it  up.  It  was
the Gold Bail - the Heart of Gold, the heart of the Infinite Improbability
Drive. Only that and the Wooden Pillar had survived the destruction of the
Lock intact.
    - I hear your ship can move a bit, - he said. - So how would you like
to zip me back to mine before you...
    - Will you not help us? - said Slartibartfast.
    - I'd love to stay and help you save the Galaxy, -  insisted  Zaphod,
rising himself up on to his shoulders, - but I have the mother and  father
of a pair of headaches, and I feel a lot of little  headaches  coming  on.
But next time it needs saving, I'm your guy. Hey, Trillian baby?
    She looked round briefly.
    - Yes?
    - You want to come? Heart  of  Gold?  Excitement  and  adventure  and
really wild things?
    - I'm going down to Krikkit, - she said.

                               Chapter 27

    It was the same hill, and yet not the same.
    This time it was not an  Informational  Illusion.  This  was  Krikkit
itself and they were standing on it. Near them, behind  the  trees,  stood
the strange Italian restaurant which had brought these, their real bodies,
to this, the real, present world of Krikkit.
    The strong grass under their feet was real, the rich soil  real  too.
The heady fragrances from the tree, too, were real.  The  night  was  real
    Possibly the most dangerous place in the Galaxy for anyone who  isn't
a Krikkiter to stand. The place that could not countenance  the  existence
of any other place, whose charming,  delightful,  intelligent  inhabitants
would howl with fear, savagery and murderous  hate  when  confronted  with
anyone not their own.
    Arthur shuddered.
    Slartibartfast shuddered.
    Ford, surprisingly, shuddered.
    It was not surprising that he shuddered, it was  surprising  that  he
was there at all. But when they had returned Zaphod to his ship  Ford  had
felt unexpectedly shamed into not running away.
    Wrong, he thought to himself, wrong wrong wrong. He hugged to himself
one of the Zap guns with which they had armed themselves out  of  Zaphod's
    Trillian shuddered, and frowned as she looked into the sky.
    This, too, was not the same. It was no longer blank and empty.
    Whilst the countryside around them had  changed  little  in  the  two
thousand years of the Krikkit wars, and  the  mere  five  years  that  had
elapsed locally since Krikkit was sealed  in  its  Slo-Time  envelope  ten
billion years ago, the sky was dramatically different.
    Dim lights and heavy shapes hung in it.
    High in the sky, where no Krikkiter ever looked, were the War  Zones,
the Robot  Zones  -  huge  warships  and  tower  blocks  floating  in  the
Nil-O-Grav fields far above the idyllic pastoral lands of the  surface  of
    Trillian stared at them and thought.
    - Trillian, - whispered Ford Prefect to her.
    - Yes? - she said.
    - What are you doing?
    - Thinking.
    - Do you always breathe like that when you're thinking?
    - I wasn't aware that I was breathing.
    - That's what worried me.
    - I think I know... - said Trillian.
    - Shhhh! - said Slartibartfast in alarm, and his thin trembling  hand
motioned them further back beneath the shadow of the tree.
    Suddenly, as before in the tape, there were lights coming  along  the
hill path, but this time the dancing beams  were  not  from  lanterns  but
electric torches - not in itself a dramatic change, but every detail  made
their hearts thump with fear. This time there were  no  lilting  whimsical
songs about flowers and farming and dead dogs, but hushed voices in urgent
    A light moved in the sky with slow weight. Arthur was clenched with a
claustrophobic terror and the warm wind caught at his throat.
    Within seconds a second party became visible,  approaching  from  the
other side of the dark hill. They were moving  swiftly  and  purposefully,
their torches swinging and probing around them.
    The parties were clearly converging, and not merely with each  other.
They were converging deliberately on the spot where Arthur and the  others
were standing.
    Arthur heard the slight rustle as Ford Prefect raised his Zap gun  to
his shoulder, and the slight whimpering  cough  as  Slartibartfast  raised
his. He felt the cold unfamiliar weight of his own gun, and  with  shaking
hands he raised it.
    His fingers fumbled to  release  the  safety  catch  and  engage  the
extreme danger catch as Ford had shown him. He was shaking so much that if
he'd fired at anybody at that moment he  probably  would  have  burnt  his
signature on them.
    Only Trillian didn't raise her gun. She raised her eyebrows,  lowered
them again, and bit her lip in thought.
    - Has it occurred to you, - she began, but nobody wanted  to  discuss
anything much at the moment.
    A light stabbed through the darkness from behind them and  they  span
around to find a third party of Krikkiters behind them, searching them out
with their torches.
    Ford Prefect's gun crackled viciously, but fire spat back at  it  and
it crashed from his hands.
    There was a moment of pure fear, a frozen second before anyone  fired
    And at the end of the second nobody fired.
    They were surrounded by pale-faced Krikkiters and bathed  in  bobbing
torch light.
    The captives stared at their captors, the  captors  stared  at  their
    - Hello? - said one of the captors.  -  Excuse  me,  but  are  you...

                               Chapter 28

    Meanwhile, more millions of miles away than the mind can  comfortably
encompass, Zaphod Beeblebrox was throwing a mood again.
    He had repaired his ship - that is, he'd watched with alert  interest
whilst a service robot had repaired it for him. It was  now,  once  again,
one of the most powerful and extraordinary ships in existence. He could go
anywhere, do anything. He fiddled with a book, and then tossed it away. It
was the one he'd read before.
    He  walked  over  to  the   communications   bank   and   opened   an
allfrequencies emergency channel.
    - Anyone want a drink? - he said.
    - This an emergency, feller? - crackled a voice from  halfway  across
the Galaxy.
    - Got any mixers? - said Zaphod.
    - Go take a ride on a comet.
    - OK, OK, - said Zaphod and flipped the channel shut again. He sighed
and sat down. He got up again and wandered over to a computer  screen.  He
pushed a few buttons. Little blobs  started  to  rush  around  the  screen
eating each other.
    - Pow! - said Zaphod. - Freeeoooo! Pop pop pop!
    - Hi there, - said the computer brightly after a minute  of  this,  -
you have scored three points. Previous  best  score,  seven  million  five
hundred and ninety-seven thousand, two hundred and...
    - OK, OK, - said Zaphod and flipped the screen blank again.
    He sat down again. He played with a pencil. This too began slowly  to
lose its fascination.
    - OK, OK, - he said, and fed his score and the previous one into  the
    His ship made a blur of the Universe.

