The Hitchhikers Guide To Galaxy

User Manual:

Open the PDF directly: View PDF PDF.
Page Count: 171

DownloadThe Hitchhikers Guide To Galaxy
Open PDF In BrowserView PDF


Complete  &  Unabridged    

Introduction:  A  Guide  to  the  Guide    
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy    
The  Restaurant  at  the  End  of  the  Universe    
Life,  the  Universe  and  Everything    
So  Long,  and  Thanks  for  All  the  Fish    
Young  Zaphod  Plays  It  Safe    
Mostly  Harmless    


Introduction:  A  GUIDE  TO  
Some  unhelpful  remarks  from  the  author    
The  history  of  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  is  now  so  
complicated  that  every  time  I  tell  it  I  contradict  myself,  and  whenever  
I  do  get  it  right  I'm  misquoted.  So  the  publication  of  this  omnibus  
edition  seemed  like  a  good  opportunity  to  set  the  record  straight  ʹ  or  
at  least  firmly  crooked.  Anything  that  is  put  down  wrong  here  is,  as  far  
as  I'm  concerned,  wrong  for  good.    
The  idea  for  the  title  first  cropped  up  while  I  was  lying  drunk  in  a  
field  in  Innsbruck,  Austria,  in  1971.  Not  particularly  drunk,  just  the  
sort  of  drunk  you  get  when  you  have  a  couple  of  stiff  Gössers  after  
not  having  eaten  for  two  days  straight,  on  account  of  being  a  
penniless  hitchhiker.  We  are  talking  of  a  mild  inability  to  stand  up.    
I  was  traveling  with  a  copy  of  the  Hitch  Hiker  s  Guide  to  Europe  by  
Ken  Walsh,  a  very  battered  copy  that  I  had  borrowed  from  someone.  
In  fact,  since  this  was  1971  and  I  still  have  the  book,  it  must  count  as  
stolen  by  now.  I  didn't  have  a  copy  of  Europe  on  Five  Dollars  a  Day  (as  
it  then  was)  because  I  wasn't  in  that  financial  league.    
Night  was  beginning  to  fall  on  my  field  as  it  spun  lazily  underneath  
me.  I  was  wondering  where  I  could  go  that  was  cheaper  than  
Innsbruck,  revolved  less  and  didn't  do  the  sort  of  things  to  me  that  
Innsbruck  had  done  to  me  that  afternoon.  What  had  happened  was  
this.  I  had  been  walking  through  the  town  trying  to  find  a  particular  
address,  and  being  thoroughly  lost  I  stopped  to  ask  for  directions  
from  a  man  in  the  street.  I  knew  this  mightn't  be  easy  because  I  don't  
speak  German,  but  I  was  still  surprised  to  discover  just  how  much  
difficulty  I  was  having  communicating  with  this  particular  man.  
Gradually  the  truth  dawned  on  me  as  we  struggled  in  vain  to  
understand  each  other  that  of  all  the  people  in  Innsbruck  I  could  have  
stopped  to  ask,  the  one  I  had  picked  did  not  speak  English,  did  not  
speak  French  and  was  also  deaf  and  dumb.  With  a  series  of  sincerely  
apologetic  hand  movements,  I  disentangled  myself,  and  a  few  

minutes  later,  on  another  street,  I  stopped  and  asked  another  man  
who  also  turned  out  to  be  deaf  and  dumb,  which  was  when  I  bought  
the  beers.    
I  ventured  back  onto  the  street.  I  tried  again.    
When  the  third  man  I  spoke  to  turned  out  to  be  deaf  and  dumb  
and  also  blind  I  began  to  feel  a  terrible  weight  settling  on  my  
shoulders;  wherever  I  looked  the  trees  and  buildings  took  on  dark  and  
menacing  aspects.  I  pulled  my  coat  tightly  around  me  and  hurried  
lurching  down  the  street,  whipped  by  a  sudden  gusting  wind.  I  
bumped  into  someone  and  stammered  an  apology,  but  he  was  deaf  
and  dumb  and  unable  to  understand  me.  The  sky  loured.  The  
pavement  seemed  to  tip  and  spin.  If  I  hadn't  happened  then  to  duck  
down  a  side  street  and  pass  a  hotel  where  a  convention  for  the  deaf  
was  being  held,  there  is  every  chance  that  my  mind  would  have  
cracked  completely  and  I  would  have  spent  the  rest  of  my  life  writing  
the  sort  of  books  for  which  Kafka  became  famous  and  dribbling.    
As  it  is  I  went  to  lie  in  a  field,  along  with  my  Hitch  Hiker's  Guide  to  
Europe,  and  when  the  stars  came  out  it  occurred  to  me  that  if  only  
someone  would  write  a  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  as  well,  then  
I  for  one  would  be  off  like  a  shot.  Having  had  this  thought  I  promptly  
fell  asleep  and  forgot  about  it  for  six  years.    
I  went  to  Cambridge  University.  I  took  a  number  of  bathsʹand  a  
degree  in  English.  I  worried  a  lot  about  girls  and  what  had  happened  
to  my  bike.  Later  I  became  a  writer  and  worked  on  a  lot  of  things  that  
were  almost  incredibly  successful  but  in  fact  just  failed  to  see  the  light  
of  day.  Other  writers  will  know  what  I  mean.    
My  pet  project  was  to  write  something  that  would  combine  
comedy  and  science  fiction,  and  it  was  this  obsession  that  drove  me  
into  deep  debt  and  despair.  No  one  was  interested,  except  finally  one  
man  a  BBC  radio  producer  named  Simon  Brett  who  had  had  the  same  
idea,  comedy  and  science  fiction.  Although  Simon  only  produced  the  
first  episode  before  leaving  the  BBC  to  concentrate  on  his  own  writing  
(he  is  best  known  in  the  United  Stares  for  his  excellent  Charles  Paris  
detective  novels),  I  owe  him  an  immense  debt  of  gratitude  for  simply  
getting  the  thing  to  happen  in  the  first  place.  He  was  succeeded  by  
the  legendary  Geoffrey  Perkins.    
In  its  original  form  the  show  was  going  to  be  rather  different.  I  was  
feeling  a  little  disgruntled  with  the  world  at  the  time  and  had  put  

together  about  six  different  plots,  each  of  which  ended  with  the  
destruction  of  the  world  in  a  different  way,  and  for  a  different  reason.  
It  was  to  be  called  "The  Ends  of  the  Earth  "    
While  I  was  filling  in  the  details  of  the  first  plot  ʹ  in  which  the  Earth  
was  demolished  to  make  way  for  a  new  hyperspace  express  route  ʹ  I  
realized  that  I  needed  to  have  someone  from  another  planet  around  
to  tell  the  reader  what  was  going  on,  to  give  the  story  the  context  it  
needed.  So  I  had  to  work  out  who  he  was  and  what  he  was  doing  on  
the  Earth.    
I  decided  to  call  him  Ford  Prefect.  (This  was  a  joke  that  missed  
American  audiences  entirely,  of  course,  since  they  had  never  heard  of  
the  rather  oddly  named  little  car,  and  many  thought  it  was  a  typing  
error  for  Perfect.)  I  explained  in  the  text  that  the  minimal  research  my  
alien  character  had  done  before  arriving  on  this  planet  had  led  him  to  
think  that  this  name  would  be  "nicely  inconspicuous."  He  had  simply  
mistaken  the  dominant  life  form.    
So  how  would  such  a  mistake  arise?  I  remembered  when  I  used  to  
hitchhike  through  Europe  and  would  often  find  that  the  information  
or  advice  that  came  my  way  was  out  of  date  or  misleading  in  some  
way.  Most  of  it,  of  course,  just  came  from  stories  of  other  people's  
travel  experiences.    
At  that  point  the  title  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  
suddenly  popped  back  into  my  mind  from  wherever  it  had  been  
hiding  all  this  time.  Ford,  I  decided,  would  be  a  researcher  who  
collected  data  for  the  Guide.  As  soon  as  I  started  to  develop  this  
particular  notion,  it  moved  inexorably  to  the  center  of  the  story,  and  
the  rest,  as  the  creator  of  the  original  Ford  Prefect  would  say,  is  bunk.    
The  story  grew  in  the  most  convoluted  way,  as  many  people  will  be  
surprised  to  learn.  Writing  episodically  meant  that  when  I  finished  
one  episode  I  had  no  idea  about  what  the  next  one  would  contain.  
When,  in  the  twists  and  turns  of  the  plot,  some  event  suddenly  
seemed  to  illuminate  things  that  had  gone  before,  I  was  as  surprised  
as  anyone  else.    
I  think  that  the  BBC's  attitude  toward  the  show  while  it  was  in  
production  was  very  similar  to  that  which  Macbeth  had  toward  
murdering  people  ʹ  initial  doubts,  followed  by  cautious  enthusiasm  
and  then  greater  and  greater  alarm  at  the  sheer  scale  of  the  
undertaking  and  still  no  end  in  sight.  Reports  that  Geoffrey  and  I  and  

the  sound  engineers  were  buried  in  a  subterranean  studio  for  weeks  
on  end,  taking  as  long  to  produce  a  single  sound  effect  as  other  
people  took  to  produce  an  entire  series  (and  stealing  everybody  else's  
studio  time  in  which  to  do  so),  were  all  vigorously  denied  but  
absolutely  true.    
The  budget  of  the  series  escalated  to  the  point  that  it  could  have  
practically  paid  for  a  few  seconds  of  Dallas.  If  the  show  hadn't  
The  first  episode  went  out  on  BBC  Radio  4  at  10  30  P.M.  on  
Wednesday,  March  8,  1978,  in  a  huge  blaze  of  no  publicity  at  all.  Bats  
heard  it.  The  odd  dog  barked.    
After  a  couple  of  weeks  a  letter  or  two  trickled  in.  So  ʹ  someone  
out  there  had  listened.  People  I  Balked  to  seemed  to  like  Marvin  the  
Paranoid  Android,  whom  I  had  written  in  as  a  one  ʹ  scene  joke  and  
had  only  developed  further  at  Geoffrey's  insistence.    
Then  some  publishers  became  interested,  and  I  was  commissioned  
by  Pan  Books  in  England  to  write  up  the  series  in  book  form.  After  a  
lot  of  procrastination  and  hiding  and  inventing  excuses  and  having  
baths,  I  managed  to  get  about  two-­‐thirds  of  it  done.  At  this  point  they  
said,  very  pleasantly  and  politely,  that  I  had  already  passed  ten  
deadlines,  so  would  I  please  just  finish  the  page  I  was  on  and  let  them  
have  the  damn  thing.    
Meanwhile,  I  was  busy  trying  to  write  another  series  and  was  also  
writing  and  script  editing  the  TV  series  "Dr.  Who,"  because  while  it  
was  all  very  pleasant  to  have  your  own  radio  series,  especially  one  
that  somebody  had  written  in  to  say  they  had  heard,  it  didn't  exactly  
buy  you  lunch.    
So  that  was  more  or  less  the  situation  when  the  book  The  
Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  was  published  in  England  in  
September  1979  and  appeared  on  the  Sunday  Times  mass  market  
best-­‐seller  list  at  number  one  and  just  stayed  there.  Clearly,  
somebody  had  been  listening.    
This  is  where  things  start  getting  complicated,  and  this  is  what  I  
was  asked,  in  writing  this  Introduction,  to  explain.  The  Guide  has  
appeared  in  so  many  forms  ʹ  books,  radio,  a  television  series,  records  
and  soon  to  be  a  major  motion  picture  ʹ  each  time  with  a  different  
story  line  that  even  its  most  acute  followers  have  become  baffled  at  

Here  then  is  a  breakdown  of  the  different  versions  ʹ  not  including  
the  various  stage  versions,  which  haven't  been  seen  in  the  States  and  
only  complicate  the  matter  further.    
The  radio  series  began  in  England  in  March  1978.  The  first  series  
consisted  of  six  programs,  or  "fits"  as  they  were  called.  Fits  1  thru  6.  
Easy.  Later  that  year,  one  more  episode  was  recorded  and  broadcast,  
commonly  known  as  the  Christmas  episode.  It  contained  no  reference  
of  any  kind  to  Christmas.  It  was  called  the  Christmas  episode  because  
it  was  first  broadcast  on  December  24,  which  is  not  Christmas  Day.  
After  this,  things  began  to  get  increasingly  complicated.    
In  the  fall  of  1979,  the  first  Hitchhiker  book  was  published  in  
England,  called  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy.  It  was  a  
substantially  expanded  version  of  the  first  four  episodes  of  the  radio  
series,  in  which  some  of  the  characters  behaved  in  entirely  different  
ways  and  others  behaved  in  exactly  the  same  ways  but  for  entirely  
different  reasons,  which  amounts  to  the  same  thing  but  saves  
rewriting  the  dialogue.    
At  roughly  the  same  time  a  double  record  album  was  released,  
which  was,  by  contrast,  a  slightly  contracted  version  of  the  first  four  
episodes  of  the  radio  series.  These  were  not  the  recordings  that  were  
originally  broadcast  but  wholly  new  recordings  of  substantially  the  
same  scripts.  This  was  done  because  we  had  used  music  off  
gramophone  records  as  incidental  music  for  the  series,  which  is  fine  
on  radio,  but  makes  commercial  release  impossible.    
In  January  1980,  five  new  episodes  of  "The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  
the  Galaxy"  were  broadcast  on  BBC  Radio,  all  in  one  week,  bringing  
the  total  number  to  twelve  episodes.    
In  the  fall  of  1980,  the  second  Hitchhiker  book  was  published  in  
England,  around  the  same  time  that  Harmony  Books  published  the  
first  book  in  the  United  States.  It  was  a  very  substantially  reworked,  
reedited  and  contracted  version  of  episodes  7,  8,  9,  10,  11,  12,  S  and  6  
(in  that  order)  of  the  radio  series  "The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  
Galaxy."  In  case  that  seemed  too  straightforward,  the  book  was  called  
The  Restaurant  at  the  End  of  the  Universe,  because  it  included  the  
material  from  radio  episodes  of  "The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  
Galaxy,"  which  was  set  in  a  restaurant  called  Milliways,  otherwise  
known  as  the  Restaurant  at  the  End  of  the  Universe.    

At  roughly  the  same  time,  a  second  record  album  was  made  
featuring  a  heavily  rewritten  and  expanded  version  of  episodes  5  and  
6  of  the  radio  series.  This  record  album  was  also  called  The  Restaurant  
at  the  End  of  the  Universe.    
Meanwhile,  a  series  of  six  television  episodes  of  "The  Hitchhiker's  
Guide  to  the  Galaxy"  was  made  by  the  BBC  and  broadcast  in  January  
1981.  This  was  based,  more  or  less,  on  the  first  six  episodes  of  the  
radio  series.  In  other  words,  it  incorporated  most  of  the  book  The  
Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  and  the  second  half  of  the  book  The  
Restaurant  at  be  End  of  the  Universe.  Therefore,  though  it  followed  
the  basic  structure  of  the  radio  series,  it  incorporated  revisions  from  
the  books,  which  didn't.    
In  January  1982  Harmony  Books  published  The  Restaurant  at  the  
End  of  the  Universe  in  the  United  States.    
In  the  summer  of  1982,  a  third  Hitchhiker  book  was  published  
simultaneously  in  England  and  the  United  States,  called  Life,  the  
Universe  and  Everything.  This  was  not  based  on  anything  that  had  
already  been  heard  or  seen  on  radio  or  television.  In  fact  it  flatly  
contradicted  episodes  7,  8,  9,  10,  I  1  and  12  of  the  radio  series.  These  
episodes  of  "The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy,"  you  will  
remember,  had  already  been  incorporated  in  revised  form  in  the  book  
called  The  Restaurant  at  the  End  of  the  Universe.    
At  this  point  I  went  to  America  to  write  a  film  screenplay  which  was  
completely  inconsistent  with  most  of  what  has  gone  on  so  far,  and  
since  that  film  was  then  delayed  in  the  making  (a  rumor  currently  has  
it  that  filming  will  start  shortly  before  the  Last  Trump),  I  wrote  a  
fourth  and  last  book  in  the  trilogy,  So  Long,  and  Thanks  for  All  the  Fish.  
This  was  published  in  Britain  and  the  USA  in  the  fall  of  1984  and  it  
effectively  contradicted  everything  to  date,  up  to  and  including  itself.    
As  if  this  all  were  not  enough  I  wrote  a  computer  game  for  Infocom  
called  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy,  which  bore  only  fleeting  
resemblances  to  anything  that  had  previously  gone  under  that  title,  
and  in  collaboration  with  Geoffrey  Perkins  assembled  The  Hitchhiker  s  
Guide  to  the  Galaxy:  The  Original  Radio  Scripts  (published  in  England  
and  the  USA  in  1985).  Now  this  was  an  interesting  venture.  The  book  
is,  as  the  title  suggests,  a  collection  of  all  the  radio  scripts,  as  
broadcast,  and  it  is  therefore  the  only  example  of  one  Hitchhiker  
publication  accurately  and  consistently  reflecting  another.  I  feel  a  

little  uncomfortable  with  this  ʹ  which  is  why  the  introduction  to  that  
book  was  written  after  the  final  and  definitive  one  you  are  now  
reading  and,  of  course,  flatly  contradicts  it.    
People  often  ask  me  how  they  can  leave  the  planet,  so  I  have  
prepared  some  brief  notes.    
How  to  Leave  the  Planet    
I.  Phone  NASA.  Their  phone  number  is  (713)  483-­‐3111.  Explain  that  
it's  very  important  that  you  get  away  as  soon  as  possible.    
2.  If  they  do  not  cooperate,  phone  any  friend  you  may  have  in  the  
White  House-­‐(202)  456-­‐1414-­‐to  have  a  word  on  your  behalf  with  the  
guys  at  NASA.    
3.  If  you  don't  have  any  friends  in  the  White  House,  phone  the  
Kremlin  (ask  the  overseas  operator  for  0107-­‐095-­‐295-­‐9051).  They  
don't  have  any  friends  there  either  (at  least,  none  to  speak  of),  but  
they  do  seem  to  have  a  little  influence,  so  you  may  as  well  try.    
4.  If  that  also  fails,  phone  the  Pope  for  guidance.  His  telephone  
number  is  011-­‐39-­‐6-­‐6982,  and  I  gather  his  switchboard  is  infallible.    
5.  If  all  these  attempts  fail,  flag  down  a  passing  flying  saucer  and  
explain  that  de's  vitally  important  you  get  away  before  your  phone  bill  
Douglas  Adams    
Los  Angeles  1983  and    
London  1985/1986    


For  Jonny  Brock  and  Clare  Gorst  
and  all  other  Arlingtonians  
for  tea,  sympathy,  and  a  sofa    



Far  out  in  the  uncharted  backwaters  of  the  unfashionable  end  of  
the  western  spiral  arm  of  the  Galaxy  lies  a  small  unregarded  yellow  
Orbiting  this  at  a  distance  of  roughly  ninety-­‐two  million  miles  is  an  
utterly  insignificant  little  blue  green  planet  whose  ape-­‐descended  life  
forms  are  so  amazingly  primitive  that  they  still  think  digital  watches  
are  a  pretty  neat  idea.    
This  planet  has  ʹ  or  rather  had  ʹ  a  problem,  which  was  this:  most  
of  the  people  on  it  were  unhappy  for  pretty  much  of  the  time.  Many  
solutions  were  suggested  for  this  problem,  but  most  of  these  were  
largely  concerned  with  the  movements  of  small  green  pieces  of  paper,  
which  is  odd  because  on  the  whole  it  wasn't  the  small  green  pieces  of  
paper  that  were  unhappy.    
And  so  the  problem  remained;  lots  of  the  people  were  mean,  and  
most  of  them  were  miserable,  even  the  ones  with  digital  watches.    
Many  were  increasingly  of  the  opinion  that  they'd  all  made  a  big  
mistake  in  coming  down  from  the  trees  in  the  first  place.  And  some  
said  that  even  the  trees  had  been  a  bad  move,  and  that  no  one  should  
ever  have  left  the  oceans.    
And  then,  one  Thursday,  nearly  two  thousand  years  after  one  man  
had  been  nailed  to  a  tree  for  saying  how  great  it  would  be  to  be  nice  
to  people  for  a  change,  one  girl  sitting  on  her  own  in  a  small  cafe  in  
Rickmansworth  suddenly  realized  what  it  was  that  had  been  going  
wrong  all  this  time,  and  she  finally  knew  how  the  world  could  be  
made  a  good  and  happy  place.  This  time  it  was  right,  it  would  work,  
and  no  one  would  have  to  get  nailed  to  anything.    
Sadly,  however,  before  she  could  get  to  a  phone  to  tell  anyone  
about  it,  a  terribly  stupid  catastrophe  occurred,  and  the  idea  was  lost  
This  is  not  her  story.    

But  it  is  the  story  of  that  terrible  stupid  catastrophe  and  some  of  its  
It  is  also  the  story  of  a  book,  a  book  called  The  Hitch  Hiker's  Guide  
to  the  Galaxy  ʹ  not  an  Earth  book,  never  published  on  Earth,  and  until  
the  terrible  catastrophe  occurred,  never  seen  or  heard  of  by  any  
Nevertheless,  a  wholly  remarkable  book.    
In  fact  it  was  probably  the  most  remarkable  book  ever  to  come  out  
of  the  great  publishing  houses  of  Ursa  Minor  ʹ  of  which  no  Earthman  
had  ever  heard  either.    
Not  only  is  it  a  wholly  remarkable  book,  it  is  also  a  highly  successful  
one  ʹ  more  popular  than  the  Celestial  Home  Care  Omnibus,  better  
selling  than  Fifty  More  Things  to  do  in  Zero  Gravity,  and  more  
controversial  than  Oolon  Colluphid's  trilogy  of  philosophical  
blockbusters  Where  God  Went  Wrong,  Some  More  of  God's  Greatest  
Mistakes  and  Who  is  this  God  Person  Anyway?    
In  many  of  the  more  relaxed  civilizations  on  the  Outer  Eastern  Rim  
of  the  Galaxy,  the  Hitch  Hiker's  Guide  has  already  supplanted  the  
great  Encyclopedia  Galactica  as  the  standard  repository  of  all  
knowledge  and  wisdom,  for  though  it  has  many  omissions  and  
contains  much  that  is  apocryphal,  or  at  least  wildly  inaccurate,  it  
scores  over  the  older,  more  pedestrian  work  in  two  important  
First,  it  is  slightly  cheaper;  and  secondly  it  has  the  words  DON'T  
PANIC  inscribed  in  large  friendly  letters  on  its  cover.    
But  the  story  of  this  terrible,  stupid  Thursday,  the  story  of  its  
extraordinary  consequences,  and  the  story  of  how  these  
consequences  are  inextricably  intertwined  with  this  remarkable  book  
begins  very  simply.    
It  begins  with  a  house.    


Chapter  1    

The  house  stood  on  a  slight  rise  just  on  the  edge  of  the  village.  It  
stood  on  its  own  and  looked  over  a  broad  spread  of  West  Country  
farmland.  Not  a  remarkable  house  by  any  means  ʹ  it  was  about  thirty  
years  old,  squattish,  squarish,  made  of  brick,  and  had  four  windows  
set  in  the  front  of  a  size  and  proportion  which  more  or  less  exactly  
failed  to  please  the  eye.    
The  only  person  for  whom  the  house  was  in  any  way  special  was  
Arthur  Dent,  and  that  was  only  because  it  happened  to  be  the  one  he  
lived  in.  He  had  lived  in  it  for  about  three  years,  ever  since  he  had  
moved  out  of  London  because  it  made  him  nervous  and  irritable.  He  
was  about  thirty  as  well,  dark  haired  and  never  quite  at  ease  with  
himself.  The  thing  that  used  to  worry  him  most  was  the  fact  that  
people  always  used  to  ask  him  what  he  was  looking  so  worried  about.  
He  worked  in  local  radio  which  he  always  used  to  tell  his  friends  was  a  
lot  more  interesting  than  they  probably  thought.  It  was,  too  ʹ  most  of  
his  friends  worked  in  advertising.    
It  hadn't  properly  registered  with  Arthur  that  the  council  wanted  to  
knock  down  his  house  and  build  an  bypass  instead.    
At  eight  o'clock  on  Thursday  morning  Arthur  didn't  feel  very  good.  
He  woke  up  blearily,  got  up,  wandered  blearily  round  his  room,  
opened  a  window,  saw  a  bulldozer,  found  his  slippers,  and  stomped  
off  to  the  bathroom  to  wash.    
Toothpaste  on  the  brush  ʹ  so.  Scrub.    
Shaving  mirror  ʹ  pointing  at  the  ceiling.  He  adjusted  it.  For  a  
moment  it  reflected  a  second  bulldozer  through  the  bathroom  
window.  Properly  adjusted,  it  reflected  Arthur  Dent's  bristles.  He  
shaved  them  off,  washed,  dried,  and  stomped  off  to  the  kitchen  to  
find  something  pleasant  to  put  in  his  mouth.    
Kettle,  plug,  fridge,  milk,  coffee.  Yawn.    
The  word  bulldozer  wandered  through  his  mind  for  a  moment  in  
search  of  something  to  connect  with.    

The  bulldozer  outside  the  kitchen  window  was  quite  a  big  one.    
He  stared  at  it.    
"Yellow,"  he  thought  and  stomped  off  back  to  his  bedroom  to  get  
Passing  the  bathroom  he  stopped  to  drink  a  large  glass  of  water,  
and  another.  He  began  to  suspect  that  he  was  hung  over.  Why  was  he  
hung  over?  Had  he  been  drinking  the  night  before?  He  supposed  that  
he  must  have  been.  He  caught  a  glint  in  the  shaving  mirror.  "Yellow,"  
he  thought  and  stomped  on  to  the  bedroom.    
He  stood  and  thought.  The  pub,  he  thought.  Oh  dear,  the  pub.  He  
vaguely  remembered  being  angry,  angry  about  something  that  
seemed  important.  He'd  been  telling  people  about  it,  telling  people  
about  it  at  great  length,  he  rather  suspected:  his  clearest  visual  
recollection  was  of  glazed  looks  on  other  people's  faces.  Something  
about  a  new  bypass  he  had  just  found  out  about.  It  had  been  in  the  
pipeline  for  months  only  no  one  seemed  to  have  known  about  it.  
Ridiculous.  He  took  a  swig  of  water.  It  would  sort  itself  out,  he'd  
decided,  no  one  wanted  a  bypass,  the  council  didn't  have  a  leg  to  
stand  on.  It  would  sort  itself  out.    
God  what  a  terrible  hangover  it  had  earned  him  though.  He  looked  
at  himself  in  the  wardrobe  mirror.  He  stuck  out  his  tongue.  "Yellow,"  
he  thought.  The  word  yellow  wandered  through  his  mind  in  search  of  
something  to  connect  with.    
Fifteen  seconds  later  he  was  out  of  the  house  and  lying  in  front  of  a  
big  yellow  bulldozer  that  was  advancing  up  his  garden  path.    
Mr.  L  Prosser  was,  as  they  say,  only  human.  In  other  words  he  was  
a  carbon-­‐based  life  form  descended  from  an  ape.  More  specifically  he  
was  forty,  fat  and  shabby  and  worked  for  the  local  council.  Curiously  
enough,  though  he  didn't  know  it,  he  was  also  a  direct  male-­‐line  
descendant  of  Genghis  Khan,  though  intervening  generations  and  
racial  mixing  had  so  juggled  his  genes  that  he  had  no  discernible  
Mongoloid  characteristics,  and  the  only  vestiges  left  in  Mr.  L  Prosser  
of  his  mighty  ancestry  were  a  pronounced  stoutness  about  the  tum  
and  a  predilection  for  little  fur  hats.    
He  was  by  no  means  a  great  warrior:  in  fact  he  was  a  nervous  
worried  man.  Today  he  was  particularly  nervous  and  worried  because  

something  had  gone  seriously  wrong  with  his  job  ʹ  which  was  to  see  
that  Arthur  Dent's  house  got  cleared  out  of  the  way  before  the  day  
was  out.    
"Come  off  it,  Mr.  Dent,",  he  said,  "you  can't  win  you  know.  You  
can't  lie  in  front  of  the  bulldozer  indefinitely."  He  tried  to  make  his  
eyes  blaze  fiercely  but  they  just  wouldn't  do  it.    
Arthur  lay  in  the  mud  and  squelched  at  him.    
"I'm  game,"  he  said,  "we'll  see  who  rusts  first."    
"I'm  afraid  you're  going  to  have  to  accept  it,"  said  Mr.  Prosser  
gripping  his  fur  hat  and  rolling  it  round  the  top  of  his  head,  "this  
bypass  has  got  to  be  built  and  it's  going  to  be  built!"    
"First  I've  heard  of  it,"  said  Arthur,  "why's  it  going  to  be  built?"    
Mr.  Prosser  shook  his  finger  at  him  for  a  bit,  then  stopped  and  put  
it  away  again.    
"What  do  you  mean,  why's  it  got  to  be  built?"  he  said.  "It's  a  bypass.  
You've  got  to  build  bypasses."    
Bypasses  are  devices  which  allow  some  people  to  drive  from  point  
A  to  point  B  very  fast  whilst  other  people  dash  from  point  B  to  point  A  
very  fast.  People  living  at  point  C,  being  a  point  directly  in  between,  
are  often  given  to  wonder  what's  so  great  about  point  A  that  so  many  
people  of  point  B  are  so  keen  to  get  there,  and  what's  so  great  about  
point  B  that  so  many  people  of  point  A  are  so  keen  to  get  there.  They  
often  wish  that  people  would  just  once  and  for  all  work  out  where  the  
hell  they  wanted  to  be.    
Mr.  Prosser  wanted  to  be  at  point  D.  Point  D  wasn't  anywhere  in  
particular,  it  was  just  any  convenient  point  a  very  long  way  from  
points  A,  B  and  C.  He  would  have  a  nice  little  cottage  at  point  D,  with  
axes  over  the  door,  and  spend  a  pleasant  amount  of  time  at  point  E,  
which  would  be  the  nearest  pub  to  point  D.  His  wife  of  course  wanted  
climbing  roses,  but  he  wanted  axes.  He  didn't  know  why  ʹ  he  just  
liked  axes.  He  flushed  hotly  under  the  derisive  grins  of  the  bulldozer  
He  shifted  his  weight  from  foot  to  foot,  but  it  was  equally  
uncomfortable  on  each.  Obviously  somebody  had  been  appallingly  
incompetent  and  he  hoped  to  God  it  wasn't  him.    
Mr.  Prosser  said:  "You  were  quite  entitled  to  make  any  suggestions  
or  protests  at  the  appropriate  time  you  know."    

"Appropriate  time?"  hooted  Arthur.  "Appropriate  time?  The  first  I  
knew  about  it  was  when  a  workman  arrived  at  my  home  yesterday.  I  
asked  him  if  he'd  come  to  clean  the  windows  and  he  said  no  he'd  
come  to  demolish  the  house.  He  didn't  tell  me  straight  away  of  course.  
Oh  no.  First  he  wiped  a  couple  of  windows  and  charged  me  a  fiver.  
Then  he  told  me."    
"But  Mr.  Dent,  the  plans  have  been  available  in  the  local  planning  
office  for  the  last  nine  month."    
"Oh  yes,  well  as  soon  as  I  heard  I  went  straight  round  to  see  them,  
yesterday  afternoon.  You  hadn't  exactly  gone  out  of  your  way  to  call  
attention  to  them  had  you?  I  mean  like  actually  telling  anybody  or  
"But  the  plans  were  on  display..."    
"On  display?  I  eventually  had  to  go  down  to  the  cellar  to  find  
"That's  the  display  department."    
"With  a  torch."    
"Ah,  well  the  lights  had  probably  gone."    
"So  had  the  stairs."    
"But  look,  you  found  the  notice  didn't  you?"    
"Yes,"  said  Arthur,  "yes  I  did.  It  was  on  display  in  the  bottom  of  a  
locked  filing  cabinet  stuck  in  a  disused  lavatory  with  a  sign  on  the  
door  saying  Beware  of  the  Leopard."    
A  cloud  passed  overhead.  It  cast  a  shadow  over  Arthur  Dent  as  he  
lay  propped  up  on  his  elbow  in  the  cold  mud.  It  cast  a  shadow  over  
Arthur  Dent's  house.  Mr.  Prosser  frowned  at  it.    
"It's  not  as  if  it's  a  particularly  nice  house,"  he  said.    
"I'm  sorry,  but  I  happen  to  like  it."    
"You'll  like  the  bypass."    
"Oh  shut  up,"  said  Arthur  Dent.  "Shut  up  and  go  away,  and  take  
your  bloody  bypass  with  you.  You  haven't  got  a  leg  to  stand  on  and  
you  know  it."    
Mr.  Prosser's  mouth  opened  and  closed  a  couple  of  times  while  his  
mind  was  for  a  moment  filled  with  inexplicable  but  terribly  attractive  
visions  of  Arthur  Dent's  house  being  consumed  with  fire  and  Arthur  
himself  running  screaming  from  the  blazing  ruin  with  at  least  three  

hefty  spears  protruding  from  his  back.  Mr.  Prosser  was  often  
bothered  with  visions  like  these  and  they  made  him  feel  very  nervous.  
He  stuttered  for  a  moment  and  then  pulled  himself  together.    
"Mr.  Dent,"  he  said.    
"Hello?  Yes?"  said  Arthur.    
"Some  factual  information  for  you.  Have  you  any  idea  how  much  
damage  that  bulldozer  would  suffer  if  I  just  let  it  roll  straight  over  
"How  much?"  said  Arthur.    
"None  at  all,"  said  Mr.  Prosser,  and  stormed  nervously  off  
wondering  why  his  brain  was  filled  with  a  thousand  hairy  horsemen  
all  shouting  at  him.    
By  a  curious  coincidence,  None  at  all  is  exactly  how  much  suspicion  
the  ape-­‐descendant  Arthur  Dent  had  that  one  of  his  closest  friends  
was  not  descended  from  an  ape,  but  was  in  fact  from  a  small  planet  in  
the  vicinity  of  Betelgeuse  and  not  from  Guildford  as  he  usually  
Arthur  Dent  had  never,  ever  suspected  this.    
This  friend  of  his  had  first  arrived  on  the  planet  some  fifteen  Earth  
years  previously,  and  he  had  worked  hard  to  blend  himself  into  Earth  
society  ʹ  with,  it  must  be  said,  some  success.  For  instance  he  had  
spent  those  fifteen  years  pretending  to  be  an  out  of  work  actor,  which  
was  plausible  enough.    
He  had  made  one  careless  blunder  though,  because  he  had  
skimped  a  bit  on  his  preparatory  research.  The  information  he  had  
gathered  had  led  him  to  choose  the  name  "Ford  Prefect"  as  being  
nicely  inconspicuous.    
He  was  not  conspicuously  tall,  his  features  were  striking  but  not  
conspicuously  handsome.  His  hair  was  wiry  and  gingerish  and  brushed  
backwards  from  the  temples.  His  skin  seemed  to  be  pulled  backwards  
from  the  nose.  There  was  something  very  slightly  odd  about  him,  but  
it  was  difficult  to  say  what  it  was.  Perhaps  it  was  that  his  eyes  didn't  
blink  often  enough  and  when  you  talked  to  him  for  any  length  of  time  
your  eyes  began  involuntarily  to  water  on  his  behalf.  Perhaps  it  was  
that  he  smiled  slightly  too  broadly  and  gave  people  the  unnerving  
impression  that  he  was  about  to  go  for  their  neck.    

He  struck  most  of  the  friends  he  had  made  on  Earth  as  an  eccentric,  
but  a  harmless  one  ʹ  an  unruly  boozer  with  some  oddish  habits.  For  
instance  he  would  often  gatecrash  university  parties,  get  badly  drunk  
and  start  making  fun  of  any  astrophysicist  he  could  find  till  he  got  
thrown  out.    
Sometimes  he  would  get  seized  with  oddly  distracted  moods  and  
stare  into  the  sky  as  if  hypnotized  until  someone  asked  him  what  he  
was  doing.  Then  he  would  start  guiltily  for  a  moment,  relax  and  grin.    
"Oh,  just  looking  for  flying  saucers,"  he  would  joke  and  everyone  
would  laugh  and  ask  him  what  sort  of  flying  saucers  he  was  looking  
"Green  ones!"  he  would  reply  with  a  wicked  grin,  laugh  wildly  for  a  
moment  and  then  suddenly  lunge  for  the  nearest  bar  and  buy  an  
enormous  round  of  drinks.    
Evenings  like  this  usually  ended  badly.  Ford  would  get  out  of  his  
skull  on  whisky,  huddle  into  a  corner  with  some  girl  and  explain  to  her  
in  slurred  phrases  that  honestly  the  colour  of  the  flying  saucers  didn't  
matter  that  much  really.    
Thereafter,  staggering  semi-­‐paralytic  down  the  night  streets  he  
would  often  ask  passing  policemen  if  they  knew  the  way  to  
Betelgeuse.  The  policemen  would  usually  say  something  like,  "Don't  
you  think  it's  about  time  you  went  off  home  sir?"    
"I'm  trying  to  baby,  I'm  trying  to,"  is  what  Ford  invariably  replied  on  
these  occasions.    
In  fact  what  he  was  really  looking  out  for  when  he  stared  
distractedly  into  the  night  sky  was  any  kind  of  flying  saucer  at  all.  The  
reason  he  said  green  was  that  green  was  the  traditional  space  livery  
of  the  Betelgeuse  trading  scouts.    
Ford  Prefect  was  desperate  that  any  flying  saucer  at  all  would  
arrive  soon  because  fifteen  years  was  a  long  time  to  get  stranded  
anywhere,  particularly  somewhere  as  mindboggingly  dull  as  the  Earth.    
Ford  wished  that  a  flying  saucer  would  arrive  soon  because  he  
knew  how  to  flag  flying  saucers  down  and  get  lifts  from  them.  He  
knew  how  to  see  the  Marvels  of  the  Universe  for  less  than  thirty  
Altairan  dollars  a  day.    
In  fact,  Ford  Prefect  was  a  roving  researcher  for  that  wholly  
remarkable  book  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy.    