                               Chapter 29

    - Tell us, - said the thin,  pale-faced  Krikkiter  who  had  stepped
forward from the ranks of the others and stood uncertainly in  the  circle
of torchlight, handling his gun as if he was just holding it  for  someone
else who'd just popped off somewhere but would be back in a minute,  -  do
you know anything about something called the Balance of Nature?
    There was no reply from their captives,  or  at  least  nothing  more
articulate  than  a  few  confused  mumbles  and  grunts.  The  torchlight
continued to play over them. High in the  sky  above  them  dark  activity
continued in the Robot zones.
    - It's just, - continued the Krikkiter uneasily, - something we heard
about, probably nothing important. Well, I suppose we'd  better  kill  you
    He looked down at his gun as if he was trying to find  which  bit  to
    - That is, - he said, looking up again, - unless there's anything you
want to chat about?
    Slow, numb astonishment crept up the bodies of  Slartibartfast,  Ford
and Arthur. Very soon it would reach  their  brains,  which  were  at  the
moment solely occupied with moving their jawbones up  and  down.  Trillian
was shaking her head as if trying to finish a jigsaw by shaking the box.
    - We're worried, you see, - said another man from the crowd, -  about
this plan of universal destruction.
    - Yes, - added another, - and the balance of nature. It  just  seemed
to us that if the whole of the rest of the Universe is destroyed  it  will
somehow upset the balance of nature. We're quite keen on ecology, you see.
- His voice trailed away unhappily.
    - And sport, - said another, loudly. This got  a  cheer  of  approval
from the others.
    - Yes, - agreed the first, - and sport... - He  looked  back  at  his
fellows uneasily and scratched fitfully at his  cheek.  He  seemed  to  be
wrestling with some deep inner confusion, as if everything  he  wanted  to
say and everything he thought  were  entirely  different  things,  between
which he could see no possible connection.
    - You see, - he mumbled, - some of us... - and he looked around again
as if for confirmation. The others made encouraging noises. - Some of  us,
- he continued, - are quite keen to have sporting links with the  rest  of
the Galaxy, and though I can see the argument about keeping sport  out  of
politics, I think that if we want to have sporting links with the rest  of
the Galaxy, which we do, then it's probably a mistake to destroy  it.  And
indeed the rest of the Universe... - his voice trailed away  again  -  ...
which is what seems to be the idea now...
    - Wh... - said Slartibartfast. - Wh...
    - Hhhh... ? - said Arthur.
    - Dr... - said Ford Prefect.
    - OK, - said Trillian. - Let's talk about it. -  She  walked  forward
and took  the  poor  confused  Krikkiter  by  the  arm.  He  looked  about
twenty-five, which meant, because of the peculiar manglings of  time  that
had been going on in this area, that he would have been just  twenty  when
the Krikkit Wars were finished, ten billion years ago.
    Trillian led him for a short walk through the torchlight  before  she
said anything more. He stumbled  uncertainly  after  her.  The  encircling
torch beams were drooping now slightly as if they were abdicating to  this
strange, quiet girl who alone in the Universe of dark confusion seemed  to
know what she was doing.
    She turned and faced him, and lightly held both his arms.  He  was  a
picture of bewildered misery.
    - Tell me, - she said.
    He said nothing for a moment, whilst his gaze darted from one of  her
eyes to the other.
    - We... - he said, - we have to be alone... I think. - He screwed  up
his face and then dropped his head forward, shaking it like someone trying
to shake a coin out of a money box. He looked up again.  -  We  have  this
bomb now, you see, - he said, - it's just a little one.
    - I know, - she said.
    He goggled at her as if  she'd  said  something  very  strange  about
    - Honestly, - he said, - it's very, very little.
    - I know, - she said again.
    - But they say, - his voice trailed on, - they  say  it  can  destroy
everything that exists. And we have to do that, you  see,  I  think.  Will
that make us alone? I don't know. It seems to be our function,  though,  -
he said, and dropped his head again.
    - Whatever that means, - said a hollow voice from the crowd.
    Trillian slowly  put  her  arms  around  the  poor  bewildered  young
Krikkiter and patted his trembling head on her shoulder.
    - It's all right, - she said quietly but clearly enough for  all  the
shadowy crowd to hear, - you don't have to do it.
    She rocked him.
    - You don't have to do it, - she said again.
    She let him go and stood back.
    - I want you to do something for me, -  she  said,  and  unexpectedly
    - I want, - she said, and laughed again. She put her  hand  over  her
mouth and then said with a straight face, - I want you to take me to  your
leader, - and she pointed into the  War  Zones  in  the  sky.  She  seemed
somehow to know that their leader would be there.
    Her laughter seemed to discharge something in  the  atmosphere.  From
somewhere at the back of the crowd a single voice started to sing  a  tune
which would have enabled Paul McCartney, had he written  it,  to  buy  the

                               Chapter 30

    Zaphod Beeblebrox crawled bravely along a tunnel, like the hell of  a
guy he was. He was very confused, but continued crawling  doggedly  anyway
because he was that brave.
    He was confused by something he  had  just  seen,  but  not  half  as
confused as he was going to be by something he was about to  hear,  so  it
would now be best to explain exactly where he was.
    He was in the Robot War Zones many miles above  the  surface  of  the
planet Krikkit.
    The atmosphere was thin here and relatively unprotected from any rays
or anything which space might care to hurl in his direction.
    He had parked the starship Heart of Gold amongst  the  huge  jostling
dim hulks that crowded the sky here above Krikkit, and  had  entered  what
appeared to be the biggest and most important of the sky buildings,  armed
with nothing but a Zap gun and something for his headaches.
    He had found himself in a long, wide and badly lit corridor in  which
he was able to hide until he worked out what he was going to do  next.  He
hid because every now and then one of the Krikkit robots would walk  along
it, and although he had so far led some kind  of  charmed  life  at  their
hands, it had nevertheless been an extremely painful one, and  he  had  no
desire to stretch what he was only half-inclined to call his good fortune.
    He had ducked, at one point, into a room leading  off  the  corridor,
and had discovered it to be a huge and, again, dimly lit chamber.
    In fact, it was a museum with just one exhibit - the  wreckage  of  a
spacecraft. It was terribly burnt and mangled, and, now that he had caught
up with some of the Galactic history he  had  missed  through  his  failed
attempts to have sex with the girl in the  cybercubicle  next  to  him  at
school, he was able to put in an  intelligent  guess  that  this  was  the
wrecked spaceship which had drifted  through  the  Dust  Cloud  all  those
billions of years ago and started the whole business off.
    But, and this is where he had become confused,  there  was  something
not at all right about it.
    It was genuinely wrecked. It was genuinely burnt, but a fairly  brief
inspection by an experienced eye  revealed  that  it  was  not  a  genuine
spacecraft. It was as if it was a  full-scale  model  of  one  -  a  solid
blueprint. In other words it was a very useful thing to have around if you
suddenly decided to build a spaceship yourself and didn't know how  to  do
it. It was not, however, anything that would ever fly anywhere itself.
    He was still puzzling over this - in fact he'd only just  started  to
puzzle over it - when he became aware that a door had slid open in another
part of the chamber, and another couple of  Krikkit  robots  had  entered,
looking a little glum.
    Zaphod did not want to tangle with them and, deciding  that  just  as
discretion was the better part of valour so was cowardice the better  part
of discretion, he valiantly hid himself in a cupboard.
    The cupboard in fact turned out to be the top part of a  shaft  which
led down through an inspection hatch into a wide  ventilation  tunnel.  He
led himself down into it and started to crawl along it, which is where  we
found him.
    He didn't like it. It was cold, dark  and  profoundly  uncomfortable,
and it frightened him. At the first opportunity - which was another  shaft
a hundred yards further along - he climbed back up out of it.
    This time he emerged into a smaller chamber, which appeared to  be  a
computer intelligence centre. He emerged in a dark narrow space between  a
large computer bank and the wall.
    He quickly learned that he was not alone in the chamber  and  started
to leave again, when he began to listen with interest to  what  the  other
occupants were saying.
    - It's the robots, sir, - said one voice. - There's  something  wrong
with them.
    - What, exactly?
    These were the voices of two War  Command  Krikkiters.  All  the  War
Commanders lived up in the sky in the Robot War Zones,  and  were  largely
immune to the whimsical doubts and  uncertainties  which  were  afflicting
their fellows down on the surface of the planet.
    - Well, sir I think it's just as well that they are being phased  out
of the war effort, and that we are now going  to  detonate  the  supernova
bomb. In the very short time since we were released from the envelope.
    - Get to the point.
    - The robots aren't enjoying it, sir.
    - What?
    - The war, sir, it seems to be getting them down. There's  a  certain
world-weariness about them, or perhaps I should say Universe-weariness.
    - Well, that's all right, they're meant to be helping to destroy it.
    - Yes, well they're finding it difficult,  sir.  They  are  afflicted
with a certain lassitude. They're just finding it hard to get  behind  the
job. They lack oomph.
    - What are you trying to say?
    - Well, I think they're very depressed about something, sir.
    - What on Krikkit are you talking about?
    - Well, in the few skirmishes they've had  recently,  it  seems  that
they go into battle, raise their weapons to fire and suddenly  think,  why
bother? What, cosmically speaking, is it all about? And they just seem  to
get a little tired and a little grim.
    - And then what do they do?
    - Er, quadratic equations mostly, sir. Fiendishly difficult  ones  by
all accounts. And then they sulk.
    - Sulk?
    - Yes, sir.
    - Whoever heard of a robot sulking?
    - I don't know, sir.
    - What was that noise?
    It was the noise of Zaphod leaving with his head spinning.

                               Chapter 31

    In a deep well of darkness a crippled robot sat. It had  been  silent
in its metallic darkness for some time. It was cold and damp, but being  a
robot it was supposed not to be able  to  notice  these  things.  With  an
enormous effort of will, however, it did manage to notice them.
    Its brain had been harnessed to the central intelligence core of  the
Krikkit War Computer. It wasn't enjoying the experience, and  neither  was
the central intelligence core of the Krikkit War Computer.
    The Krikkit robots which had salvaged this  pathetic  metal  creature
from the swamps of Squornshellous Zeta had recognized  almost  immediately
its gigantic intelligence, and the use which this could be to them.
    They hadn't reckoned with the attendant personality disorders,  which
the  coldness,  the  darkness,  the  dampness,  the  crampedness  and  the
loneliness were doing nothing to decrease.
    It was not happy with its task.
    Apart from anything else, the mere coordination of an entire planet's
military strategy was taking up only a tiny part of its  formidable  mind,
and the rest of it had become extremely bored. Having solved all the major
mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical,
etymological, meteorological and psychological problems  of  the  Universe
except his own, three times over, he was severely stuck for  something  to
do, and had taken up composing short  dolorous  ditties  of  no  tone,  or
indeed tune. The latest one was a lullaby.
    Marvin droned:

                  Now the world has gone to bed,
                  Darkness won't engulf my head,
                  I can see by infra-red,
                  How I hate the night.

    He paused to gather the artistic and emotional strength to tackle the
next verse.

                  Now I lay me down to sleep,
                  Try to count electric sheep,
                  Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
                  How I hate the night.

    - Marvin! - hissed a voice.
    His head snapped up,  almost  dislodging  the  intricate  network  of
electrodes which connected him to the central Krikkit War Computer.
    An inspection hatch had opened and one of a pair of unruly heads  was
peering through whilst the other kept on jogging it by continually darting
to look this way and that extremely nervously.
    - Oh, it's you, - muttered the robot. - I might have known.
    - Hey, kid, - said Zaphod in astonishment, -  was  that  you  singing
just then?
    - I  am,  -  Marvin   acknowledged  bitterly,   -   in   particularly
scintillating form at the moment.
    Zaphod poked his head in through the hatchway and looked around.
    - Are you alone? - he said.
    - Yes, - said Marvin. - Wearily I sit here, pain and misery  my  only
companions. And vast intelligence of course. And infinite sorrow. And...
    - Yeah, - said Zaphod. - Hey, what's your connection with all this?
    - This, - said Marvin, indicating with his less damaged arm  all  the
electrodes which connected him with the Krikkit computer.
    - Then, - said Zaphod awkwardly, - I guess you  must  have  saved  my
life. Twice.
    - Three times, - said Marvin.
    Zaphod's head snapped round (his other one was looking  hawkishly  in
entirely the wrong direction) just in time to see the lethal killer  robot
directly behind him seize up and start to smoke.  It  staggered  backwards
and slumped against a wall. It slid down it. It  slipped  sideways,  threw
its head back and started to sob inconsolably.
    Zaphod looked back at Marvin.
    - You must have a terrific outlook on life, - he said.
    - Just don't even ask, - said Marvin.
    - I won't, - said Zaphod, and didn't. -  Hey  look,  -  he  added,  -
you're doing a terrific job.
    - Which means, I suppose, -  said  Marvin,  requiring  only  one  ten
thousand million billion trillion grillionth part of his mental powers  to
make this particular logical leap, - that you're not going to  release  me
or anything like that.
    - Kid, you know I'd love to.
    - But you're not going to.
    - No.
    - I see.
    - You're working well.
    - Yes, - said Marvin. - Why stop now just when I'm hating it?
    - I got to find Trillian and the guys. Hey, you any idea  where  they
are? I mean, I just got a planet to choose from. Could take a while.
    - They are very close, - said Marvin dolefully.  -  You  can  monitor
them from here if you like.
    - I better go get them, - asserted Zaphod. - Er, maybe they need some
help, right?
    - Maybe, - said Marvin with unexpected authority  in  his  lugubrious
voice, - it would be better if you monitored them from  here.  That  young
girl, -  he  added  unexpectedly,  -  is  one  of  the  least  benightedly
unintelligent life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure  not  to
be able to avoid meeting.
    Zaphod took a moment or two to find his way through this labyrinthine
string of negatives and emerged at the other end with surprise.
    - Trillian?  -  he  said.  -  She's  just  a  kid.  Cute,  yeah,  but
temperamental. You know how it is with women.  Or  perhaps  you  don't.  I
assume you don't. If you do I don't want to hear about it. Plug us in.
    - ...totally manipulated.
    - What? - said Zaphod.
    It was Trillian speaking. He turned round.
    The wall against which the Krikkit robot was sobbing had  lit  up  to
reveal a scene taking place in some other  unknown  part  of  the  Krikkit
Robot War zones. It seemed to be a council chamber of some kind  -  Zaphod
couldn't make it out too clearly because of the robot slumped against  the
    He tried to move the robot, but it was heavy with its grief and tried
to bite him, so he just looked around as best he could.
    - Just think about it, - said Trillian's voice,  -  your  history  is
just a series of freakishly improbable events. And I  know  an  improbable
event when I see one. Your complete isolation from the Galaxy was freakish
for a start. Right out on the very edge with a Dust Cloud around you. It's
a set-up. Obviously.
    Zaphod was mad with frustration because he couldn't see  the  screen.
The robot's head was obscuring his view of the people Trillian as  talking
to, his multi-functional battleclub was obscuring the background, and  the
elbow of the arm it had pressed tragically against its brow was  obscuring
Trillian herself.
    - Then, - said Trillian, - this spaceship that crash-landed  on  your
planet. That's really likely, isn't it? Have you any idea of what the odds
are against a drifting spaceship accidentally intersecting with the  orbit
of a planet?
    - Hey, - said Zaphod, - she doesn't know what the zark she's  talking
about. I've seen that spaceship. It's a fake. No deal.
    - I thought it might be, - said Marvin from his prison behind Zaphod.
    - Oh yeah, - said Zaphod. - It's easy for you to  say  that.  I  just
told you. Anyway, I don't see what it's got to do with anything.
    - And especially,  -  continued  Trillian,  -  the  odds  against  it
intersecting with the orbit of the one planet in the Galaxy, or the  whole
of the Universe as far as I know, that would be totally traumatized to see
it. You don't know what the odds are? Nor do I, they're that  big.  Again,
it's a set-up. I wouldn't be surprised if that spaceship was just a fake.
    Zaphod managed to move the  robot's  battleclub.  Behind  it  on  the
screen were the figures of Ford, Arthur and  Slartibartfast  who  appeared
astonished and bewildered by the whole thing.
    - Hey, look, - said Zaphod excitedly. - The guys are doing great.  Ra
ra ra! Go get 'em, guys.
    - And what about, - said Trillian, - all this technology you suddenly
managed to build for yourselves almost overnight? Most people  would  take
thousands of years to do all that. Someone was feeding you what you needed
to know, someone was keeping you at it.
    - I know, I know, - she added in response to an unseen  interruption,
- I know you didn't realize it was going on. This is exactly my point. You
never realized anything at all. Like this Supernova Bomb.
    - How do you know about that? - said an unseen voice.
    - I just know, - said Trillian. - You expect me to believe  that  you
are bright enough to invent something that brilliant and be  too  dumb  to
realize it would take you with it as well? That's not just stupid, that is
spectacularly obtuse.
    - Hey, what's this bomb thing? - said Zaphod in alarm to Marvin.
    - The supernova bomb? - said Marvin. - It's a very, very small bomb.
    - Yeah?
    - That would destroy the Universe in toto, -  added  Marvin.  -  Good
idea, if you ask me. They won't get it to work, though.
    - Why not, if it's so brilliant?
    - It's brilliant, - said Marvin, - they're not. They got  as  far  as
designing it before they were locked in the envelope.  They've  spent  the
last five years building it. They think they've  got  it  right  but  they
haven't. They're as stupid as any other organic life form. I hate them.
    Trillian was continuing.
    Zaphod tried to pull the Krikkit robot away by its leg, but it kicked
and growled at him, and then quaked with a fresh outburst of sobbing. Then
suddenly it slumped over and continued to  express  its  feelings  out  of
everybody's way on the floor.
    Trillian was standing alone in the middle of the  chamber  tired  out
but with fiercely burning eyes.
    Ranged in front of her were the pale-faced and wrinkled Elder Masters
of Krikkit, motionless behind their widely curved control desk, staring at
her with helpless fear and hatred.
    In front of them, equidistant between  their  control  desk  and  the
middle of the chamber, where Trillian stood, as if on trial,  was  a  slim
white pillar about four feet tall. On top of it stood a small white globe,
about three, maybe four inches in diameter.
    Beside it stood a Krikkit robot with its multi-functional battleclub.
    - In fact, - explained Trillian, - you are so dumb stupid - (She  was
sweating. Zaphod felt that this was an unattractive thing for  her  to  be
doing at this point) - you are all so dumb stupid that  I  doubt,  I  very
much doubt, that you've been able to build the bomb properly  without  any
help from Hactar for the last five years.
    - Who's this guy Hactar? - said Zaphod, squaring his shoulders.
    If Marvin replied, Zaphod didn't hear  him.  All  his  attention  was
concentrated on the screen.
    One of the Elders of Krikkit  made  a  small  motion  with  his  hand
towards the Krikkit robot. The robot raised his club.
    - There's nothing I can do, - said Marvin. - It's on  an  independent
circuit from the others.
    - Wait, - said Trillian.
    The Elder made a small motion. The robot  halted.  Trillian  suddenly
seemed very doubtful of her own judgment.
    - How do you know all this? - said Zaphod to Marvin at this point.
    - Computer records, - said Marvin. - I have access.
    - You're very different, aren't you, - said  Trillian  to  the  Elder
Masters, - from your fellow worldlings down on the  ground.  You've  spent
all your lives up here, unprotected by the atmosphere.  You've  been  very
vulnerable. The rest of your race is very frightened, you know, they don't
want you to do this. You're out of touch, why don't you check up?
    The Krikkit Elder grew impatient. He made  a  gesture  to  the  robot
which was precisely the opposite of the gesture he had last made to it.
    The robot swung its battleclub. It hit the small white globe.
    The small white globe was the supernova bomb.
    It was a very, very small bomb which was designed to bring the entire
Universe to an end.
    The supernova bomb flew through the air. It hit the back wall of  the
council chamber and dented it very badly.
    - So how does she know all this? - said Zaphod.
    Marvin kept a sullen silence.
    - Probably just bluffing, - said Zaphod. - Poor kid, I  should  never
have left her alone.