Human  beings  are  great  adaptors,  and  by  lunchtime  life  in  the  
environs  of  Arthur's  house  had  settled  into  a  steady  routine.  It  was  
Arthur's  accepted  role  to  lie  squelching  in  the  mud  making  occasional  
demands  to  see  his  lawyer,  his  mother  or  a  good  book;  it  was  Mr.  
Prosser's  accepted  role  to  tackle  Arthur  with  the  occasional  new  ploy  
such  as  the  For  the  Public  Good  talk,  the  March  of  Progress  talk,  the  
They  Knocked  My  House  Down  Once  You  Know,  Never  Looked  Back  
talk  and  various  other  cajoleries  and  threats;  and  it  was  the  bulldozer  
drivers'  accepted  role  to  sit  around  drinking  coffee  and  experimenting  
with  union  regulations  to  see  how  they  could  turn  the  situation  to  
their  financial  advantage.    
The  Earth  moved  slowly  in  its  diurnal  course.    
The  sun  was  beginning  to  dry  out  the  mud  Arthur  lay  in.    
A  shadow  moved  across  him  again.    
"Hello  Arthur,"  said  the  shadow.    
Arthur  looked  up  and  squinting  into  the  sun  was  startled  to  see  
Ford  Prefect  standing  above  him.    
"Ford!  Hello,  how  are  you?"    
"Fine,"  said  Ford,  "look,  are  you  busy?"    
"Am  I  busy?"  exclaimed  Arthur.  "Well,  I've  just  got  all  these  
bulldozers  and  things  to  lie  in  front  of  because  they'll  knock  my  house  
down  if  I  don't,  but  other  than  that...  well,  no  not  especially,  why?"    
They  don't  have  sarcasm  on  Betelgeuse,  and  Ford  Prefect  often  
failed  to  notice  it  unless  he  was  concentrating.  He  said,  "Good,  is  
there  anywhere  we  can  talk?"    
"What?"  said  Arthur  Dent.    
For  a  few  seconds  Ford  seemed  to  ignore  him,  and  stared  fixedly  
into  the  sky  like  a  rabbit  trying  to  get  run  over  by  a  car.  Then  suddenly  
he  squatted  down  beside  Arthur.    
"We've  got  to  talk,"  he  said  urgently.    
"Fine,"  said  Arthur,  "talk."    
"And  drink,"  said  Ford.  "It's  vitally  important  that  we  talk  and  drink.  
Now.  We'll  go  to  the  pub  in  the  village."    
He  looked  into  the  sky  again,  nervous,  expectant.    

"Look,  don't  you  understand?"  shouted  Arthur.  He  pointed  at  
Prosser.  "That  man  wants  to  knock  my  house  down!"    
Ford  glanced  at  him,  puzzled.    
"Well  he  can  do  it  while  you're  away  can't  he?"  he  asked.    
"But  I  don't  want  him  to!"    
"Look,  what's  the  matter  with  you  Ford?"  said  Arthur.    
"Nothing.  Nothing's  the  matter.  Listen  to  me  ʹ  I've  got  to  tell  you  
the  most  important  thing  you've  ever  heard.  I've  got  to  tell  you  now,  
and  I've  got  to  tell  you  in  the  saloon  bar  of  the  Horse  and  Groom."    
"But  why?"    
"Because  you  are  going  to  need  a  very  stiff  drink."    
Ford  stared  at  Arthur,  and  Arthur  was  astonished  to  find  that  his  
will  was  beginning  to  weaken.  He  didn't  realize  that  this  was  because  
of  an  old  drinking  game  that  Ford  learned  to  play  in  the  hyperspace  
ports  that  served  the  madranite  mining  belts  in  the  star  system  of  
Orion  Beta.    
The  game  was  not  unlike  the  Earth  game  called  Indian  Wrestling,  
and  was  played  like  this:    
Two  contestants  would  sit  either  side  of  a  table,  with  a  glass  in  
front  of  each  of  them.    
Between  them  would  be  placed  a  bottle  of  Janx  Spirit  (as  
immortalized  in  that  ancient  Orion  mining  song  "Oh  don't  give  me  
none  more  of  that  Old  Janx  Spirit/  No,  don't  you  give  me  none  more  
of  that  Old  Janx  Spirit/  For  my  head  will  fly,  my  tongue  will  lie,  my  
eyes  will  fry  and  I  may  die/  Won't  you  pour  me  one  more  of  that  sinful  
Old  Janx  Spirit").    
Each  of  the  two  contestants  would  then  concentrate  their  will  on  
the  bottle  and  attempt  to  tip  it  and  pour  spirit  into  the  glass  of  his  
opponent  ʹ  who  would  then  have  to  drink  it.    
The  bottle  would  then  be  refilled.  The  game  would  be  played  again.  
And  again.    
Once  you  started  to  lose  you  would  probably  keep  losing,  because  
one  of  the  effects  of  Janx  spirit  is  to  depress  telepsychic  power.    

As  soon  as  a  predetermined  quantity  had  been  consumed,  the  final  
loser  would  have  to  perform  a  forfeit,  which  was  usually  obscenely  
Ford  Prefect  usually  played  to  lose.    
Ford  stared  at  Arthur,  who  began  to  think  that  perhaps  he  did  want  
to  go  to  the  Horse  and  Groom  after  all.    
"But  what  about  my  house...?"  he  asked  plaintively.    
Ford  looked  across  to  Mr.  Prosser,  and  suddenly  a  wicked  thought  
struck  him.    
"He  wants  to  knock  your  house  down?"    
"Yes,  he  wants  to  build..."    
"And  he  can't  because  you're  lying  in  front  of  the  bulldozers?"    
"Yes,  and..."    
"I'm  sure  we  can  come  to  some  arrangement,"  said  Ford.  "Excuse  
me!"  he  shouted.    
Mr.  Prosser  (who  was  arguing  with  a  spokesman  for  the  bulldozer  
drivers  about  whether  or  not  Arthur  Dent  constituted  a  mental  health  
hazard,  and  how  much  they  should  get  paid  if  he  did)  looked  around.  
He  was  surprised  and  slightly  alarmed  to  find  that  Arthur  had  
"Yes?  Hello?"  he  called.  "Has  Mr.  Dent  come  to  his  senses  yet?"    
"Can  we  for  the  moment,"  called  Ford,  "assume  that  he  hasn't?"    
"Well?"  sighed  Mr.  Prosser.    
"And  can  we  also  assume,"  said  Ford,  "that  he's  going  to  be  staying  
here  all  day?"    
"So  all  your  men  are  going  to  be  standing  around  all  day  doing  
"Could  be,  could  be..."    
"Well,  if  you're  resigned  to  doing  that  anyway,  you  don't  actually  
need  him  to  lie  here  all  the  time  do  you?"    
"You  don't,"  said  Ford  patiently,  "actually  need  him  here."    

Mr.  Prosser  thought  about  this.    
"Well  no,  not  as  such...",  he  said,  "not  exactly  need..."  Prosser  was  
worried.  He  thought  that  one  of  them  wasn't  making  a  lot  of  sense.    
Ford  said,  "So  if  you  would  just  like  to  take  it  as  read  that  he's  
actually  here,  then  he  and  I  could  slip  off  down  to  the  pub  for  half  an  
hour.  How  does  that  sound?"    
Mr.  Prosser  thought  it  sounded  perfectly  potty.    
"That  sounds  perfectly  reasonable,"  he  said  in  a  reassuring  tone  of  
voice,  wondering  who  he  was  trying  to  reassure.    
"And  if  you  want  to  pop  off  for  a  quick  one  yourself  later  on,"  said  
Ford,  "we  can  always  cover  up  for  you  in  return."    
"Thank  you  very  much,"  said  Mr.  Prosser  who  no  longer  knew  how  
to  play  this  at  all,  "thank  you  very  much,  yes,  that's  very  kind..."  He  
frowned,  then  smiled,  then  tried  to  do  both  at  once,  failed,  grasped  
hold  of  his  fur  hat  and  rolled  it  fitfully  round  the  top  of  his  head.  He  
could  only  assume  that  he  had  just  won.    
"So,"  continued  Ford  Prefect,  "if  you  would  just  like  to  come  over  
here  and  lie  down..."    
"What?"  said  Mr.  Prosser.    
"Ah,  I'm  sorry,"  said  Ford,  "perhaps  I  hadn't  made  myself  fully  clear.  
Somebody's  got  to  lie  in  front  of  the  bulldozers  haven't  they?  Or  there  
won't  be  anything  to  stop  them  driving  into  Mr.  Dent's  house  will  
"What?"  said  Mr.  Prosser  again.    
"It's  very  simple,"  said  Ford,  "my  client,  Mr.  Dent,  says  that  he  will  
stop  lying  here  in  the  mud  on  the  sole  condition  that  you  come  and  
take  over  from  him."    
"What  are  you  talking  about?"  said  Arthur,  but  Ford  nudged  him  
with  his  shoe  to  be  quiet.    
"You  want  me,"  said  Mr.  Prosser,  spelling  out  this  new  thought  to  
himself,  "to  come  and  lie  there..."    
"In  front  of  the  bulldozer?"    
"Instead  of  Mr.  Dent."    

"In  the  mud."    
"In,  as  you  say  it,  the  mud."    
As  soon  as  Mr.  Prosser  realized  that  he  was  substantially  the  loser  
after  all,  it  was  as  if  a  weight  lifted  itself  off  his  shoulders:  this  was  
more  like  the  world  as  he  knew  it.  He  sighed.    
"In  return  for  which  you  will  take  Mr.  Dent  with  you  down  to  the  
"That's  it,"  said  Ford.  "That's  it  exactly."    
Mr.  Prosser  took  a  few  nervous  steps  forward  and  stopped.    
"Promise,"  said  Ford.  He  turned  to  Arthur.    
"Come  on,"  he  said  to  him,  "get  up  and  let  the  man  lie  down."    
Arthur  stood  up,  feeling  as  if  he  was  in  a  dream.    
Ford  beckoned  to  Prosser  who  sadly,  awkwardly,  sat  down  in  the  
mud.  He  felt  that  his  whole  life  was  some  kind  of  dream  and  he  
sometimes  wondered  whose  it  was  and  whether  they  were  enjoying  
it.  The  mud  folded  itself  round  his  bottom  and  his  arms  and  oozed  
into  his  shoes.    
Ford  looked  at  him  severely.    
"And  no  sneaky  knocking  down  Mr.  Dent's  house  whilst  he's  away,  
alright?"  he  said.    
"The  mere  thought,"  growled  Mr.  Prosser,  "hadn't  even  begun  to  
speculate,"  he  continued,  settling  himself  back,  "about  the  merest  
possibility  of  crossing  my  mind."    
He  saw  the  bulldozer  driver's  union  representative  approaching  
and  let  his  head  sink  back  and  closed  his  eyes.  He  was  trying  to  
marshal  his  arguments  for  proving  that  he  did  not  now  constitute  a  
mental  health  hazard  himself.  He  was  far  from  certain  about  this  ʹ  his  
mind  seemed  to  be  full  of  noise,  horses,  smoke,  and  the  stench  of  
blood.  This  always  happened  when  he  felt  miserable  and  put  upon,  
and  he  had  never  been  able  to  explain  it  to  himself.  In  a  high  
dimension  of  which  we  know  nothing  the  mighty  Khan  bellowed  with  
rage,  but  Mr.  Prosser  only  trembled  slightly  and  whimpered.  He  
began  to  fell  little  pricks  of  water  behind  the  eyelids.  Bureaucratic  
cock-­‐ups,  angry  men  lying  in  the  mud,  indecipherable  strangers  
handing  out  inexplicable  humiliations  and  an  unidentified  army  of  
horsemen  laughing  at  him  in  his  head  ʹ  what  a  day.    

What  a  day.  Ford  Prefect  knew  that  it  didn't  matter  a  pair  of  
dingo's  kidneys  whether  Arthur's  house  got  knocked  down  or  not  now.    
Arthur  remained  very  worried.    
"But  can  we  trust  him?"  he  said.    
"Myself  I'd  trust  him  to  the  end  of  the  Earth,"  said  Ford.    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Arthur,  "and  how  far's  that?"    
"About  twelve  minutes  away,"  said  Ford,  "come  on,  I  need  a  drink."    


Chapter  2    

Here's  what  the  Encyclopedia  Galactica  has  to  say  about  alcohol.  It  
says  that  alcohol  is  a  colourless  volatile  liquid  formed  by  the  
fermentation  of  sugars  and  also  notes  its  intoxicating  effect  on  certain  
carbon-­‐based  life  forms.    
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  also  mentions  alcohol.  It  says  
that  the  best  drink  in  existence  is  the  Pan  Galactic  Gargle  Blaster.    
It  says  that  the  effect  of  a  Pan  Galactic  Gargle  Blaster  is  like  having  
your  brains  smashed  out  by  a  slice  of  lemon  wrapped  round  a  large  
gold  brick.    
The  Guide  also  tells  you  on  which  planets  the  best  Pan  Galactic  
Gargle  Blasters  are  mixed,  how  much  you  can  expect  to  pay  for  one  
and  what  voluntary  organizations  exist  to  help  you  rehabilitate  
The  Guide  even  tells  you  how  you  can  mix  one  yourself.    
Take  the  juice  from  one  bottle  of  that  Ol'  Janx  Spirit,  it  says.    
Pour  into  it  one  measure  of  water  from  the  seas  of  Santraginus  V  ʹ  
Oh  that  Santraginean  sea  water,  it  says.  Oh  those  Santraginean  fish!!!    
Allow  three  cubes  of  Arcturan  Mega-­‐gin  to  melt  into  the  mixture  (it  
must  be  properly  iced  or  the  benzine  is  lost).    
Allow  four  litres  of  Fallian  marsh  gas  to  bubble  through  it,  in  
memory  of  all  those  happy  Hikers  who  have  died  of  pleasure  in  the  
Marshes  of  Fallia.    
Over  the  back  of  a  silver  spoon  float  a  measure  of  Qualactin  
Hypermint  extract,  redolent  of  all  the  heady  odours  of  the  dark  
Qualactin  Zones,  subtle  sweet  and  mystic.    
Drop  in  the  tooth  of  an  Algolian  Suntiger.  Watch  it  dissolve,  
spreading  the  fires  of  the  Algolian  Suns  deep  into  the  heart  of  the  
Sprinkle  Zamphuor.    
Add  an  olive.    

Drink...  but...  very  carefully...    
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  sells  rather  better  than  the  
Encyclopedia  Galactica.    
"Six  pints  of  bitter,"  said  Ford  Prefect  to  the  barman  of  the  Horse  
and  Groom.  "And  quickly  please,  the  world's  about  to  end."    
The  barman  of  the  Horse  and  Groom  didn't  deserve  this  sort  of  
treatment,  he  was  a  dignified  old  man.  He  pushed  his  glasses  up  his  
nose  and  blinked  at  Ford  Prefect.  Ford  ignored  him  and  stared  out  of  
the  window,  so  the  barman  looked  instead  at  Arthur  who  shrugged  
helplessly  and  said  nothing.    
So  the  barman  said,  "Oh  yes  sir?  Nice  weather  for  it,"  and  started  
pulling  pints.    
He  tried  again.    
"Going  to  watch  the  match  this  afternoon  then?"    
Ford  glanced  round  at  him.    
"No,  no  point,"  he  said,  and  looked  back  out  of  the  window.    
"What's  that,  foregone  conclusion  then  you  reckon  sir?"  said  the  
barman.  "Arsenal  without  a  chance?"    
"No,  no,"  said  Ford,  "it's  just  that  the  world's  about  to  end."    
"Oh  yes  sir,  so  you  said,"  said  the  barman,  looking  over  his  glasses  
this  time  at  Arthur.  "Lucky  escape  for  Arsenal  if  it  did."    
Ford  looked  back  at  him,  genuinely  surprised.    
"No,  not  really,"  he  said.  He  frowned.    
The  barman  breathed  in  heavily.  "There  you  are  sir,  six  pints,"  he  
Arthur  smiled  at  him  wanly  and  shrugged  again.  He  turned  and  
smiled  wanly  at  the  rest  of  the  pub  just  in  case  any  of  them  had  heard  
what  was  going  on.    
None  of  them  had,  and  none  of  them  could  understand  what  he  
was  smiling  at  them  for.    
A  man  sitting  next  to  Ford  at  the  bar  looked  at  the  two  men,  looked  
at  the  six  pints,  did  a  swift  burst  of  mental  arithmetic,  arrived  at  an  
answer  he  liked  and  grinned  a  stupid  hopeful  grin  at  them.    
"Get  off,"  said  Ford,  "They're  ours,"  giving  him  a  look  that  would  
have  an  Algolian  Suntiger  get  on  with  what  it  was  doing.    

Ford  slapped  a  five-­‐pound  note  on  the  bar.  He  said,  "Keep  the  
"What,  from  a  fiver?  Thank  you  sir."    
"You've  got  ten  minutes  left  to  spend  it."    
The  barman  simply  decided  to  walk  away  for  a  bit.    
"Ford,"  said  Arthur,  "would  you  please  tell  me  what  the  hell  is  
going  on?"    
"Drink  up,"  said  Ford,  "you've  got  three  pints  to  get  through."    
"Three  pints?"  said  Arthur.  "At  lunchtime?"    
The  man  next  to  ford  grinned  and  nodded  happily.  Ford  ignored  
him.  He  said,  "Time  is  an  illusion.  Lunchtime  doubly  so."    
"Very  deep,"  said  Arthur,  "you  should  send  that  in  to  the  Reader's  
Digest.  They've  got  a  page  for  people  like  you."    
"Drink  up."    
"Why  three  pints  all  of  a  sudden?"    
"Muscle  relaxant,  you'll  need  it."    
"Muscle  relaxant?"    
"Muscle  relaxant."    
Arthur  stared  into  his  beer.    
"Did  I  do  anything  wrong  today,"  he  said,  "or  has  the  world  always  
been  like  this  and  I've  been  too  wrapped  up  in  myself  to  notice?"    
"Alright,"  said  Ford,  "I'll  try  to  explain.  How  long  have  we  known  
each  other?"    
"How  long?"  Arthur  thought.  "Er,  about  five  years,  maybe  six,"  he  
said.  "Most  of  it  seemed  to  make  some  sense  at  the  time."    
"Alright,"  said  Ford.  "How  would  you  react  if  I  said  that  I'm  not  
from  Guildford  after  all,  but  from  a  small  planet  somewhere  in  the  
vicinity  of  Betelgeuse?"    
Arthur  shrugged  in  a  so-­‐so  sort  of  way.    
"I  don't  know,"  he  said,  taking  a  pull  of  beer.  "Why  ʹ  do  you  think  
it's  the  sort  of  thing  you're  likely  to  say?"    
Ford  gave  up.  It  really  wasn't  worth  bothering  at  the  moment,  what  
with  the  world  being  about  to  end.  He  just  said:    
"Drink  up."    
He  added,  perfectly  factually:    

"The  world's  about  to  end."    
Arthur  gave  the  rest  of  the  pub  another  wan  smile.  The  rest  of  the  
pub  frowned  at  him.  A  man  waved  at  him  to  stop  smiling  at  them  and  
mind  his  own  business.    
"This  must  be  Thursday,"  said  Arthur  musing  to  himself,  sinking  low  
over  his  beer,  "I  never  could  get  the  hang  of  Thursdays."    


Chapter  3    

On  this  particular  Thursday,  something  was  moving  quietly  through  
the  ionosphere  many  miles  above  the  surface  of  the  planet;  several  
somethings  in  fact,  several  dozen  huge  yellow  chunky  slablike  
somethings,  huge  as  office  buildings,  silent  as  birds.  They  soared  with  
ease,  basking  in  electromagnetic  rays  from  the  star  Sol,  biding  their  
time,  grouping,  preparing.    
The  planet  beneath  them  was  almost  perfectly  oblivious  of  their  
presence,  which  was  just  how  they  wanted  it  for  the  moment.  The  
huge  yellow  somethings  went  unnoticed  at  Goonhilly,  they  passed  
over  Cape  Canaveral  without  a  blip,  Woomera  and  Jodrell  Bank  
looked  straight  through  them  ʹ  which  was  a  pity  because  it  was  
exactly  the  sort  of  thing  they'd  been  looking  for  all  these  years.    
The  only  place  they  registered  at  all  was  on  a  small  black  device  
called  a  Sub-­‐Etha  Sens-­‐O-­‐Matic  which  winked  away  quietly  to  itself.  It  
nestled  in  the  darkness  inside  a  leather  satchel  which  Ford  Prefect  
wore  habitually  round  his  neck.  The  contents  of  Ford  Prefect's  satchel  
were  quite  interesting  in  fact  and  would  have  made  any  Earth  
physicist's  eyes  pop  out  of  his  head,  which  is  why  he  always  concealed  
them  by  keeping  a  couple  of  dog-­‐eared  scripts  for  plays  he  pretended  
he  was  auditioning  for  stuffed  in  the  top.  Besides  the  Sub-­‐Etha  Sens-­‐
O-­‐Matic  and  the  scripts  he  had  an  Electronic  Thumb  ʹ  a  short  squat  
black  rod,  smooth  and  matt  with  a  couple  of  flat  switches  and  dials  at  
one  end;  he  also  had  a  device  which  looked  rather  like  a  largish  
electronic  calculator.  This  had  about  a  hundred  tiny  flat  press  buttons  
and  a  screen  about  four  inches  square  on  which  any  one  of  a  million  
"pages"  could  be  summoned  at  a  moment's  notice.  It  looked  insanely  
complicated,  and  this  was  one  of  the  reasons  why  the  snug  plastic  
cover  it  fitted  into  had  the  words  Don't  Panic  printed  on  it  in  large  
friendly  letters.  The  other  reason  was  that  this  device  was  in  fact  that  
most  remarkable  of  all  books  ever  to  come  out  of  the  great  publishing  
corporations  of  Ursa  Minor  ʹ  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy.  
The  reason  why  it  was  published  in  the  form  of  a  micro  sub  meson  

electronic  component  is  that  if  it  were  printed  in  normal  book  form,  
an  interstellar  hitch  hiker  would  require  several  inconveniently  large  
buildings  to  carry  it  around  in.    
Beneath  that  in  Ford  Prefect's  satchel  were  a  few  biros,  a  notepad,  
and  a  largish  bath  towel  from  Marks  and  Spencer.    
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  has  a  few  things  to  say  on  the  
subject  of  towels.    
A  towel,  it  says,  is  about  the  most  massively  useful  thing  an  
interstellar  hitch  hiker  can  have.  Partly  it  has  great  practical  value  ʹ  
you  can  wrap  it  around  you  for  warmth  as  you  bound  across  the  cold  
moons  of  Jaglan  Beta;  you  can  lie  on  it  on  the  brilliant  marble-­‐sanded  
beaches  of  Santraginus  V,  inhaling  the  heady  sea  vapours;  you  can  
sleep  under  it  beneath  the  stars  which  shine  so  redly  on  the  desert  
world  of  Kakrafoon;  use  it  to  sail  a  mini  raft  down  the  slow  heavy  river  
Moth;  wet  it  for  use  in  hand-­‐to-­‐hand-­‐combat;  wrap  it  round  your  
head  to  ward  off  noxious  fumes  or  to  avoid  the  gaze  of  the  Ravenous  
Bugblatter  Beast  of  Traal  (a  mindboggingly  stupid  animal,  it  assumes  
that  if  you  can't  see  it,  it  can't  see  you  ʹ  daft  as  a  bush,  but  very  
ravenous);  you  can  wave  your  towel  in  emergencies  as  a  distress  
signal,  and  of  course  dry  yourself  off  with  it  if  it  still  seems  to  be  clean  
More  importantly,  a  towel  has  immense  psychological  value.  For  
some  reason,  if  a  strag  (strag:  non-­‐hitch  hiker)  discovers  that  a  hitch  
hiker  has  his  towel  with  him,  he  will  automatically  assume  that  he  is  
also  in  possession  of  a  toothbrush,  face  flannel,  soap,  tin  of  biscuits,  
flask,  compass,  map,  ball  of  string,  gnat  spray,  wet  weather  gear,  
space  suit  etc.,  etc.  Furthermore,  the  strag  will  then  happily  lend  the  
hitch  hiker  any  of  these  or  a  dozen  other  items  that  the  hitch  hiker  
might  accidentally  have  "lost".  What  the  strag  will  think  is  that  any  
man  who  can  hitch  the  length  and  breadth  of  the  galaxy,  rough  it,  
slum  it,  struggle  against  terrible  odds,  win  through,  and  still  knows  
where  his  towel  is  is  clearly  a  man  to  be  reckoned  with.    
Hence  a  phrase  which  has  passed  into  hitch  hiking  slang,  as  in  "Hey,  
you  sass  that  hoopy  Ford  Prefect?  There's  a  frood  who  really  knows  
where  his  towel  is."  (Sass:  know,  be  aware  of,  meet,  have  sex  with;  
hoopy:  really  together  guy;  frood:  really  amazingly  together  guy.)    

Nestling  quietly  on  top  of  the  towel  in  Ford  Prefect's  satchel,  the  
Sub-­‐Etha  Sens-­‐O-­‐Matic  began  to  wink  more  quickly.  Miles  above  the  
surface  of  the  planet  the  huge  yellow  somethings  began  to  fan  out.  At  
Jodrell  Bank,  someone  decided  it  was  time  for  a  nice  relaxing  cup  of  
"You  got  a  towel  with  you?"  said  Ford  Prefect  suddenly  to  Arthur.    
Arthur,  struggling  through  his  third  pint,  looked  round  at  him.    
"Why?  What,  no...  should  I  have?"  He  had  given  up  being  surprised,  
there  didn't  seem  to  be  any  point  any  longer.    
Ford  clicked  his  tongue  in  irritation.    
"Drink  up,"  he  urged.    
At  that  moment  the  dull  sound  of  a  rumbling  crash  from  outside  
filtered  through  the  low  murmur  of  the  pub,  through  the  sound  of  the  
jukebox,  through  the  sound  of  the  man  next  to  Ford  hiccupping  over  
the  whisky  Ford  had  eventually  bought  him.    
Arthur  choked  on  his  beer,  leapt  to  his  feet.    
"What's  that?"  he  yelped.    
"Don't  worry,"  said  Ford,  "they  haven't  started  yet."    
"Thank  God  for  that,"  said  Arthur  and  relaxed.    
"It's  probably  just  your  house  being  knocked  down,"  said  Ford,  
drowning  his  last  pint.    
"What?"  shouted  Arthur.  Suddenly  Ford's  spell  was  broken.  Arthur  
looked  wildly  around  him  and  ran  to  the  window.    
"My  God  they  are!  They're  knocking  my  house  down.  What  the  hell  
am  I  doing  in  the  pub,  Ford?"    
"It  hardly  makes  any  difference  at  this  stage,"  said  Ford,  "let  them  
have  their  fun."    
"Fun?"  yelped  Arthur.  "Fun!"  He  quickly  checked  out  of  the  window  
again  that  they  were  talking  about  the  same  thing.    
"Damn  their  fun!"  he  hooted  and  ran  out  of  the  pub  furiously  
waving  a  nearly  empty  beer  glass.  He  made  no  friends  at  all  in  the  pub  
that  lunchtime.    
"Stop,  you  vandals!  You  home  wreckers!"  bawled  Arthur.  "You  half  
crazed  Visigoths,  stop  will  you!"    

Ford  would  have  to  go  after  him.  Turning  quickly  to  the  barman  he  
asked  for  four  packets  of  peanuts.    
"There  you  are  sir,"  said  the  barman,  slapping  the  packets  on  the  
bar,  "twenty-­‐eight  pence  if  you'd  be  so  kind."    
Ford  was  very  kind  ʹ  he  gave  the  barman  another  five-­‐pound  note  
and  told  him  to  keep  the  change.  The  barman  looked  at  it  and  then  
looked  at  Ford.  He  suddenly  shivered:  he  experienced  a  momentary  
sensation  that  he  didn't  understand  because  no  one  on  Earth  had  
ever  experienced  it  before.  In  moments  of  great  stress,  every  life  form  
that  exists  gives  out  a  tiny  sublimal  signal.  This  signal  simply  
communicates  an  exact  and  almost  pathetic  sense  of  how  far  that  
being  is  from  the  place  of  his  birth.  On  Earth  it  is  never  possible  to  be  
further  than  sixteen  thousand  miles  from  your  birthplace,  which  really  
isn't  very  far,  so  such  signals  are  too  minute  to  be  noticed.  Ford  
Prefect  was  at  this  moment  under  great  stress,  and  he  was  born  600  
light  years  away  in  the  near  vicinity  of  Betelgeuse.    
The  barman  reeled  for  a  moment,  hit  by  a  shocking,  
incomprehensible  sense  of  distance.  He  didn't  know  what  it  meant,  
but  he  looked  at  Ford  Prefect  with  a  new  sense  of  respect,  almost  
"Are  you  serious,  sir?"  he  said  in  a  small  whisper  which  had  the  
effect  of  silencing  the  pub.  "You  think  the  world's  going  to  end?"    
"Yes,"  said  Ford.    
"But,  this  afternoon?"    
Ford  had  recovered  himself.  He  was  at  his  flippest.    
"Yes,"  he  said  gaily,  "in  less  than  two  minutes  I  would  estimate."    
The  barman  couldn't  believe  the  conversation  he  was  having,  but  
he  couldn't  believe  the  sensation  he  had  just  had  either.    
"Isn't  there  anything  we  can  do  about  it  then?"  he  said.    
"No,  nothing,"  said  Ford,  stuffing  the  peanuts  into  his  pockets.    
Someone  in  the  hushed  bar  suddenly  laughed  raucously  at  how  
stupid  everyone  had  become.    
The  man  sitting  next  to  Ford  was  a  bit  sozzled  by  now.  His  eyes  
waved  their  way  up  to  Ford.    
"I  thought,"  he  said,  "that  if  the  world  was  going  to  end  we  were  
meant  to  lie  down  or  put  a  paper  bag  over  our  head  or  something."    

"If  you  like,  yes,"  said  Ford.    
"That's  what  they  told  us  in  the  army,"  said  the  man,  and  his  eyes  
began  the  long  trek  back  down  to  his  whisky.    
"Will  that  help?"  asked  the  barman.    
"No,"  said  Ford  and  gave  him  a  friendly  smile.  "Excuse  me,"  he  said,  
"I've  got  to  go."  With  a  wave,  he  left.    
The  pub  was  silent  for  a  moment  longer,  and  then,  embarrassingly  
enough,  the  man  with  the  raucous  laugh  did  it  again.  The  girl  he  had  
dragged  along  to  the  pub  with  him  had  grown  to  loathe  him  dearly  
over  the  last  hour  or  so,  and  it  would  probably  have  been  a  great  
satisfaction  to  her  to  know  that  in  a  minute  and  a  half  or  so  he  would  
suddenly  evaporate  into  a  whiff  of  hydrogen,  ozone  and  carbon  
monoxide.  However,  when  the  moment  came  she  would  be  too  busy  
evaporating  herself  to  notice  it.    
The  barman  cleared  his  throat.  He  heard  himself  say:    
"Last  orders,  please."    
The  huge  yellow  machines  began  to  sink  downward  and  to  move  
Ford  knew  they  were  there.  This  wasn't  the  way  he  had  wanted  it.    
Running  up  the  lane,  Arthur  had  nearly  reached  his  house.  He  
didn't  notice  how  cold  it  had  suddenly  become,  he  didn't  notice  the  
wind,  he  didn't  notice  the  sudden  irrational  squall  of  rain.  He  didn't  
notice  anything  but  the  caterpillar  bulldozers  crawling  over  the  rubble  
that  had  been  his  home.    
"You  barbarians!"  he  yelled.  "I'll  sue  the  council  for  every  penny  it's  
got!  I'll  have  you  hung,  drawn  and  quartered!  And  whipped!  And  
boiled...  until...  until...  until  you've  had  enough."    
Ford  was  running  after  him  very  fast.  Very  very  fast.    
"And  then  I'll  do  it  again!"  yelled  Arthur.  "And  when  I've  finished  I  
will  take  all  the  little  bits,  and  I  will  jump  on  them!"    
Arthur  didn't  notice  that  the  men  were  running  from  the  bulldozers;  
he  didn't  notice  that  Mr.  Prosser  was  staring  hectically  into  the  sky.  
What  Mr.  Prosser  had  noticed  was  that  huge  yellow  somethings  were  
screaming  through  the  clouds.  Impossibly  huge  yellow  somethings.    

"And  I  will  carry  on  jumping  on  them,"  yelled  Arthur,  still  running,  
"until  I  get  blisters,  or  I  can  think  of  anything  even  more  unpleasant  to  
do,  and  then..."    
Arthur  tripped,  and  fell  headlong,  rolled  and  landed  flat  on  his  back.  
At  last  he  noticed  that  something  was  going  on.  His  finger  shot  
"What  the  hell's  that?"  he  shrieked.    
Whatever  it  was  raced  across  the  sky  in  monstrous  yellowness,  tore  
the  sky  apart  with  mind-­‐buggering  noise  and  leapt  off  into  the  
distance  leaving  the  gaping  air  to  shut  behind  it  with  a  bang  that  
drove  your  ears  six  feet  into  your  skull.    
Another  one  followed  and  did  the  same  thing  only  louder.    
It's  difficult  to  say  exactly  what  the  people  on  the  surface  of  the  
planet  were  doing  now,  because  they  didn't  really  know  what  they  
were  doing  themselves.  None  of  it  made  a  lot  of  sense  ʹ  running  into  
houses,  running  out  of  houses,  howling  noiselessly  at  the  noise.  All  
around  the  world  city  streets  exploded  with  people,  cars  slewed  into  
each  other  as  the  noise  fell  on  them  and  then  rolled  off  like  a  tidal  
wave  over  hills  and  valleys,  deserts  and  oceans,  seeming  to  flatten  
everything  it  hit.    
Only  one  man  stood  and  watched  the  sky,  stood  with  terrible  
sadness  in  his  eyes  and  rubber  bungs  in  his  ears.  He  knew  exactly  
what  was  happening  and  had  known  ever  since  his  Sub-­‐Etha  Sens-­‐O-­‐
Matic  had  started  winking  in  the  dead  of  night  beside  his  pillar  and  
woken  him  with  a  start.  It  was  what  he  had  waited  for  all  these  years,  
but  when  he  had  deciphered  the  signal  pattern  sitting  alone  in  his  
small  dark  room  a  coldness  had  gripped  him  and  squeezed  his  heart.  
Of  all  the  races  in  all  of  the  Galaxy  who  could  have  come  and  said  a  
big  hello  to  planet  Earth,  he  thought,  didn't  it  just  have  to  be  the  
Still  he  knew  what  he  had  to  do.  As  the  Vogon  craft  screamed  
through  the  air  high  above  him  he  opened  his  satchel.  He  threw  away  
a  copy  of  Joseph  and  the  Amazing  Technicolor  Dreamcoat,  he  threw  
away  a  copy  of  Godspell:  He  wouldn't  need  them  where  he  was  going.  
Everything  was  ready,  everything  was  prepared.    
He  knew  where  his  towel  was.    

A  sudden  silence  hit  the  Earth.  If  anything  it  was  worse  than  the  
noise.  For  a  while  nothing  happened.    
The  great  ships  hung  motionless  in  the  air,  over  every  nation  on  
Earth.  Motionless  they  hung,  huge,  heavy,  steady  in  the  sky,  a  
blasphemy  against  nature.  Many  people  went  straight  into  shock  as  
their  minds  tried  to  encompass  what  they  were  looking  at.  The  ships  
hung  in  the  sky  in  much  the  same  way  that  bricks  don't.    
And  still  nothing  happened.    
Then  there  was  a  slight  whisper,  a  sudden  spacious  whisper  of  
open  ambient  sound.  Every  hi-­‐fi  set  in  the  world,  every  radio,  every  
television,  every  cassette  recorder,  every  woofer,  every  tweeter,  
every  mid-­‐range  driver  in  the  world  quietly  turned  itself  on.    
Every  tin  can,  every  dust  bin,  every  window,  every  car,  every  wine  
glass,  every  sheet  of  rusty  metal  became  activated  as  an  acoustically  
perfect  sounding  board.    
Before  the  Earth  passed  away  it  was  going  to  be  treated  to  the  very  
ultimate  in  sound  reproduction,  the  greatest  public  address  system  
ever  built.  But  there  was  no  concert,  no  music,  no  fanfare,  just  a  
simple  message.    
"People  of  Earth,  your  attention  please,"  a  voice  said,  and  it  was  
wonderful.  Wonderful  perfect  quadrophonic  sound  with  distortion  
levels  so  low  as  to  make  a  brave  man  weep.    
"This  is  Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz  of  the  Galactic  Hyperspace  Planning  
Council,"  the  voice  continued.  "As  you  will  no  doubt  be  aware,  the  
plans  for  development  of  the  outlying  regions  of  the  Galaxy  require  
the  building  of  a  hyperspatial  express  route  through  your  star  system,  
and  regrettably  your  planet  is  one  of  those  scheduled  for  demolition.  
The  process  will  take  slightly  less  that  two  of  your  Earth  minutes.  
Thank  you."    
The  PA  died  away.    
Uncomprehending  terror  settled  on  the  watching  people  of  Earth.  
The  terror  moved  slowly  through  the  gathered  crowds  as  if  they  were  
iron  fillings  on  a  sheet  of  board  and  a  magnet  was  moving  beneath  
them.  Panic  sprouted  again,  desperate  fleeing  panic,  but  there  was  
nowhere  to  flee  to.    
Observing  this,  the  Vogons  turned  on  their  PA  again.  It  said:    

"There's  no  point  in  acting  all  surprised  about  it.  All  the  planning  
charts  and  demolition  orders  have  been  on  display  in  your  local  
planning  department  on  Alpha  Centauri  for  fifty  of  your  Earth  years,  
so  you've  had  plenty  of  time  to  lodge  any  formal  complaint  and  it's  far  
too  late  to  start  making  a  fuss  about  it  now."    
The  PA  fell  silent  again  and  its  echo  drifted  off  across  the  land.  The  
huge  ships  turned  slowly  in  the  sky  with  easy  power.  On  the  
underside  of  each  a  hatchway  opened,  an  empty  black  space.    
By  this  time  somebody  somewhere  must  have  manned  a  radio  
transmitter,  located  a  wavelength  and  broadcasted  a  message  back  to  
the  Vogon  ships,  to  plead  on  behalf  of  the  planet.  Nobody  ever  heard  
what  they  said,  they  only  heard  the  reply.  The  PA  slammed  back  into  
life  again.  The  voice  was  annoyed.  It  said:    
"What  do  you  mean  you've  never  been  to  Alpha  Centauri?  For  
heaven's  sake  mankind,  it's  only  four  light  years  away  you  know.  I'm  
sorry,  but  if  you  can't  be  bothered  to  take  an  interest  in  local  affairs  
that's  your  own  lookout.    
"Energize  the  demolition  beams."    
Light  poured  out  into  the  hatchways.    
"I  don't  know,"  said  the  voice  on  the  PA,  "apathetic  bloody  planet,  
I've  no  sympathy  at  all."  It  cut  off.    
There  was  a  terrible  ghastly  silence.    
There  was  a  terrible  ghastly  noise.    
There  was  a  terrible  ghastly  silence.    
The  Vogon  Constructor  fleet  coasted  away  into  the  inky  starry  void.    


Chapter  4    

Far  away  on  the  opposite  spiral  arm  of  the  Galaxy,  five  hundred  
thousand  light  years  from  the  star  Sol,  Zaphod  Beeblebrox,  President  
of  the  Imperial  Galactic  Government,  sped  across  the  seas  of  
Damogran,  his  ion  drive  delta  boat  winking  and  flashing  in  the  
Damogran  sun.    
Damogran  the  hot;  Damogran  the  remote;  Damogran  the  almost  
totally  unheard  of.    
Damogran,  secret  home  of  the  Heart  of  Gold.  The  boat  sped  on  
across  the  water.  It  would  be  some  time  before  it  reached  its  
destination  because  Damogran  is  such  an  inconveniently  arranged  
planet.  It  consists  of  nothing  but  middling  to  large  desert  islands  
separated  by  very  pretty  but  annoyingly  wide  stretches  of  ocean.    
The  boat  sped  on.    
Because  of  this  topological  awkwardness  Damogran  has  always  
remained  a  deserted  planet.  This  is  why  the  Imperial  Galactic  
Government  chose  Damogran  for  the  Heart  of  Gold  project,  because  
it  was  so  deserted  and  the  Heart  of  Gold  was  so  secret.    
The  boat  zipped  and  skipped  across  the  sea,  the  sea  that  lay  
between  the  main  islands  of  the  only  archipelago  of  any  useful  size  on  
the  whole  planet.  Zaphod  Beeblebrox  was  on  his  way  from  the  tiny  
spaceport  on  Easter  Island  (the  name  was  an  entirely  meaningless  
coincidence  ʹ  in  Galacticspeke,  easter  means  small  flat  and  light  
brown)  to  the  Heart  of  Gold  island,  which  by  another  meaningless  
coincidence  was  called  France.    
One  of  the  side  effects  of  work  on  the  Heart  of  Gold  was  a  whole  
string  of  pretty  meaningless  coincidences.    
But  it  was  not  in  any  way  a  coincidence  that  today,  the  day  of  
culmination  of  the  project,  the  great  day  of  unveiling,  the  day  that  the  
Heart  of  Gold  was  finally  to  be  introduced  to  a  marvelling  Galaxy,  was  
also  a  great  day  of  culmination  for  Zaphod  Beeblebrox.  It  was  for  the  
sake  of  this  day  that  he  had  first  decided  to  run  for  the  Presidency,  a  

decision  which  had  sent  waves  of  astonishment  throughout  the  
Imperial  Galaxy.  Zaphod  Beeblebrox?  President?  Not  the  Zaphod  
Beeblebrox?  Not  the  President?  Many  had  seen  it  as  a  clinching  proof  
that  the  whole  of  known  creation  had  finally  gone  bananas.    
Zaphod  grinned  and  gave  the  boat  an  extra  kick  of  speed.    
Zaphod  Beeblebrox,  adventurer,  ex-­‐hippy,  good  timer,  (crook?  
quite  possibly),  manic  self-­‐publicist,  terribly  bad  at  personal  
relationships,  often  thought  to  be  completely  out  to  lunch.    
No  one  had  gone  bananas,  not  in  that  way  at  least.    
Only  six  people  in  the  entire  Galaxy  understood  the  principle  on  
which  the  Galaxy  was  governed,  and  they  knew  that  once  Zaphod  
Beeblebrox  had  announced  his  intention  to  run  as  President  it  was  
more  or  less  a  fait  accompli:  he  was  the  ideal  Presidency  fodder1.    
What  they  completely  failed  to  understand  was  why  Zaphod  was  
doing  it.    
He  banked  sharply,  shooting  a  wild  wall  of  water  at  the  sun.    
Today  was  the  day;  today  was  the  day  when  they  would  realize  
what  Zaphod  had  been  up  to.  Today  was  what  Zaphod  Beeblebrox's  
Presidency  was  all  about.  Today  was  also  his  two  hundredth  birthday,  
but  that  was  just  another  meaningless  coincidence.    
As  he  skipped  his  boat  across  the  seas  of  Damogran  he  smiled  
quietly  to  himself  about  what  a  wonderful  exciting  day  it  was  going  to  
be.  He  relaxed  and  spread  his  two  arms  lazily  across  the  seat  back.  He  
steered  with  an  extra  arm  he'd  recently  fitted  just  beneath  his  right  
one  to  help  improve  his  ski-­‐boxing.    
"Hey,"  he  cooed  to  himself,  "you're  a  real  cool  boy  you."  But  his  
nerves  sang  a  song  shriller  than  a  dog  whistle.    
The  island  of  France  was  about  twenty  miles  long,  five  miles  across  
the  middle,  sandy  and  crescent  shaped.  In  fact  it  seemed  to  exist  not  
so  much  as  an  island  in  its  own  right  as  simply  a  means  of  defining  the  
sweep  and  curve  of  a  huge  bay.  This  impression  was  heightened  by  
the  fact  that  the  inner  coastline  of  the  crescent  consisted  almost  
entirely  of  steep  cliffs.  From  the  top  of  the  cliff  the  land  sloped  slowly  
down  five  miles  to  the  opposite  shore.    
On  top  of  the  cliffs  stood  a  reception  committee.    

It  consisted  in  large  part  of  the  engineers  and  researchers  who  had  
built  the  Heart  of  Gold  ʹ  mostly  humanoid,  but  here  and  there  were  a  
few  reptiloid  atomineers,  two  or  three  green  slyph-­‐like  
maximegalacticans,  an  octopoid  physucturalist  or  two  and  a  
Hooloovoo  (a  Hooloovoo  is  a  super-­‐intelligent  shade  of  the  color  blue).  
All  except  the  Hooloovoo  were  resplendent  in  their  multi-­‐colored  
ceremonial  lab  coats;  the  Hooloovoo  had  been  temporarily  refracted  
into  a  free  standing  prism  for  the  occasion.    
There  was  a  mood  of  immense  excitement  thrilling  through  all  of  
them.  Together  and  between  them  they  had  gone  to  and  beyond  the  
furthest  limits  of  physical  laws,  restructured  the  fundamental  fabric  of  
matter,  strained,  twisted  and  broken  the  laws  of  possibility  and  
impossibility,  but  still  the  greatest  excitement  of  all  seemed  to  be  to  
meet  a  man  with  an  orange  sash  round  his  neck.  (An  orange  sash  was  
what  the  President  of  the  Galaxy  traditionally  wore.)  It  might  not  even  
have  made  much  difference  to  them  if  they'd  known  exactly  how  
much  power  the  President  of  the  Galaxy  actually  wielded:  none  at  all.  
Only  six  people  in  the  Galaxy  knew  that  the  job  of  the  Galactic  
President  was  not  to  wield  power  but  to  attract  attention  away  from  
Zaphod  Beeblebrox  was  amazingly  good  at  his  job.    
The  crowd  gasped,  dazzled  by  sun  and  seemanship,  as  the  
Presidential  speedboat  zipped  round  the  headland  into  the  bay.  It  
flashed  and  shone  as  it  came  skating  over  the  sea  in  wide  skidding  
In  fact  it  didn't  need  to  touch  the  water  at  all,  because  it  was  
supported  on  a  hazy  cushion  of  ionized  atoms  ʹ  but  just  for  effect  it  
was  fitted  with  thin  finblades  which  could  be  lowered  into  the  water.  
They  slashed  sheets  of  water  hissing  into  the  air,  carved  deep  gashes  
into  the  sea  which  swayed  crazily  and  sank  back  foaming  into  the  
boat's  wake  as  it  careered  across  the  bay.    
Zaphod  loved  effect:  it  was  what  he  was  best  at.    
He  twisted  the  wheel  sharply,  the  boat  slewed  round  in  a  wild  
scything  skid  beneath  the  cliff  face  and  dropped  to  rest  lightly  on  the  
rocking  waves.    
Within  seconds  he  ran  out  onto  the  deck  and  waved  and  grinned  at  
over  three  billion  people.  The  three  billion  people  weren't  actually  
there,  but  they  watched  his  every  gesture  through  the  eyes  of  a  small  

robot  tri-­‐D  camera  which  hovered  obsequiously  in  the  air  nearby.  The  
antics  of  the  President  always  made  amazingly  popular  tri-­‐D;  that's  
what  they  were  for.    
He  grinned  again.  Three  billion  and  six  people  didn't  know  it,  but  
today  would  be  a  bigger  antic  than  anyone  had  bargained  for.    
The  robot  camera  homed  in  for  a  close  up  on  the  more  popular  of  
his  two  heads  and  he  waved  again.  He  was  roughly  humanoid  in  
appearance  except  for  the  extra  head  and  third  arm.  His  fair  tousled  
hair  stuck  out  in  random  directions,  his  blue  eyes  glinted  with  
something  completely  unidentifiable,  and  his  chins  were  almost  
always  unshaven.    
A  twenty-­‐foot-­‐high  transparent  globe  floated  next  to  his  boat,  
rolling  and  bobbing,  glistening  in  the  brilliant  sun.  Inside  it  floated  a  
wide  semi-­‐circular  sofa  upholstered  in  glorious  red  leather:  the  more  
the  globe  bobbed  and  rolled,  the  more  the  sofa  stayed  perfectly  still,  
steady  as  an  upholstered  rock.  Again,  all  done  for  effect  as  much  as  
Zaphod  stepped  through  the  wall  of  the  globe  and  relaxed  on  the  
sofa.  He  spread  his  two  arms  lazily  along  the  back  and  with  the  third  
brushed  some  dust  off  his  knee.  His  heads  looked  about,  smiling;  he  
put  his  feet  up.  At  any  moment,  he  thought,  he  might  scream.    
Water  boiled  up  beneath  the  bubble,  it  seethed  and  spouted.  The  
bubble  surged  into  the  air,  bobbing  and  rolling  on  the  water  spout.  Up,  
up  it  climbed,  throwing  stilts  of  light  at  the  cliff.  Up  it  surged  on  the  
jet,  the  water  falling  from  beneath  it,  crashing  back  into  the  sea  
hundreds  of  feet  below.    
Zaphod  smiled,  picturing  himself.    
A  thoroughly  ridiculous  form  of  transport,  but  a  thoroughly  
beautiful  one.    
At  the  top  of  the  cliff  the  globe  wavered  for  a  moment,  tipped  on  
to  a  railed  ramp,  rolled  down  it  to  a  small  concave  platform  and  
riddled  to  a  halt.    
To  tremendous  applause  Zaphod  Beeblebrox  stepped  out  of  the  
bubble,  his  orange  sash  blazing  in  the  light.    
The  President  of  the  Galaxy  had  arrived.    
He  waited  for  the  applause  to  die  down,  then  raised  his  hands  in  

"Hi,"  he  said.    
A  government  spider  sidled  up  to  him  and  attempted  to  press  a  
copy  of  his  prepared  speech  into  his  hands.  Pages  three  to  seven  of  
the  original  version  were  at  the  moment  floating  soggily  on  the  
Damogran  sea  some  five  miles  out  from  the  bay.  Pages  one  and  two  
had  been  salvaged  by  a  Damogran  Frond  Crested  Eagle  and  had  
already  become  incorporated  into  an  extraordinary  new  form  of  nest  
which  the  eagle  had  invented.  It  was  constructed  largely  of  paper  and  
it  was  virtually  impossible  for  a  newly  hatched  baby  eagle  to  break  
out  of  it.  The  Damogran  Frond  Crested  Eagle  had  heard  of  the  notion  
of  survival  of  the  species  but  wanted  no  truck  with  it.    
Zaphod  Beeblebrox  would  not  be  needing  his  set  speech  and  he  
gently  deflected  the  one  being  offered  him  by  the  spider.    
"Hi,"  he  said  again.    
Everyone  beamed  at  him,  or,  at  least,  nearly  everyone.  He  singled  
out  Trillian  from  the  crowd.  Trillian  was  a  girl  that  Zaphod  had  picked  
up  recently  whilst  visiting  a  planet,  just  for  fun,  incognito.  She  was  
slim,  darkish,  humanoid,  with  long  waves  of  black  hair,  a  full  mouth,  
an  odd  little  nob  of  a  nose  and  ridiculously  brown  eyes.  With  her  red  
head  scarf  knotted  in  that  particular  way  and  her  long  flowing  silky  
brown  dress  she  looked  vaguely  Arabic.  Not  that  anyone  there  had  
ever  heard  of  an  Arab  of  course.  The  Arabs  had  very  recently  ceased  
to  exist,  and  even  when  they  had  existed  they  were  five  hundred  
thousand  light  years  from  Damogran.  Trillian  wasn't  anybody  in  
particular,  or  so  Zaphod  claimed.  She  just  went  around  with  him  
rather  a  lot  and  told  him  what  she  thought  of  him.    
"Hi  honey,"  he  said  to  her.    
She  flashed  him  a  quick  tight  smile  and  looked  away.  Then  she  
looked  back  for  a  moment  and  smiled  more  warmly  ʹ  but  by  this  time  
he  was  looking  at  something  else.    
"Hi,"  he  said  to  a  small  knot  of  creatures  from  the  press  who  were  
standing  nearby  wishing  that  he  would  stop  saying  Hi  and  get  on  with  
the  quotes.  He  grinned  at  them  particularly  because  he  knew  that  in  a  
few  moments  he  would  be  giving  them  one  hell  of  a  quote.    
The  next  thing  he  said  though  was  not  a  lot  of  use  to  them.  One  of  
the  officials  of  the  party  had  irritably  decided  that  the  President  was  
clearly  not  in  a  mood  to  read  the  deliciously  turned  speech  that  had  
been  written  for  him,  and  had  flipped  the  switch  on  the  remote  

control  device  in  his  pocket.  Away  in  front  of  them  a  huge  white  dome  
that  bulged  against  the  sky  cracked  down  in  the  middle,  split,  and  
slowly  folded  itself  down  into  the  ground.  Everyone  gasped  although  
they  had  known  perfectly  well  it  was  going  to  do  that  because  they  
had  built  it  that  way.    
Beneath  it  lay  uncovered  a  huge  starship,  one  hundred  and  fifty  
metres  long,  shaped  like  a  sleek  running  shoe,  perfectly  white  and  
mindboggingly  beautiful.  At  the  heart  of  it,  unseen,  lay  a  small  gold  
box  which  carried  within  it  the  most  brain-­‐wretching  device  ever  
conceived,  a  device  which  made  this  starship  unique  in  the  history  of  
the  galaxy,  a  device  after  which  the  ship  had  been  named  ʹ  The  Heart  
of  Gold.    
"Wow",  said  Zaphod  Beeblebrox  to  the  Heart  of  Gold.  There  wasn't  
much  else  he  could  say.    
He  said  it  again  because  he  knew  it  would  annoy  the  press.    
The  crowd  turned  their  faces  back  towards  him  expectantly.  He  
winked  at  Trillian  who  raised  her  eyebrows  and  widened  her  eyes  at  
him.  She  knew  what  he  was  about  to  say  and  thought  him  a  terrible  
"That  is  really  amazing,"  he  said.  "That  really  is  truly  amazing.  That  
is  so  amazingly  amazing  I  think  I'd  like  to  steal  it."    
A  marvellous  Presidential  quote,  absolutely  true  to  form.  The  
crowd  laughed  appreciatively,  the  newsmen  gleefully  punched  
buttons  on  their  Sub-­‐Etha  News-­‐Matics  and  the  President  grinned.    
As  he  grinned  his  heart  screamed  unbearably  and  he  fingered  the  
small  Paralyso-­‐Matic  bomb  that  nestled  quietly  in  his  pocket.    
Finally  he  could  bear  it  no  more.  He  lifted  his  heads  up  to  the  sky,  
let  out  a  wild  whoop  in  major  thirds,  threw  the  bomb  to  the  ground  
and  ran  forward  through  the  sea  of  suddenly  frozen  smiles.    

Chapter  5    

Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz  was  not  a  pleasant  sight,  even  for  other  
Vogons.  His  highly  domed  nose  rose  high  above  a  small  piggy  
forehead.  His  dark  green  rubbery  skin  was  thick  enough  for  him  to  
play  the  game  of  Vogon  Civil  Service  politics,  and  play  it  well,  and  
waterproof  enough  for  him  to  survive  indefinitely  at  sea  depths  of  up  
to  a  thousand  feet  with  no  ill  effects.    
Not  that  he  ever  went  swimming  of  course.  His  busy  schedule  
would  not  allow  it.  He  was  the  way  he  was  because  billions  of  years  
ago  when  the  Vogons  had  first  crawled  out  of  the  sluggish  primeval  
seas  of  Vogsphere,  and  had  lain  panting  and  heaving  on  the  planet's  
virgin  shores...  when  the  first  rays  of  the  bright  young  Vogsol  sun  had  
shone  across  them  that  morning,  it  was  as  if  the  forces  of  evolution  
had  simply  given  up  on  them  there  and  then,  had  turned  aside  in  
disgust  and  written  them  off  as  an  ugly  and  unfortunate  mistake.  
They  never  evolved  again;  they  should  never  have  survived.    
The  fact  that  they  did  is  some  kind  of  tribute  to  the  thick-­‐willed  
slug-­‐brained  stubbornness  of  these  creatures.  Evolution?  they  said  to  
themselves,  Who  needs  it?,  and  what  nature  refused  to  do  for  them  
they  simply  did  without  until  such  time  as  they  were  able  to  rectify  
the  grosser  anatomical  inconveniences  with  surgery.    
Meanwhile,  the  natural  forces  on  the  planet  Vogsphere  had  been  
working  overtime  to  make  up  for  their  earlier  blunder.  They  brought  
forth  scintillating  jewelled  scuttling  crabs,  which  the  Vogons  ate,  
smashing  their  shells  with  iron  mallets;  tall  aspiring  trees  with  
breathtaking  slenderness  and  colour  which  the  Vogons  cut  down  and  
burned  the  crab  meat  with;  elegant  gazelle-­‐like  creatures  with  silken  
coats  and  dewy  eyes  which  the  Vogons  would  catch  and  sit  on.  They  
were  no  use  as  transport  because  their  backs  would  snap  instantly,  
but  the  Vogons  sat  on  them  anyway.    
Thus  the  planet  Vogsphere  whiled  away  the  unhappy  millennia  
until  the  Vogons  suddenly  discovered  the  principles  of  interstellar  
travel.  Within  a  few  short  Vog  years  every  last  Vogon  had  migrated  to  

the  Megabrantis  cluster,  the  political  hub  of  the  Galaxy  and  now  
formed  the  immensely  powerful  backbone  of  the  Galactic  Civil  Service.  
They  have  attempted  to  acquire  learning,  they  have  attempted  to  
acquire  style  and  social  grace,  but  in  most  respects  the  modern  Vogon  
is  little  different  from  his  primitive  forebears.  Every  year  they  import  
twenty-­‐seven  thousand  scintillating  jewelled  scuttling  crabs  from  their  
native  planet  and  while  away  a  happy  drunken  night  smashing  them  
to  bits  with  iron  mallets.    
Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz  was  a  fairly  typical  Vogon  in  that  he  was  
thoroughly  vile.  Also,  he  did  not  like  hitchhikers.    
Somewhere  in  a  small  dark  cabin  buried  deep  in  the  intestines  of  
Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz's  flagship,  a  small  match  flared  nervously.  The  
owner  of  the  match  was  not  a  Vogon,  but  he  knew  all  about  them  and  
was  right  to  be  nervous.  His  name  was  Ford  Prefect2.    
He  looked  about  the  cabin  but  could  see  very  little;  strange  
monstrous  shadows  loomed  and  leaped  with  the  tiny  flickering  flame,  
but  all  was  quiet.  He  breathed  a  silent  thank  you  to  the  Dentrassis.  
The  Dentrassis  are  an  unruly  tribe  of  gourmands,  a  wild  but  pleasant  
bunch  whom  the  Vogons  had  recently  taken  to  employing  as  catering  
staff  on  their  long  haul  fleets,  on  the  strict  understanding  that  they  
keep  themselves  very  much  to  themselves.    
This  suited  the  Dentrassis  fine,  because  they  loved  Vogon  money,  
which  is  one  of  the  hardest  currencies  in  space,  but  loathed  the  
Vogons  themselves.  The  only  sort  of  Vogon  a  Dentrassi  liked  to  see  
was  an  annoyed  Vogon.    
It  was  because  of  this  tiny  piece  of  information  that  Ford  Prefect  
was  not  now  a  whiff  of  hydrogen,  ozone  and  carbon  monoxide.    
He  heard  a  slight  groan.  By  the  light  of  the  match  he  saw  a  heavy  
shape  moving  slightly  on  the  floor.  Quickly  he  shook  the  match  out,  
reached  in  his  pocket,  found  what  he  was  looking  for  and  took  it  out.  
He  crouched  on  the  floor.  The  shape  moved  again.    
Ford  Prefect  said:  "I  bought  some  peanuts."    
Arthur  Dent  moved,  and  groaned  again,  muttering  incoherently.    
"Here,  have  some,"  urged  Ford,  shaking  the  packet  again,  "if  you've  
never  been  through  a  matter  transference  beam  before  you've  

probably  lost  some  salt  and  protein.  The  beer  you  had  should  have  
cushioned  your  system  a  bit."    
"Whhhrrrr..."  said  Arthur  Dent.  He  opened  his  eyes.    
"It's  dark,"  he  said.    
"Yes,"  said  Ford  Prefect,  "it's  dark."    
"No  light,"  said  Arthur  Dent.  "Dark,  no  light."    
One  of  the  things  Ford  Prefect  had  always  found  hardest  to  
understand  about  human  beings  was  their  habit  of  continually  stating  
and  repeating  the  obvious,  as  in  It's  a  nice  day,  or  You're  very  tall,  or  
Oh  dear  you  seem  to  have  fallen  down  a  thirty-­‐foot  well,  are  you  
alright?  At  first  Ford  had  formed  a  theory  to  account  for  this  strange  
behaviour.  If  human  beings  don't  keep  exercising  their  lips,  he  
thought,  their  mouths  probably  seize  up.  After  a  few  months'  
consideration  and  observation  he  abandoned  this  theory  in  favour  of  
a  new  one.  If  they  don't  keep  on  exercising  their  lips,  he  thought,  their  
brains  start  working.  After  a  while  he  abandoned  this  one  as  well  as  
being  obstructively  cynical  and  decided  he  quite  liked  human  beings  
after  all,  but  he  always  remained  desperately  worried  about  the  
terrible  number  of  things  they  didn't  know  about.    
"Yes,"  he  agreed  with  Arthur,  "no  light."  He  helped  Arthur  to  some  
peanuts.  "How  do  you  feel?"  he  asked.    
"Like  a  military  academy,"  said  Arthur,  "bits  of  me  keep  on  passing  
Ford  stared  at  him  blankly  in  the  darkness.    
"If  I  asked  you  where  the  hell  we  were,"  said  Arthur  weakly,  "would  
I  regret  it?"    
Ford  stood  up.  "We're  safe,"  he  said.    
"Oh  good,"  said  Arthur.    
"We're  in  a  small  galley  cabin,"  said  Ford,  "in  one  of  the  spaceships  
of  the  Vogon  Constructor  Fleet."    
"Ah,"  said  Arthur,  "this  is  obviously  some  strange  usage  of  the  word  
safe  that  I  wasn't  previously  aware  of."    
Ford  struck  another  match  to  help  him  search  for  a  light  switch.  
Monstrous  shadows  leaped  and  loomed  again.  Arthur  struggled  to  his  
feet  and  hugged  himself  apprehensively.  Hideous  alien  shapes  
seemed  to  throng  about  him,  the  air  was  thick  with  musty  smells  

which  sidled  into  his  lungs  without  identifying  themselves,  and  a  low  
irritating  hum  kept  his  brain  from  focusing.    
"How  did  we  get  here?"  he  asked,  shivering  slightly.    
"We  hitched  a  lift,"  said  Ford.    
"Excuse  me?"  said  Arthur.  "Are  you  trying  to  tell  me  that  we  just  
stuck  out  our  thumbs  and  some  green  bug-­‐eyed  monster  stuck  his  
head  out  and  said,  Hi  fellas,  hop  right  in.  I  can  take  you  as  far  as  the  
Basingstoke  roundabout?"    
"Well,"  said  Ford,  "the  Thumb's  an  electronic  sub-­‐etha  signalling  
device,  the  roundabout's  at  Barnard's  Star  six  light  years  away,  but  
otherwise,  that's  more  or  less  right."    
"And  the  bug-­‐eyed  monster?"    
"Is  green,  yes."    
"Fine,"  said  Arthur,  "when  can  I  get  home?"    
"You  can't,"  said  Ford  Prefect,  and  found  the  light  switch.    
"Shade  your  eyes..."  he  said,  and  turned  it  on.    
Even  Ford  was  surprised.    
"Good  grief,"  said  Arthur,  "is  this  really  the  interior  of  a  flying  
Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz  heaved  his  unpleasant  green  body  round  the  
control  bridge.  He  always  felt  vaguely  irritable  after  demolishing  
populated  planets.  He  wished  that  someone  would  come  and  tell  him  
that  it  was  all  wrong  so  that  he  could  shout  at  them  and  feel  better.  
He  flopped  as  heavily  as  he  could  on  to  his  control  seat  in  the  hope  
that  it  would  break  and  give  him  something  to  be  genuinely  angry  
about,  but  it  only  gave  a  complaining  sort  of  creak.    
"Go  away!"  he  shouted  at  a  young  Vogon  guard  who  entered  the  
bridge  at  that  moment.  The  guard  vanished  immediately,  feeling  
rather  relieved.  He  was  glad  it  wouldn't  now  be  him  who  delivered  
the  report  they'd  just  received.  The  report  was  an  official  release  
which  said  that  a  wonderful  new  form  of  spaceship  drive  was  at  this  
moment  being  unveiled  at  a  government  research  base  on  Damogran  
which  would  henceforth  make  all  hyperspatial  express  routes  

Another  door  slid  open,  but  this  time  the  Vogon  captain  didn't  
shout  because  it  was  the  door  from  the  galley  quarters  where  the  
Dentrassis  prepared  his  meals.  A  meal  would  be  most  welcome.    
A  huge  furry  creature  bounded  through  the  door  with  his  lunch  
tray.  It  was  grinning  like  a  maniac.    
Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz  was  delighted.  He  knew  that  when  a  
Dentrassi  looked  that  pleased  with  itself  there  was  something  going  
on  somewhere  on  the  ship  that  he  could  get  very  angry  indeed  about.    
Ford  and  Arthur  stared  about  them.    
"Well,  what  do  you  think?"  said  Ford.    
"It's  a  bit  squalid,  isn't  it?"    
Ford  frowned  at  the  grubby  mattress,  unwashed  cups  and  
unidentifiable  bits  of  smelly  alien  underwear  that  lay  around  the  
cramped  cabin.    
"Well,  this  is  a  working  ship,  you  see,"  said  Ford.  "These  are  the  
Dentrassi  sleeping  quarters."    
"I  thought  you  said  they  were  called  Vogons  or  something."    
"Yes,"  said  Ford,  "the  Vogons  run  the  ship,  the  Dentrassis  are  the  
cooks,  they  let  us  on  board."    
"I'm  confused,"  said  Arthur.    
"Here,  have  a  look  at  this,"  said  Ford.  He  sat  down  on  one  of  the  
mattresses  and  rummaged  about  in  his  satchel.  Arthur  prodded  the  
mattress  nervously  and  then  sat  on  it  himself:  in  fact  he  had  very  little  
to  be  nervous  about,  because  all  mattresses  grown  in  the  swamps  of  
Squornshellous  Zeta  are  very  thoroughly  killed  and  dried  before  being  
put  to  service.  Very  few  have  ever  come  to  life  again.    
Ford  handed  the  book  to  Arthur.    
"What  is  it?"  asked  Arthur.    
"The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy.  It's  a  sort  of  electronic  book.  
It  tells  you  everything  you  need  to  know  about  anything.  That's  its  
Arthur  turned  it  over  nervously  in  his  hands.    
"I  like  the  cover,"  he  said.  "Don't  Panic.  It's  the  first  helpful  or  
intelligible  thing  anybody's  said  to  me  all  day."    

"I'll  show  you  how  it  works,"  said  Ford.  He  snatched  it  from  Arthur  
who  was  still  holding  it  as  if  it  was  a  two-­‐week-­‐dead  lark  and  pulled  it  
out  of  its  cover.    
"You  press  this  button  here  you  see  and  the  screen  lights  up  giving  
you  the  index."    
A  screen,  about  three  inches  by  four,  lit  up  and  characters  began  to  
flicker  across  the  surface.    
"You  want  to  know  about  Vogons,  so  I  enter  that  name  so."  His  
fingers  tapped  some  more  keys.  "And  there  we  are."    
The  words  Vogon  Constructor  Fleets  flared  in  green  across  the  
Ford  pressed  a  large  red  button  at  the  bottom  of  the  screen  and  
words  began  to  undulate  across  it.  At  the  same  time,  the  book  began  
to  speak  the  entry  as  well  in  a  still  quiet  measured  voice.  This  is  what  
the  book  said.    
"Vogon  Constructor  Fleets.  Here  is  what  to  do  if  you  want  to  get  a  
lift  from  a  Vogon:  forget  it.  They  are  one  of  the  most  unpleasant  races  
in  the  Galaxy  ʹ  not  actually  evil,  but  bad  tempered,  bureaucratic,  
officious  and  callous.  They  wouldn't  even  lift  a  finger  to  save  their  
own  grandmothers  from  the  Ravenous  Bugblatter  Beast  of  Traal  
without  orders  signed  in  triplicate,  sent  in,  sent  back,  queried,  lost,  
found,  subjected  to  public  inquiry,  lost  again,  and  finally  buried  in  soft  
peat  and  recycled  as  firelighters."    
"The  best  way  to  get  a  drink  out  of  a  Vogon  is  to  stick  your  finger  
down  his  throat,  and  the  best  way  to  irritate  him  is  to  feed  his  
grandmother  to  the  Ravenous  Bugblatter  Beast  of  Traal."    
"On  no  account  allow  a  Vogon  to  read  poetry  at  you."    
Arthur  blinked  at  it.    
"What  a  strange  book.  How  did  we  get  a  lift  then?"    
"That's  the  point,  it's  out  of  date  now,"  said  Ford,  sliding  the  book  
back  into  its  cover.  "I'm  doing  the  field  research  for  the  New  Revised  
Edition,  and  one  of  the  things  I'll  have  to  include  is  a  bit  about  how  
the  Vogons  now  employ  Dentrassi  cooks  which  gives  us  a  rather  
useful  little  loophole."    
A  pained  expression  crossed  Arthur's  face.  "But  who  are  the  
Dentrassi?"  he  said.    

"Great  guys,"  said  Ford.  "They're  the  best  cooks  and  the  best  drink  
mixers  and  they  don't  give  a  wet  slap  about  anything  else.  And  they'll  
always  help  hitchhikers  aboard,  partly  because  they  like  the  company,  
but  mostly  because  it  annoys  the  Vogons.  Which  is  exactly  the  sort  of  
thing  you  need  to  know  if  you're  an  impoverished  hitch  hiker  trying  to  
see  the  marvels  of  the  Universe  for  less  than  thirty  Altairan  Dollars  a  
day.  And  that's  my  job.  Fun,  isn't  it?"    
Arthur  looked  lost.    
"It's  amazing,"  he  said  and  frowned  at  one  of  the  other  mattresses.    
"Unfortunately  I  got  stuck  on  the  Earth  for  rather  longer  than  I  
intended,"  said  Ford.  "I  came  for  a  week  and  got  stuck  for  fifteen  
"But  how  did  you  get  there  in  the  first  place  then?"    
"Easy,  I  got  a  lift  with  a  teaser."    
"A  teaser?"    
"Er,  what  is..."    
"A  teaser?  Teasers  are  usually  rich  kids  with  nothing  to  do.  They  
cruise  around  looking  for  planets  which  haven't  made  interstellar  
contact  yet  and  buzz  them."    
"Buzz  them?"  Arthur  began  to  feel  that  Ford  was  enjoying  making  
life  difficult  for  him.    
"Yeah",  said  Ford,  "they  buzz  them.  They  find  some  isolated  spot  
with  very  few  people  around,  then  land  right  by  some  poor  soul  
whom  no  one's  ever  going  to  believe  and  then  strut  up  and  down  in  
front  of  him  wearing  silly  antennae  on  their  heads  and  making  beep  
beep  noises.  Rather  childish  really."  Ford  leant  back  on  the  mattress  
with  his  hands  behind  his  head  and  looked  infuriatingly  pleased  with  
"Ford,"  insisted  Arthur,  "I  don't  know  if  this  sounds  like  a  silly  
question,  but  what  am  I  doing  here?"    
"Well  you  know  that,"  said  Ford.  "I  rescued  you  from  the  Earth."    
"And  what's  happened  to  the  Earth?"    
"Ah.  It's  been  demolished."    
"Has  it,"  said  Arthur  levelly.    
"Yes.  It  just  boiled  away  into  space."    