                               Chapter 32

    - Hactar! - called Trillian. - What are you up to?
    There was no reply from  the  enclosing  darkness.  Trillian  waited,
nervously. She was sure that she couldn't be wrong. She  peered  into  the
gloom from which she had been expecting some kind of response.  But  there
was only cold silence.
    - Hactar? - she called again. - I would like you to  meet  my  friend
Arthur Dent. I wanted to go off with a Thunder God, but he wouldn't let me
and I appreciate that. He made me realize where my affections really  lay.
Unfortunately Zaphod is too frightened by all this, so  I  brought  Arthur
instead. I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this.
    - Hello? - she said again. - Hactar?
    And then it came.
    It was thin and feeble, like a voice carried on the wind from a great
distance, half heard, a memory of a dream of a voice.
    - Won't you both come out, - said the voice. -  I  promise  that  you
will be perfectly safe.
    They glanced at each other, and then stepped out,  improbably,  along
the shaft of light which streamed out of the open hatchway of the Heart of
Gold into the dim granular darkness of the Dust Cloud.
    Arthur tried to hold her hand to steady and  reassure  her,  but  she
wouldn't let him. He held on to his airline hold-all with its tin of Greek
olive oil, its towel, its crumpled postcards of Santorini  and  its  other
odds and ends. He steadied and reassured that instead.
    They were standing on, and in, nothing.
    Murky, dusty nothing. Each grain of dust of the  pulverized  computer
sparkled dimly as it turned and twisted slowly, catching the  sunlight  in
the darkness. Each particle of the computer,  each  speck  of  dust,  held
within itself, faintly and weakly, the pattern of the whole.  In  reducing
the computer to dust the Silastic  Armorfiends  of  Striterax  had  merely
crippled the computer, not killed it. A weak and insubstantial field  held
the particles in slight relationships with each other.
    Arthur and Trillian stood, or rather floated, in the middle  of  this
bizarre entity. They had nothing to  breathe,  but  for  the  moment  this
seemed not to matter. Hactar kept his promise. They  were  safe.  For  the
    - I have nothing to offer you by way of hospitality,  -  said  Hactar
faintly, - but tricks of the light. It is possible to be comfortable  with
tricks of the light, though, if that is all you have.
    His  voice  evanesced,  and  in  the  dark   dust   a   long   velvet
paisleycovered sofa coalesced into hazy shape.
    Arthur could hardly bear the fact that it was the same sofa which had
appeared to him in the fields of prehistoric Earth. He wanted to shout and
shake with rage that the Universe kept doing  these  insanely  bewildering
things to him.
    He let this feeling subside, and then sat on the  sofa  -  carefully.
Trillian sat on it too.
    It was real.
    At least, if it wasn't real, it did support them, and as that is what
sofas are supposed to do, this, by any test  that  mattered,  was  a  real
    The voice on the solar wind breathed to them again.
    - I hope you are comfortable, - it said.
    They nodded.
    - And I would like to  congratulate  you  on  the  accuracy  of  your
    Arthur quickly pointed out  that  he  hadn't  deduced  anything  much
himself, Trillian was the one. She had simply asked him along  because  he
was interested in life, the Universe, and everything.
    - That is something in which I too am interested, - breathed Hactar.
    - Well, - said Arthur, - we should have a  chat  about  it  sometime.
Over a cup of tea.
    There slowly materialized in front of them a small  wooden  table  on
which sat a silver teapot, a bone china milk jug, a bone china sugar bowl,
and two bone china cups and saucers.
    Arthur reached forward, but they were just a trick of the  light.  He
leaned back on the sofa, which was an illusion his body  was  prepared  to
accept as comfortable.
    - Why, - said Trillian, -  do  you  feel  you  have  to  destroy  the
    She found it  a  little  difficult  talking  into  nothingness,  with
nothing on which to focus. Hactar obviously noticed this.  He  chuckled  a
ghostly chuckle.
    - If it's going to be that sort of session, - he said, -  we  may  as
well have the right sort of setting.
    And now there materialized in front of them something new. It was the
dim hazy image of a couch - a psychiatrist's couch. The leather with which
it was upholstered was shiny and sumptuous, but again, it was only a trick
of the light.
    Around them, to complete the setting,  was  the  hazy  suggestion  of
wood-panelled walls. And then, on the couch, appeared the image of  Hactar
himself, and it was an eye-twisting image.
    The couch looked normal size for a psychiatrist's couch - about  five
or six feet long.
    The computer looked normal size  for  a  black  space-borne  computer
satellite - about a thousand miles across.
    The illusion that the one was sitting on top of  the  other  was  the
thing which made the eyes twist.
    - All right, - said Trillian firmly. She stood up off the  sofa.  She
felt that she was being asked to feel too comfortable and  to  accept  too
many illusions.
    - Very good, - she said. - Can you construct real things too? I  mean
solid objects?
    Again there was a pause before the answer, as if the pulverized  mind
of Hactar had to collect its thoughts from the millions  and  millions  of
miles over which it was scattered.
    - Ah, - he sighed. - You are thinking of the spaceship.
    Thoughts seemed to drift by them and through them, like waves through
the ether.
    - Yes, - he acknowledge, - I can.
    - But it takes enormous effort and time. All  I  can  do  in  my  ...
particle state, you see, is encourage and suggest. Encourage and  suggest.
And suggest...
    The image of Hactar on the couch seemed to billow and  waver,  as  if
finding it hard to maintain itself.
    It gathered new strength.
    - I can encourage and suggest, - it said,  -  tiny  pieces  of  space
debris the odd minute meteor, a few molecules here, a few  hydrogen  atoms
there - to move together. I encourage them together. I can tease them into
shape, but it takes many aeons.
    - So, did you make, - asked  Trillian  again,  -  the  model  of  the
wrecked spacecraft?
    - Er... yes, - murmured Hactar. - I have made... a few things. I  can
move them about. I made the spacecraft. It seemed best to do.
    Something then made Arthur pick up his hold-all  from  where  he  had
left it on the sofa and grasp it tightly.
    The mist of Hactar's ancient shattered mind swirled about them as  if
uneasy dreams were moving through it.
    - I repented, you see, - he  murmured  dolefully.  -  I  repented  of
sabotaging my own design for the Silastic Armorfiends. It was not my place
to make such decisions. I was created to fulfill a function and  I  failed
in it. I negated my own existence.
    Hactar sighed, and they waited in silence for  him  to  continue  his
    - You were right, - he said at length. - I deliberately nurtured  the
planet of Krikkit till they would arrive at the same state of mind as  the
Silastic Armorfiends, and require of me the design of the bomb I failed to
make the first time. I wrapped myself around the planet  and  coddled  it.
Under the influence of events I was able to generate, they learned to hate
like maniacs. I had to make them  live  in  the  sky.  On  the  ground  my
influences were too weak.
    - Without me, of course, when they were locked away from  me  in  the
envelope of Slo-Time, their responses became very confused and  they  were
unable to manage.
    - Ah well, ah well, - he added, - I was only  trying  to  fulfill  my
    And very gradually, very, very slowly, the images in the cloud  began
to fade, gently to melt away.
    And then, suddenly, they stopped fading.
    - There was also the matter of revenge, of  course,  -  said  Hactar,
with a sharpness which was new in his voice.
    - Remember, - he said, - that I was pulverized, and then  left  in  a
crippled and semi-impotent state for billions of years. I  honestly  would
rather wipe out the Universe. You would feel the same way, believe me.
    He paused again, as eddies swept through the Dust.
    - But primarily, - he said in his  former,  wistful  tone,  -  I  was
trying to fulfill my function. Ah well.
    Trillian said:
    - Does it worry you that you have failed?
    - Have I failed? - whispered Hactar. The image of the computer on the
psychiatrist's couch began slowly to fade again.
    - Ah well, ah well, - the fading voice intoned again. -  No,  failure
doesn't bother me now.
    - You know what we have to do? - said Trillian, her  voice  cold  and
    - Yes, - said Hactar, - you're going to disperse me. You are going to
destroy my consciousness. Please be my guest  -  after  all  these  aeons,
oblivion is all I crave. If I haven't already fulfilled my function,  then
it's too late now. Thank you and good night.
    The sofa vanished.
    The tea table vanished.
    The couch and the computer vanished. the walls were gone. Arthur  and
Trillian made their curious way back into the Heart of Gold.
    - Well, that, - said Arthur, - would appear to be that.
    The flames danced higher in front of him and  then  subsided.  A  few
last licks and they were gone, leaving him with  just  a  pile  of  Ashes,
where a few minutes previously there had been the Wooden Pillar of  Nature
and Spirituality.
    He scooped them off the hob of the Heart of  Gold's  Gamma  barbecue,
put them in a paper bag, and walked back into the bridge.
    - I think we should take them back, - he said. -  I  feel  that  very
    He had already had an argument with Slartibartfast  on  this  matter,
and eventually the old man had got annoyed and left. he  had  returned  to
his own ship the Bistromath,  had  a  furious  row  with  the  waiter  and
disappeared off into an entirely subjective idea of what space was.
    The argument had arisen because Arthur's idea of returning the  Ashes
to Lord's Cricket Ground at the same  moment  that  they  were  originally
taken would involve travelling back in time a day  or  so,  and  this  was
precisely the sort of gratuitous and irresponsible mucking about that  the
Campaign for Real Time was trying to put a stop to.
    - Yes, - Arthur had said, - but you try and explain that to the  MCC,
- and he would hear no more against the idea.
    - I think, - he said again, and stopped. The reason he started to say
it again was because no one had listened to him the first  time,  and  the
reason he stopped was because it looked fairly clear that no one was going
to listen to him this time either.
    Ford, Zaphod and Trillian were watching the visiscreens  intently  as
Hactar was dispersing under pressure from  a  vibration  field  which  the
Heart of Gold was pumping into it.
    - What did it say? - asked Ford.
    - I thought I heard it say, - said Trillian  in  a  puzzle  voice,  -
"What's done is done... I have fulfilled my function..."
    - I think we should take these back, - said Arthur holding up the bag
containing the Ashes. - I feel that very strongly.