"Look,"  said  Arthur,  "I'm  a  bit  upset  about  that."    
Ford  frowned  to  himself  and  seemed  to  roll  the  thought  around  his  
"Yes,  I  can  understand  that,"  he  said  at  last.    
"Understand  that!"  shouted  Arthur.  "Understand  that!"    
Ford  sprang  up.    
"Keep  looking  at  the  book!"  he  hissed  urgently.    
"Don't  Panic."    
"I'm  not  panicking!"    
"Yes  you  are."    
"Alright  so  I'm  panicking,  what  else  is  there  to  do?"    
"You  just  come  along  with  me  and  have  a  good  time.  The  Galaxy's  a  
fun  place.  You'll  need  to  have  this  fish  in  your  ear."    
"I  beg  your  pardon?"  asked  Arthur,  rather  politely  he  thought.    
Ford  was  holding  up  a  small  glass  jar  which  quite  clearly  had  a  small  
yellow  fish  wriggling  around  in  it.  Arthur  blinked  at  him.  He  wished  
there  was  something  simple  and  recognizable  he  could  grasp  hold  of.  
He  would  have  felt  safe  if  alongside  the  Dentrassi  underwear,  the  
piles  of  Squornshellous  mattresses  and  the  man  from  Betelgeuse  
holding  up  a  small  yellow  fish  and  offering  to  put  it  in  his  ear  he  had  
been  able  to  see  just  a  small  packet  of  corn  flakes.  He  couldn't,  and  he  
didn't  feel  safe.    
Suddenly  a  violent  noise  leapt  at  them  from  no  source  that  he  
could  identify.  He  gasped  in  terror  at  what  sounded  like  a  man  trying  
to  gargle  whilst  fighting  off  a  pack  of  wolves.    
"Shush!"  said  Ford.  "Listen,  it  might  be  important."    
"Im...  important?"    
"It's  the  Vogon  captain  making  an  announcement  on  the  T'annoy."    
"You  mean  that's  how  the  Vogons  talk?"    
"But  I  can't  speak  Vogon!"    
"You  don't  need  to.  Just  put  that  fish  in  your  ear."    
Ford,  with  a  lightning  movement,  clapped  his  hand  to  Arthur's  ear,  
and  he  had  the  sudden  sickening  sensation  of  the  fish  slithering  deep  

into  his  aural  tract.  Gasping  with  horror  he  scrabbled  at  his  ear  for  a  
second  or  so,  but  then  slowly  turned  goggle-­‐eyed  with  wonder.  He  
was  experiencing  the  aural  equivalent  of  looking  at  a  picture  of  two  
black  silhouetted  faces  and  suddenly  seeing  it  as  a  picture  of  a  white  
candlestick.  Or  of  looking  at  a  lot  of  coloured  dots  on  a  piece  of  paper  
which  suddenly  resolve  themselves  into  the  figure  six  and  mean  that  
your  optician  is  going  to  charge  you  a  lot  of  money  for  a  new  pair  of  
He  was  still  listening  to  the  howling  gargles,  he  knew  that,  only  
now  it  had  taken  on  the  semblance  of  perfectly  straightforward  
This  is  what  he  heard...    


Chapter  6    

"Howl  howl  gargle  howl  gargle  howl  howl  howl  gargle  howl  gargle  
howl  howl  gargle  gargle  howl  gargle  gargle  gargle  howl  slurrp  uuuurgh  
should  have  a  good  time.  Message  repeats.  This  is  your  captain  
speaking,  so  stop  whatever  you're  doing  and  pay  attention.  First  of  all  
I  see  from  our  instruments  that  we  have  a  couple  of  hitchhikers  
aboard.  Hello  wherever  you  are.  I  just  want  to  make  it  totally  clear  
that  you  are  not  at  all  welcome.  I  worked  hard  to  get  where  I  am  
today,  and  I  didn't  become  captain  of  a  Vogon  constructor  ship  simply  
so  I  could  turn  it  into  a  taxi  service  for  a  load  of  degenerate  
freeloaders.  I  have  sent  out  a  search  party,  and  as  soon  that  they  find  
you  I  will  put  you  off  the  ship.  If  you're  very  lucky  I  might  read  you  
some  of  my  poetry  first."    
"Secondly,  we  are  about  to  jump  into  hyperspace  for  the  journey  to  
Barnard's  Star.  On  arrival  we  will  stay  in  dock  for  a  seventy-­‐two  hour  
refit,  and  no  one's  to  leave  the  ship  during  that  time.  I  repeat,  all  
planet  leave  is  cancelled.  I've  just  had  an  unhappy  love  affair,  so  I  
don't  see  why  anybody  else  should  have  a  good  time.  Message  ends."    
The  noise  stopped.    
Arthur  discovered  to  his  embarrassment  that  he  was  lying  curled  
up  in  a  small  ball  on  the  floor  with  his  arms  wrapped  round  his  head.  
He  smiled  weakly.    
"Charming  man,"  he  said.  "I  wish  I  had  a  daughter  so  I  could  forbid  
her  to  marry  one..."    
"You  wouldn't  need  to,"  said  Ford.  "They've  got  as  much  sex  appeal  
as  a  road  accident.  No,  don't  move,"  he  added  as  Arthur  began  to  
uncurl  himself,  "you'd  better  be  prepared  for  the  jump  into  
hyperspace.  It's  unpleasantly  like  being  drunk."    
"What's  so  unpleasant  about  being  drunk?"    
"You  ask  a  glass  of  water."    
Arthur  thought  about  this.    
"Ford,"  he  said.    

"What's  this  fish  doing  in  my  ear?"    
"It's  translating  for  you.  It's  a  Babel  fish.  Look  it  up  in  the  book  if  
you  like."    
He  tossed  over  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  and  then  
curled  himself  up  into  a  foetal  ball  to  prepare  himself  for  the  jump.    
At  that  moment  the  bottom  fell  out  of  Arthur's  mind.    
His  eyes  turned  inside  out.  His  feet  began  to  leak  out  of  the  top  of  
his  head.    
The  room  folded  flat  about  him,  spun  around,  shifted  out  of  
existence  and  left  him  sliding  into  his  own  navel.    
They  were  passing  through  hyperspace.    
"The  Babel  fish,"  said  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  quietly,  
"is  small,  yellow  and  leech-­‐like,  and  probably  the  oddest  thing  in  the  
Universe.  It  feeds  on  brainwave  energy  not  from  its  carrier  but  from  
those  around  it.  It  absorbs  all  unconscious  mental  frequencies  from  
this  brainwave  energy  to  nourish  itself  with.  It  then  excretes  into  the  
mind  of  its  carrier  a  telepathic  matrix  formed  by  combining  the  
conscious  thought  frequencies  with  nerve  signals  picked  up  from  the  
speech  centres  of  the  brain  which  has  supplied  them.  The  practical  
upshot  of  all  this  is  that  if  you  stick  a  Babel  fish  in  your  ear  you  can  
instantly  understand  anything  said  to  you  in  any  form  of  language.  
The  speech  patterns  you  actually  hear  decode  the  brainwave  matrix  
which  has  been  fed  into  your  mind  by  your  Babel  fish."    
"Now  it  is  such  a  bizarrely  improbable  coincidence  that  anything  so  
mindboggingly  useful  could  have  evolved  purely  by  chance  that  some  
thinkers  have  chosen  to  see  it  as  the  final  and  clinching  proof  of  the  
non-­‐existence  of  God."    
"The  argument  goes  something  like  this:  'I  refuse  to  prove  that  I  
exist,'  says  God,  'for  proof  denies  faith,  and  without  faith  I  am  
"'But,'  says  Man,  'The  Babel  fish  is  a  dead  giveaway,  isn't  it?  It  could  
not  have  evolved  by  chance.  It  proves  you  exist,  and  so  therefore,  by  
your  own  arguments,  you  don't.  QED.'"    
"'Oh  dear,'  says  God,  'I  hadn't  thought  of  that,'  and  promptly  
vanished  in  a  puff  of  logic."    

"'Oh,  that  was  easy,'  says  Man,  and  for  an  encore  goes  on  to  prove  
that  black  is  white  and  gets  himself  killed  on  the  next  zebra  crossing."    
"Most  leading  theologians  claim  that  this  argument  is  a  load  of  
dingo's  kidneys,  but  that  didn't  stop  Oolon  Colluphid  making  a  small  
fortune  when  he  used  it  as  the  central  theme  of  his  best-­‐selling  book  
Well  That  About  Wraps  It  Up  For  God."    
"Meanwhile,  the  poor  Babel  fish,  by  effectively  removing  all  
barriers  to  communication  between  different  races  and  cultures,  has  
caused  more  and  bloddier  wars  than  anything  else  in  the  history  of  
Arthur  let  out  a  low  groan.  He  was  horrified  to  discover  that  the  
kick  through  hyperspace  hadn't  killed  him.  He  was  now  six  light  years  
from  the  place  that  the  Earth  would  have  been  if  it  still  existed.    
The  Earth.    
Visions  of  it  swam  sickeningly  through  his  nauseated  mind.  There  
was  no  way  his  imagination  could  feel  the  impact  of  the  whole  Earth  
having  gone,  it  was  too  big.  He  prodded  his  feelings  by  thinking  that  
his  parents  and  his  sister  had  gone.  No  reaction.  He  thought  of  all  the  
people  he  had  been  close  to.  No  reaction.  Then  he  thought  of  a  
complete  stranger  he  had  been  standing  behind  in  the  queue  at  the  
supermarket  before  and  felt  a  sudden  stab  ʹ  the  supermarket  was  
gone,  everything  in  it  was  gone.  Nelson's  Column  had  gone!  Nelson's  
Column  had  gone  and  there  would  be  no  outcry,  because  there  was  
no  one  left  to  make  an  outcry.  From  now  on  Nelson's  Column  only  
existed  in  his  mind.  England  only  existed  in  his  mind  ʹ  his  mind,  stuck  
here  in  this  dank  smelly  steel-­‐lined  spaceship.  A  wave  of  
claustrophobia  closed  in  on  him.    
England  no  longer  existed.  He'd  got  that  ʹ  somehow  he'd  got  it.  He  
tried  again.  America,  he  thought,  has  gone.  He  couldn't  grasp  it.  He  
decided  to  start  smaller  again.  New  York  has  gone.  No  reaction.  He'd  
never  seriously  believed  it  existed  anyway.  The  dollar,  he  thought,  
had  sunk  for  ever.  Slight  tremor  there.  Every  Bogart  movie  has  been  
wiped,  he  said  to  himself,  and  that  gave  him  a  nasty  knock.  
McDonalds,  he  thought.  There  is  no  longer  any  such  thing  as  a  
McDonald's  hamburger.    
He  passed  out.  When  he  came  round  a  second  later  he  found  he  
was  sobbing  for  his  mother.    
He  jerked  himself  violently  to  his  feet.    

Ford  looked  up  from  where  he  was  sitting  in  a  corner  humming  to  
himself.  He  always  found  the  actual  travelling-­‐through-­‐space  part  of  
space  travel  rather  trying.    
"Yeah?"  he  said.    
"If  you're  a  researcher  on  this  book  thing  and  you  were  on  Earth,  
you  must  have  been  gathering  material  on  it."    
"Well,  I  was  able  to  extend  the  original  entry  a  bit,  yes."    
"Let  me  see  what  it  says  in  this  edition  then,  I've  got  to  see  it."    
"Yeah  OK."  He  passed  it  over  again.    
Arthur  grabbed  hold  of  it  and  tried  to  stop  his  hands  shaking.  He  
pressed  the  entry  for  the  relevant  page.  The  screen  flashed  and  
swirled  and  resolved  into  a  page  of  print.  Arthur  stared  at  it.    
"It  doesn't  have  an  entry!"  he  burst  out.    
Ford  looked  over  his  shoulder.    
"Yes  it  does,"  he  said,  "down  there,  see  at  the  bottom  of  the  screen,  
just  under  Eccentrica  Gallumbits,  the  triple-­‐breasted  whore  of  
Eroticon  6."    
Arthur  followed  Ford's  finger,  and  saw  where  it  was  pointing.  For  a  
moment  it  still  didn't  register,  then  his  mind  nearly  blew  up.    
"What?  Harmless?  Is  that  all  it's  got  to  say?  Harmless!  One  word!"    
Ford  shrugged.    
"Well,  there  are  a  hundred  billion  stars  in  the  Galaxy,  and  only  a  
limited  amount  of  space  in  the  book's  microprocessors,"  he  said,  "and  
no  one  knew  much  about  the  Earth  of  course."    
"Well  for  God's  sake  I  hope  you  managed  to  rectify  that  a  bit."    
"Oh  yes,  well  I  managed  to  transmit  a  new  entry  off  to  the  editor.  
He  had  to  trim  it  a  bit,  but  it's  still  an  improvement."    
"And  what  does  it  say  now?"  asked  Arthur.    
"Mostly  harmless,"  admitted  Ford  with  a  slightly  embarrassed  
"Mostly  harmless!"  shouted  Arthur.    
"What  was  that  noise?"  hissed  Ford.    
"It  was  me  shouting,"  shouted  Arthur.    
"No!  Shut  up!"  said  Ford.  I  think  we're  in  trouble."    

"You  think  we're  in  trouble!"    
Outside  the  door  were  the  sounds  of  marching  feet.    
"The  Dentrassi?"  whispered  Arthur.    
"No,  those  are  steel  tipped  boots,"  said  Ford.    
There  was  a  sharp  ringing  rap  on  the  door.    
"Then  who  is  it?"  said  Arthur.    
"Well,"  said  Ford,  "if  we're  lucky  it's  just  the  Vogons  come  to  throw  
us  in  to  space."    
"And  if  we're  unlucky?"    
"If  we're  unlucky,"  said  Ford  grimly,  "the  captain  might  be  serious  
in  his  threat  that  he's  going  to  read  us  some  of  his  poetry  first..."    


Chapter  7    

Vogon  poetry  is  of  course  the  third  worst  in  the  Universe.    
The  second  worst  is  that  of  the  Azagoths  of  Kria.  During  a  recitation  
by  their  Poet  Master  Grunthos  the  Flatulent  of  his  poem  "Ode  To  A  
Small  Lump  of  Green  Putty  I  Found  In  My  Armpit  One  Midsummer  
Morning"  four  of  his  audience  died  of  internal  haemorrhaging,  and  
the  President  of  the  Mid-­‐Galactic  Arts  Nobbling  Council  survived  by  
gnawing  one  of  his  own  legs  off.  Grunthos  is  reported  to  have  been  
"disappointed"  by  the  poem's  reception,  and  was  about  to  embark  on  
a  reading  of  his  twelve-­‐book  epic  entitled  My  Favourite  Bathtime  
Gurgles  when  his  own  major  intestine,  in  a  desperate  attempt  to  save  
life  and  civilization,  leapt  straight  up  through  his  neck  and  throttled  
his  brain.    
The  very  worst  poetry  of  all  perished  along  with  its  creator  Paula  
Nancy  Millstone  Jennings  of  Greenbridge,  Essex,  England  in  the  
destruction  of  the  planet  Earth.    
Prostetnic  Vogon  Jeltz  smiled  very  slowly.  This  was  done  not  so  
much  for  effect  as  because  he  was  trying  to  remember  the  sequence  
of  muscle  movements.  He  had  had  a  terribly  therapeutic  yell  at  his  
prisoners  and  was  now  feeling  quite  relaxed  and  ready  for  a  little  
The  prisoners  sat  in  Poetry  Appreciation  Chairs  ʹ  strapped  in.  
Vogons  suffered  no  illusions  as  to  the  regard  their  works  were  
generally  held  in.  Their  early  attempts  at  composition  had  been  part  
of  bludgeoning  insistence  that  they  be  accepted  as  a  properly  evolved  
and  cultured  race,  but  now  the  only  thing  that  kept  them  going  was  
sheer  bloodymindedness.    
The  sweat  stood  out  cold  on  Ford  Prefect's  brow,  and  slid  round  
the  electrodes  strapped  to  his  temples.  These  were  attached  to  a  
battery  of  electronic  equipment  ʹ  imagery  intensifiers,  rhythmic  
modulators,  alliterative  residulators  and  simile  dumpers  ʹ  all  designed  

to  heighten  the  experience  of  the  poem  and  make  sure  that  not  a  
single  nuance  of  the  poet's  thought  was  lost.    
Arthur  Dent  sat  and  quivered.  He  had  no  idea  what  he  was  in  for,  
but  he  knew  that  he  hadn't  liked  anything  that  had  happened  so  far  
and  didn't  think  things  were  likely  to  change.    
The  Vogon  began  to  read  ʹ  a  fetid  little  passage  of  his  own  devising.    
"Oh  frettled  gruntbuggly..."  he  began.  Spasms  wracked  Ford's  body  
ʹ  this  was  worse  than  ever  he'd  been  prepared  for.    
"?...  thy  micturations  are  to  me  |  As  plurdled  gabbleblotchits  on  a  
lurgid  bee."    
"Aaaaaaarggggghhhhhh!"  went  Ford  Prefect,  wrenching  his  head  
back  as  lumps  of  pain  thumped  through  it.  He  could  dimly  see  beside  
him  Arthur  lolling  and  rolling  in  his  seat.  He  clenched  his  teeth.    
"Groop  I  implore  thee,"  continued  the  merciless  Vogon,  "my  
foonting  turlingdromes."    
His  voice  was  rising  to  a  horrible  pitch  of  impassioned  stridency.  
"And  hooptiously  drangle  me  with  crinkly  bindlewurdles,|  Or  I  will  
rend  thee  in  the  gobberwarts  with  my  blurglecruncheon,  see  if  I  
"Nnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyuuuuuuurrrrrrrggggggghhhhh!"  cried  Ford  
Prefect  and  threw  one  final  spasm  as  the  electronic  enhancement  of  
the  last  line  caught  him  full  blast  across  the  temples.  He  went  limp.    
Arthur  lolled.    
"Now  Earthlings..."  whirred  the  Vogon  (he  didn't  know  that  Ford  
Prefect  was  in  fact  from  a  small  planet  in  the  vicinity  of  Betelgeuse,  
and  wouldn't  have  cared  if  he  had)  "I  present  you  with  a  simple  choice!  
Either  die  in  the  vacuum  of  space,  or..."  he  paused  for  melodramatic  
effect,  "tell  me  how  good  you  thought  my  poem  was!"    
He  threw  himself  backwards  into  a  huge  leathery  bat-­‐shaped  seat  
and  watched  them.  He  did  the  smile  again.    
Ford  was  rasping  for  breath.  He  rolled  his  dusty  tongue  round  his  
parched  mouth  and  moaned.    
Arthur  said  brightly:  "Actually  I  quite  liked  it."    
Ford  turned  and  gaped.  Here  was  an  approach  that  had  quite  
simply  not  occurred  to  him.    

The  Vogon  raised  a  surprised  eyebrow  that  effectively  obscured  his  
nose  and  was  therefore  no  bad  thing.    
"Oh  good..."  he  whirred,  in  considerable  astonishment.    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Arthur,  "I  thought  that  some  of  the  metaphysical  
imagery  was  really  particularly  effective."    
Ford  continued  to  stare  at  him,  slowly  organizing  his  thoughts  
around  this  totally  new  concept.  Were  they  really  going  to  be  able  to  
bareface  their  way  out  of  this?    
"Yes,  do  continue..."  invited  the  Vogon.    
"Oh...  and  er...  interesting  rhythmic  devices  too,"  continued  Arthur,  
"which  seemed  to  counterpoint  the...  er...  er..."  He  floundered.    
Ford  leaped  to  his  rescue,  hazarding  "counterpoint  the  surrealism  
of  the  underlying  metaphor  of  the...  er..."  He  floundered  too,  but  
Arthur  was  ready  again.    
"...  humanity  of  the..."    
"Vogonity,"  Ford  hissed  at  him.    
"Ah  yes,  Vogonity  (sorry)  of  the  poet's  compassionate  soul,"  Arthur  
felt  he  was  on  a  home  stretch  now,  "which  contrives  through  the  
medium  of  the  verse  structure  to  sublimate  this,  transcend  that,  and  
come  to  terms  with  the  fundamental  dichotomies  of  the  other,"  (he  
was  reaching  a  triumphant  crescendo...)  "and  one  is  left  with  a  
profound  and  vivid  insight  into...  into...  er..."  (...  which  suddenly  gave  
out  on  him.)  Ford  leaped  in  with  the  coup  de  grace:    
"Into  whatever  it  was  the  poem  was  about!"  he  yelled.  Out  of  the  
corner  of  his  mouth:  "Well  done,  Arthur,  that  was  very  good."    
The  Vogon  perused  them.  For  a  moment  his  embittered  racial  soul  
had  been  touched,  but  he  thought  no  ʹ  too  little  too  late.  His  voice  
took  on  the  quality  of  a  cat  snagging  brushed  nylon.    
"So  what  you're  saying  is  that  I  write  poetry  because  underneath  
my  mean  callous  heartless  exterior  I  really  just  want  to  be  loved,"  he  
said.  He  paused.  "Is  that  right?"    
Ford  laughed  a  nervous  laugh.  "Well  I  mean  yes,"  he  said,  "don't  
we  all,  deep  down,  you  know...  er..."    
The  Vogon  stood  up.    
"No,  well  you're  completely  wrong,"  he  said,  "I  just  write  poetry  to  
throw  my  mean  callous  heartless  exterior  into  sharp  relief.  I'm  going  

to  throw  you  off  the  ship  anyway.  Guard!  Take  the  prisoners  to  
number  three  airlock  and  throw  them  out!"    
"What?"  shouted  Ford.    
A  huge  young  Vogon  guard  stepped  forward  and  yanked  them  out  
of  their  straps  with  his  huge  blubbery  arms.    
"You  can't  throw  us  into  space,"  yelled  Ford,  "we're  trying  to  write  
a  book."    
"Resistance  is  useless!"  shouted  the  Vogon  guard  back  at  him.  It  
was  the  first  phrase  he'd  learnt  when  he  joined  the  Vogon  Guard  
The  captain  watched  with  detached  amusement  and  then  turned  
Arthur  stared  round  him  wildly.    
"I  don't  want  to  die  now!"  he  yelled.  "I've  still  got  a  headache!  I  
don't  want  to  go  to  heaven  with  a  headache,  I'd  be  all  cross  and  
wouldn't  enjoy  it!"    
The  guard  grasped  them  both  firmly  round  the  neck,  and  bowing  
deferentially  towards  his  captain's  back,  hoiked  them  both  protesting  
out  of  the  bridge.  A  steel  door  closed  and  the  captain  was  on  his  own  
again.  He  hummed  quietly  and  mused  to  himself,  lightly  fingering  his  
notebook  of  verses.    
"Hmmmm,"  he  said,  "counterpoint  the  surrealism  of  the  underlying  
metaphor..."  He  considered  this  for  a  moment,  and  then  closed  the  
book  with  a  grim  smile.    
"Death's  too  good  for  them,"  he  said.    
The  long  steel-­‐lined  corridor  echoed  to  the  feeble  struggles  of  the  
two  humanoids  clamped  firmly  under  rubbery  Vogon  armpits.    
"This  is  great,"  spluttered  Arthur,  "this  is  really  terrific.  Let  go  of  me  
you  brute!"    
The  Vogon  guard  dragged  them  on.    
"Don't  you  worry,"  said  Ford,  "I'll  think  of  something."  He  didn't  
sound  hopeful.    
"Resistance  is  useless!"  bellowed  the  guard.    
"Just  don't  say  things  like  that,"  stammered  Ford.  "How  can  anyone  
maintain  a  positive  mental  attitude  if  you're  saying  things  like  that?"    

"My  God,"  complained  Arthur,  "you're  talking  about  a  positive  
mental  attitude  and  you  haven't  even  had  your  planet  demolished  
today.  I  woke  up  this  morning  and  thought  I'd  have  a  nice  relaxed  day,  
do  a  bit  of  reading,  brush  the  dog...  It's  now  just  after  four  in  the  
afternoon  and  I'm  already  thrown  out  of  an  alien  spaceship  six  light  
years  from  the  smoking  remains  of  the  Earth!"  He  spluttered  and  
gurgled  as  the  Vogon  tightened  his  grip.    
"Alright,"  said  Ford,  "just  stop  panicking."    
"Who  said  anything  about  panicking?"  snapped  Arthur.  "This  is  still  
just  the  culture  shock.  You  wait  till  I've  settled  down  into  the  situation  
and  found  my  bearings.  Then  I'll  start  panicking."    
"Arthur  you're  getting  hysterical.  Shut  up!"  Ford  tried  desperately  
to  think,  but  was  interrupted  by  the  guard  shouting  again.    
"Resistance  is  useless!"    
"And  you  can  shut  up  as  well!"  snapped  Ford.    
"Resistance  is  useless!"    
"Oh  give  it  a  rest,"  said  Ford.  He  twisted  his  head  till  he  was  looking  
straight  up  into  his  captor's  face.  A  thought  struck  him.    
"Do  you  really  enjoy  this  sort  of  thing?"  he  asked  suddenly.    
The  Vogon  stopped  dead  and  a  look  of  immense  stupidity  seeped  
slowly  over  his  face.    
"Enjoy?"  he  boomed.  "What  do  you  mean?"    
"What  I  mean,"  said  Ford,  "is  does  it  give  you  a  full  satisfying  life?  
Stomping  around,  shouting,  pushing  people  out  of  spaceships..."    
The  Vogon  stared  up  at  the  low  steel  ceiling  and  his  eyebrows  
almost  rolled  over  each  other.  His  mouth  slacked.  Finally  he  said,  
"Well  the  hours  are  good..."    
"They'd  have  to  be,"  agreed  Ford.    
Arthur  twisted  his  head  to  look  at  Ford.    
"Ford,  what  are  you  doing?"  he  asked  in  an  amazed  whisper.    
"Oh,  just  trying  to  take  an  interest  in  the  world  around  me,  OK?"  he  
said.  "So  the  hours  are  pretty  good  then?"  he  resumed.    
The  Vogon  stared  down  at  him  as  sluggish  thoughts  moiled  around  
in  the  murky  depths.    
"Yeah,"  he  said,  "but  now  you  come  to  mention  it,  most  of  the  
actual  minutes  are  pretty  lousy.  Except..."  he  thought  again,  which  

required  looking  at  the  ceiling  ʹ  "except  some  of  the  shouting  I  quite  
like."  He  filled  his  lungs  and  bellowed,  "Resistance  is..."    
"Sure,  yes,"  interrupted  Ford  hurriedly,  "you're  good  at  that,  I  can  
tell.  But  if  it's  mostly  lousy,"  he  said,  slowly  giving  the  words  time  to  
reach  their  mark,  "then  why  do  you  do  it?  What  is  it?  The  girls?  The  
leather?  The  machismo?  Or  do  you  just  find  that  coming  to  terms  
with  the  mindless  tedium  of  it  all  presents  an  interesting  challenge?"    
"Er..."  said  the  guard,  "er...  er...  I  dunno.  I  think  I  just  sort  of...  do  it  
really.  My  aunt  said  that  spaceship  guard  was  a  good  career  for  a  
young  Vogon  ʹ  you  know,  the  uniform,  the  low-­‐slung  stun  ray  holster,  
the  mindless  tedium..."    
"There  you  are  Arthur,"  said  Ford  with  the  air  of  someone  reaching  
the  conclusion  of  his  argument,  "you  think  you've  got  problems."    
Arthur  rather  thought  he  had.  Apart  from  the  unpleasant  business  
with  his  home  planet  the  Vogon  guard  had  half-­‐throttled  him  already  
and  he  didn't  like  the  sound  of  being  thrown  into  space  very  much.    
"Try  and  understand  his  problem,"  insisted  Ford.  "Here  he  is  poor  
lad,  his  entire  life's  work  is  stamping  around,  throwing  people  off  
"And  shouting,"  added  the  guard.    
"And  shouting,  sure,"  said  Ford  patting  the  blubbery  arm  clamped  
round  his  neck  in  friendly  condescension,  "...  and  he  doesn't  even  
know  why  he's  doing  it!"    
Arthur  agreed  this  was  very  sad.  He  did  this  with  a  small  feeble  
gesture,  because  he  was  too  asphyxicated  to  speak.    
Deep  rumblings  of  bemusement  came  from  the  guard.    
"Well.  Now  you  put  it  like  that  I  suppose..."    
"Good  lad!"  encouraged  Ford.    
"But  alright,"  went  on  the  rumblings,  "so  what's  the  alternative?"    
"Well,"  said  Ford,  brightly  but  slowly,  "stop  doing  it  of  course!  Tell  
them,"  he  went  on,  "you're  not  going  to  do  it  anymore."  He  felt  he  
had  to  add  something  to  that,  but  for  the  moment  the  guard  seemed  
to  have  his  mind  occupied  pondering  that  much.    
"Eerrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..."  said  the  guard,  
"erm,  well  that  doesn't  sound  that  great  to  me."    
Ford  suddenly  felt  the  moment  slipping  away.    

"Now  wait  a  minute,"  he  said,  "that's  just  the  start  you  see,  there's  
more  to  it  than  that  you  see..."    
But  at  that  moment  the  guard  renewed  his  grip  and  continued  his  
original  purpose  of  lugging  his  prisoners  to  the  airlock.  He  was  
obviously  quite  touched.    
"No,  I  think  if  it's  all  the  same  to  you,"  he  said,  "I'd  better  get  you  
both  shoved  into  this  airlock  and  then  go  and  get  on  with  some  other  
bits  of  shouting  I've  got  to  do."    
It  wasn't  all  the  same  to  Ford  Prefect  after  all.    
"Come  on  now...  but  look!"  he  said,  less  slowly,  less  brightly.    
"Huhhhhgggggggnnnnnnn..."  said  Arthur  without  any  clear  
"But  hang  on,"  pursued  Ford,  "there's  music  and  art  and  things  to  
tell  you  about  yet!  Arrrggghhh!"    
"Resistance  is  useless,"  bellowed  the  guard,  and  then  added,  "You  
see  if  I  keep  it  up  I  can  eventually  get  promoted  to  Senior  Shouting  
Officer,  and  there  aren't  usually  many  vacancies  for  non-­‐shouting  and  
non-­‐pushing-­‐people-­‐about  officers,  so  I  think  I'd  better  stick  to  what  I  
They  had  now  reached  the  airlock  ʹ  a  large  circular  steel  hatchway  
of  massive  strength  and  weight  let  into  the  inner  skin  of  the  craft.  The  
guard  operated  a  control  and  the  hatchway  swung  smoothly  open.    
"But  thanks  for  taking  an  interest,"  said  the  Vogon  guard.  "Bye  
now."  He  flung  Ford  and  Arthur  through  the  hatchway  into  the  small  
chamber  within.  Arthur  lay  panting  for  breath.  Ford  scrambled  round  
and  flung  his  shoulder  uselessly  against  the  reclosing  hatchway.    
"But  listen,"  he  shouted  to  the  guard,  "there's  a  whole  world  you  
don't  know  anything  about...  here  how  about  this?"  Desperately  he  
grabbed  for  the  only  bit  of  culture  he  knew  offhand  ʹ  he  hummed  the  
first  bar  of  Beethoven's  Fifth.    
"Da  da  da  dum!  Doesn't  that  stir  anything  in  you?"    
"No,"  said  the  guard,  "not  really.  But  I'll  mention  it  to  my  aunt."    
If  he  said  anything  further  after  that  it  was  lost.  The  hatchway  
sealed  itself  tight,  and  all  sound  was  lost  but  the  faint  distant  hum  of  
the  ship's  engines.    
They  were  in  a  brightly  polished  cylindrical  chamber  about  six  feet  
in  diameter  and  ten  feet  long.    

"Potentially  bright  lad  I  thought,"  he  said  and  slumped  against  the  
curved  wall.    
Arthur  was  still  lying  in  the  curve  of  the  floor  where  he  had  fallen.  
He  didn't  look  up.  He  just  lay  panting.    
"We're  trapped  now  aren't  we?"    
"Yes,"  said  Ford,  "we're  trapped."    
"Well  didn't  you  think  of  anything?  I  thought  you  said  you  were  
going  to  think  of  something.  Perhaps  you  thought  of  something  and  
didn't  notice."    
"Oh  yes,  I  thought  of  something,"  panted  Ford.  Arthur  looked  up  
"But  unfortunately,"  continued  Ford,  "it  rather  involved  being  on  
the  other  side  of  this  airtight  hatchway."  He  kicked  the  hatch  they'd  
just  been  through.    
"But  it  was  a  good  idea  was  it?"    
"Oh  yes,  very  neat."    
"What  was  it?"    
"Well  I  hadn't  worked  out  the  details  yet.  Not  much  point  now  is  
"So...  er,  what  happens  next?"    
"Oh,  er,  well  the  hatchway  in  front  of  us  will  open  automatically  in  
a  few  moments  and  we  will  shoot  out  into  deep  space  I  expect  and  
asphyxicate.  If  you  take  a  lungful  of  air  with  you  you  can  last  for  up  to  
thirty  seconds  of  course..."  said  Ford.  He  stuck  his  hands  behind  his  
back,  raised  his  eyebrows  and  started  to  hum  an  old  Betelgeusian  
battle  hymn.  To  Arthur's  eyes  he  suddenly  looked  very  alien.    
"So  this  is  it,"  said  Arthur,  "we're  going  to  die."    
"Yes,"  said  Ford,  "except...  no!  Wait  a  minute!"  he  suddenly  lunged  
across  the  chamber  at  something  behind  Arthur's  line  of  vision.  
"What's  this  switch?"  he  cried.    
"What?  Where?"  cried  Arthur  twisting  round.    
"No,  I  was  only  fooling,"  said  Ford,  "we  are  going  to  die  after  all."    
He  slumped  against  the  wall  again  and  carried  on  the  tune  from  
where  he  left  off.    
"You  know,"  said  Arthur,  "it's  at  times  like  this,  when  I'm  trapped  in  
a  Vogon  airlock  with  a  man  from  Betelgeuse,  and  about  to  die  of  

asphyxication  in  deep  space  that  I  really  wish  I'd  listened  to  what  my  
mother  told  me  when  I  was  young."    
"Why,  what  did  she  tell  you?"    
"I  don't  know,  I  didn't  listen."    
"Oh."  Ford  carried  on  humming.    
"This  is  terrific,"  Arthur  thought  to  himself,  "Nelson's  Column  has  
gone,  McDonald's  have  gone,  all  that's  left  is  me  and  the  words  
Mostly  Harmless.  Any  second  now  all  that  will  be  left  is  Mostly  
Harmless.  And  yesterday  the  planet  seemed  to  be  going  so  well."    
A  motor  whirred.    
A  slight  hiss  built  into  a  deafening  roar  of  rushing  air  as  the  outer  
hatchway  opened  on  to  an  empty  blackness  studded  with  tiny  
impossibly  bright  points  of  light.  Ford  and  Arthur  popped  into  outer  
space  like  corks  from  a  toy  gun.    


Chapter  8    

The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  is  a  wholly  remarkable  book.  It  
has  been  compiled  and  recompiled  many  times  over  many  years  and  
under  many  different  editorships.  It  contains  contributions  from  
countless  numbers  of  travellers  and  researchers.    
The  introduction  begins  like  this:    
"Space,"  it  says,  "is  big.  Really  big.  You  just  won't  believe  how  vastly  
hugely  mindboggingly  big  it  is.  I  mean  you  may  think  it's  a  long  way  
down  the  road  to  the  chemist,  but  that's  just  peanuts  to  space.  
Listen..."  and  so  on.    
(After  a  while  the  style  settles  down  a  bit  and  it  begins  to  tell  you  
things  you  really  need  to  know,  like  the  fact  that  the  fabulously  
beautiful  planet  Bethselamin  is  now  so  worried  about  the  cumulative  
erosion  by  ten  billion  visiting  tourists  a  year  that  any  net  imbalance  
between  the  amount  you  eat  and  the  amount  you  excrete  whilst  on  
the  planet  is  surgically  removed  from  your  bodyweight  when  you  
leave:  so  every  time  you  go  to  the  lavatory  it  is  vitally  important  to  get  
a  receipt.)    
To  be  fair  though,  when  confronted  by  the  sheer  enormity  of  
distances  between  the  stars,  better  minds  than  the  one  responsible  
for  the  Guide's  introduction  have  faltered.  Some  invite  you  to  
consider  for  a  moment  a  peanut  in  reading  and  a  small  walnut  in  
Johannesburg,  and  other  such  dizzying  concepts.    
The  simple  truth  is  that  interstellar  distances  will  not  fit  into  the  
human  imagination.    
Even  light,  which  travels  so  fast  that  it  takes  most  races  thousands  
of  years  to  realize  that  it  travels  at  all,  takes  time  to  journey  between  
the  stars.  It  takes  eight  minutes  from  the  star  Sol  to  the  place  where  
the  Earth  used  to  be,  and  four  years  more  to  arrive  at  Sol's  nearest  
stellar  neighbour,  Alpha  Proxima.    

For  light  to  reach  the  other  side  of  the  Galaxy,  for  it  to  reach  
Damogran  for  instance,  takes  rather  longer:  five  hundred  thousand  
The  record  for  hitch  hiking  this  distance  is  just  under  five  years,  but  
you  don't  get  to  see  much  on  the  way.    
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  says  that  if  you  hold  a  lungful  
of  air  you  can  survive  in  the  total  vacuum  of  space  for  about  thirty  
seconds.  However  it  goes  on  to  say  that  what  with  space  being  the  
mind  boggling  size  it  is  the  chances  of  getting  picked  up  by  another  
ship  within  those  thirty  seconds  are  two  to  the  power  of  two  hundred  
and  sixty-­‐seven  thousand  seven  hundred  and  nine  to  one  against.    
By  a  totally  staggering  coincidence  that  is  also  the  telephone  
number  of  an  Islington  flat  where  Arthur  once  went  to  a  very  good  
party  and  met  a  very  nice  girl  whom  he  totally  failed  to  get  off  with  ʹ  
she  went  off  with  a  gatecrasher.    
Though  the  planet  Earth,  the  Islington  flat  and  the  telephone  have  
all  now  been  demolished,  it  is  comforting  to  reflect  that  they  are  all  in  
some  small  way  commemorated  by  the  fact  that  twenty-­‐nine  seconds  
later  Ford  and  Arthur  were  rescued.    


Chapter  9    

A  computer  chatted  to  itself  in  alarm  as  it  noticed  an  airlock  open  
and  close  itself  for  no  apparent  reason.    
This  was  because  Reason  was  in  fact  out  to  lunch.    
A  hole  had  just  appeared  in  the  Galaxy.  It  was  exactly  a  nothingth  
of  a  second  long,  a  nothingth  of  an  inch  wide,  and  quite  a  lot  of  
million  light  years  from  end  to  end.    
As  it  closed  up  lots  of  paper  hats  and  party  balloons  fell  out  of  it  
and  drifted  off  through  the  universe.  A  team  of  seven  three-­‐foot-­‐high  
market  analysts  fell  out  of  it  and  died,  partly  of  asphyxication,  partly  
of  surprise.    
Two  hundred  and  thirty-­‐nine  thousand  lightly  fried  eggs  fell  out  of  
it  too,  materializing  in  a  large  woobly  heap  on  the  famine  ʹ  struck  
land  of  Poghril  in  the  Pansel  system.    
The  whole  Poghril  tribe  had  died  out  from  famine  except  for  one  
last  man  who  died  of  cholesterol  poisoning  some  weeks  later.    
The  nothingth  of  a  second  for  which  the  hole  existed  reverberated  
backwards  and  forwards  through  time  in  a  most  improbable  fashion.  
Somewhere  in  the  deeply  remote  past  it  seriously  traumatized  a  small  
random  group  of  atoms  drifting  through  the  empty  sterility  of  space  
and  made  them  cling  together  in  the  most  extraordinarily  unlikely  
patterns.  These  patterns  quickly  learnt  to  copy  themselves  (this  was  
part  of  what  was  so  extraordinary  of  the  patterns)  and  went  on  to  
cause  massive  trouble  on  every  planet  they  drifted  on  to.  That  was  
how  life  began  in  the  Universe.    
Five  wild  Event  Maelstroms  swirled  in  vicious  storms  of  unreason  
and  spewed  up  a  pavement.    
On  the  pavement  lay  Ford  Prefect  and  Arthur  Dent  gulping  like  
half-­‐spent  fish.    
"There  you  are,"  gasped  Ford,  scrabbling  for  a  fingerhold  on  the  
pavement  as  it  raced  through  the  Third  Reach  of  the  Unknown,  "I  told  
you  I'd  think  of  something."    

"Oh  sure,"  said  Arthur,  "sure."    
"Bright  idea  of  mine,"  said  Ford,  "to  find  a  passing  spaceship  and  
get  rescued  by  it."    
The  real  universe  arched  sickeningly  away  beneath  them.  Various  
pretend  ones  flitted  silently  by,  like  mountain  goats.  Primal  light  
exploded,  splattering  space-­‐time  as  with  gobbets  of  junket.  Time  
blossomed,  matter  shrank  away.  The  highest  prime  number  coalesced  
quietly  in  a  corner  and  hid  itself  away  for  ever.    
"Oh  come  off  it,"  said  Arthur,  "the  chances  against  it  were  
"Don't  knock  it,  it  worked,"  said  Ford.    
"What  sort  of  ship  are  we  in?"  asked  Arthur  as  the  pit  of  eternity  
yawned  beneath  them.    
"I  don't  know,"  said  Ford,  "I  haven't  opened  my  eyes  yet."    
"No,  nor  have  I,"  said  Arthur.    
The  Universe  jumped,  froze,  quivered  and  splayed  out  in  several  
unexpected  directions.    
Arthur  and  Ford  opened  their  eyes  and  looked  about  in  
considerable  surprise.    
"Good  god,"  said  Arthur,  "it  looks  just  like  the  sea  front  at  
"Hell,  I'm  relieved  to  hear  you  say  that,"  said  Ford.    
"Because  I  thought  I  must  be  going  mad."    
"Perhaps  you  are.  Perhaps  you  only  thought  I  said  it."    
Ford  thought  about  this.    
"Well,  did  you  say  it  or  didn't  you?"  he  asked.    
"I  think  so,"  said  Arthur.    
"Well,  perhaps  we're  both  going  mad."    
"Yes,"  said  Arthur,  "we'd  be  mad,  all  things  considered,  to  think  this  
was  Southend."    
"Well,  do  you  think  this  is  Southend?"    
"Oh  yes."    
"So  do  I."    
"Therefore  we  must  be  mad."    

"Nice  day  for  it."    
"Yes,"  said  a  passing  maniac.    
"Who  was  that?"  asked  Arthur    
"Who  ʹ  the  man  with  the  five  heads  and  the  elderberry  bush  full  of  
"I  don't  know.  Just  someone."    
They  both  sat  on  the  pavement  and  watched  with  a  certain  unease  
as  huge  children  bounced  heavily  along  the  sand  and  wild  horses  
thundered  through  the  sky  taking  fresh  supplies  of  reinforced  railings  
to  the  Uncertain  Areas.    
"You  know,"  said  Arthur  with  a  slight  cough,  "if  this  is  Southend,  
there's  something  very  odd  about  it..."    
"You  mean  the  way  the  sea  stays  steady  and  the  buildings  keep  
washing  up  and  down?"  said  Ford.  "Yes  I  thought  that  was  odd  too.  In  
fact,"  he  continued  as  with  a  huge  bang  Southend  split  itself  into  six  
equal  segments  which  danced  and  span  giddily  round  each  other  in  
lewd  and  licentious  formation,  "there  is  something  altogether  very  
strange  going  on."    
Wild  yowling  noises  of  pipes  and  strings  seared  through  the  wind,  
hot  doughnuts  popped  out  of  the  road  for  ten  pence  each,  horrid  fish  
stormed  out  of  the  sky  and  Arthur  and  Ford  decided  to  make  a  run  for  
They  plunged  through  heavy  walls  of  sound,  mountains  of  archaic  
thought,  valleys  of  mood  music,  bad  shoe  sessions  and  footling  bats  
and  suddenly  heard  a  girl's  voice.    
It  sounded  quite  a  sensible  voice,  but  it  just  said,  "Two  to  the  
power  of  one  hundred  thousand  to  one  against  and  falling,"  and  that  
was  all.    
Ford  skidded  down  a  beam  of  light  and  span  round  trying  to  find  a  
source  for  the  voice  but  could  see  nothing  he  could  seriously  believe  
"What  was  that  voice?"  shouted  Arthur.    
"I  don't  know,"  yelled  Ford,  "I  don't  know.  It  sounded  like  a  
measurement  of  probability."    

"Probability?  What  do  you  mean?"    
"Probability.  You  know,  like  two  to  one,  three  to  one,  five  to  four  
against.  It  said  two  to  the  power  of  one  hundred  thousand  to  one  
against.  That's  pretty  improbable  you  know."    
A  million-­‐gallon  vat  of  custard  upended  itself  over  them  without  
"But  what  does  it  mean?"  cried  Arthur.    
"What,  the  custard?"    
"No,  the  measurement  of  probability!"    
"I  don't  know.  I  don't  know  at  all.  I  think  we're  on  some  kind  of  
"I  can  only  assume,"  said  Arthur,  "that  this  is  not  the  first-­‐class  
Bulges  appeared  in  the  fabric  of  space-­‐time.  Great  ugly  bulges.    
"Haaaauuurrgghhh..."  said  Arthur  as  he  felt  his  body  softening  and  
bending  in  unusual  directions.  "Southend  seems  to  be  melting  away...  
the  stars  are  swirling...  a  dustbowl...  my  legs  are  drifting  off  into  the  
sunset...  my  left  arm's  come  off  too."  A  frightening  thought  struck  him:  
"Hell,"  he  said,  "how  am  I  going  to  operate  my  digital  watch  now?"  He  
wound  his  eyes  desperately  around  in  Ford's  direction.    
"Ford,"  he  said,  "you're  turning  into  a  penguin.  Stop  it."    
Again  came  the  voice.    
"Two  to  the  power  of  seventy-­‐five  thousand  to  one  against  and  
Ford  waddled  around  his  pond  in  a  furious  circle.    
"Hey,  who  are  you,"  he  quacked.  "Where  are  you?  What's  going  on  
and  is  there  any  way  of  stopping  it?"    
"Please  relax,"  said  the  voice  pleasantly,  like  a  stewardess  in  an  
airliner  with  only  one  wing  and  two  engines  one  of  which  is  on  fire,  
"you  are  perfectly  safe."    
"But  that's  not  the  point!"  raged  Ford.  "The  point  is  that  I  am  now  a  
perfectly  save  penguin,  and  my  colleague  here  is  rapidly  running  out  
of  limbs!"    
"It's  alright,  I've  got  them  back  now,"  said  Arthur.    
"Two  to  the  power  of  fifty  thousand  to  one  against  and  falling,"  
said  the  voice.    

"Admittedly,"  said  Arthur,  "they're  longer  than  I  usually  like  them,  
"Isn't  there  anything,"  squawked  Ford  in  avian  fury,  "you  feel  you  
ought  to  be  telling  us?"    
The  voice  cleared  its  throat.  A  giant  petit  four  lolloped  off  into  the  
"Welcome,"  the  voice  said,  "to  the  Starship  Heart  of  Gold."    
The  voice  continued.    
"Please  do  not  be  alarmed,"  it  said,  "by  anything  you  see  or  hear  
around  you.  You  are  bound  to  feel  some  initial  ill  effects  as  you  have  
been  rescued  from  certain  death  at  an  improbability  level  of  two  to  
the  power  of  two  hundred  and  seventy-­‐six  thousand  to  one  against  ʹ  
possibly  much  higher.  We  are  now  cruising  at  a  level  of  two  to  the  
power  of  twenty-­‐five  thousand  to  one  against  and  falling,  and  we  will  
be  restoring  normality  just  as  soon  as  we  are  sure  what  is  normal  
anyway.  Thank  you.  Two  to  the  power  of  twenty  thousand  to  one  
against  and  falling."    
The  voice  cut  out.    
Ford  and  Arthur  were  in  a  small  luminous  pink  cubicle.    
Ford  was  wildly  excited.    
"Arthur!"  he  said,  "this  is  fantastic!  We've  been  picked  up  by  a  ship  
powered  by  the  Infinite  Improbability  Drive!  This  is  incredible!  I  heard  
rumors  about  it  before!  They  were  all  officially  denied,  but  they  must  
have  done  it!  They've  built  the  Improbability  Drive!  Arthur,  this  is...  
Arthur?  What's  happening?"    
Arthur  had  jammed  himself  against  the  door  to  the  cubicle,  trying  
to  hold  it  closed,  but  it  was  ill  fitting.  Tiny  furry  little  hands  were  
squeezing  themselves  through  the  cracks,  their  fingers  were  
inkstained;  tiny  voices  chattered  insanely.    
Arthur  looked  up.    
"Ford!"  he  said,  "there's  an  infinite  number  of  monkeys  outside  
who  want  to  talk  to  us  about  this  script  for  Hamlet  they've  worked  

Chapter  10    

The  Infinite  Improbability  Drive  is  a  wonderful  new  method  of  
crossing  vast  interstellar  distances  in  a  mere  nothingth  of  a  second,  
without  all  that  tedious  mucking  about  in  hyperspace.    
It  was  discovered  by  a  lucky  chance,  and  then  developed  into  a  
governable  form  of  propulsion  by  the  Galactic  Government's  research  
team  on  Damogran.    
This,  briefly,  is  the  story  of  its  discovery.    
The  principle  of  generating  small  amounts  of  finite  improbability  by  
simply  hooking  the  logic  circuits  of  a  Bambleweeny  57  Sub-­‐Meson  
Brain  to  an  atomic  vector  plotter  suspended  in  a  strong  Brownian  
Motion  producer  (say  a  nice  hot  cup  of  tea)  were  of  course  well  
understood  ʹ  and  such  generators  were  often  used  to  break  the  ice  at  
parties  by  making  all  the  molecules  in  the  hostess's  undergarments  
leap  simultaneously  one  foot  to  the  left,  in  accordance  with  the  
Theory  of  Indeterminacy.    
Many  respectable  physicists  said  that  they  weren't  going  to  stand  
for  this  ʹ  partly  because  it  was  a  debasement  of  science,  but  mostly  
because  they  didn't  get  invited  to  those  sort  of  parties.    
Another  thing  they  couldn't  stand  was  the  perpetual  failure  they  
encountered  in  trying  to  construct  a  machine  which  could  generate  
the  infinite  improbability  field  needed  to  flip  a  spaceship  across  the  
mind-­‐paralysing  distances  between  the  furthest  stars,  and  in  the  end  
they  grumpily  announced  that  such  a  machine  was  virtually  
Then,  one  day,  a  student  who  had  been  left  to  sweep  up  the  lab  
after  a  particularly  unsuccessful  party  found  himself  reasoning  this  
If,  he  thought  to  himself,  such  a  machine  is  a  virtual  impossibility,  
then  it  must  logically  be  a  finite  improbability.  So  all  I  have  to  do  in  
order  to  make  one  is  to  work  out  exactly  how  improbable  it  is,  feed  

that  figure  into  the  finite  improbability  generator,  give  it  a  fresh  cup  
of  really  hot  tea...  and  turn  it  on!    
He  did  this,  and  was  rather  startled  to  discover  that  he  had  
managed  to  create  the  long  sought  after  golden  Infinite  Improbability  
generator  out  of  thin  air.    
It  startled  him  even  more  when  just  after  he  was  awarded  the  
Galactic  Institute's  Prize  for  Extreme  Cleverness  he  got  lynched  by  a  
rampaging  mob  of  respectable  physicists  who  had  finally  realized  that  
the  one  thing  they  really  couldn't  stand  was  a  smartass.    


Chapter  11    

The  Improbability-­‐proof  control  cabin  of  the  Heart  of  Gold  looked  
like  a  perfectly  conventional  spaceship  except  that  it  was  perfectly  
clean  because  it  was  so  new.  Some  of  the  control  seats  hadn't  had  the  
plastic  wrapping  taken  off  yet.  The  cabin  was  mostly  white,  oblong,  
and  about  the  size  of  a  smallish  restaurant.  In  fact  it  wasn't  perfectly  
oblong:  the  two  long  walls  were  raked  round  in  a  slight  parallel  curve,  
and  all  the  angles  and  corners  were  contoured  in  excitingly  chunky  
shapes.  The  truth  of  the  matter  is  that  it  would  have  been  a  great  deal  
simpler  and  more  practical  to  build  the  cabin  as  an  ordinary  three-­‐
dimensional  oblong  rom,  but  then  the  designers  would  have  got  
miserable.  As  it  was  the  cabin  looked  excitingly  purposeful,  with  large  
video  screens  ranged  over  the  control  and  guidance  system  panels  on  
the  concave  wall,  and  long  banks  of  computers  set  into  the  convex  
wall.  In  one  corner  a  robot  sat  humped,  its  gleaming  brushed  steel  
head  hanging  loosely  between  its  gleaming  brushed  steel  knees.  It  too  
was  fairly  new,  but  though  it  was  beautifully  constructed  and  polished  
it  somehow  looked  as  if  the  various  parts  of  its  more  or  less  humanoid  
body  didn't  quite  fit  properly.  In  fact  they  fitted  perfectly  well,  but  
something  in  its  bearing  suggested  that  they  might  have  fitted  better.    
Zaphod  Beeblebrox  paced  nervously  up  and  down  the  cabin,  
brushing  his  hands  over  pieces  of  gleaming  equipment  and  giggling  
with  excitement.    
Trillian  sat  hunched  over  a  clump  of  instruments  reading  off  figures.  
Her  voice  was  carried  round  the  Tannoy  system  of  the  whole  ship.    
"Five  to  one  against  and  falling..."  she  said,  "four  to  one  against  and  
falling...  three  to  one...  two...  one...  probability  factor  of  one  to  one...  
we  have  normality,  I  repeat  we  have  normality."  She  turned  her  
microphone  off  ʹ  then  turned  it  back  on,  with  a  slight  smile  and  
continued:  "Anything  you  still  can't  cope  with  is  therefore  your  own  
problem.  Please  relax.  You  will  be  sent  for  soon."    
Zaphod  burst  out  in  annoyance:  "Who  are  they  Trillian?"    

Trillian  span  her  seat  round  to  face  him  and  shrugged.    
"Just  a  couple  of  guys  we  seem  to  have  picked  up  in  open  space,"  
she  said.  "Section  ZZ9  Plural  Z  Alpha."    
"Yeah,  well  that's  a  very  sweet  thought  Trillian,"  complained  
Zaphod,  "but  do  you  really  think  it's  wise  under  the  circumstances?  I  
mean,  here  we  are  on  the  run  and  everything,  we  must  have  the  
police  of  half  the  Galaxy  after  us  by  now,  and  we  stop  to  pick  up  
hitchhikers.  OK,  so  ten  out  of  ten  for  style,  but  minus  several  million  
for  good  thinking,  yeah?"    
He  tapped  irritably  at  a  control  panel.  Trillian  quietly  moved  his  
hand  before  he  tapped  anything  important.  Whatever  Zaphod's  
qualities  of  mind  might  include  ʹ  dash,  bravado,  conceit  ʹ  he  was  
mechanically  inept  and  could  easily  blow  the  ship  up  with  an  
extravagant  gesture.  Trillian  had  come  to  suspect  that  the  main  
reason  why  he  had  had  such  a  wild  and  successful  life  that  he  never  
really  understood  the  significance  of  anything  he  did.    
"Zaphod,"  she  said  patiently,  "they  were  floating  unprotected  in  
open  space...  you  wouldn't  want  them  to  have  died  would  you?"    
"Well,  you  know...  no.  Not  as  such,  but..."    
"Not  as  such?  Not  die  as  such?  But?"  Trillian  cocked  her  head  on  
one  side.    
"Well,  maybe  someone  else  might  have  picked  them  up  later."    
"A  second  later  and  they  would  have  been  dead."    
"Yeah,  so  if  you'd  taken  the  trouble  to  think  about  the  problem  a  
bit  longer  it  would  have  gone  away."    
"You'd  been  happy  to  let  them  die?"    
"Well,  you  know,  not  happy  as  such,  but..."    
"Anyway,"  said  Trillian,  turning  back  to  the  controls,  "I  didn't  pick  
them  up."    
"What  do  you  mean?  Who  picked  them  up  then?"    
"The  ship  did."    
"The  ship  did.  All  by  itself."    
"Whilst  we  were  in  Improbability  Drive."    
"But  that's  incredible."    

"No  Zaphod.  Just  very  very  improbable."    
"Er,  yeah."    
"Look  Zaphod,"  she  said,  patting  his  arm,  "don't  worry  about  the  
aliens.  They're  just  a  couple  of  guys  I  expect.  I'll  send  the  robot  down  
to  get  them  and  bring  them  up  here.  Hey  Marvin!"    
In  the  corner,  the  robot's  head  swung  up  sharply,  but  then  
wobbled  about  imperceptibly.  It  pulled  itself  up  to  its  feet  as  if  it  was  
about  five  pounds  heavier  that  it  actually  was,  and  made  what  an  
outside  observer  would  have  thought  was  a  heroic  effort  to  cross  the  
room.  It  stopped  in  front  of  Trillian  and  seemed  to  stare  through  her  
left  shoulder.    
"I  think  you  ought  to  know  I'm  feeling  very  depressed,"  it  said.  Its  
voice  was  low  and  hopeless.    
"Oh  God,"  muttered  Zaphod  and  slumped  into  a  seat.    
"Well,"  said  Trillian  in  a  bright  compassionate  tone,  "here's  
something  to  occupy  you  and  keep  your  mind  off  things."    
"It  won't  work,"  droned  Marvin,  "I  have  an  exceptionally  large  
"Marvin!"  warned  Trillian.    
"Alright,"  said  Marvin,  "what  do  you  want  me  to  do?"    
"Go  down  to  number  two  entry  bay  and  bring  the  two  aliens  up  
here  under  surveillance."    
With  a  microsecond  pause,  and  a  finely  calculated  
micromodulation  of  pitch  and  timbre  ʹ  nothing  you  could  actually  
take  offence  at  ʹ  Marvin  managed  to  convey  his  utter  contempt  and  
horror  of  all  things  human.    
"Just  that?"  he  said.    
"Yes,"  said  Trillian  firmly.    
"I  won't  enjoy  it,"  said  Marvin.    
Zaphod  leaped  out  of  his  seat.    
"She's  not  asking  you  to  enjoy  it,"  he  shouted,  "just  do  it  will  you?"    
"Alright,"  said  Marvin  like  the  tolling  of  a  great  cracked  bell,  "I'll  do  
"Good..."  snapped  Zaphod,  "great...  thank  you..."    
Marvin  turned  and  lifted  his  flat-­‐topped  triangular  red  eyes  up  
towards  him.    

"I'm  not  getting  you  down  at  all  am  I?"  he  said  pathetically.    
"No  no  Marvin,"  lilted  Trillian,  "that's  just  fine,  really..."    
"I  wouldn't  like  to  think  that  I  was  getting  you  down."    
"No,  don't  worry  about  that,"  the  lilt  continued,  "you  just  act  as  
comes  naturally  and  everything  will  be  just  fine."    
"You're  sure  you  don't  mind?"  probed  Marvin.    
"No  no  Marvin,"  lilted  Trillian,  "that's  just  fine,  really...  just  part  of  
"Marvin  flashed  him  an  electronic  look.    
"Life,"  said  Marvin,  "don't  talk  to  me  about  life."    
He  turned  hopelessly  on  his  heel  and  lugged  himself  out  of  the  
cabin.  With  a  satisfied  hum  and  a  click  the  door  closed  behind  him    
"I  don't  think  I  can  stand  that  robot  much  longer  Zaphod,"  growled  
The  Encyclopaedia  Galactica  defines  a  robot  as  a  mechanical  
apparatus  designed  to  do  the  work  of  a  man.  The  marketing  division  
of  the  Sirius  Cybernetics  Corporation  defines  a  robot  as  "Your  Plastic  
Pal  Who's  Fun  To  Be  With."    
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  defines  the  marketing  division  
of  the  Sirius  Cybernetics  Corporation  as  "a  bunch  of  mindless  jerks  
who'll  be  the  first  against  the  wall  when  the  revolution  comes,"  with  a  
footnote  to  the  effect  that  the  editors  would  welcome  applications  
from  anyone  interested  in  taking  over  the  post  of  robotics  
Curiously  enough,  an  edition  of  the  Encyclopaedia  Galactica  that  
had  the  good  fortune  to  fall  through  a  time  warp  from  a  thousand  
years  in  the  future  defined  the  marketing  division  of  the  Sirius  
Cybernetics  Corporation  as  "a  bunch  of  mindless  jerks  who  were  the  
first  against  the  wall  when  the  revolution  came."    
The  pink  cubicle  had  winked  out  of  existence,  the  monkeys  had  
sunk  away  to  a  better  dimension.  Ford  and  Arthur  found  themselves  
in  the  embarkation  area  of  the  ship.  It  was  rather  smart.    
"I  think  the  ship's  brand  new,"  said  Ford.    

"How  can  you  tell?"  asked  Arthur.  "Have  you  got  some  exotic  
device  for  measuring  the  age  of  metal?"    
"No,  I  just  found  this  sales  brochure  lying  on  the  floor.  It's  a  lot  of  
'the  Universe  can  be  yours'  stuff.  Ah!  Look,  I  was  right."    
Ford  jabbed  at  one  of  the  pages  and  showed  it  to  Arthur.    
"It  says:  'Sensational  new  breakthrough  in  Improbability  Physics.  As  
soon  as  the  ship's  drive  reaches  Infinite  Improbability  it  passes  
through  every  point  in  the  Universe.  Be  the  envy  of  other  major  
governments.'  Wow,  this  is  big  league  stuff."    
Ford  hunted  excitedly  through  the  technical  specs  of  the  ship,  
occasionally  gasping  with  astonishment  at  what  he  read  ʹ  clearly  
Galactic  astrotechnology  had  moved  ahead  during  the  years  of  his  
Arthur  listened  for  a  short  while,  but  being  unable  to  understand  
the  vast  majority  of  what  Ford  was  saying  he  began  to  let  his  mind  
wander,  trailing  his  fingers  along  the  edge  of  an  incomprehensible  
computer  bank,  he  reached  out  and  pressed  an  invitingly  large  red  
button  on  a  nearby  panel.  The  panel  lit  up  with  the  words  Please  do  
not  press  this  button  again.  He  shook  himself.    
"Listen,"  said  Ford,  who  was  still  engrossed  in  the  sales  brochure,  
"they  make  a  big  thing  of  the  ship's  cybernetics.  'A  new  generation  of  
Sirius  Cybernetics  Corporation  robots  and  computers,  with  the  new  
GPP  feature.'"    
"GPP  feature?"  said  Arthur.  "What's  that?"    
"Oh,  it  says  Genuine  People  Personalities."    
"Oh,"  said  Arthur,  "sounds  ghastly."    
A  voice  behind  them  said,  "It  is."  The  voice  was  low  and  hopeless  
and  accompanied  by  a  slight  clanking  sound.  They  span  round  and  
saw  an  abject  steel  man  standing  hunched  in  the  doorway.    
"What?"  they  said.    
"Ghastly,"  continued  Marvin,  "it  all  is.  Absolutely  ghastly.  Just  don't  
even  talk  about  it.  Look  at  this  door,"  he  said,  stepping  through  it.  The  
irony  circuits  cut  into  his  voice  modulator  as  he  mimicked  the  style  of  
the  sales  brochure.  "All  the  doors  in  this  spaceship  have  a  cheerful  
and  sunny  disposition.  It  is  their  pleasure  to  open  for  you,  and  their  
satisfaction  to  close  again  with  the  knowledge  of  a  job  well  done."    

As  the  door  closed  behind  them  it  became  apparent  that  it  did  
indeed  have  a  satisfied  sigh-­‐like  quality  to  it.  
"Hummmmmmmyummmmmmm  ah!"  it  said.    
Marvin  regarded  it  with  cold  loathing  whilst  his  logic  circuits  
chattered  with  disgust  and  tinkered  with  the  concept  of  directing  
physical  violence  against  it  Further  circuits  cut  in  saying,  Why  bother?  
What's  the  point?  Nothing  is  worth  getting  involved  in.  Further  
circuits  amused  themselves  by  analysing  the  molecular  components  
of  the  door,  and  of  the  humanoids'  brain  cells.  For  a  quick  encore  they  
measured  the  level  of  hydrogen  emissions  in  the  surrounding  cubic  
parsec  of  space  and  then  shut  down  again  in  boredom.  A  spasm  of  
despair  shook  the  robot's  body  as  he  turned.    
"Come  on,"  he  droned,  "I've  been  ordered  to  take  you  down  to  the  
bridge.  Here  I  am,  brain  the  size  of  a  planet  and  they  ask  me  to  take  
you  down  to  the  bridge.  Call  that  job  satisfaction?  'Cos  I  don't."    
He  turned  and  walked  back  to  the  hated  door.    
"Er,  excuse  me,"  said  Ford  following  after  him,  "which  government  
owns  this  ship?"    
Marvin  ignored  him.    
"You  watch  this  door,"  he  muttered,  "it's  about  to  open  again.  I  can  
tell  by  the  intolerable  air  of  smugness  it  suddenly  generates."    
With  an  ingratiating  little  whine  the  door  slit  open  again  and  
Marvin  stomped  through.    
"Come  on,"  he  said.    
The  others  followed  quickly  and  the  door  slit  back  into  place  with  
pleased  little  clicks  and  whirrs.    
"Thank  you  the  marketing  division  of  the  Sirius  Cybernetics  
Corporation,"  said  Marvin  and  trudged  desolately  up  the  gleaming  
curved  corridor  that  stretched  out  before  them.  "Let's  build  robots  
with  Genuine  People  Personalities,"  they  said.  So  they  tried  it  out  with  
me.  I'm  a  personality  prototype.  You  can  tell  can't  you?"    
Ford  and  Arthur  muttered  embarrassed  little  disclaimers.    
"I  hate  that  door,"  continued  Marvin.  "I'm  not  getting  you  down  at  
all  am  I?"    
"Which  government..."  started  Ford  again.    
"No  government  owns  it,"  snapped  the  robot,  "it's  been  stolen."    

"Stolen?"  mimicked  Marvin.    
"Who  by?"  asked  Ford.    
"Zaphod  Beeblebrox."    
Something  extraordinary  happened  to  Ford's  face.  At  least  five  
entirely  separate  and  distinct  expressions  of  shock  and  amazement  
piled  up  on  it  in  a  jumbled  mess.  His  left  leg,  which  was  in  mid  stride,  
seemed  to  have  difficulty  in  finding  the  floor  again.  He  stared  at  the  
robot  and  tried  to  entangle  some  dartoid  muscles.    
"Zaphod  Beeblebrox...?"  he  said  weakly.    
"Sorry,  did  I  say  something  wrong?"  said  Marvin,  dragging  himself  
on  regardless.  "Pardon  me  for  breathing,  which  I  never  do  anyway  so  I  
don't  know  why  I  bother  to  say  it,  oh  God  I'm  so  depressed.  Here's  
another  of  those  self-­‐satisfied  door.  Life!  Don't  talk  to  me  about  life."    
"No  one  ever  mentioned  it,"  muttered  Arthur  irritably.  "Ford,  are  
you  alright?"    
Ford  stared  at  him.  "Did  that  robot  say  Zaphod  Beeblebrox?"  he  


Chapter  12    

A  loud  clatter  of  gunk  music  flooded  through  the  Heart  of  Gold  
cabin  as  Zaphod  searched  the  sub-­‐etha  radio  wavebands  for  news  of  
himself.  The  machine  was  rather  difficult  to  operate.  For  years  radios  
had  been  operated  by  means  of  pressing  buttons  and  turning  dials;  
then  as  the  technology  became  more  sophisticated  the  controls  were  
made  touch-­‐sensitive-­‐you  merely  had  to  brush  the  panels  with  your  
fingers;  now  all  you  had  to  do  was  wave  your  hand  in  the  general  
direction  of  the  components  and  hope.  It  saved  a  lot  of  muscular  
expenditure  of  course,  but  meant  that  you  had  to  sit  infuriatingly  still  
if  you  wanted  to  keep  listening  to  the  same  programme.    
Zaphod  waved  a  hand  and  the  channel  switched  again.  More  gunk  
music,  but  this  time  it  was  a  background  to  a  news  announcement.  
The  news  was  always  heavily  edited  to  fit  the  rhythms  of  the  music.    
"...  and  news  brought  to  you  here  on  the  sub-­‐etha  wave  band,  
broadcasting  around  the  galaxy  around  the  clock,"  squawked  a  voice,  
"and  we'll  be  saying  a  big  hello  to  all  intelligent  life  forms  
everywhere...  and  to  everyone  else  out  there,  the  secret  is  to  bang  
the  rocks  together,  guys.  And  of  course,  the  big  news  story  tonight  is  
the  sensational  theft  of  the  new  Improbability  Drive  prototype  ship  by  
none  other  than  Galactic  President  Zaphod  Beeblebrox.  And  the  
question  everyone's  asking  is...  has  the  big  Z  finally  flipped?  
Beeblebrox,  the  man  who  invented  the  Pan  Galactic  Gargle  Blaster,  
ex-­‐confidence  trickster,  once  described  by  Eccentrica  Gallumbits  as  
the  Best  Bang  since  the  Big  One,  and  recently  voted  the  Worst  
Dressed  Sentinent  Being  in  the  Known  Universe  for  the  seventh  time...  
has  he  got  an  answer  this  time?  We  asked  his  private  brain  care  
specialist  Gag  Halfrunt..."    
The  music  swirled  and  dived  for  a  moment.  Another  voice  broke  in,  
presumably  Halfrunt.  He  said:  "Well,  Zaphod's  jist  zis  guy  you  know?"  
but  got  no  further  because  an  electric  pencil  flew  across  the  cabin  and  
through  the  radio's  on/off  sensitive  airspace.  Zaphod  turned  and  
glared  at  Trillian  ʹ  she  had  thrown  the  pencil.    

"Hey,"  he  said,  what  do  you  do  that  for?"    
Trillian  was  tapping  her  fingers  on  a  screenful  of  figures.    
"I've  just  thought  of  something,"  she  said.    
"Yeah?  Worth  interrupting  a  news  bulletin  about  me  for?"    
"You  hear  enough  about  yourself  as  it  is."    
"I'm  very  insecure.  We  know  that."    
"Can  we  drop  your  ego  for  a  moment?  This  is  important."    
"If  there's  anything  more  important  than  my  ego  around,  I  want  it  
caught  and  shot  now."  Zaphod  glared  at  her  again,  then  laughed.    
"Listen,"  she  said,  "we  picked  up  those  couple  of  guys..."    
"What  couple  of  guys?"    
"The  couple  of  guys  we  picked  up."    
"Oh,  yeah,"  said  Zaphod,  "those  couple  of  guys."    
"We  picked  them  up  in  sector  ZZ9  Plural  Z  Alpha."    
"Yeah?"  said  Zaphod  and  blinked.    
Trillian  said  quietly,  "Does  that  mean  anything  to  you?"    
"Mmmmm,"  said  Zaphod,  "ZZ9  Plural  Z  Alpha.  ZZ9  Plural  Z  Alpha?"    
"Well?"  said  Trillian.    
"Er...  what  does  the  Z  mean?"  said  Zaphod.    
"Which  one?"    
"Any  one."    
One  of  the  major  difficulties  Trillian  experienced  in  her  relationship  
with  Zaphod  was  learning  to  distinguish  between  him  pretending  to  
be  stupid  just  to  get  people  off  their  guard,  pretending  to  be  stupid  
because  he  couldn't  be  bothered  to  think  and  wanted  someone  else  
to  do  it  for  him,  pretending  to  be  outrageously  stupid  to  hide  the  fact  
that  he  actually  didn't  understand  what  was  going  on,  and  really  being  
genuinely  stupid.  He  was  renowned  for  being  amazingly  clever  and  
quite  clearly  was  so  ʹ  but  not  all  the  time,  which  obviously  worried  
him,  hence  the  act.  He  proffered  people  to  be  puzzled  rather  than  
contemptuous.  This  above  all  appeared  to  Trillian  to  be  genuinely  
stupid,  but  she  could  no  longer  be  bothered  to  argue  about  it.    
She  sighed  and  punched  up  a  star  map  on  the  visiscreen  so  she  
could  make  it  simple  for  him,  whatever  his  reasons  for  wanting  it  to  
be  that  way.    

"There,"  she  pointed,  "right  there."    
"Hey...  Yeah!"  said  Zaphod.    
"Well?"  she  said.    
"Well  what?"    
Parts  of  the  inside  of  her  head  screamed  at  other  parts  of  the  
inside  of  her  head.  She  said,  very  calmly,  "It's  the  same  sector  you  
originally  picked  me  up  in."    
He  looked  at  her  and  then  looked  back  at  the  screen.    
"Hey,  yeah,"  he  said,  "now  that  is  wild.  We  should  have  zapped  
straight  into  the  middle  of  the  Horsehead  Nebula.  How  did  we  come  
to  be  there?  I  mean  that's  nowhere."    
She  ignored  this.    
"Improbability  Drive,"  she  said  patiently.  "You  explained  it  to  me  
yourself.  We  pass  through  every  point  in  the  Universe,  you  know  
"Yeah,  but  that's  one  wild  coincidence  isn't  it?"    
"Picking  someone  up  at  that  point?  Out  of  the  whole  of  the  
Universe  to  choose  from?  That's  just  too...  I  want  to  work  this  out.  
The  Sirius  Cybernetics  Corporation  Shipboard  Computer  which  
controlled  and  permeated  every  particle  of  the  ship  switched  into  
communication  mode.    
"Hi  there!"  it  said  brightly  and  simultaneously  spewed  out  a  tiny  
ribbon  of  ticker  tape  just  for  the  record.  The  ticker  tape  said,  Hi  there!    
"Oh  God,"  said  Zaphod.  He  hadn't  worked  with  this  computer  for  
long  but  had  already  learned  to  loathe  it.    
The  computer  continued,  brash  and  cheery  as  if  it  was  selling  
"I  want  you  to  know  that  whatever  your  problem,  I  am  here  to  help  
you  solve  it."    
"Yeah  yeah,"  said  Zaphod.  "Look,  I  think  I'll  just  use  a  piece  of  
"Sure  thing,"  said  the  computer,  spilling  out  its  message  into  a  
waste  bin  at  the  same  time,  "I  understand.  If  you  ever  want..."    