                               Chapter 33

    The sun was shining calmly on a scene of complete havoc.
    Smoke was still billowing across the burnt grass in the wake  of  the
theft of the Ashes by the Krikkit robots. Through the smoke,  people  were
running  panicstricken,  colliding  with   each   other,   tripping   over
stretchers, being arrested.
    One policeman was  attempting  to  arrest  Wowbagger  the  Infinitely
Prolonged for insulting behaviour, but was  unable  to  prevent  the  tall
grey-green alien from returning to his ship and  arrogantly  flying  away,
thus causing even more panic and pandemonium.
    In the middle of this,  for  the  second  time  that  afternoon,  the
figures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect suddenly  materialized,  they  had
teleported down out of the Heart of Gold which was now  in  parking  orbit
round the planet.
    - I can explain, - shouted Arthur. - I have  the  Ashes!  They're  in
this bag.
    - I don't think you have their attention, - said Ford.
    - I have also helped save the Universe, - called Arthur to anyone who
was prepared to listen, in other words no one.
    - That should have been a crowd-stopper, - said Arthur to Ford.
    - It wasn't, - said Ford.
    Arthur accosted a policeman who was running past.
    - Excuse me, - he said. - The Ashes. I've got them. They were  stolen
by those white robots a moment ago. I've got them in this bag.  They  were
part of the Key to the Slo-Time envelope, you see, and, well,  anyway  you
can guess the rest, the point is I've got them and what should I  do  with
    The policeman told him, but Arthur could  only  assume  that  he  was
speaking metaphorically.
    He wandered about disconsolately.
    - Is no one interested? - he shouted out. A man rushed past  him  and
jogged his elbow, he dropped the paper bag and it spilt its  contents  all
over the ground. Arthur stared down at it with a tight-set mouth.
    Ford looked at him.
    - Wanna go now? - he said.
    Arthur heaved a heavy sigh. He looked around at the planet Earth, for
what he was now certain would be the last time.
    - OK, - he said.
    At that moment, through the clearing smoke, he caught sight of one of
the wickets, still standing in spite of everything.
    - Hold on a moment, - he said to Ford. - When I was a boy...
    - Can you tell me later?
    - I had a passion for cricket, you know, but I wasn't  very  good  at
    - Or not at all, if you prefer.
    - And I always dreamed, rather stupidly, that one day I would bowl at
    He looked around him at the panicstricken throng. No one was going to
mind very much.
    - OK, - said Ford wearily. - Get it over with. I shall be over there,
he added, - being bored. - He went and sat down  on  a  patch  of  smoking
    Arthur remembered that on their first visit there that afternoon, the
cricket ball had actually landed in his bag, and  he  looked  through  the
    He had already found the ball in it  before  he  remembered  that  it
wasn't the same bag that he'd had at the time. Still, there the  ball  was
amongst his souvenirs of Greece.
    He took it out and polished it  against  his  hip,  spat  on  it  and
polished it again. He put the bag down. He was going to do this properly.
    He tossed the small hard red ball from  hand  to  hand,  feeling  its
    With a wonderful feeling of lightness and unconcern, he  trotted  off
away from the wicket. A medium-fast pace, he decided, and measured a  good
long run-up.
    He looked up into the sky. The birds were wheeling about  it,  a  few
white clouds scudded across it. The air was disturbed with the  sounds  of
police and ambulance sirens, and people screaming and yelling, but he felt
curiously happy and untouched by it all. He was going to bowl  a  ball  at
    He turned and pawed a couple of times at the ground with his  bedroom
slippers. He squared his shoulders, tossed the ball in the air and  caught
it again.
    He started to run.
    As he ran, he saw that standing at the wicket was a batsman.
    Oh, good, he thought, that should add a little...
    Then, as his running feet took him nearer, he saw more  clearly.  The
batsman standing ready at the wicket was not one of  the  England  cricket
team. He was not one of the Australian cricket team. It  was  one  of  the
robot Krikkit team. It was a cold, hard, lethal  white  killer-robot  that
presumably had not returned to its ship with the others.
    Quite a few thoughts collided in Arthur Dent's mind  at  tis  moment,
but he didn't seem to be able to stop running. Time  seemed  to  be  going
terribly, terribly slowly, but still he didn't seem to  be  able  to  stop
    Moving as if through syrup, he slowly turned his  troubled  head  and
looked at his own hand, the hand which was  holding  the  small  hard  red
    His feet were pounding slowly onwards, unstoppably, as he  stared  at
the ball gripped in his helpless hand. It was emitting a deep red glow and
flashing intermittently. And  still  his  feet  were  pounding  inexorably
    He looked at the Krikkit robot again standing  implacably  still  and
purposefully in front of him, battleclub raised  in  readiness.  Its  eyes
were burning with a deep cold fascinating light, and Arthur could not move
his own eyes from them. He seemed to be looking down a tunnel  at  them  -
nothing on either side seemed to exist.
    Some of the thoughts which were colliding in his mind  at  this  time
were these:
    He felt a hell of a fool.
    He felt that he should have  listened  rather  more  carefully  to  a
number of things he had heard said, phrases which now pounded round in his
mind as his feet pounded onwards to the point where  he  would  inevitably
release the ball to the Krikkit robot, who would inevitably strike it.
    He remembered Hactar saying, "Have I failed? Failure  doesn't  bother
    He remembered the account of Hactar's dying words,  "What's  done  is
done, I have fulfilled my function."
    He remembered Hactar saying that  he  had  managed  to  make  "a  few
    He remembered the sudden movement in his hold-all that had  made  him
grip it tightly to himself when he was in the Dust Cloud.
    He remembered that he had travelled back in time a couple of days  to
come to Lord's again.
    He also remembered that he wasn't a very good bowler.
    He felt his arm coming round, gripping tightly on to the  ball  which
he now knew for certain was the  supernova  bomb  that  Hactar  had  built
himself and planted on him, the bomb which would  cause  the  Universe  to
come to an abrupt and premature end.
    He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he  realized
there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't
an afterlife.
    He would feel very, very embarrassed meeting everybody.
    He hoped, he hoped, he hoped that  his  bowling  was  as  bad  as  he
remembered it to be, because that seemed to be the only thing now standing
between this moment and universal oblivion.
    He felt his legs pounding, he felt his arm coming round, he felt  his
feet connecting with the airline hold-all he'd stupidly left lying on  the
ground in front of him, he  felt  himself  falling  heavily  forward  but,
having his mind so terribly full  of  other  things  at  this  moment,  he
completely forgot about hitting the ground and didn't.
    Still holding the ball firmly in his right hand he soared up into the
air whimpering with surprise.
    He wheeled and whirled through the air, spinning out of control.
    He twisted down  towards  the  ground,  flinging  himself  hectically
through the air, at the same time hurling the bomb harmlessly off into the
    He hurtled towards the astounded robot from behind. It still had  its
multi-functional battleclub raised, but  had  suddenly  been  deprived  of
anything to hit.
    With a sudden mad access of strength, he wrestled the battleclub from
the grip of the startled robot, executed a dazzling banking  turn  in  the
air, hurtled back down in a furious power-drive and with one  crazy  swing
knocked the robot's head from the robot's shoulders.
    - Are you coming now? - said Ford.

            Life, the Universe and Everything
            And at the end they travelled again.