"Shut  up!"  said  Zaphod,  and  snatching  up  a  pencil  sat  down  next  to  
Trillian  at  the  console.    
"OK,  OK..."  said  the  computer  in  a  hurt  tone  of  voice  and  closed  
down  its  speech  channel  again.    
Zaphod  and  Trillian  pored  over  the  figures  that  the  Improbability  
flight  path  scanner  flashed  silently  up  in  front  of  them.    
"Can  we  work  out,"  said  Zaphod,  "from  their  point  of  view  what  the  
Improbability  of  their  rescue  was?"    
"Yes,  that's  a  constant",  said  Trillian,  "two  to  the  power  of  two  
hundred  and  seventy-­‐six  thousand  seven  hundred  and  nine  to  one  
"That's  high.  They're  two  lucky  lucky  guys."    
"But  relative  to  what  we  were  doing  when  the  ship  picked  them  
Trillian  punched  up  the  figures.  They  showed  two-­‐to-­‐the  power-­‐of-­‐
Infinity-­‐minus-­‐one  (an  irrational  number  that  only  has  a  conventional  
meaning  in  Improbability  physics).    
"...  it's  pretty  low,"  continued  Zaphod  with  a  slight  whistle.    
"Yes,"  agreed  Trillian,  and  looked  at  him  quizzically.    
"That's  one  big  whack  of  Improbability  to  be  accounted  for.  
Something  pretty  improbable  has  got  to  show  up  on  the  balance  
sheet  if  it's  all  going  to  add  up  into  a  pretty  sum."    
Zaphod  scribbled  a  few  sums,  crossed  them  out  and  threw  the  
pencil  away.    
"Bat's  dots,  I  can't  work  it  out."    
Zaphod  knocked  his  two  heads  together  in  irritation  and  gritted  his  
"OK,"  he  said.  "Computer!"    
The  voice  circuits  sprang  to  life  again.    
"Why  hello  there!"  they  said  (ticker  tape,  ticker  tape).  "All  I  want  to  
do  is  make  your  day  nicer  and  nicer  and  nicer..."    
"Yeah  well  shut  up  and  work  something  out  for  me."    
"Sure  thing,"  chattered  the  computer,  "you  want  a  probability  
forecast  based  on..."    

"Improbability  data,  yeah."    
"OK,"  the  computer  continued.  "Here's  an  interesting  little  notion.  
Did  you  realize  that  most  people's  lives  are  governed  by  telephone  
A  pained  look  crawled  across  one  of  Zaphod's  faces  and  on  to  the  
other  one.    
"Have  you  flipped?"  he  said.    
"No,  but  you  will  when  I  tell  you  that..."    
Trillian  gasped.  She  scrabbled  at  the  buttons  on  the  Improbability  
flight  path  screen.    
"Telephone  number?"  she  said.  "Did  that  thing  say  telephone  
Numbers  flashed  up  on  the  screen.    
The  computer  had  paused  politely,  but  now  it  continued.    
"What  I  was  about  to  say  was  that..."    
"Don't  bother  please,"  said  Trillian.    
"Look,  what  is  this?"  said  Zaphod.    
"I  don't  know,"  said  Trillian,  "but  those  aliens  ʹ  they're  on  the  way  
up  to  the  bridge  with  that  wretched  robot.  Can  we  pick  them  up  on  
any  monitor  cameras?"    


Chapter  13    

Marvin  trudged  on  down  the  corridor,  still  moaning.    
"...  and  then  of  course  I've  got  this  terrible  pain  in  all  the  diodes  
down  my  left  hand  side..."    
"No?"  said  Arthur  grimly  as  he  walked  along  beside  him.  "Really?"    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Marvin,  "I  mean  I've  asked  for  them  to  be  replaced  
but  no  one  ever  listens."    
"I  can  imagine."    
Vague  whistling  and  humming  noises  were  coming  from  Ford.  
"Well  well  well,"  he  kept  saying  to  himself,  "Zaphod  Beeblebrox..."    
Suddenly  Marvin  stopped,  and  held  up  a  hand.    
"You  know  what's  happened  now  of  course?"    
"No,  what?"  said  Arthur,  who  didn't  what  to  know.    
"We've  arrived  at  another  of  those  doors."    
There  was  a  sliding  door  let  into  the  side  of  the  corridor.  Marvin  
eyed  it  suspiciously.    
"Well?"  said  Ford  impatiently.  "Do  we  go  through?"    
"Do  we  go  through?"  mimicked  Marvin.  "Yes.  This  is  the  entrance  
to  the  bridge.  I  was  told  to  take  you  to  the  bridge.  Probably  the  
highest  demand  that  will  be  made  on  my  intellectual  capacities  today  
I  shouldn't  wonder."    
Slowly,  with  great  loathing,  he  stepped  towards  the  door,  like  a  
hunter  stalking  his  prey.  Suddenly  it  slid  open.    
"Thank  you,"  it  said,  "for  making  a  simple  door  very  happy."    
Deep  in  Marvin's  thorax  gears  ground.    
"Funny,"  he  intoned  funerally,  "how  just  when  you  think  life  can't  
possibly  get  any  worse  it  suddenly  does."    
He  heaved  himself  through  the  door  and  left  Ford  and  Arthur  
staring  at  each  other  and  shrugging  their  shoulders.  From  inside  they  
heard  Marvin's  voice  again.    

"I  suppose  you  want  to  see  the  aliens  now,"  he  said.  "Do  you  want  
me  to  sit  in  a  corner  and  rust,  or  just  fall  apart  where  I'm  standing?"    
"Yeah,  just  show  them  in  would  you  Marvin?"  came  another  voice.    
Arthur  looked  at  Ford  and  was  astonished  to  see  him  laughing.    
"Shhh,"  said  Ford,  "come  in."    
He  stepped  through  into  the  bridge.    
Arthur  followed  him  in  nervously  and  was  astonished  to  see  a  man  
lolling  back  in  a  chair  with  his  feet  on  a  control  console  picking  the  
teeth  in  his  right-­‐hand  head  with  his  left  hand.  The  right-­‐hand  head  
seemed  to  be  thoroughly  preoccupied  with  this  task,  but  the  left-­‐hand  
one  was  grinning  a  broad,  relaxed,  nonchalant  grin.  The  number  of  
things  that  Arthur  couldn't  believe  he  was  seeing  was  fairly  large.  His  
jaw  flapped  about  at  a  loose  end  for  a  while.    
The  peculiar  man  waved  a  lazy  wave  at  Ford  and  with  an  appalling  
affectation  of  nonchalance  said,  "Ford,  hi,  how  are  you?  Glad  you  
could  drop  in."    
Ford  was  not  going  to  be  outcooled.    
"Zaphod,"  he  drawled,  "great  to  see  you,  you're  looking  well,  the  
extra  arm  suits  you.  Nice  ship  you've  stolen."    
Arthur  goggled  at  him.    
"You  mean  you  know  this  guy?"  he  said,  waving  a  wild  finger  at  
"Know  him!"  exclaimed  Ford,  "he's..."  he  paused,  and  decided  to  
do  the  introductions  the  other  way  round.    
"Oh,  Zaphod,  this  is  a  friend  of  mine,  Arthur  Dent,"  he  said,  "I  saved  
him  when  his  planet  blew  up."    
"Oh  sure,"  said  Zaphod,  "hi  Arthur,  glad  you  could  make  it."  His  
right-­‐hand  head  looked  round  casually,  said  "hi"  and  went  back  to  
having  his  teeth  picked.    
Ford  carried  on.  "And  Arthur,"  he  said,  "this  is  my  semi-­‐cousin  
Zaphod  Beeb..."    
"We've  met,"  said  Arthur  sharply.    
When  you're  cruising  down  the  road  in  the  fast  lane  and  you  lazily  
sail  past  a  few  hard  driving  cars  and  are  feeling  pretty  pleased  with  
yourself  and  then  accidentally  change  down  from  fourth  to  first  

instead  of  third  thus  making  your  engine  leap  out  of  your  bonnet  in  a  
rather  ugly  mess,  it  tends  to  throw  you  off  your  stride  in  much  the  
same  way  that  this  remark  threw  Ford  Prefect  off  his.    
"Err...  what?"    
"I  said  we've  met."    
Zaphod  gave  an  awkward  start  of  surprise  and  jabbed  a  gum  
"Hey...  er,  have  we?  Hey...  er..."    
Ford  rounded  on  Arthur  with  an  angry  flash  in  his  eyes.  Now  he  felt  
he  was  back  on  home  ground  he  suddenly  began  to  resent  having  
lumbered  himself  with  this  ignorant  primitive  who  knew  as  much  
about  the  affairs  of  the  Galaxy  as  an  Ilford-­‐based  gnat  knew  about  life  
in  Peking.    
"What  do  you  mean  you've  met?"  he  demanded.  "This  is  Zaphod  
Beeblebrox  from  Betelgeuse  Five  you  know,  not  bloody  Martin  Smith  
from  Croydon."    
"I  don't  care,"  said  Arthur  coldly.  We've  met,  haven't  we  Zaphod  
Beeblebrox  ʹ  or  should  I  say...  Phil?"    
"What!"  shouted  Ford.    
"You'll  have  to  remind  me,"  said  Zaphod.  "I've  a  terrible  memory  
for  species."    
"It  was  at  a  party,"  pursued  Arthur.    
"Yeah,  well  I  doubt  that,"  said  Zaphod.    
"Cool  it  will  you  Arthur!"  demanded  Ford.    
Arthur  would  not  be  deterred.  "A  party  six  months  ago.  On  Earth...  
Zaphod  shook  his  head  with  a  tight-­‐lipped  smile.    
"London,"  insisted  Arthur,  "Islington."    
"Oh,"  said  Zaphod  with  a  guilty  start,  "that  party."    
This  wasn't  fair  on  Ford  at  all.  He  looked  backwards  and  forwards  
between  Arthur  and  Zaphod.  "What?"  he  said  to  Zaphod.  "You  don't  
mean  to  say  you've  been  on  that  miserable  planet  as  well  do  you?"    
"No,  of  course  not,"  said  Zaphod  breezily.  "Well,  I  may  have  just  
dropped  in  briefly,  you  know,  on  my  way  somewhere..."    
"But  I  was  stuck  there  for  fifteen  years!"    
"Well  I  didn't  know  that  did  I?"    

"But  what  were  you  doing  there?"    
"Looking  about,  you  know."    
"He  gatecrashed  a  party,"  persisted  Arthur,  trembling  with  anger,  
"a  fancy  dress  party..."    
"It  would  have  to  be,  wouldn't  it?"  said  Ford.    
"At  this  party,"  persisted  Arthur,  "was  a  girl...  oh  well,  look  it  
doesn't  matter  now.  The  whole  place  has  gone  up  in  smoke  
"I  wish  you'd  stop  sulking  about  that  bloody  planet,"  said  Ford.  
"Who  was  the  lady?"    
"Oh  just  somebody.  Well  alright,  I  wasn't  doing  very  well  with  her.  
I'd  been  trying  all  evening.  Hell,  she  was  something  though.  Beautiful,  
charming,  devastatingly  intelligent,  at  last  I'd  got  her  to  myself  for  a  
bit  and  was  plying  her  with  a  bit  of  talk  when  this  friend  of  yours  
barges  up  and  says  Hey  doll,  is  this  guy  boring  you?  Why  don't  you  
talk  to  me  instead?  I'm  from  a  different  planet."  I  never  saw  her  
"Zaphod?"  exclaimed  Ford.    
"Yes,"  said  Arthur,  glaring  at  him  and  trying  not  to  feel  foolish.  "He  
only  had  the  two  arms  and  the  one  head  and  he  called  himself  Phil,  
"But  you  must  admit  he  did  turn  out  to  be  from  another  planet,"  
said  Trillian  wandering  into  sight  at  the  other  end  of  the  bridge.  She  
gave  Arthur  a  pleasant  smile  which  settled  on  him  like  a  ton  of  bricks  
and  then  turned  her  attention  to  the  ship's  controls  again.    
There  was  silence  for  a  few  seconds,  and  then  out  of  the  scrambled  
mess  of  Arthur's  brain  crawled  some  words.    
"Tricia  McMillian?"  he  said.  "What  are  you  doing  here?"    
"Same  as  you,"  she  said,  "I  hitched  a  lift.  After  all  with  a  degree  in  
Maths  and  another  in  astrophysics  what  else  was  there  to  do?  It  was  
either  that  or  the  dole  queue  again  on  Monday."    
"Infinity  minus  one,"  chattered  the  computer,  "Improbability  sum  
now  complete."    
Zaphod  looked  about  him,  at  Ford,  at  Arthur,  and  then  at  Trillian.    
"Trillian,"  he  said,  "is  this  sort  of  thing  going  to  happen  every  time  
we  use  the  Improbability  drive?"    

"Very  probably,  I'm  afraid,"  she  said.    


Chapter  14    

The  Heart  of  Gold  fled  on  silently  through  the  night  of  space,  now  
on  conventional  photon  drive.  Its  crew  of  four  were  ill  at  ease  
knowing  that  they  had  been  brought  together  not  of  their  own  
volition  or  by  simple  coincidence,  but  by  some  curious  principle  of  
physics  ʹ  as  if  relationships  between  people  were  susceptible  to  the  
same  laws  that  governed  the  relationships  between  atoms  and  
As  the  ship's  artificial  night  closed  in  they  were  each  grateful  to  
retire  to  separate  cabins  and  try  to  rationalize  their  thoughts.    
Trillian  couldn't  sleep.  She  sat  on  a  couch  and  stared  at  a  small  cage  
which  contained  her  last  and  only  links  with  Earth  ʹ  two  white  mice  
that  she  had  insisted  Zaphod  let  her  bring.  She  had  expected  not  to  
see  the  planet  again,  but  she  was  disturbed  by  her  negative  reaction  
to  the  planet's  destruction.  It  seemed  remote  and  unreal  and  she  
could  find  no  thoughts  to  think  about  it.  She  watched  the  mice  
scurrying  round  the  cage  and  running  furiously  in  their  little  plastic  
treadwheels  till  they  occupied  her  whole  attention.  Suddenly  she  
shook  herself  and  went  back  to  the  bridge  to  watch  over  the  tiny  
flashing  lights  and  figures  that  charted  the  ship's  progress  through  the  
void.  She  wished  she  knew  what  it  was  she  was  trying  not  to  think  
Zaphod  couldn't  sleep.  He  also  wished  he  knew  what  it  was  that  he  
wouldn't  let  himself  think  about.  For  as  long  as  he  could  remember  
he'd  suffered  from  a  vague  nagging  feeling  of  being  not  all  there.  
Most  of  the  time  he  was  able  to  put  this  thought  aside  and  not  worry  
about  it,  but  it  had  been  re-­‐awakened  by  the  sudden  inexplicable  
arrival  of  Ford  Prefect  and  Arthur  Dent.  Somehow  it  seemed  to  
conform  to  a  pattern  that  he  couldn't  see.    
Ford  couldn't  sleep.  He  was  too  excited  about  being  back  on  the  
road  again.  Fifteen  years  of  virtual  imprisonment  were  over,  just  as  he  
was  finally  beginning  to  give  up  hope.  Knocking  about  with  Zaphod  for  
a  bit  promised  to  be  a  lot  of  fun,  though  there  seemed  to  be  

something  faintly  odd  about  his  semi-­‐cousin  that  he  couldn't  put  his  
finger  on.  The  fact  that  he  had  become  President  of  the  Galaxy  was  
frankly  astonishing,  as  was  the  manner  of  his  leaving  the  post.  Was  
there  a  reason  behind  it?  There  would  be  no  point  in  asking  Zaphod,  
he  never  appeared  to  have  a  reason  for  anything  he  did  at  all:  he  had  
turned  unfathomably  into  an  art  form.  He  attacked  everything  in  life  
with  a  mixture  of  extraordinary  genius  and  naive  incompetence  and  it  
was  often  difficult  to  tell  which  was  which.    
Arthur  slept:  he  was  terribly  tired.    
There  was  a  tap  at  Zaphod's  door.  It  slid  open.    
"I  think  we  just  found  what  you  came  to  look  for."    
"Hey,  yeah?"    
Ford  gave  up  the  attempt  to  sleep.  In  the  corner  of  his  cabin  was  a  
small  computer  screen  and  keyboard.  He  sat  at  it  for  a  while  and  tried  
to  compose  a  new  entry  for  the  Guide  on  the  subject  of  Vogons  but  
couldn't  think  of  anything  vitriolic  enough  so  he  gave  that  up  too,  
wrapped  a  robe  round  himself  and  went  for  a  walk  to  the  bridge.    
As  he  entered  he  was  surprised  to  see  two  figures  hunched  
excitedly  over  the  instruments.    
"See?  The  ship's  about  to  move  into  orbit,"  Trillian  was  saying.  
"There's  a  planet  out  there.  It's  at  the  exact  coordinates  you  
Zaphod  heard  a  noise  and  looked  up.    
"Ford!"  he  hissed.  "Hey,  come  and  take  a  look  at  this."    
Ford  went  and  had  a  look  at  it.  It  was  a  series  of  figures  flashing  
over  a  screen.    
"You  recognize  those  Galactic  coordinates?"  said  Zaphod.    
"I'll  give  you  a  clue.  Computer!"    
"Hi  gang!"  enthused  the  computer.  "This  is  getting  real  sociable  
isn't  it?"    
"Shut  up,"  said  Zaphod,  "and  show  up  the  screens."    

Light  on  the  bridge  sank.  Pinpoints  of  light  played  across  the  
consoles  and  reflected  in  four  pairs  of  eyes  that  stared  up  at  the  
external  monitor  screens.    
There  was  absolutely  nothing  on  them.    
"Recognize  that?"  whispered  Zaphod.    
Ford  frowned.    
"Er,  no,"  he  said.    
"What  do  you  see?"    
"Recognize  it?"    
"What  are  you  talking  about?"    
"We're  in  the  Horsehead  Nebula.  One  whole  vast  dark  cloud."    
"And  I  was  meant  to  recognize  that  from  a  blank  screen?"    
"Inside  a  dark  nebula  is  the  only  place  in  the  Galaxy  you'd  see  a  
dark  screen."    
"Very  good."    
Zaphod  laughed.  He  was  clearly  very  excited  about  something,  
almost  childishly  so.    
"Hey,  this  is  really  terrific,  this  is  just  far  too  much!"    
"What's  so  great  about  being  stuck  in  a  dust  cloud?"  said  Ford.    
"What  would  you  reckon  to  find  here?"  urged  Zaphod.    
"No  stars?  No  planets?"    
"Computer!"  shouted  Zaphod,  "rotate  angle  of  vision  through  one-­‐
eighty  degrees  and  don't  talk  about  it!"    
For  a  moment  it  seemed  that  nothing  was  happening,  then  a  
brightness  glowed  at  the  edge  of  the  huge  screen.  A  red  star  the  size  
of  a  small  plate  crept  across  it  followed  quickly  by  another  one  ʹ  a  
binary  system.  Then  a  vast  crescent  sliced  into  the  corner  of  the  
picture  ʹ  a  red  glare  shading  away  into  the  deep  black,  the  night  side  
of  the  planet.    
"I've  found  it!"  cried  Zaphod,  thumping  the  console.  "I've  found  it!"    
Ford  stared  at  it  in  astonishment.    
"What  is  it?"  he  said.    

"That..."  said  Zaphod,  "is  the  most  improbable  planet  that  ever  


Chapter  15  

(Excerpt  from  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy,  Page  634784,  
Section  5a,  Entry:  Magrathea)    
Far  back  in  the  mists  of  ancient  time,  in  the  great  and  glorious  days  
of  the  former  Galactic  Empire,  life  was  wild,  rich  and  largely  tax  free.    
Mighty  starships  plied  their  way  between  exotic  suns,  seeking  
adventure  and  reward  amongst  the  furthest  reaches  of  Galactic  space.  
In  those  days  spirits  were  brave,  the  stakes  were  high,  men  were  real  
men,  women  were  real  women,  and  small  furry  creatures  from  Alpha  
Centauri  were  real  small  furry  creatures  from  Alpha  Centauri.  And  all  
dared  to  brave  unknown  terrors,  to  do  mighty  deeds,  to  boldly  split  
infinitives  that  no  man  had  split  before  ʹ  and  thus  was  the  Empire  
Many  men  of  course  became  extremely  rich,  but  this  was  perfectly  
natural  and  nothing  to  be  ashamed  of  because  no  one  was  really  poor  
ʹ  at  least  no  one  worth  speaking  of.  And  for  all  the  richest  and  most  
successful  merchants  life  inevitably  became  rather  dull  and  niggly,  
and  they  began  to  imagine  that  this  was  therefore  the  fault  of  the  
worlds  they'd  settled  on  ʹ  none  of  them  was  entirely  satisfactory:  
either  the  climate  wasn't  quite  right  in  the  later  part  of  the  afternoon,  
or  the  day  was  half  an  hour  too  long,  or  the  sea  was  exactly  the  wrong  
shade  of  pink.    
And  thus  were  created  the  conditions  for  a  staggering  new  form  of  
specialist  industry:  custom-­‐made  luxury  planet  building.  The  home  of  
this  industry  was  the  planet  Magrathea,  where  hyperspatial  engineers  
sucked  matter  through  white  holes  in  space  to  form  it  into  dream  
planets  ʹ  gold  planets,  platinum  planets,  soft  rubber  planets  with  lots  
of  earthquakes  ʹ  all  lovingly  made  to  meet  the  exacting  standards  
that  the  Galaxy's  richest  men  naturally  came  to  expect.    
But  so  successful  was  this  venture  that  Magrathea  itself  soon  
became  the  richest  planet  of  all  time  and  the  rest  of  the  Galaxy  was  
reduced  to  abject  poverty.  And  so  the  system  broke  down,  the  Empire  

collapsed,  and  a  long  sullen  silence  settled  over  a  billion  worlds,  
disturbed  only  by  the  pen  scratchings  of  scholars  as  they  laboured  
into  the  night  over  smug  little  treaties  on  the  value  of  a  planned  
political  economy.    
Magrathea  itself  disappeared  and  its  memory  soon  passed  into  the  
obscurity  of  legend.    
In  these  enlightened  days  of  course,  no  one  believes  a  word  of  it.    


Chapter  16    

Arthur  awoke  to  the  sound  of  argument  and  went  to  the  bridge.  
Ford  was  waving  his  arms  about.    
"You're  crazy,  Zaphod,"  he  was  saying,  "Magrathea  is  a  myth,  a  
fairy  story,  it's  what  parents  tell  their  kids  about  at  night  if  they  want  
them  to  grow  up  to  become  economists,  it's..."    
"And  that's  what  we  are  currently  in  orbit  around,"  insisted  Zaphod.    
"Look,  I  can't  help  what  you  may  personally  be  in  orbit  around,"  
said  Ford,  "but  this  ship..."    
"Computer!"  shouted  Zaphod.    
"Oh  no..."    
"Hi  there!  This  is  Eddie  your  shipboard  computer,  and  I'm  feeling  
just  great  guys,  and  I  know  I'm  just  going  to  get  a  bundle  of  kicks  out  
of  any  programme  you  care  to  run  through  me."    
Arthur  looked  inquiringly  at  Trillian.  She  motioned  him  to  come  on  
in  but  keep  quiet.    
"Computer,"  said  Zaphod,  "tell  us  again  what  our  present  trajectory  
"A  real  pleasure  feller,"  it  burbled,  "we  are  currently  in  orbit  at  an  
altitude  of  three  hundred  miles  around  the  legendary  planet  of  
"Proving  nothing,"  said  Ford.  "I  wouldn't  trust  that  computer  to  
speak  my  weight."    
"I  can  do  that  for  you,  sure,"  enthused  the  computer,  punching  out  
more  tickertape.  "I  can  even  work  out  you  personality  problems  to  
ten  decimal  places  if  it  will  help."    
Trillian  interrupted.    
"Zaphod,"  she  said,  "any  minute  now  we  will  be  swinging  round  to  
the  daylight  side  of  this  planet,"  adding,  "whatever  it  turns  out  to  be."    
"Hey,  what  do  you  mean  by  that?  The  planet's  where  I  predicted  it  
would  be  isn't  it?"    

"Yes,  I  know  there's  a  planet  there.  I'm  not  arguing  with  anyone,  
it's  just  that  I  wouldn't  know  Magrathea  from  any  other  lump  of  cold  
rock.  Dawn's  coming  up  if  you  want  it."    
"OK,  OK,"  muttered  Zaphod,  "let's  at  least  give  our  eyes  a  good  
time.  Computer!"    
"Hi  there!  What  can  I..."    
"Just  shut  up  and  give  us  a  view  of  the  planet  again."    
A  dark  featureless  mass  once  more  filled  the  screens  ʹ  the  planet  
rolling  away  beneath  them.    
They  watched  for  a  moment  in  silence,  but  Zaphod  was  fidgety  
with  excitement.    
"We  are  now  traversing  the  night  side..."  he  said  in  a  hushed  voice.  
The  planet  rolled  on.    
"The  surface  of  the  planet  is  now  three  hundred  miles  beneath  
us..."  he  continued.  He  was  trying  to  restore  a  sense  of  occasion  to  
what  he  felt  should  have  been  a  great  moment.  Magrathea!  He  was  
piqued  by  Ford's  sceptical  reaction.  Magrathea!    
"In  a  few  seconds,"  he  continued,  "we  should  see...  there!"    
The  moment  carried  itself.  Even  the  most  seasoned  star  tramp  
can't  help  but  shiver  at  the  spectacular  drama  of  a  sunrise  seen  from  
space,  but  a  binary  sunrise  is  one  of  the  marvels  of  the  Galaxy.    
Out  of  the  utter  blackness  stabbed  a  sudden  point  of  blinding  light.  
It  crept  up  by  slight  degrees  and  spread  sideways  in  a  thin  crescent  
blade,  and  within  seconds  two  suns  were  visible,  furnaces  of  light,  
searing  the  black  edge  of  the  horizon  with  white  fire.  Fierce  shafts  of  
colour  streaked  through  the  thin  atmosphere  beneath  them.    
"The  fires  of  dawn...!"  breathed  Zaphod.  "The  twin  suns  of  
Soulianis  and  Rahm...!"    
"Or  whatever,"  said  Ford  quietly.    
"Soulianis  and  Rahm!"  insisted  Zaphod.    
The  suns  blazed  into  the  pitch  of  space  and  a  low  ghostly  music  
floated  through  the  bridge:  Marvin  was  humming  ironically  because  
he  hated  humans  so  much.    
As  Ford  gazed  at  the  spectacle  of  light  before  them  excitement  
burnt  inside  him,  but  only  the  excitement  of  seeing  a  strange  new  
planet,  it  was  enough  for  him  to  see  it  as  it  was.  It  faintly  irritated  him  

that  Zaphod  had  to  impose  some  ludicrous  fantasy  on  to  the  scene  to  
make  it  work  for  him.  All  this  Magrathea  nonsense  seemed  juvenile.  
Isn't  it  enough  to  see  that  a  garden  is  beautiful  without  having  to  
believe  that  there  are  fairies  at  the  bottom  of  it  too?    
All  this  Magrathea  business  seemed  totally  incomprehensible  to  
Arthur.  He  edged  up  to  Trillian  and  asked  her  what  was  going  on.    
"I  only  know  what  Zaphod's  told  me,"  she  whispered.  "Apparently  
Magrathea  is  some  kind  of  legend  from  way  back  which  no  one  
seriously  believes  in.  Bit  like  Atlantis  on  Earth,  except  that  the  legends  
say  the  Magratheans  used  to  manufacture  planets."    
Arthur  blinked  at  the  screens  and  felt  he  was  missing  something  
important.  Suddenly  he  realized  what  it  was.    
"Is  there  any  tea  on  this  spaceship?"  he  asked.    
More  of  the  planet  was  unfolding  beneath  them  as  the  Heart  of  
Gold  streaked  along  its  orbital  path.  The  suns  now  stood  high  in  the  
black  sky,  the  pyrotechnics  of  dawn  were  over,  and  the  surface  of  the  
planet  appeared  bleak  and  forbidding  in  the  common  light  of  day  ʹ  
grey,  dusty  and  only  dimly  contoured.  It  looked  dead  and  cold  as  a  
crypt.  From  time  to  time  promising  features  would  appear  on  the  
distant  horizon  ʹ  ravines,  maybe  mountains,  maybe  even  cities  ʹ  but  
as  they  approached  the  lines  would  soften  and  blur  into  anonymity  
and  nothing  would  transpire.  The  planet's  surface  was  blurred  by  time,  
by  the  slow  movement  of  the  thin  stagnant  air  that  had  crept  across  it  
for  century  upon  century.    
Clearly,  it  was  very  very  old.    
A  moment  of  doubt  came  to  Ford  as  he  watched  the  grey  
landscape  move  beneath  them.  The  immensity  of  time  worried  him,  
he  could  feel  it  as  a  presence.  He  cleared  his  throat.    
"Well,  even  supposing  it  is..."    
"It  is,"  said  Zaphod.    
"Which  it  isn't,"  continued  Ford.  "What  do  you  want  with  it  anyway?  
There's  nothing  there."    
"Not  on  the  surface,"  said  Zaphod.    
"Alright,  just  supposing  there's  something.  I  take  it  you're  not  here  
for  the  sheer  industrial  archaeology  of  it  all.  What  are  you  after?"    

One  of  Zaphod's  heads  looked  away.  The  other  one  looked  round  
to  see  what  the  first  was  looking  at,  but  it  wasn't  looking  at  anything  
very  much.    
"Well,"  said  Zaphod  airily,  "it's  partly  the  curiosity,  partly  a  sense  of  
adventure,  but  mostly  I  think  it's  the  fame  and  the  money..."    
Ford  glanced  at  him  sharply.  He  got  a  very  strong  impression  that  
Zaphod  hadn't  the  faintest  idea  why  he  was  there  at  all.    
"You  know  I  don't  like  the  look  of  that  planet  at  all,"  said  Trillian  
"Ah,  take  no  notice,"  said  Zaphod,  "with  half  the  wealth  of  the  
former  Galactic  Empire  stored  on  it  somewhere  it  can  afford  to  look  
Bullshit,  thought  Ford.  Even  supposing  this  was  the  home  of  some  
ancient  civilization  now  gone  to  dust,  even  supposing  a  number  of  
exceedingly  unlikely  things,  there  was  no  way  that  vast  treasures  of  
wealth  were  going  to  be  stored  there  in  any  form  that  would  still  have  
meaning  now.  He  shrugged.    
"I  think  it's  just  a  dead  planet,"  he  said.    
"The  suspense  is  killing  me,"  said  Arthur  testily.    
Stress  and  nervous  tension  are  now  serious  social  problems  in  all  
parts  of  the  Galaxy,  and  it  is  in  order  that  this  situation  should  not  in  
any  way  be  exacerbated  that  the  following  facts  will  now  be  revealed  
in  advance.    
The  planet  in  question  is  in  fact  the  legendary  Magrathea.    
The  deadly  missile  attack  shortly  to  be  launched  by  an  ancient  
automatic  defence  system  will  result  merely  in  the  breakage  of  three  
coffee  cups  and  a  micecage,  the  bruising  of  somebody's  upper  arm,  
and  the  untimely  creation  and  sudden  demise  of  a  bowl  of  petunias  
and  an  innocent  sperm  whale.    
In  order  that  some  sense  of  mystery  should  still  be  preserved,  no  
revelation  will  yet  be  made  concerning  whose  upper  arm  sustained  
the  bruise.  This  fact  may  safely  be  made  the  subject  of  suspense  since  
it  is  of  no  significance  whatsoever.    

Chapter  17    

After  a  fairly  shaky  start  to  the  day,  Arthur's  mind  was  beginning  to  
reassemble  itself  from  the  shellshocked  fragments  the  previous  day  
had  left  him  with.  He  had  found  a  Nutri-­‐Matic  machine  which  had  
provided  him  with  a  plastic  cup  filled  with  a  liquid  that  was  almost,  
but  not  quite,  entirely  unlike  tea.  The  way  it  functioned  was  very  
interesting.  When  the  Drink  button  was  pressed  it  made  an  instant  
but  highly  detailed  examination  of  the  subject's  taste  buds,  a  
spectroscopic  analysis  of  the  subject's  metabolism  and  then  sent  tiny  
experimental  signals  down  the  neural  pathways  to  the  taste  centres  
of  the  subject's  brain  to  see  what  was  likely  to  go  down  well.  However,  
no  one  knew  quite  why  it  did  this  because  it  invariably  delivered  a  
cupful  of  liquid  that  was  almost,  but  not  quite,  entirely  unlike  tea.  The  
Nutri-­‐Matic  was  designed  and  manufactured  by  the  Sirius  Cybernetics  
Corporation  whose  complaints  department  now  covers  all  the  major  
land  masses  of  the  first  three  planets  in  the  Sirius  Tau  Star  system.    
Arthur  drank  the  liquid  and  found  it  reviving.  He  glanced  up  at  the  
screens  again  and  watched  a  few  more  hundred  miles  of  barren  
greyness  slide  past.  It  suddenly  occurred  to  him  to  ask  a  question  
which  had  been  bothering  him.    
"Is  it  safe?"  he  said.    
"Magrathea's  been  dead  for  five  million  years,"  said  Zaphod,  "of  
course  it's  safe.  Even  the  ghosts  will  have  settled  down  and  raised  
families  by  now."  At  which  point  a  strange  and  inexplicable  sound  
thrilled  suddenly  through  the  bridge  ʹ  a  noise  as  of  a  distant  fanfare;  
a  hollow,  reedy,  insubstantial  sound.  It  preceded  a  voice  that  was  
equally  hollow,  reedy  and  insubstantial.  The  voice  said  "Greetings  to  
Someone  from  the  dead  planet  was  talking  to  them.    
"Computer!"  shouted  Zaphod.    
"Hi  there!"    
"What  the  photon  is  it?"    

"Oh,  just  some  five-­‐million-­‐year-­‐old  tape  that's  being  broadcast  at  
"A  what?  A  recording?"    
"Shush!"  said  Ford.  "It's  carrying  on."    
The  voice  was  old,  courteous,  almost  charming,  but  was  
underscored  with  quite  unmistakable  menace.    
"This  is  a  recorded  announcement,"  it  said,  "as  I'm  afraid  we're  all  
out  at  the  moment.  The  commercial  council  of  Magrathea  thanks  you  
for  your  esteemed  visit..."    
("A  voice  from  ancient  Magrathea!"  shouted  Zaphod.  "OK,  OK,"  
said  Ford.)    
"...  but  regrets,"  continued  the  voice,  "that  the  entire  planet  is  
temporarily  closed  for  business.  Thank  you.  If  you  would  care  to  leave  
your  name  and  the  address  of  a  planet  where  you  can  be  contacted,  
kindly  speak  when  you  hear  the  tone."    
A  short  buzz  followed,  then  silence.    
"They  want  to  get  rid  of  us,"  said  Trillian  nervously.  "What  do  we  
"It's  just  a  recording,"  said  Zaphod.  "We  keep  going.  Got  that,  
"I  got  it,"  said  the  computer  and  gave  the  ship  an  extra  kick  of  
They  waited.    
After  a  second  or  so  came  the  fanfare  once  again,  and  then  the  
"We  would  like  to  assure  you  that  as  soon  as  our  business  is  
resumed  announcements  will  be  made  in  all  fashionable  magazines  
and  colour  supplements,  when  our  clients  will  once  again  be  able  to  
select  from  all  that's  best  in  contemporary  geography."  The  menace  
in  the  voice  took  on  a  sharper  edge.  "Meanwhile  we  thank  our  clients  
for  their  kind  interest  and  would  ask  them  to  leave.  Now."    
Arthur  looked  round  the  nervous  faces  of  his  companions.    
"Well,  I  suppose  we'd  better  be  going  then,  hadn't  we?"  he  
"Shhh!"  said  Zaphod.  "There's  absolutely  nothing  to  be  worried  

"Then  why's  everyone  so  tense?"    
"They're  just  interested!"  shouted  Zaphod.  "Computer,  start  a  
descent  into  the  atmosphere  and  prepare  for  landing."    
This  time  the  fanfare  was  quite  perfunctory,  the  voice  distinctly  
"It  is  most  gratifying,"  it  said,  "that  your  enthusiasm  for  our  planet  
continues  unabated,  and  so  we  would  like  to  assure  you  that  the  
guided  missiles  currently  converging  with  your  ship  are  part  of  a  
special  service  we  extend  to  all  of  our  most  enthusiastic  clients,  and  
the  fully  armed  nuclear  warheads  are  of  course  merely  a  courtesy  
detail.  We  look  forward  to  your  custom  in  future  lives...  thank  you."    
The  voice  snapped  off.    
"Oh,"  said  Trillian.    
"Er..."  said  Arthur.    
"Well?"  said  Ford.    
"Look,"  said  Zaphod,  "will  you  get  it  into  your  heads?  That's  just  a  
recorded  message.  It's  millions  of  years  old.  It  doesn't  apply  to  us,  get  
"What,"  said  Trillian  quietly,  "about  the  missiles?"    
"Missiles?  Don't  make  me  laugh."    
Ford  tapped  Zaphod  on  the  shoulder  and  pointed  at  the  rear  
screen.  Clear  in  the  distance  behind  them  two  silver  darts  were  
climbing  through  the  atmosphere  towards  the  ship.  A  quick  change  of  
magnification  brought  them  into  close  focus  ʹ  two  massively  real  
rockets  thundering  through  the  sky.  The  suddenness  of  it  was  
"I  think  they're  going  to  have  a  very  good  try  at  applying  to  us,"  
said  Ford.    
Zaphod  stared  at  them  in  astonishment.    
"Hey  this  is  terrific!"  he  said.  "Someone  down  there  is  trying  to  kill  
"Terrific,"  said  Arthur.    
"But  don't  you  see  what  this  means?"    
"Yes.  We're  going  to  die."    
"Yes,  but  apart  from  that."    
"Apart  from  that?"    

"It  means  we  must  be  on  to  something!"    
"How  soon  can  we  get  off  it?"    
Second  by  second  the  image  of  the  missiles  on  the  screen  became  
larger.  They  had  swung  round  now  on  to  a  direct  homing  course  so  
that  all  that  could  be  seen  of  them  now  was  the  warheads,  head  on.    
"As  a  matter  of  interest,"  said  Trillian,  "what  are  we  going  to  do?"    
"Just  keep  cool,"  said  Zaphod.    
"Is  that  all?"  shouted  Arthur.    
"No,  we're  also  going  to...  er...  take  evasive  action!"  said  Zaphod  
with  a  sudden  access  of  panic.  "Computer,  what  evasive  action  can  
we  take?"    
"Er,  none  I'm  afraid,  guys,"  said  the  computer.    
"...  or  something,"  said  Zaphod,  "...  er..."  he  said.    
"There  seems  to  be  something  jamming  my  guidance  system,"  
explained  the  computer  brightly,  "impact  minus  forty-­‐five  seconds.  
Please  call  me  Eddie  if  it  will  help  you  to  relax."    
Zaphod  tried  to  run  in  several  equally  decisive  directions  
simultaneously.  "Right!"  he  said.  "Er...  we've  got  to  get  manual  
control  of  this  ship."    
"Can  you  fly  her?"  asked  Ford  pleasantly.    
"No,  can  you?"    
"Trillian,  can  you?"    
"Fine,"  said  Zaphod,  relaxing.  "We'll  do  it  together."    
"I  can't  either,"  said  Arthur,  who  felt  it  was  time  he  began  to  assert  
"I'd  guessed  that,"  said  Zaphod.  "OK  computer,  I  want  full  manual  
control  now."    
"You  got  it,"  said  the  computer.    
Several  large  desk  panels  slid  open  and  banks  of  control  consoles  
sprang  up  out  of  them,  showering  the  crew  with  bits  of  expanded  
polystyrene  packaging  and  balls  of  rolled-­‐up  cellophane:  these  
controls  had  never  been  used  before.    
Zaphod  stared  at  them  wildly.    

"OK,  Ford,"  he  said,  "full  retro  thrust  and  ten  degrees  starboard.  Or  
"Good  luck  guys,"  chirped  the  computer,  "impact  minus  thirty  
Ford  leapt  to  the  controls  ʹ  only  a  few  of  them  made  any  
immediate  sense  to  him  so  he  pulled  those.  The  ship  shook  and  
screamed  as  its  guidance  rocked  jets  tried  to  push  it  every  which  way  
simultaneously.  He  released  half  of  them  and  the  ship  span  round  in  a  
tight  arc  and  headed  back  the  way  it  had  come,  straight  towards  the  
oncoming  missiles.    
Air  cushions  ballooned  out  of  the  walls  in  an  instant  as  everyone  
was  thrown  against  them.  For  a  few  seconds  the  inertial  forces  held  
them  flattened  and  squirming  for  breath,  unable  to  move.  Zaphod  
struggled  and  pushed  in  manic  desperation  and  finally  managed  a  
savage  kick  at  a  small  lever  that  formed  part  of  the  guidance  system.    
The  lever  snapped  off.  The  ship  twisted  sharply  and  rocketed  
upwards.  The  crew  were  hurled  violently  back  across  the  cabin.  Ford's  
copy  of  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  smashed  into  another  
section  of  the  control  console  with  the  combined  result  that  the  
Guide  started  to  explain  to  anyone  who  cared  to  listen  about  the  best  
ways  of  smuggling  Antarean  parakeet  glands  out  of  Antares  (an  
Antarean  parakeet  gland  stuck  on  a  small  stick  is  a  revolting  but  much  
sought  after  cocktail  delicacy  and  very  large  sums  of  money  are  often  
paid  for  them  by  very  rich  idiots  who  want  to  impress  other  very  rich  
idiots),  and  the  ship  suddenly  dropped  out  of  the  sky  like  a  stone.    
It  was  of  course  more  or  less  at  this  moment  that  one  of  the  crew  
sustained  a  nasty  bruise  to  the  upper  arm.  This  should  be  emphasized  
because,  as  had  already  been  revealed,  they  escape  otherwise  
completely  unharmed  and  the  deadly  nuclear  missiles  do  not  
eventually  hit  the  ship.  The  safety  of  the  crew  is  absolutely  assured.    
"Impact  minus  twenty  seconds,  guys..."  said  the  computer.    
"Then  turn  the  bloody  engines  back  on!"  bawled  Zaphod.    
"OK,  sure  thing,  guys,"  said  the  computer.  With  a  subtle  roar  the  
engines  cut  back  in,  the  ship  smoothly  flattened  out  of  its  dive  and  
headed  back  towards  the  missiles  again.    
The  computer  started  to  sing.    

"When  you  walk  through  the  storm..."  it  whined  nasally,  "hold  your  
head  up  high..."    
Zaphod  screamed  at  it  to  shut  up,  but  his  voice  was  lost  in  the  din  
of  what  they  quite  naturally  assumed  was  approaching  destruction.    
"And  don't...  be  afraid...  of  the  dark!"  Eddie  wailed.    
The  ship,  in  flattening  out  had  in  fact  flattened  out  upside  down  
and  lying  on  the  ceiling  as  they  were  it  was  now  totally  impossible  for  
any  of  the  crew  to  reach  the  guidance  systems.    
"At  the  end  of  the  storm..."  crooned  Eddie.    
The  two  missiles  loomed  massively  on  the  screens  as  they  
thundered  towards  the  ship.    
"...  is  a  golden  sky..."    
But  by  an  extraordinarily  lucky  chance  they  had  not  yet  fully  
corrected  their  flight  paths  to  that  of  the  erratically  weaving  ship,  and  
they  passed  right  under  it.    
"And  the  sweet  silver  songs  of  the  lark...  Revised  impact  time  
fifteen  seconds  fellas...  Walk  on  through  the  wind..."    
The  missiles  banked  round  in  a  screeching  arc  and  plunged  back  
into  pursuit.    
"This  is  it,"  said  Arthur  watching  them.  "We  are  now  quite  
definitely  going  to  die  aren't  we?"    
"I  wish  you'd  stop  saying  that,"  shouted  Ford.    
"Well  we  are  aren't  we?"    
"Walk  on  through  the  rain..."  sang  Eddie.    
A  thought  struck  Arthur.  He  struggled  to  his  feet.    
"Why  doesn't  anyone  turn  on  this  Improbability  Drive  thing?"  he  
said.  "We  could  probably  reach  that."    
"What  are  you  crazy?"  said  Zaphod.  "Without  proper  programming  
anything  could  happen."    
"Does  that  matter  at  this  stage?"  shouted  Arthur.    
"Though  your  dreams  be  tossed  and  blown..."  sand  Eddie.    
Arthur  scrambled  up  on  to  one  end  of  the  excitingly  chunky  pieces  
of  moulded  contouring  where  the  curve  of  the  wall  met  the  ceiling.    
"Walk  on,  walk  on,  with  hope  in  your  heart..."    

"Does  anyone  know  why  Arthur  can't  turn  on  the  Improbability  
Drive?"  shouted  Trillian.    
"And  you'll  never  walk  alone...  Impact  minus  five  seconds,  it's  been  
great  knowing  you  guys,  God  bless...  You'll  ne...  ver...  walk...  alone!"    
"I  said,"  yelled  Trillian,  "does  anyone  know..."    
The  next  thing  that  happened  was  a  mid-­‐mangling  explosion  of  
noise  and  light.    


Chapter  18    

And  the  next  thing  that  happened  after  that  was  that  the  Heart  of  
Gold  continued  on  its  way  perfectly  normally  with  a  rather  fetchingly  
redesigned  interior.  It  was  somewhat  larger,  and  done  out  in  delicate  
pastel  shades  of  green  and  blue.  In  the  centre  a  spiral  staircase,  
leading  nowhere  in  particular,  stood  in  a  spray  of  ferns  and  yellow  
flowers  and  next  to  it  a  stone  sundial  pedestal  housed  the  main  
computer  terminal.  Cunningly  deployed  lighting  and  mirrors  created  
the  illusion  of  standing  in  a  conservatory  overlooking  a  wide  stretch  of  
exquisitely  manicured  garden.  Around  the  periphery  of  the  
conservatory  area  stood  marble-­‐topped  tables  on  intricately  beautiful  
wrought-­‐iron  legs.  As  you  gazed  into  the  polished  surface  of  the  
marble  the  vague  forms  of  instruments  became  visible,  and  as  you  
touched  them  the  instruments  materialized  instantly  under  your  
hands.  Looked  at  from  the  correct  angles  the  mirrors  appeared  to  
reflect  all  the  required  data  readouts,  though  it  was  far  from  clear  
where  they  were  reflected  from.  It  was  in  fact  sensationally  beautiful.    
Relaxing  in  a  wickerwork  sun  chair,  Zaphod  Beeblebrox  said,  "What  
the  hell  happened?"    
"Well  I  was  just  saying,"  said  Arthur  lounging  by  a  small  fish  pool,  
"there's  this  Improbability  Drive  switch  over  here..."  he  waved  at  
where  it  had  been.  There  was  a  potted  plant  there  now.    
"But  where  are  we?"  said  Ford  who  was  sitting  on  the  spiral  
staircase,  a  nicely  chilled  Pan  Galactic  Gargle  Blaster  in  his  hand.    
"Exactly  where  we  were,  I  think..."  said  Trillian,  as  all  about  them  
the  mirrors  showed  them  an  image  of  the  blighted  landscape  of  
Magrathea  which  still  scooted  along  beneath  them.    
Zaphod  leapt  out  of  his  seat.    
"Then  what's  happened  to  the  missiles?"  he  said.    
A  new  and  astounding  image  appeared  in  the  mirrors.    
"They  would  appear,"  said  Ford  doubtfully,  "to  have  turned  into  a  
bowl  of  petunias  and  a  very  surprised  looking  whale..."    

"At  an  Improbability  Factor,"  cut  in  Eddie,  who  hadn't  changed  a  bit,  
"of  eight  million  seven  hundred  and  sixty-­‐seven  thousand  one  
hundred  and  twenty-­‐eight  to  one  against."    
Zaphod  stared  at  Arthur.    
"Did  you  think  of  that,  Earthman?"  he  demanded.    
"Well,"  said  Arthur,  "all  I  did  was..."    
"That's  very  good  thinking  you  know.  Turn  on  the  Improbability  
Drive  for  a  second  without  first  activating  the  proofing  screens.  Hey  
kid  you  just  saved  our  lives,  you  know  that?"    
"Oh,"  said  Arthur,  "well,  it  was  nothing  really..."    
"Was  it?"  said  Zaphod.  "Oh  well,  forget  it  then.  OK,  computer,  take  
us  in  to  land."    
"I  said  forget  it."    
Another  thing  that  got  forgotten  was  the  fact  that  against  all  
probability  a  sperm  whale  had  suddenly  been  called  into  existence  
several  miles  above  the  surface  of  an  alien  planet.    
And  since  this  is  not  a  naturally  tenable  position  for  a  whale,  this  
poor  innocent  creature  had  very  little  time  to  come  to  terms  with  its  
identity  as  a  whale  before  it  then  had  to  come  to  terms  with  not  being  
a  whale  any  more.    
This  is  a  complete  record  of  its  thoughts  from  the  moment  it  began  
its  life  till  the  moment  it  ended  it.    
Ah...!  What's  happening?  it  thought.    
Er,  excuse  me,  who  am  I?    
Why  am  I  here?  What's  my  purpose  in  life?    
What  do  I  mean  by  who  am  I?    
Calm  down,  get  a  grip  now...  oh!  this  is  an  interesting  sensation,  
what  is  it?  It's  a  sort  of...  yawning,  tingling  sensation  in  my...  my...  well  
I  suppose  I'd  better  start  finding  names  for  things  if  I  want  to  make  
any  headway  in  what  for  the  sake  of  what  I  shall  call  an  argument  I  
shall  call  the  world,  so  let's  call  it  my  stomach.    
Good.  Ooooh,  it's  getting  quite  strong.  And  hey,  what's  about  this  
whistling  roaring  sound  going  past  what  I'm  suddenly  going  to  call  my  

head?  Perhaps  I  can  call  that...  wind!  Is  that  a  good  name?  It'll  do...  
perhaps  I  can  find  a  better  name  for  it  later  when  I've  found  out  what  
it's  for.  It  must  be  something  very  important  because  there  certainly  
seems  to  be  a  hell  of  a  lot  of  it.  Hey!  What's  this  thing?  This...  let's  call  
it  a  tail  ʹ  yeah,  tail.  Hey!  I  can  really  thrash  it  about  pretty  good  can't  I?  
Wow!  Wow!  That  feels  great!  Doesn't  seem  to  achieve  very  much  but  
I'll  probably  find  out  what  it's  for  later  on.  Now  ʹ  have  I  built  up  any  
coherent  picture  of  things  yet?    
Never  mind,  hey,  this  is  really  exciting,  so  much  to  find  out  about,  
so  much  to  look  forward  to,  I'm  quite  dizzy  with  anticipation...    
Or  is  it  the  wind?    
There  really  is  a  lot  of  that  now  isn't  it?    
And  wow!  Hey!  What's  this  thing  suddenly  coming  towards  me  
very  fast?  Very  very  fast.  So  big  and  flat  and  round,  it  needs  a  big  wide  
sounding  name  like...  ow...  ound...  round...  ground!  That's  it!  That's  a  
good  name  ʹ  ground!    
I  wonder  if  it  will  be  friends  with  me?    
And  the  rest,  after  a  sudden  wet  thud,  was  silence.    
Curiously  enough,  the  only  thing  that  went  through  the  mind  of  the  
bowl  of  petunias  as  it  fell  was  Oh  no,  not  again.  Many  people  have  
speculated  that  if  we  knew  exactly  why  the  bowl  of  petunias  had  
thought  that  we  would  know  a  lot  more  about  the  nature  of  the  
universe  than  we  do  now.    


Chapter  19    

"Are  we  taking  this  robot  with  us?"  said  Ford,  looking  with  distaste  
at  Marvin  who  was  standing  in  an  awkward  hunched  posture  in  the  
corner  under  a  small  palm  tree.    
Zaphod  glanced  away  from  the  mirror  screens  which  presented  a  
panoramic  view  of  the  blighted  landscape  on  which  the  Heart  of  Gold  
had  now  landed.    
"Oh,  the  Paranoid  Android,"  he  said.  "Yeah,  we'll  take  him."    
"But  what  are  supposed  to  do  with  a  manically  depressed  robot?"    
"You  think  you've  got  problems,"  said  Marvin  as  if  he  was  
addressing  a  newly  occupied  coffin,  "what  are  you  supposed  to  do  if  
you  are  a  manically  depressed  robot?  No,  don't  bother  to  answer  that,  
I'm  fifty  thousand  times  more  intelligent  than  you  and  even  I  don't  
know  the  answer.  It  gives  me  a  headache  just  trying  to  think  down  to  
your  level."    
Trillian  burst  in  through  the  door  from  her  cabin.    
"My  white  mice  have  escaped!"  she  said.    
An  expression  of  deep  worry  and  concern  failed  to  cross  either  of  
Zaphod's  faces.    
"Nuts  to  your  white  mice,"  he  said.    
Trillian  glared  an  upset  glare  at  him,  and  disappeared  again.    
It  is  possible  that  her  remark  would  have  commanded  greater  
attention  had  it  been  generally  realized  that  human  beings  were  only  
the  third  most  intelligent  life  form  present  on  the  planet  Earth,  
instead  of  (as  was  generally  thought  by  most  independent  observers)  
the  second.    
"Good  afternoon  boys."    
The  voice  was  oddly  familiar,  but  oddly  different.  It  had  a  
matriarchal  twang.  It  announced  itself  to  the  crew  as  they  arrived  at  
the  airlock  hatchway  that  would  let  them  out  on  the  planet  surface.    

They  looked  at  each  other  in  puzzlement.    
"It's  the  computer,"  explained  Zaphod.  "I  discovered  it  had  an  
emergency  back-­‐up  personality  that  I  thought  might  work  out  better."    
"Now  this  is  going  to  be  your  first  day  out  on  a  strange  new  
planet,"  continued  Eddie's  new  voice,  "so  I  want  you  all  wrapped  up  
snug  and  warm,  and  no  playing  with  any  naughty  bug-­‐eyed  
Zaphod  tapped  impatiently  on  the  hatch.    
"I'm  sorry,"  he  said,  "I  think  we  might  be  better  off  with  a  slide  
"Right!"  snapped  the  computer.  "Who  said  that?"    
"Will  you  open  the  exit  hatch  please,  computer?"  said  Zaphod  
trying  not  to  get  angry.    
"Not  until  whoever  said  that  owns  up,"  urged  the  computer,  
stamping  a  few  synapses  closed.    
"Oh  God,"  muttered  Ford,  slumped  against  a  bulkhead  and  started  
to  count  to  ten.  He  was  desperately  worried  that  one  day  sentinent  
life  forms  would  forget  how  to  do  this.  Only  by  counting  could  
humans  demonstrate  their  independence  of  computers.    
"Come  on,"  said  Eddie  sternly.    
"Computer..."  began  Zaphod...    
"I'm  waiting,"  interrupted  Eddie.  "I  can  wait  all  day  if  necessary..."    
"Computer..."  said  Zaphod  again,  who  had  been  trying  to  think  of  
some  subtle  piece  of  reasoning  to  put  the  computer  down  with,  and  
had  decided  not  to  bother  competing  with  it  on  its  own  ground,  "if  
you  don't  open  that  exit  hatch  this  moment  I  shall  zap  straight  off  to  
your  major  data  banks  and  reprogram  you  with  a  very  large  axe,  got  
Eddie,  shocked,  paused  and  considered  this.    
Ford  carried  on  counting  quietly.  This  is  about  the  most  aggressive  
thing  you  can  do  to  a  computer,  the  equivalent  of  going  up  to  a  
human  being  and  saying  Blood...  blood...  blood...  blood...    
Finally  Eddie  said  quietly,  "I  can  see  this  relationship  is  something  
we're  all  going  to  have  to  work  at,"  and  the  hatchway  opened.    
An  icy  wind  ripped  into  them,  they  hugged  themselves  warmly  and  
stepped  down  the  ramp  on  to  the  barren  dust  of  Magrathea.    

"It'll  all  end  in  tears,  I  know  it,"  shouted  Eddie  after  them  and  
closed  the  hatchway  again.    
A  few  minutes  later  he  opened  and  closed  the  hatchway  again  in  
response  to  a  command  that  caught  him  entirely  by  surprise.    


Chapter  20    

Five  figures  wandered  slowly  over  the  blighted  land.  Bits  of  it  were  
dullish  grey,  bits  of  it  dullish  brown,  the  rest  of  it  rather  less  
interesting  to  look  at.  It  was  like  a  dried-­‐out  marsh,  now  barren  of  all  
vegetation  and  covered  with  a  layer  of  dust  about  an  inch  thick.  It  was  
very  cold.    
Zaphod  was  clearly  rather  depressed  about  it.  He  stalked  off  by  
himself  and  was  soon  lost  to  sight  behind  a  slight  rise  in  the  ground.    
The  wind  stung  Arthur's  eyes  and  ears,  and  the  stale  thin  air  
clasped  his  throat.  However,  the  thing  stung  most  was  his  mind.    
"It's  fantastic..."  he  said,  and  his  own  voice  rattled  his  ears.  Sound  
carried  badly  in  this  thin  atmosphere.    
"Desolate  hole  if  you  ask  me,"  said  Ford.  "I  could  have  more  fun  in  
a  cat  litter."  He  felt  a  mounting  irritation.  Of  all  the  planets  in  all  the  
star  systems  of  all  the  Galaxy  ʹ  didn't  he  just  have  to  turn  up  at  a  
dump  like  this  after  fifteen  years  of  being  a  castaway?  Not  even  a  hot  
dog  stand  in  evidence.  He  stooped  down  and  picked  up  a  cold  clot  of  
earth,  but  there  was  nothing  underneath  it  worth  crossing  thousands  
of  light  years  to  look  at.    
"No,"  insisted  Arthur,  "don't  you  understand,  this  is  the  first  time  
I've  actually  stood  on  the  surface  of  another  planet...  a  whole  alien  
world...!  Pity  it's  such  a  dump  though."    
Trillian  hugged  herself,  shivered  and  frowned.  She  could  have  
sworn  she  saw  a  slight  and  unexpected  movement  out  of  the  corner  
of  her  eye,  but  when  she  glanced  in  that  direction  all  she  could  see  
was  the  ship,  still  and  silent,  a  hundred  yards  or  so  behind  them.    
She  was  relieved  when  a  second  or  so  later  they  caught  sight  of  
Zaphod  standing  on  top  of  the  ridge  of  ground  and  waving  to  them  to  
come  and  join  him.    
He  seemed  to  be  excited,  but  they  couldn't  clearly  hear  what  he  
was  saying  because  of  the  thinnish  atmosphere  and  the  wind.    

As  they  approached  the  ridge  of  higher  ground  they  became  aware  
that  it  seemed  to  be  circular  ʹ  a  crater  about  a  hundred  and  fifty  
yards  wide.  Round  the  outside  of  the  crater  the  sloping  ground  was  
spattered  with  black  and  red  lumps.  They  stopped  and  looked  at  a  
piece.  It  was  wet.  It  was  rubbery.    
With  horror  they  suddenly  realized  that  it  was  fresh  whalemeat.    
At  the  top  of  the  crater's  lip  they  met  Zaphod.    
"Look,"  he  said,  pointing  into  the  crater.    
In  the  centre  lay  the  exploded  carcass  of  a  lonely  sperm  whale  that  
hadn't  lived  long  enough  to  be  disappointed  with  its  lot.  The  silence  
was  only  disturbed  by  the  slight  involuntary  spasms  of  Trillian's  throat.    
"I  suppose  there's  no  point  in  trying  to  bury  it?"  murmured  Arthur,  
and  then  wished  he  hadn't.    
"Come,"  said  Zaphod  and  started  back  down  into  the  crater.    
"What,  down  there?"  said  Trillian  with  severe  distaste.    
"Yeah,"  said  Zaphod,  "come  on,  I've  got  something  to  show  you."    
"We  can  see  it,"  said  Trillian.    
"Not  that,"  said  Zaphod,  "something  else.  Come  on."    
They  all  hesitated.    
"Come  on,"  insisted  Zaphod,  "I've  found  a  way  in."    
"In?"  said  Arthur  in  horror.    
"Into  the  interior  of  the  planet!  An  underground  passage.  The  force  
of  the  whale's  impact  cracked  it  open,  and  that's  where  we  have  to  go.  
Where  no  man  has  trod  these  five  million  years,  into  the  very  depths  
of  time  itself..."    
Marvin  started  his  ironical  humming  again.    
Zaphod  hit  him  and  he  shut  up.    
With  little  shudders  of  disgust  they  all  followed  Zaphod  down  the  
incline  into  the  crater,  trying  very  hard  not  to  look  at  its  unfortunate  
"Life,"  said  Marvin  dolefully,  "loathe  it  or  ignore  it,  you  can't  like  it."    
The  ground  had  caved  in  where  the  whale  had  hit  it  revealing  a  
network  of  galleries  and  passages,  now  largely  obstructed  by  
collapsed  rubble  and  entrails.  Zaphod  had  made  a  start  clearing  a  way  
into  one  of  them,  but  Marvin  was  able  to  do  it  rather  faster.  Dank  air  

wafted  out  of  its  dark  recesses,  and  as  Zaphod  shone  a  torch  into  it,  
little  was  visible  in  the  dusty  gloom.    
"According  to  the  legends,"  he  said,  "the  Magratheans  lived  most  
of  their  lives  underground."    
"Why's  that?"  said  Arthur.  "Did  the  surface  become  too  polluted  or  
"No,  I  don't  think  so,"  said  Zaphod.  "I  think  they  just  didn't  like  it  
very  much."    
"Are  you  sure  you  know  what  you're  doing?"  said  Trillian  peering  
nervously  into  the  darkness.  "We've  been  attacked  once  already  you  
"Look  kid,  I  promise  you  the  live  population  of  this  planet  is  nil  plus  
the  four  of  us,  so  come  on,  let's  get  on  in  there.  Er,  hey  Earthman..."    
"Arthur,"  said  Arthur.    
"Yeah  could  you  just  sort  of  keep  this  robot  with  you  and  guard  this  
end  of  the  passageway.  OK?"    
"Guard?"  said  Arthur.  "What  from?  You  just  said  there's  no  one  
"Yeah,  well,  just  for  safety,  OK?"  said  Zaphod.    
"Whose?  Yours  or  mine?"    
"Good  lad.  OK,  here  we  go."    
Zaphod  scrambled  down  into  the  passage,  followed  by  Trillian  and  
"Well  I  hope  you  all  have  a  really  miserable  time,"  complained  
"Don't  worry,"  Marvin  assured  him,  "they  will."    
In  a  few  seconds  they  had  disappeared  from  view.    
Arthur  stamped  around  in  a  huff,  and  then  decided  that  a  whale's  
graveyard  is  not  on  the  whole  a  good  place  to  stamp  around  in.    
Marvin  eyed  him  balefully  for  a  moment,  and  then  turned  himself  
Zaphod  marched  quickly  down  the  passageway,  nervous  as  hell,  
but  trying  to  hide  it  by  striding  purposefully.  He  flung  the  torch  beam  
around.  The  walls  were  covered  in  dark  tiles  and  were  cold  to  the  
touch,  the  air  thick  with  decay.    

"There,  what  did  I  tell  you?"  he  said.  "An  inhabited  planet.  
Magrathea,"  and  he  strode  on  through  the  dirt  and  debris  that  
littered  the  tile  floor.    
Trillian  was  reminded  unavoidably  of  the  London  Underground,  
though  it  was  less  thoroughly  squalid.    
At  intervals  along  the  walls  the  tiles  gave  way  to  large  mosaics  ʹ  
simple  angular  patterns  in  bright  colours.  Trillian  stopped  and  studied  
one  of  them  but  could  not  interpret  any  sense  in  them.  She  called  to  
"Hey,  have  you  any  idea  what  these  strange  symbols  are?"    
"I  think  they're  just  strange  symbols  of  some  kind,"  said  Zaphod,  
hardly  glancing  back.    
Trillian  shrugged  and  hurried  after  him.    
From  time  to  time  a  doorway  led  either  to  the  left  or  right  into  
smallish  chambers  which  Ford  discovered  to  be  full  of  derelict  
computer  equipment.  He  dragged  Zaphod  into  one  to  have  a  look.  
Trillian  followed.    
"Look,"  said  Ford,  "you  reckon  this  is  Magrathea..."    
"Yeah,"  said  Zaphod,  "and  we  heard  the  voice,  right?"    
"OK,  so  I've  bought  the  fact  that  it's  Magrathea  ʹ  for  the  moment.  
What  you  have  so  far  said  nothing  about  is  how  in  the  Galaxy  you  
found  it.  You  didn't  just  look  it  up  in  a  star  atlas,  that's  for  sure."    
"Research.  Government  archives.  Detective  work.  Few  lucky  
guesses.  Easy."    
"And  then  you  stole  the  Heart  of  Gold  to  come  and  look  for  it  
"I  stole  it  to  look  for  a  lot  of  things."    
"A  lot  of  things?"  said  Ford  in  surprise.  "Like  what?"    
"I  don't  know."    
"I  don't  know  what  I'm  looking  for."    
"Why  not?"    
"Because...  because...  I  think  it  might  be  because  if  I  knew  I  
wouldn't  be  able  to  look  for  them."    
"What,  are  you  crazy?"    

"It's  a  possibility  I  haven't  ruled  out  yet,"  said  Zaphod  quietly.  "I  
only  know  as  much  about  myself  as  my  mind  can  work  out  under  its  
current  conditions.  And  its  current  conditions  are  not  good."    
For  a  long  time  nobody  said  anything  as  Ford  gazed  at  Zaphod  with  
a  mind  suddenly  full  of  worry.    
"Listen  old  friend,  if  you  want  to..."  started  Ford  eventually.    
"No,  wait...  I'll  tell  you  something,"  said  Zaphod.  "I  freewheel  a  lot.  
I  get  an  idea  to  do  something,  and,  hey,  why  not,  I  do  it.  I  reckon  I'll  
become  President  of  the  Galaxy,  and  it  just  happens,  it's  easy.  I  decide  
to  steal  this  ship.  I  decide  to  look  for  Magrathea,  and  it  all  just  
happens.  Yeah,  I  work  out  how  it  can  best  be  done,  right,  but  it  always  
works  out.  It's  like  having  a  Galacticredit  card  which  keeps  on  working  
though  you  never  send  off  the  cheques.  And  then  whenever  I  stop  
and  think  ʹ  why  did  I  want  to  do  something?  ʹ  how  did  I  work  out  
how  to  do  it?  ʹ  I  get  a  very  strong  desire  just  to  stop  thinking  about  it.  
Like  I  have  now.  It's  a  big  effort  to  talk  about  it."    
Zaphod  paused  for  a  while.  For  a  while  there  was  silence.  Then  he  
frowned  and  said,  "Last  night  I  was  worrying  about  this  again.  About  
the  fact  that  part  of  my  mind  just  didn't  seem  to  work  properly.  Then  
it  occurred  to  me  that  the  way  it  seemed  was  that  someone  else  was  
using  my  mind  to  have  good  ideas  with,  without  telling  me  about  it.  I  
put  the  two  ideas  together  and  decided  that  maybe  that  somebody  
had  locked  off  part  of  my  mind  for  that  purpose,  which  was  why  I  
couldn't  use  it.  I  wondered  if  there  was  a  way  I  could  check.    
"I  went  to  the  ship's  medical  bay  and  plugged  myself  into  the  
encephelographic  screen.  I  went  through  every  major  screening  test  
on  both  my  heads  ʹ  all  the  tests  I  had  to  go  through  under  
government  medical  officers  before  my  nomination  for  Presidency  
could  be  properly  ratified.  They  showed  up  nothing.  Nothing  
unexpected  at  least.  They  showed  that  I  was  clever,  imaginative,  
irresponsible,  untrustworthy,  extrovert,  nothing  you  couldn't  have  
guessed.  And  no  other  anomalies.  So  I  started  inventing  further  tests,  
completely  at  random.  Nothing.  Then  I  tried  superimposing  the  
results  from  one  head  on  top  of  the  results  from  the  other  head.  Still  
nothing.  Finally  I  got  silly,  because  I'd  given  it  all  up  as  nothing  more  
than  an  attack  of  paranoia.  Last  thing  I  did  before  I  packed  it  in  was  
take  the  superimposed  picture  and  look  at  it  through  a  green  filter.  
You  remember  I  was  always  superstitious  about  the  color  green  when  

I  was  a  kid?  I  always  wanted  to  be  a  pilot  on  one  of  the  trading  
Ford  nodded.    
"And  there  it  was,"  said  Zaphod,  "clear  as  day.  A  whole  section  in  
the  middle  of  both  brains  that  related  only  to  each  other  and  not  to  
anything  else  around  them.  Some  bastard  had  cauterized  all  the  
synapses  and  electronically  traumatised  those  two  lumps  of  
Ford  stared  at  him,  aghast.  Trillian  had  turned  white.    
"Somebody  did  that  to  you?"  whispered  Ford.    
"But  have  you  any  idea  who?  Or  why?"    
"Why?  I  can  only  guess.  But  I  do  know  who  the  bastard  was."    
"You  know?  How  do  you  know?"    
"Because  they  left  their  initials  burnt  into  the  cauterized  synapses.  
They  left  them  there  for  me  to  see."    
Ford  stared  at  him  in  horror  and  felt  his  skin  begin  to  crawl.    
"Initials?  Burnt  into  your  brain?"    
"Well,  what  were  they,  for  God's  sake?"    
Zaphod  looked  at  him  in  silence  again  for  a  moment.  Then  he  
looked  away.    
"Z.B.,"  he  said.    
At  that  moment  a  steel  shutter  slammed  down  behind  them  and  
gas  started  to  pour  into  the  chamber.    
"I'll  tell  you  about  it  later,"  choked  Zaphod  as  all  three  passed  out.    


Chapter  21    

On  the  surface  of  Magrathea  Arthur  wandered  about  moodily.    
Ford  had  thoughtfully  left  him  his  copy  of  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  
the  Galaxy  to  while  away  the  time  with.  He  pushed  a  few  buttons  at  
The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy  is  a  very  unevenly  edited  book  
and  contains  many  passages  that  simply  seemed  to  its  editors  like  a  
good  idea  at  the  time.    
One  of  these  (the  one  Arthur  now  came  across)  supposedly  relates  
the  experiences  of  one  Veet  Voojagig,  a  quiet  young  student  at  the  
University  of  Maximegalon,  who  pursued  a  brilliant  academic  career  
studying  ancient  philology,  transformational  ethics  and  the  wave  
harmonic  theory  of  historical  perception,  and  then,  after  a  night  of  
drinking  Pan  Galactic  Gargle  Blasters  with  Zaphod  Beeblebrox,  
became  increasingly  obsessed  with  the  problem  of  what  had  
happened  to  all  the  biros  he'd  bought  over  the  past  few  years.    
There  followed  a  long  period  of  painstaking  research  during  which  
he  visited  all  the  major  centres  of  biro  loss  throughout  the  galaxy  and  
eventually  came  up  with  a  quaint  little  theory  which  quite  caught  the  
public  imagination  at  the  time.  Somewhere  in  the  cosmos,  he  said,  
along  with  all  the  planets  inhabited  by  humanoids,  reptiloids,  fishoids,  
walking  treeoids  and  superintelligent  shades  of  the  colour  blue,  there  
was  also  a  planet  entirely  given  over  to  biro  life  forms.  And  it  was  to  
this  planet  that  unattended  biros  would  make  their  way,  slipping  
away  quietly  through  wormholes  in  space  to  a  world  where  they  
knew  they  could  enjoy  a  uniquely  biroid  lifestyle,  responding  to  highly  
biro-­‐oriented  stimuli,  and  generally  leading  the  biro  equivalent  of  the  
good  life.    
And  as  theories  go  this  was  all  very  fine  and  pleasant  until  Veet  
Voojagig  suddenly  claimed  to  have  found  this  planet,  and  to  have  
worked  there  for  a  while  driving  a  limousine  for  a  family  of  cheap  
green  retractables,  whereupon  he  was  taken  away,  locked  up,  wrote  

a  book,  and  was  finally  sent  into  tax  exile,  which  is  the  usual  fate  
reserved  for  those  who  are  determined  to  make  a  fool  of  themselves  
in  public.    
When  one  day  an  expedition  was  sent  to  the  spatial  coordinates  
that  Voojagig  had  claimed  for  this  planet  they  discovered  only  a  small  
asteroid  inhabited  by  a  solitary  old  man  who  claimed  repeatedly  that  
nothing  was  true,  though  he  was  later  discovered  to  be  lying.    
There  did,  however,  remain  the  question  of  both  the  mysterious  
60,000  Altairan  dollars  paid  yearly  into  his  Brantisvogan  bank  account,  
and  of  course  Zaphod  Beeblebrox's  highly  profitable  second-­‐hand  biro  
Arthur  read  this,  and  put  the  book  down.    
The  robot  still  sat  there,  completely  inert.    
Arthur  got  up  and  walked  to  the  top  of  the  crater.  He  walked  
around  the  crater.  He  watched  two  suns  set  magnificently  over  
He  went  back  down  into  the  crater.  He  woke  the  robot  up  because  
even  a  manically  depressed  robot  is  better  to  talk  to  than  nobody.    
"Night's  falling,"  he  said.  "Look  robot,  the  stars  are  coming  out."    
From  the  heart  of  a  dark  nebula  it  is  possible  to  see  very  few  stars,  
and  only  very  faintly,  but  they  were  there  to  be  seen.    
The  robot  obediently  looked  at  them,  then  looked  back.    
"I  know,"  he  said.  "Wretched  isn't  it?"    
"But  that  sunset!  I've  never  seen  anything  like  it  in  my  wildest  
dreams...  the  two  suns!  It  was  like  mountains  of  fire  boiling  into  
"I've  seen  it,"  said  Marvin.  "It's  rubbish."    
"We  only  ever  had  the  one  sun  at  home,"  persevered  Arthur,  "I  
came  from  a  planet  called  Earth  you  know."    
"I  know,"  said  Marvin,  "you  keep  going  on  about  it.  It  sounds  
"Ah  no,  it  was  a  beautiful  place."    
"Did  it  have  oceans?"    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Arthur  with  a  sigh,  "great  wide  rolling  blue  oceans..."    
"Can't  bear  oceans,"  said  Marvin.    