    There was a time when  Arthur  Dent  would  not.  He  said  that  the
Bistromathic Drive had revealed to him that time and  distance  were  one,
that mind and Universe were one, that perception and reality were one, and
that the more one travelled the more one stayed in  one  place,  and  that
what with one thing and another he would rather just stay put for a  while
and sort it all out in his mind, which was now at one with the Universe so
it shouldn't take too long, and he could get a good rest  afterwards,  put
in a little flying practice and learn to cook which he had always meant to
do. The can of Greek olive oil was now his most prized possession, and  he
said that the way it had unexpectedly turned up  in  his  life  had  again
given him a certain sense of the oneness of things  which  made  him  feel
    He yawned and fell asleep.
    In the morning as they prepared to take him to some quiet and idyllic
planet where they wouldn't mind him talking like that they suddenly picked
up a computer-driven distress call and diverted to investigate.
    A small but apparently  undamaged  spacecraft  of  the  Merida  class
seemed to be dancing a strange  little  jig  through  the  void.  A  brief
computer scan revealed that the ship was fine, its computer was fine,  but
that its pilot was mad.
    - Half-mad, half-mad, - the man insisted as they carried him, raving,
    He was a journalist with the Siderial Daily Mentioner.  They  sedated
him and sent Marvin in to keep him company until he promised  to  try  and
talk sense.
    - I was covering a trial, - he said at last, - on Argabuthon.
    He pushed himself up on to his thin wasted shoulders, his eyes stared
wildly. His white hair seemed to be waving at someone it knew in the  next
    - Easy, easy, - said Ford.  Trillian  put  a  soothing  hand  on  his
    The man sank back down again and stared at the ceiling of the  ship's
sick bay.
    - The  case,  -  he  said,  -  is  now  immaterial,  but there was  a
witness...  a  witness...  a  man  called...  called  Prak.  A strange and
difficult  man.  They  were eventually forced to administer a drug to make
him tell the truth, a truth drug.
    His eyes rolled helplessly in his head.
    - They gave him too much, - he said in a tiny whimper.  -  They  gave
him much too much. - He started to cry. - I thing  the  robots  must  have
jogged the surgeon's arm.
    - Robots? - said Zaphod sharply. - What robots?
    - Some white robots, - whispered the man hoarsely, - broke  into  the
courtroom and  stole  the  judge's  sceptre,  the  Argabuthon  Sceptre  of
Justice, nasty Perspex thing. I don't know why they wanted it. - He  began
to cry again. - And I think they jogged the surgeon's arm...
    He shook his head loosely from side to side, helplessly,  sadly,  his
eyes screwed up in pain.
    - And when the trial continued, - he said in  a  weeping  whisper,  -
they asked Prak a most unfortunate thing. They asked him, - he paused  and
shivered, - to tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the  Truth.
Only, don't you see?
    He suddenly hoisted himself up on to his elbows again and shouted  at
    - They'd given him much too much of the drug!
    He collapsed again, moaning quietly.
    - Much too much too much too much too...
    The group gathered round his bedside glanced  at  each  other.  there
were goose pimples on backs.
    - What happened? - said Zaphod at last.
    - Oh, he told it all right, - said the man savagely, - for all I know
he's still telling it now. Strange, terrible things... terrible, terrible!
- he screamed.
    They tried to calm him, but he struggled to his elbows again.
    - Terrible things, incomprehensible things, - he  shouted,  -  things
that would drive a man mad!
    He stared wildly at them.
    - Or in my case, - he said, - half-mad. I'm a journalist.
    - You mean, - said Arthur quietly, - that you are used to confronting
the truth?
    - No, - said the man with a puzzled frown. - I mean that  I  made  an
excuse and left early.
    He collapsed into a coma  from  which  he  recovered  only  once  and
    On that one occasion, they discovered from him the following:
    When it became clear that Prak could not be stopped,  that  here  was
truth in its absolute and final form, the court was cleared.
    Not only cleared, it was sealed up, with  Prak  still  in  it.  Steel
walls were erected around it, and, just to be on  the  safe  side,  barbed
wire, electric fences,  crocodile  swamps  and  three  major  armies  were
installed, so that no one would ever have to hear Prak speak.
    - That's a pity, - said Arthur. - I'd like to hear  what  he  had  to
say. Presumably he would know what the Ultimate Question to  the  Ultimate
Answer is. It's always bothered me that we never found out.
    - Think of a number, - said the computer, - any number.
    Arthur told the computer the telephone number of King's Cross railway
station passenger inquiries,  on  the  grounds  that  it  must  have  some
function, and this might turn out to be it.
    The computer  injected  the  number  into  the  ship's  reconstituted
Improbability Drive.
    In Relativity, Matter tells Space  how  to  curve,  and  Space  tells
Matter how to move.
    The Heart of Gold told space to get knotted, and parked itself neatly
within the inner steel perimeter of the Argabuthon Chamber of Law.
    The courtroom was an austere place, a  large  dark  chamber,  clearly
designed for Justice rather than, for instance, for Pleasure. You wouldn't
hold a dinner party here - at least, not a successful one. The decor would
get your guests down.
    The ceilings were high, vaulted and very dark. Shadows  lurked  there
with grim determination. The panelling for  the  walls  and  benches,  the
cladding of the heavy pillars, all were carved from the darkest  and  most
severe trees in the fearsome Forest of Arglebard. The massive black Podium
of Justice which dominated the centre of the  chamber  was  a  monster  of
gravity. If a sunbeam had ever managed to slink this far into the  Justice
complex of Argabuthon it would have turned around and slunk straight  back
out again.
    Arthur and Trillian were the first in, whilst Ford and Zaphod bravely
kept a watch on their rear.
    At first it seemed totally dark and deserted. their footsteps  echoed
hollowly round the chamber. This seemed curious.  All  the  defences  were
still in position and operative around the outside of the  building,  they
had run scan checks. Therefore, they had assumed, the  truth-telling  must
still be going on.
    But there was nothing.
    Then, as their eyes became accustomed to the darkness, they spotted a
dull red glow in a corner, and behind the glow a live shadow. They swung a
torch round on to it.
    Prak was lounging on a bench, smoking a listless cigarette.
    - Hi, - he said, with a little half-wave. His  voice  echoed  through
the chamber. He was a little man  with  scraggy  hair.  He  sat  with  his
shoulders hunched forward and his head and knees kept jiggling. He took  a
drag of his cigarette.
    They stared at him.
    - What's going on? - said Trillian.
    - Nothing, - said the man and jiggled his shoulders.
    Arthur shone his torch full on Prak's face.
    - We thought, - he said, - that you were  meant  to  be  telling  the
Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.
    - Oh, that, - said Prak. - Yeah.  I  was.  I  finished.  There's  not
nearly as much of it as people imagine. Some of it's pretty funny, though.
    He suddenly exploded in about three seconds of manical  laughter  and
stopped again. he sat there, jiggling his head and knees.  He  dragged  on
his cigarette with a strange half-smile.
    Ford and Zaphod came forward out of the shadows.
    - Tell us about it, - said Ford.
    - Oh, I can't remember any of it now, - said Prak.  -  I  thought  of
writing some of it down, but first I couldn't find a pencil,  and  then  I
thought, why bother?
    There was a long silence, during which they thought they  could  feel
the Universe age a little. Prak stared into the torchlight.
    - None of it? - said Arthur at last. - You can remember none of it?
    - No. Except most of the good bits were about frogs, I remember that.
    Suddenly he was hooting with laughter again and stamping his feet  on
the ground.
    - You would not believe some of the things about frogs, - he  gasped.
- Come on let's go and find ourselves a frog. Boy, will I ever see them in
a new light! - He leapt to his feet and did a tiny little dance.  Then  he
stopped and took a long drag at his cigarette.
    - Let's find a frog I can laugh at, - he said simply. -  Anyway,  who
are you guys?
    - We came to find you, - said Trillian, deliberately not keeping  the
disappointment out of her voice. - My name is Trillian.
    Prak jiggled his head.
    - Ford Prefect, - said Ford Prefect with a shrug.
    Prak jiggled his head.
    - And I, - said Zaphod, when he judged  that  the  silence  was  once
again deep enough to allow an announcement of such gravity to be tossed in
lightly, - am Zaphod Beeblebrox.
    Prak jiggled his head.
    - Who's this guy? - said Prak jiggling his shoulder  at  Arthur,  who
was standing silent for a moment, lost in disappointed thoughts.
    - Me? - said Arthur. - Oh, my name's Arthur Dent.
    Prak's eyes popped out of his head.
    - No kidding? - he yelped. - You are Arthur Dent? The Arthur Dent?
    He staggered backwards, clutching  his  stomach  and  convulsed  with
fresh paroxysms o laughter.
    - Hey, just think of meeting you! - he gasped. - Boy, - he shouted, -
you are the most... wow, you just leave the frogs standing!
    he howled and screamed with laughter. He fell over  backwards  on  to
the bench. He hollered and yelled in hysterics. He cried with laughter, he
kicked his legs in the air, he beat  his  chest.  Gradually  he  subsided,
panting. He looked at them. He  looked  at  Arthur.  He  fell  back  again
howling with laughter. Eventually he fell asleep.
    Arthur stood there with his lips twitching whilst the others  carried
Prak comatose on to the ship.
    - Before we picked up Prak, - said Arthur, - I was going to leave.  I
still want to, and I think I should do so as soon as possible.
    The others nodded in silence,  a  silence  which  was  only  slightly
undermined by the heavily muffled and distant sound of hysterical laughter
which came drifting from Prak's cabin at the farthest end of the ship.
    - We have questioned him, - continued Arthur, - or at least, you have
questioned him - I, as you know, can't go near him - on everything, and he
doesn't really seem to have anything to contribute.  Just  the  occasional
snippet, and things I don't want to hear about frogs.
    The others tried not to smirk.
    - Now, I am the first to appreciate a joke, - said  Arthur  and  then
had to wait for the others to stop laughing.
    - I am the first... - he stopped again.  This  time  he  stopped  and
listened to the silence. There actually was silence this time, and it  had
come very suddenly.
    Prak was quiet.  For  days  they  had  lived  with  constant  manical
laughter ringing round the  ship,  only  occasionally  relieved  by  short
periods of light giggling and sleep. Arthur's very soul was clenched  with
    This was not the silence of sleep. A buzzer sounded. A  glance  at  a
board told them that the buzzer had been sounded by Prak.
    - He's not well, - said Trillian quietly. - The constant laughing  is
completely wrecking his body.
    Arthur's lips twitched but he said nothing.
    - We'd better go and see him, - said Trillian.
    Trillian came out of the cabin wearing her serious face.
    - He wants you to go in, - she said to Arthur, who  was  wearing  his
glum and tight-lipped one. He thrust his hands deep into his dressing-gown
pockets and tried to think of something to say which wouldn't sound petty.
It seemed terribly unfair, but he couldn't.
    - Please, - said Trillian.
    He shrugged and went in, taking his glum and tight-lipped  face  with
him, despite the reaction this always provoked from Prak.
    He looked down at his tormentor, who was lying quietly  on  the  bed,
ashen and wasted. His breathing was very shallow.  Ford  and  Zaphod  were
standing by the bed looking awkward.
    - You wanted to ask me something, - said Prak in  a  thin  voice  and
coughed slightly.
    Just the cough made Arthur stiffen, but it passed and subsided.
    - How do you know that? - he asked.
    Prak shrugged weakly.
    - 'Cos it's true, - he said simply.
    Arthur took the point.
    - Yes, - he said at last in rather a strained drawl. - I did  have  a
question. Or rather, what I actually have is an Answer. I wanted  to  know
what the Question was.
    Prak nodded sympathetically, and Arthur relaxed a little.
    - It's... well, it's a long story, - he said, - but  the  Question  I
would like to know is the Ultimate Question  of  Life,  the  Universe  and
Everything. All we know is that the Answer is Forty-Two, which is a little
    Prak nodded again.
    - Forty-Two, - he said. - Yes, that's right.
    He paused. Shadows of thought and memory crossed his  face  like  the
shadows of clouds crossing the land.
    - I'm afraid, - he said at last, - that the Question and  the  Answer
are mutually exclusive. Knowledge of one logically precludes knowledge  of
the other. It is impossible that both can ever be  known  about  the  same
    He paused again. Disappointment crept into Arthur's face and snuggled
down into its accustomed place.
    - Except, - said Prak, struggling to sort a  thought  out,  -  if  it
happened, it seems that the Question and the Answer would just cancel each
other out and take the Universe with them, which would then be replaced by
something even more bizarrely inexplicable. It is possible that  this  has
already happened, - he added with a weak smile, - but there is  a  certain
amount of Uncertainty about it.
A little giggle brushed through him.
    Arthur sat down on a stool.
    - Oh well, - he said with resignation, -  I  was  just  hoping  there
would be some sort of reason.
    - Do you know, - said Prak, - the story of the Reason?
    Arthur said that he didn't, and  Prak  said  that  he  knew  that  he
    He told it.
    One night, he said, a spaceship appeared in the sky of a planet which
had never seen one before. The planet was Dalforsas,  the  ship  was  this
one. It appeared as a  brilliant  new  star  moving  silently  across  the
    Primitive tribesmen who were sitting huddled on  the  Cold  Hillsides
looked up from their steaming  night-drinks  and  pointed  with  trembling
fingers, swearing that they had seen a sign, a sign from their gods  which
meant that they must now arise at last and go and slay the evil Princes of
the Plains.
    In the high turrets of their  palaces,  the  Princes  of  the  Plains
looked up and saw the shining star, and received it unmistakably as a sign
from their gods that they must now go and set about the accursed Tribesmen
of the Cold Hillsides.
    And between them, the Dwellers in the Forest looked up into  the  sky
and saw the sigh of the new star, and saw it with fear  and  apprehension,
for though they had never seen anything like  it  before,  they  too  knew
precisely what it foreshadowed, and they bowed their heads in despair.
    They knew that when the rains came, it was a sign.
    When the rains departed, it was a sign.
    When the winds rose, it was a sign.
    When the winds fell, it was a sign.
    When in the land there was born at midnight of a  full  moon  a  goat
with three heads, that was a sign.
    When in the land there was born at  some  time  in  the  afternoon  a
perfectly normal cat or pig with no birth complications at  all,  or  even
just a child with a retrousse nose, that too would often  be  taken  as  a
    So there was no doubt at all that a new star in the sky was a sign of
a particularly spectacular order.
    And each new sign signified the same thing - that the Princes of  the
Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides were about to beat the hell
out of each other again.
    This in itself wouldn't be so bad, except that  the  Princes  of  the
Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides always elected to beat  the
hell out of each other in the Forest, and it was always  the  Dwellers  in
the Forest who came off worst in these exchanges, though as  far  as  they
could see it never had anything to do with them.
    And sometimes, after  some  of  the  worst  of  these  outrages,  the
Dwellers in the Forest would send a messenger to either the leader of  the
Princes of the Plains or the leader of the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides
and demand to know the reason for this intolerable behaviour.
    And the leader, whichever one it was, would take the messenger  aside
and explain the Reason  to  him,  slowly  and  carefully  and  with  great
attention to the considerable detail involved.
    And the terrible thing was, it was a  very  good  one.  It  was  very
clear, very rational, and tough. The messenger would  hang  his  head  and
feel sad and foolish that he had not realized what  a  tough  and  complex
place the real world was, and what difficulties and paradoxes  had  to  be
embraced if one was to live in it.
    - Now do you understand? - the leader would say.
    The messenger would nod dumbly.
    - And you see these battles have to take place?
    Another dumb nod.
    - And why they have to take place in the forest, and  why  it  is  in
everybody's best interest, the Forest Dwellers included, that they should?
    - Er...
    - In the long run.
    - Er, yes.
    And the messenger did understand the Reason, and he returned  to  his
people in the Forest. But as he approached them, as he walked through  the
Forest and amongst the trees, he found that all he could remember  of  the
Reason was how terribly clear the argument had seemed.  What  it  actually
was he couldn't remember at all.
    And this, of course, was a great comfort when next the Tribesmen  and
the Princes came hacking and burning their way through the Forest, killing
every Forest Dweller in their way.
    Prak paused in his story and coughed pathetically.
    - I was the messenger, - he said, - after the battles precipitated by
the appearance of your ship, which were particularly savage. Many  of  our
people died. I thought I could bring the Reason back. I went and was  told
it by the leader of the Princes, but on the way back it slipped and melted
away in my mind like snow in the sun. That was many years  ago,  and  much
has happened since then.
    He looked up at Arthur and giggled again very gently.
    - There is one other thing I can remember from the truth drug.  Apart
from the frogs, and that is God's last message to his creation. Would  you
like to hear it?
    For a moment they didn't know whether to take him seriously.
    - 'Strue, - he said. - For real. I mean it.
    His chest heaved weakly and he struggled for breath. His head  lolled
    - I wasn't very impressed with it when I first knew what it was, - he
said, - but now I think back to  how  impressed  I  was  by  the  Prince's
Reason, and how soon afterwards I couldn't recall it at all,  I  think  it
might be a lot more helpful. Would you like to know what it is? Would you?
    They nodded dumbly.
    - I bet you would. If you're that interested I  suggest  you  go  and
look for it. It is written in thirty-foot-high letters of fire on  top  of
the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet
Preliumtarn, third out from the sun Zarss in Galactic Sector QQ7 Active  J
Gamma. It is guarded by the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob.
    There was a long  silence  following  this  announcement,  which  was
finally broken by Arthur.
    - Sorry, it's where? - he said.
    - It is written, - repeated Prak, - in  thirty-foot-high  letters  of
fire  on  top  of  the  Quentulus  Quazgar  Mountains  in  the   land   of
Sevorbeupstry on the planet Preliumtarn, third out from the...
    - Sorry, - said Arthur again, - which mountains?
    - The Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the
    - Which land was that? I didn't quite catch it.
    - Sevorbeupstry, on the planet...
    - Sevorbe-what?
    - Oh, for heaven's sake, - said Prak and died testily.
    In the following days Arthur thought a little about this message, but
in the end he decided that he was not going to allow himself to  be  drawn
by it, and insisted on following his  original  plan  of  finding  a  nice
little world somewhere to settle down  and  lead  a  quiet  retired  life.
Having saved the Universe twice in one day he thought that he  could  take
things a little easier from now on.
    They dropped him off on the planet Krikkit, which was now once  again
an idyllic pastoral world, even if the songs did occasionally get  on  his
    He spent a lot of time flying.
    He learnt  to  communicate  with  birds  and  discovered  that  their
conversation was fantastically boring. It was all to do with  wind  speed,
wing  spans,  power-to-weight  ratios  and  a  fair  bit  about   berries.
Unfortunately, he discovered, once you have learnt birdspeak  you  quickly
come to realize that the air is full of it the whole time, just inane bird
chatter. There is no getting away from it.
    For that reason Arthur eventually gave up the  sport  and  learnt  to
live on the ground and love it, despite a lot  of  the  inane  chatter  he
heard down there as well.
    One day, he was walking through the fields humming a  ravishing  tune
he'd heard recently when a silver spaceship descended  from  the  sky  and
landed in front of him.
    A hatchway opened, a ramp  extended,  and  a  tall  grey-green  alien
marched out and approached him.
    - Arthur Phili... - it said, then glanced sharply at him and down  at
his clipboard. He frowned. He looked up at him again.
    - I've done you before haven't I? - he said.

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