"Tell  me,"  inquired  Arthur,  "do  you  get  on  well  with  other  robots?"    
"Hate  them,"  said  Marvin.  "Where  are  you  going?"    
Arthur  couldn't  bear  any  more.  He  had  got  up  again.    
"I  think  I'll  just  take  another  walk,"  he  said.    
"Don't  blame  you,"  said  Marvin  and  counted  five  hundred  and  
ninety-­‐seven  thousand  million  sheep  before  falling  asleep  again  a  
second  later.    
Arthur  slapped  his  arms  about  himself  to  try  and  get  his  circulation  
a  little  more  enthusiastic  about  its  job.  He  trudged  back  up  the  wall  of  
the  crater.    
Because  the  atmosphere  was  so  thin  and  because  there  was  no  
moon,  nightfall  was  very  rapid  and  it  was  by  now  very  dark.  Because  
of  this,  Arthur  practically  walked  into  the  old  man  before  he  noticed  


Chapter  22    

He  was  standing  with  his  back  to  Arthur  watching  the  very  last  
glimmers  of  light  sink  into  blackness  behind  the  horizon.  He  was  
tallish,  elderly  and  dressed  in  a  single  long  grey  robe.  When  he  turned  
his  face  was  thin  and  distinguished,  careworn  but  not  unkind,  the  sort  
of  face  you  would  happily  bank  with.  But  he  didn't  turn  yet,  not  even  
to  react  to  Arthur's  yelp  of  surprise.    
Eventually  the  last  rays  of  the  sun  had  vanished  completely,  and  he  
turned.  His  face  was  still  illuminated  from  somewhere,  and  when  
Arthur  looked  for  the  source  of  the  light  he  saw  that  a  few  yards  away  
stood  a  small  craft  of  some  kind  ʹ  a  small  hovercraft,  Arthur  guessed.  
It  shed  a  dim  pool  of  light  around  it.    
The  man  looked  at  Arthur,  sadly  it  seemed.    
"You  choose  a  cold  night  to  visit  our  dead  planet,"  he  said.    
"Who...  who  are  you?"  stammered  Arthur.    
The  man  looked  away.  Again  a  kind  of  sadness  seemed  to  cross  his  
"My  name  is  not  important,"  he  said.    
He  seemed  to  have  something  on  his  mind.  Conversation  was  
clearly  something  he  felt  he  didn't  have  to  rush  at.  Arthur  felt  
"I...  er...  you  startled  me..."  he  said,  lamely.    
The  man  looked  round  to  him  again  and  slightly  raised  his  
"Hmmmm?"  he  said.    
"I  said  you  startled  me."    
"Do  not  be  alarmed,  I  will  not  harm  you."    
Arthur  frowned  at  him.  "But  you  shot  at  us!  There  were  missiles..."  
he  said.    
The  man  chuckled  slightly.    

"An  automatic  system,"  he  said  and  gave  a  small  sigh.  "Ancient  
computers  ranged  in  the  bowels  of  the  planet  tick  away  the  dark  
millennia,  and  the  ages  hang  heavy  on  their  dusty  data  banks.  I  think  
they  take  the  occasional  pot  shot  to  relieve  the  monotony."    
He  looked  gravely  at  Arthur  and  said,  "I'm  a  great  fan  of  science  
you  know."    
"Oh...  er,  really?"  said  Arthur,  who  was  beginning  to  find  the  man's  
curious,  kindly  manner  disconcerting.    
"Oh,  yes,"  said  the  old  man,  and  simply  stopped  talking  again.    
"Ah,"  said  Arthur,  "er..."  He  had  an  odd  felling  of  being  like  a  man  
in  the  act  of  adultery  who  is  surprised  when  the  woman's  husband  
wanders  into  the  room,  changes  his  trousers,  passes  a  few  idle  
remarks  about  the  weather  and  leaves  again.    
"You  seem  ill  at  ease,"  said  the  old  man  with  polite  concern.    
"Er,  no...  well,  yes.  Actually  you  see,  we  weren't  really  expecting  to  
find  anybody  about  in  fact.  I  sort  of  gathered  that  you  were  all  dead  
or  something..."    
"Dead?"  said  the  old  man.  "Good  gracious  no,  we  have  but  slept."    
"Slept?"  said  Arthur  incredulously.    
"Yes,  through  the  economic  recession  you  see,"  said  the  old  man,  
apparently  unconcerned  about  whether  Arthur  understood  a  word  he  
was  talking  about  or  not.    
"Er,  economic  recession?"    
"Well  you  see,  five  million  years  ago  the  Galactic  economy  
collapsed,  and  seeing  that  custom-­‐made  planets  are  something  of  a  
luxury  commodity  you  see..."    
He  paused  and  looked  at  Arthur.    
"You  know  we  built  planets  do  you?"  he  asked  solemnly.    
"Well  yes,"  said  Arthur,  "I'd  sort  of  gathered..."    
"Fascinating  trade,"  said  the  old  man,  and  a  wistful  look  came  into  
his  eyes,  "doing  the  coastlines  was  always  my  favourite.  Used  to  have  
endless  fun  doing  the  little  bits  in  fjords...  so  anyway,"  he  said  trying  
to  find  his  thread  again,  "the  recession  came  and  we  decided  it  would  
save  us  a  lot  of  bother  if  we  just  slept  through  it.  So  we  programmed  
the  computers  to  revive  us  when  it  was  all  over."    
The  man  stifled  a  very  slight  yawn  and  continued.    

"The  computers  were  index  linked  to  the  Galactic  stock  market  
prices  you  see,  so  that  we'd  all  be  revived  when  everybody  else  had  
rebuilt  the  economy  enough  to  afford  our  rather  expensive  services."    
Arthur,  a  regular  Guardian  reader,  was  deeply  shocked  at  this.    
"That's  a  pretty  unpleasant  way  to  behave  isn't  it?"    
"Is  it?"  asked  the  old  man  mildly.  "I'm  sorry,  I'm  a  bit  out  of  touch."    
He  pointed  down  into  the  crater.    
"Is  that  robot  yours?"  he  said.    
"No,"  came  a  thin  metallic  voice  from  the  crater,  "I'm  mine."    
"If  you'd  call  it  a  robot,"  muttered  Arthur.  "It's  more  a  sort  of  
electronic  sulking  machine."    
"Bring  it,"  said  the  old  man.  Arthur  was  quite  surprised  to  hear  a  
note  of  decision  suddenly  present  in  the  old  man's  voice.  He  called  to  
Marvin  who  crawled  up  the  slope  making  a  big  show  of  being  lame,  
which  he  wasn't.    
"On  second  thoughts,"  said  the  old  man,  "leave  it  here.  You  must  
come  with  me.  Great  things  are  afoot."  He  turned  towards  his  craft  
which,  though  no  apparent  signal  had  been  given,  now  drifted  quietly  
towards  them  through  the  dark.    
Arthur  looked  down  at  Marvin,  who  now  made  an  equally  big  show  
of  turning  round  laboriously  and  trudging  off  down  into  the  crater  
again  muttering  sour  nothings  to  himself.    
"Come,"  called  the  old  man,  "come  now  or  you  will  be  late."    
"Late?"  said  Arthur.  "What  for?"    
"What  is  your  name,  human?"    
"Dent.  Arthur  Dent,"  said  Arthur.    
"Late,  as  in  the  late  Dentarthurdent,"  said  the  old  man,  sternly.  "It's  
a  sort  of  threat  you  see."  Another  wistful  look  came  into  his  tired  old  
eyes.  "I've  never  been  very  good  at  them  myself,  but  I'm  told  they  can  
be  very  effective."    
Arthur  blinked  at  him.    
"What  an  extraordinary  person,"  he  muttered  to  himself.    
"I  beg  your  pardon?"  said  the  old  man.    
"Oh  nothing,  I'm  sorry,"  said  Arthur  in  embarrassment.  "Alright,  
where  do  we  go?"    

"In  my  aircar,"  said  the  old  man  motioning  Arthur  to  get  into  the  
craft  which  had  settled  silently  next  to  them.  "We  are  going  deep  into  
the  bowels  of  the  planet  where  even  now  our  race  is  being  revived  
from  its  five-­‐million-­‐year  slumber.  Magrathea  awakes."    
Arthur  shivered  involuntarily  as  he  seated  himself  next  to  the  old  
man.  The  strangeness  of  it,  the  silent  bobbing  movement  of  the  craft  
as  it  soared  into  the  night  sky  quite  unsettled  him.    
He  looked  at  the  old  man,  his  face  illuminated  by  the  dull  glow  of  
tiny  lights  on  the  instrument  panel.    
"Excuse  me,"  he  said  to  him,  "what  is  your  name  by  the  way?"    
"My  name?"  said  the  old  man,  and  the  same  distant  sadness  came  
into  his  face  again.  He  paused.  "My  name,"  he  said,  "...  is  
Arthur  practically  choked.    
"I  beg  your  pardon?"  he  spluttered.    
"Slartibartfast,"  repeated  the  old  man  quietly.    
The  old  man  looked  at  him  gravely.    
"I  said  it  wasn't  important,"  he  said.    
The  aircar  sailed  through  the  night.    


Chapter  23    

It  is  an  important  and  popular  fact  that  things  are  not  always  what  
they  seem.  For  instance,  on  the  planet  Earth,  man  had  always  
assumed  that  he  was  more  intelligent  than  dolphins  because  he  had  
achieved  so  much  ʹ  the  wheel,  New  York,  wars  and  so  on  ʹ  whilst  all  
the  dolphins  had  ever  done  was  muck  about  in  the  water  having  a  
good  time.  But  conversely,  the  dolphins  had  always  believed  that  they  
were  far  more  intelligent  than  man  ʹ  for  precisely  the  same  reasons.    
Curiously  enough,  the  dolphins  had  long  known  of  the  impending  
destruction  of  the  planet  Earth  and  had  made  many  attempts  to  alert  
mankind  of  the  danger;  but  most  of  their  communications  were  
misinterpreted  as  amusing  attempts  to  punch  footballs  or  whistle  for  
tidbits,  so  they  eventually  gave  up  and  left  the  Earth  by  their  own  
means  shortly  before  the  Vogons  arrived.    
The  last  ever  dolphin  message  was  misinterpreted  as  a  surprisingly  
sophisticated  attempt  to  do  a  double-­‐backwards-­‐somersault  through  
a  hoop  whilst  whistling  the  "Star  Sprangled  Banner",  but  in  fact  the  
message  was  this:  So  long  and  thanks  for  all  the  fish.    
In  fact  there  was  only  one  species  on  the  planet  more  intelligent  
than  dolphins,  and  they  spent  a  lot  of  their  time  in  behavioural  
research  laboratories  running  round  inside  wheels  and  conducting  
frighteningly  elegant  and  subtle  experiments  on  man.  The  fact  that  
once  again  man  completely  misinterpreted  this  relationship  was  
entirely  according  to  these  creatures'  plans.    

Chapter  24    

Silently  the  aircar  coasted  through  the  cold  darkness,  a  single  soft  
glow  of  light  that  was  utterly  alone  in  the  deep  Magrathean  night.  It  
sped  swiftly.  Arthur's  companion  seemed  sunk  in  his  own  thoughts,  
and  when  Arthur  tried  on  a  couple  of  occasions  to  engage  him  in  
conversation  again  he  would  simply  reply  by  asking  if  he  was  
comfortable  enough,  and  then  left  it  at  that.    
Arthur  tried  to  gauge  the  speed  at  which  they  were  travelling,  but  
the  blackness  outside  was  absolute  and  he  was  denied  any  reference  
points.  The  sense  of  motion  was  so  soft  and  slight  he  could  almost  
believe  they  were  hardly  moving  at  all.    
Then  a  tiny  glow  of  light  appeared  in  the  far  distance  and  within  
seconds  had  grown  so  much  in  size  that  Arthur  realized  it  was  
travelling  towards  them  at  a  colossal  speed,  and  he  tried  to  make  out  
what  sort  of  craft  it  might  be.  He  peered  at  it,  but  was  unable  to  
discern  any  clear  shape,  and  suddenly  gasped  in  alarm  as  the  aircraft  
dipped  sharply  and  headed  downwards  in  what  seemed  certain  to  be  
a  collision  course.  Their  relative  velocity  seemed  unbelievable,  and  
Arthur  had  hardly  time  to  draw  breath  before  it  was  all  over.  The  next  
thing  he  was  aware  of  was  an  insane  silver  blur  that  seemed  to  
surround  him.  He  twisted  his  head  sharply  round  and  saw  a  small  
black  point  dwindling  rapidly  in  the  distance  behind  them,  and  it  took  
him  several  seconds  to  realize  what  had  happened.    
They  had  plunged  into  a  tunnel  in  the  ground.  The  colossal  speed  
had  been  their  own  relative  to  the  glow  of  light  which  was  a  
stationary  hole  in  the  ground,  the  mouth  of  the  tunnel.  The  insane  
blur  of  silver  was  the  circular  wall  of  the  tunnel  down  which  they  
were  shooting,  apparently  at  several  hundred  miles  an  hour.    
He  closed  his  eyes  in  terror.    
After  a  length  of  time  which  he  made  no  attempt  to  judge,  he  
sensed  a  slight  subsidence  in  their  speed  and  some  while  later  
became  aware  that  they  were  gradually  gliding  to  a  gentle  halt.    

He  opened  his  eyes  again.  They  were  still  in  the  silver  tunnel,  
threading  and  weaving  their  way  through  what  appeared  to  be  a  
crisscross  warren  of  converging  tunnels.  When  they  finally  stopped  it  
was  in  a  small  chamber  of  curved  steel.  Several  tunnels  also  had  their  
terminus  here,  and  at  the  farther  end  of  the  chamber  Arthur  could  
see  a  large  circle  of  dim  irritating  light.  It  was  irritating  because  it  
played  tricks  with  the  eyes,  it  was  impossible  to  focus  on  it  properly  or  
tell  how  near  or  far  it  was.  Arthur  guessed  (quite  wrongly)  that  it  
might  be  ultra  violet.    
Slartibartfast  turned  and  regarded  Arthur  with  his  solemn  old  eyes.    
"Earthman,"  he  said,  "we  are  now  deep  in  the  heart  of  Magrathea."    
"How  did  you  know  I  was  an  Earthman?"  demanded  Arthur.    
"These  things  will  become  clear  to  you,"  said  the  old  man  gently,  
"at  least,"  he  added  with  slight  doubt  in  his  voice,  "clearer  than  they  
are  at  the  moment."    
He  continued:  "I  should  warn  you  that  the  chamber  we  are  about  
to  pass  into  does  not  literally  exist  within  our  planet.  It  is  a  little  too...  
large.  We  are  about  to  pass  through  a  gateway  into  a  vast  tract  of  
hyperspace.  It  may  disturb  you."    
Arthur  made  nervous  noises.    
Slartibartfast  touched  a  button  and  added,  not  entirely  reassuringly.  
"It  scares  the  willies  out  of  me.  Hold  tight."    
The  car  shot  forward  straight  into  the  circle  of  light,  and  suddenly  
Arthur  had  a  fairly  clear  idea  of  what  infinity  looked  like.    
It  wasn't  infinity  in  fact.  Infinity  itself  looks  flat  and  uninteresting.  
Looking  up  into  the  night  sky  is  looking  into  infinity  ʹ  distance  is  
incomprehensible  and  therefore  meaningless.  The  chamber  into  
which  the  aircar  emerged  was  anything  but  infinite,  it  was  just  very  
very  big,  so  that  it  gave  the  impression  of  infinity  far  better  than  
infinity  itself.    
Arthur's  senses  bobbed  and  span,  as,  travelling  at  the  immense  
speed  he  knew  the  aircar  attained,  they  climbed  slowly  through  the  
open  air  leaving  the  gateway  through  which  they  had  passed  an  
invisible  pinprick  in  the  shimmering  wall  behind  them.    
The  wall.    

The  wall  defied  the  imagination  ʹ  seduced  it  and  defeated  it.  The  
wall  was  so  paralysingly  vast  and  sheer  that  its  top,  bottom  and  sides  
passed  away  beyond  the  reach  of  sight.  The  mere  shock  of  vertigo  
could  kill  a  man.    
The  wall  appeared  perfectly  flat.  It  would  take  the  finest  laser  
measuring  equipment  to  detect  that  as  it  climbed,  apparently  to  
infinity,  as  it  dropped  dizzily  away,  as  it  planed  out  to  either  side,  it  
also  curved.  It  met  itself  again  thirteen  light  seconds  away.  In  other  
words  the  wall  formed  the  inside  of  a  hollow  sphere,  a  sphere  over  
three  million  miles  across  and  flooded  with  unimaginable  light.    
"Welcome,"  said  Slartibartfast  as  the  tiny  speck  that  was  the  aircar,  
travelling  now  at  three  times  the  speed  of  sound,  crept  imperceptibly  
forward  into  the  mindboggling  space,  "welcome,"  he  said,  "to  our  
factory  floor."    
Arthur  stared  about  him  in  a  kind  of  wonderful  horror.  Ranged  
away  before  them,  at  distances  he  could  neither  judge  nor  even  guess  
at,  were  a  series  of  curious  suspensions,  delicate  traceries  of  metal  
and  light  hung  about  shadowy  spherical  shapes  that  hung  in  the  space.    
"This,"  said  Slartibartfast,  "is  where  we  make  most  of  our  planets  
you  see."    
"You  mean,"  said  Arthur,  trying  to  form  the  words,  "you  mean  
you're  starting  it  all  up  again  now?"    
"No  no,  good  heavens  no,"  exclaimed  the  old  man,  "no,  the  Galaxy  
isn't  nearly  rich  enough  to  support  us  yet.  No,  we've  been  awakened  
to  perform  just  one  extraordinary  commission  for  very...  special  
clients  from  another  dimension.  It  may  interest  you...  there  in  the  
distance  in  front  of  us."    
Arthur  followed  the  old  man's  finger,  till  he  was  able  to  pick  out  the  
floating  structure  he  was  pointing  out.  It  was  indeed  the  only  one  of  
the  many  structures  that  betrayed  any  sign  of  activity  about  it,  though  
this  was  more  a  sublimal  impression  than  anything  one  could  put  
one's  finger  on.    
At  the  moment  however  a  flash  of  light  arced  through  the  structure  
and  revealed  in  stark  relief  the  patterns  that  were  formed  on  the  dark  
sphere  within.  Patterns  that  Arthur  knew,  rough  blobby  shapes  that  
were  as  familiar  to  him  as  the  shapes  of  words,  part  of  the  furniture  
of  his  mind.  For  a  few  seconds  he  sat  in  stunned  silence  as  the  images  

rushed  around  his  mind  and  tried  to  find  somewhere  to  settle  down  
and  make  sense.    
Part  of  his  brain  told  him  that  he  knew  perfectly  well  what  he  was  
looking  at  and  what  the  shapes  represented  whilst  another  quite  
sensibly  refused  to  countenance  the  idea  and  abdicated  responsibility  
for  any  further  thinking  in  that  direction.    
The  flash  came  again,  and  this  time  there  could  be  no  doubt.    
"The  Earth..."  whispered  Arthur.    
"Well,  the  Earth  Mark  Two  in  fact,"  said  Slartibartfast  cheerfully.  
"We're  making  a  copy  from  our  original  blueprints."    
There  was  a  pause.    
"Are  you  trying  to  tell  me,"  said  Arthur,  slowly  and  with  control,  
"that  you  originally...  made  the  Earth?"    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Slartibartfast.  "Did  you  ever  go  to  a  place...  I  think  it  
was  called  Norway?"    
"No,"  said  Arthur,  "no,  I  didn't."    
"Pity,"  said  Slartibartfast,  "that  was  one  of  mine.  Won  an  award  
you  know.  Lovely  crinkly  edges.  I  was  most  upset  to  hear  about  its  
"You  were  upset!"    
"Yes.  Five  minutes  later  and  it  wouldn't  have  mattered  so  much.  It  
was  a  quite  shocking  cock-­‐up."    
"Huh?"  said  Arthur.    
"The  mice  were  furious."    
"The  mice  were  furious?"    
"Oh  yes,"  said  the  old  man  mildly.    
"Yes  well  so  I  expect  were  the  dogs  and  cats  and  duckbilled  
platypuses,  but..."    
"Ah,  but  they  hadn't  paid  for  it  you  see,  had  they?"    
"Look,"  said  Arthur,  "would  it  save  you  a  lot  of  time  if  I  just  gave  up  
and  went  mad  now?"    
For  a  while  the  aircar  flew  on  in  awkward  silence.  Then  the  old  man  
tried  patiently  to  explain.    
"Earthman,  the  planet  you  lived  on  was  commissioned,  paid  for,  
and  run  by  mice.  It  was  destroyed  five  minutes  before  the  completion  

of  the  purpose  for  which  it  was  built,  and  we've  got  to  build  another  
Only  one  word  registered  with  Arthur.    
"Mice?"  he  said.    
"Indeed  Earthman."    
"Look,  sorry  ʹ  are  we  talking  about  the  little  white  furry  things  with  
the  cheese  fixation  and  women  standing  on  tables  screaming  in  early  
sixties  sit  coms?"    
Slartibartfast  coughed  politely.    
"Earthman,"  he  said,  "it  is  sometimes  hard  to  follow  your  mode  of  
speech.  Remember  I  have  been  asleep  inside  this  planet  of  Magrathea  
for  five  million  years  and  know  little  of  these  early  sixties  sit  coms  of  
which  you  speak.  These  creatures  you  call  mice,  you  see,  they  are  not  
quite  as  they  appear.  They  are  merely  the  protrusion  into  our  
dimension  of  vast  hyperintelligent  pan-­‐dimensional  beings.  The  whole  
business  with  the  cheese  and  the  squeaking  is  just  a  front."    
The  old  man  paused,  and  with  a  sympathetic  frown  continued.    
"They've  been  experimenting  on  you  I'm  afraid."    
Arthur  thought  about  this  for  a  second,  and  then  his  face  cleared.    
"Ah  no,"  he  said,  "I  see  the  source  of  the  misunderstanding  now.  
No,  look  you  see,  what  happened  was  that  we  used  to  do  
experiments  on  them.  They  were  often  used  in  behavioural  research,  
Pavlov  and  all  that  sort  of  stuff.  So  what  happened  was  hat  the  mice  
would  be  set  all  sorts  of  tests,  learning  to  ring  bells,  run  around  mazes  
and  things  so  that  the  whole  nature  of  the  learning  process  could  be  
examined.  From  our  observations  of  their  behaviour  we  were  able  to  
learn  all  sorts  of  things  about  our  own..."    
Arthur's  voice  tailed  off.    
"Such  subtlety..."  said  Slartibartfast,  "one  has  to  admire  it."    
"What?"  said  Arthur.    
"How  better  to  disguise  their  real  natures,  and  how  better  to  guide  
your  thinking.  Suddenly  running  down  a  maze  the  wrong  way,  eating  
the  wrong  bit  of  cheese,  unexpectedly  dropping  dead  of  myxomatosis,  
ʹ  if  it's  finely  calculated  the  cumulative  effect  is  enormous."    
He  paused  for  effect.    

"You  see,  Earthman,  they  really  are  particularly  clever  
hyperintelligent  pan-­‐dimensional  beings.  Your  planet  and  people  have  
formed  the  matrix  of  an  organic  computer  running  a  ten-­‐million-­‐year  
research  programme...    
"Let  me  tell  you  the  whole  story.  It'll  take  a  little  time."    
"Time,"  said  Arthur  weakly,  "is  not  currently  one  of  my  problems."    


Chapter  25    

There  are  of  course  many  problems  connected  with  life,  of  which  
some  of  the  most  popular  are  Why  are  people  born?  Why  do  they  die?  
Why  do  they  want  to  spend  so  much  of  the  intervening  time  wearing  
digital  watches?    
Many  many  millions  of  years  ago  a  race  of  hyperintelligent  pan-­‐
dimensional  beings  (whose  physical  manifestation  in  their  own  pan-­‐
dimensional  universe  is  not  dissimilar  to  our  own)  got  so  fed  up  with  
the  constant  bickering  about  the  meaning  of  life  which  used  to  
interrupt  their  favourite  pastime  of  Brockian  Ultra  Cricket  (a  curious  
game  which  involved  suddenly  hitting  people  for  no  readily  apparent  
reason  and  then  running  away)  that  they  decided  to  sit  down  and  
solve  their  problems  once  and  for  all.    
And  to  this  end  they  built  themselves  a  stupendous  super  
computer  which  was  so  amazingly  intelligent  that  even  before  the  
data  banks  had  been  connected  up  it  had  started  from  I  think  
therefore  I  am  and  got  as  far  as  the  existence  of  rice  pudding  and  
income  tax  before  anyone  managed  to  turn  it  off.    
It  was  the  size  of  a  small  city.    
Its  main  console  was  installed  in  a  specially  designed  executive  
office,  mounted  on  an  enormous  executive  desk  of  finest  
ultramahagony  topped  with  rich  ultrared  leather.  The  dark  carpeting  
was  discreetly  sumptuous,  exotic  pot  plants  and  tastefully  engraved  
prints  of  the  principal  computer  programmers  and  their  families  were  
deployed  liberally  about  the  room,  and  stately  windows  looked  out  
upon  a  tree-­‐lined  public  square.    
On  the  day  of  the  Great  On-­‐Turning  two  soberly  dressed  
programmers  with  brief  cases  arrived  and  were  shown  discreetly  into  
the  office.  They  were  aware  that  this  day  they  would  represent  their  
entire  race  in  its  greatest  moment,  but  they  conducted  themselves  
calmly  and  quietly  as  they  seated  themselves  deferentially  before  the  

desk,  opened  their  brief  cases  and  took  out  their  leather-­‐bound  
Their  names  were  Lunkwill  and  Fook.    
For  a  few  moments  they  sat  in  respectful  silence,  then,  after  
exchanging  a  quiet  glance  with  Fook,  Lunkwill  leaned  forward  and  
touched  a  small  black  panel.    
The  subtlest  of  hums  indicated  that  the  massive  computer  was  now  
in  total  active  mode.  After  a  pause  it  spoke  to  them  in  a  voice  rich  
resonant  and  deep.    
It  said:  "What  is  this  great  task  for  which  I,  Deep  Thought,  the  
second  greatest  computer  in  the  Universe  of  Time  and  Space  have  
been  called  into  existence?"    
Lunkwill  and  Fook  glanced  at  each  other  in  surprise.    
"Your  task,  O  Computer..."  began  Fook.    
"No,  wait  a  minute,  this  isn't  right,"  said  Lunkwill,  worried.  "We  
distinctly  designed  this  computer  to  be  the  greatest  one  ever  and  
we're  not  making  do  with  second  best.  Deep  Thought,"  he  addressed  
the  computer,  "are  you  not  as  we  designed  you  to  be,  the  greatest  
most  powerful  computer  in  all  time?"    
"I  described  myself  as  the  second  greatest,"  intoned  Deep  Thought,  
"and  such  I  am."    
Another  worried  look  passed  between  the  two  programmers.  
Lunkwill  cleared  his  throat.    
"There  must  be  some  mistake,"  he  said,  "are  you  not  a  greatest  
computer  than  the  Milliard  Gargantubrain  which  can  count  all  the  
atoms  in  a  star  in  a  millisecond?"    
"The  Milliard  Gargantubrain?"  said  Deep  Thought  with  
unconcealed  contempt.  "A  mere  abacus  ʹ  mention  it  not."    
"And  are  you  not,"  said  Fook  leaning  anxiously  forward,  "a  greater  
analyst  than  the  Googleplex  Star  Thinker  in  the  Seventh  Galaxy  of  
Light  and  Ingenuity  which  can  calculate  the  trajectory  of  every  single  
dust  particle  throughout  a  five-­‐week  Dangrabad  Beta  sand  blizzard?"    
"A  five-­‐week  sand  blizzard?"  said  Deep  Thought  haughtily.  "You  ask  
this  of  me  who  have  contemplated  the  very  vectors  of  the  atoms  in  
the  Big  Bang  itself?  Molest  me  not  with  this  pocket  calculator  stuff."    
The  two  programmers  sat  in  uncomfortable  silence  for  a  moment.  
Then  Lunkwill  leaned  forward  again.    

"But  are  you  not,"  he  said,  "a  more  fiendish  disputant  than  the  
Great  Hyperlobic  Omni-­‐Cognate  Neutron  Wrangler  of  Ciceronicus  12,  
the  Magic  and  Indefatigable?"    
"The  Great  Hyperlobic  Omni-­‐Cognate  Neutron  Wrangler,"  said  
Deep  Thought  thoroughly  rolling  the  r's,  "could  talk  all  four  legs  off  an  
Arcturan  MegaDonkey  ʹ  but  only  I  could  persuade  it  to  go  for  a  walk  
"Then  what,"  asked  Fook,  "is  the  problem?"    
"There  is  no  problem,"  said  Deep  Thought  with  magnificent  ringing  
tones.  "I  am  simply  the  second  greatest  computer  in  the  Universe  of  
Space  and  Time."    
"But  the  second?"  insisted  Lunkwill.  "Why  do  you  keep  saying  the  
second?  You're  surely  not  thinking  of  the  Multicorticoid  Perspicutron  
Titan  Muller  are  you?  Or  the  Pondermatic?  Or  the..."    
Contemptuous  lights  flashed  across  the  computer's  console.    
"I  spare  not  a  single  unit  of  thought  on  these  cybernetic  
simpletons!"  he  boomed.  "I  speak  of  none  but  the  computer  that  is  to  
come  after  me!"    
Fook  was  losing  patience.  He  pushed  his  notebook  aside  and  
muttered,  "I  think  this  is  getting  needlessly  messianic."    
"You  know  nothing  of  future  time,"  pronounced  Deep  Thought,  
"and  yet  in  my  teeming  circuitry  I  can  navigate  the  infinite  delta  
streams  of  future  probability  and  see  that  there  must  one  day  come  a  
computer  whose  merest  operational  parameters  I  am  not  worthy  to  
calculate,  but  which  it  will  be  my  fate  eventually  to  design."    
Fook  sighed  heavily  and  glanced  across  to  Lunkwill.    
"Can  we  get  on  and  ask  the  question?"  he  said.    
Lunkwill  motioned  him  to  wait.    
"What  computer  is  this  of  which  you  speak?"  he  asked.    
"I  will  speak  of  it  no  further  in  this  present  time,"  said  Deep  
Thought.  "Now.  Ask  what  else  of  me  you  will  that  I  may  function.  
They  shrugged  at  each  other.  Fook  composed  himself.    
"O  Deep  Thought  Computer,"  he  said,  "the  task  we  have  designed  
you  to  perform  is  this.  We  want  you  to  tell  us..."  he  paused,  "...  the  

"The  answer?"  said  Deep  Thought.  "The  answer  to  what?"    
"Life!"  urged  Fook.    
"The  Universe!"  said  Lunkwill.    
"Everything!"  they  said  in  chorus.    
Deep  Thought  paused  for  a  moment's  reflection.    
"Tricky,"  he  said  finally.    
"But  can  you  do  it?"    
Again,  a  significant  pause.    
"Yes,"  said  Deep  Thought,  "I  can  do  it."    
"There  is  an  answer?"  said  Fook  with  breathless  excitement."    
"A  simple  answer?"  added  Lunkwill.    
"Yes,"  said  Deep  Thought.  "Life,  the  Universe,  and  Everything.  
There  is  an  answer.  But,"  he  added,  "I'll  have  to  think  about  it."    
A  sudden  commotion  destroyed  the  moment:  the  door  flew  open  
and  two  angry  men  wearing  the  coarse  faded  ʹ  blue  robes  and  belts  
of  the  Cruxwan  University  burst  into  the  room,  thrusting  aside  the  
ineffectual  flunkies  who  tried  to  bar  their  way.    
"We  demand  admission!"  shouted  the  younger  of  the  two  men  
elbowing  a  pretty  young  secretary  in  the  throat.    
"Come  on,"  shouted  the  older  one,  "you  can't  keep  us  out!"  He  
pushed  a  junior  programmer  back  through  the  door.    
"We  demand  that  you  can't  keep  us  out!"  bawled  the  younger  one,  
though  he  was  now  firmly  inside  the  room  and  no  further  attempts  
were  being  made  to  stop  him.    
"Who  are  you?"  said  Lunkwill,  rising  angrily  from  his  seat.  "What  do  
you  want?"    
"I  am  Majikthise!"  announced  the  older  one.    
"And  I  demand  that  I  am  Vroomfondel!"  shouted  the  younger  one.    
Majikthise  turned  on  Vroomfondel.  "It's  alright,"  he  explained  
angrily,  "you  don't  need  to  demand  that."    
"Alright!"  bawled  Vroomfondel  banging  on  an  nearby  desk.  "I  am  
Vroomfondel,  and  that  is  not  a  demand,  that  is  a  solid  fact!  What  we  
demand  is  solid  facts!"    
"No  we  don't!"  exclaimed  Majikthise  in  irritation.  "That  is  precisely  
what  we  don't  demand!"    

Scarcely  pausing  for  breath,  Vroomfondel  shouted,  "We  don't  
demand  solid  facts!  What  we  demand  is  a  total  absence  of  solid  facts.  
I  demand  that  I  may  or  may  not  be  Vroomfondel!"    
"But  who  the  devil  are  you?"  exclaimed  an  outraged  Fook.    
"We,"  said  Majikthise,  "are  Philosophers."    
"Though  we  may  not  be,"  said  Vroomfondel  waving  a  warning  
finger  at  the  programmers.    
"Yes  we  are,"  insisted  Majikthise.  "We  are  quite  definitely  here  as  
representatives  of  the  Amalgamated  Union  of  Philosophers,  Sages,  
Luminaries  and  Other  Thinking  Persons,  and  we  want  this  machine  off,  
and  we  want  it  off  now!"    
"What's  the  problem?"  said  Lunkwill.    
"I'll  tell  you  what  the  problem  is  mate,"  said  Majikthise,  
"demarcation,  that's  the  problem!"    
"We  demand,"  yelled  Vroomfondel,  "that  demarcation  may  or  may  
not  be  the  problem!"    
"You  just  let  the  machines  get  on  with  the  adding  up,"  warned  
Majikthise,  "and  we'll  take  care  of  the  eternal  verities  thank  you  very  
much.  You  want  to  check  your  legal  position  you  do  mate.  Under  law  
the  Quest  for  Ultimate  Truth  is  quite  clearly  the  inalienable  
prerogative  of  your  working  thinkers.  Any  bloody  machine  goes  and  
actually  finds  it  and  we're  straight  out  of  a  job  aren't  we?  I  mean  
what's  the  use  of  our  sitting  up  half  the  night  arguing  that  there  may  
or  may  not  be  a  God  if  this  machine  only  goes  and  gives  us  his  
bleeding  phone  number  the  next  morning?"    
"That's  right!"  shouted  Vroomfondel,  "we  demand  rigidly  defined  
areas  of  doubt  and  uncertainty!"    
Suddenly  a  stentorian  voice  boomed  across  the  room.    
"Might  I  make  an  observation  at  this  point?"  inquired  Deep  
"We'll  go  on  strike!"  yelled  Vroomfondel.    
"That's  right!"  agreed  Majikthise.  "You'll  have  a  national  
Philosopher's  strike  on  your  hands!"    
The  hum  level  in  the  room  suddenly  increased  as  several  ancillary  
bass  driver  units,  mounted  in  sedately  carved  and  varnished  cabinet  
speakers  around  the  room,  cut  in  to  give  Deep  Thought's  voice  a  little  
more  power.    

"All  I  wanted  to  say,"  bellowed  the  computer,  "is  that  my  circuits  
are  now  irrevocably  committed  to  calculating  the  answer  to  the  
Ultimate  Question  of  Life,  the  Universe,  and  Everything  ʹ  "  he  paused  
and  satisfied  himself  that  he  now  had  everyone's  attention,  before  
continuing  more  quietly,  "but  the  programme  will  take  me  a  little  
while  to  run."    
Fook  glanced  impatiently  at  his  watch.    
"How  long?"  he  said.    
"Seven  and  a  half  million  years,"  said  Deep  Thought.    
Lunkwill  and  Fook  blinked  at  each  other.    
"Seven  and  a  half  million  years...!"  they  cried  in  chorus.    
"Yes,"  declaimed  Deep  Thought,  "I  said  I'd  have  to  think  about  it,  
didn't  I?  And  it  occurs  to  me  that  running  a  programme  like  this  is  
bound  to  create  an  enormous  amount  of  popular  publicity  for  the  
whole  area  of  philosophy  in  general.  Everyone's  going  to  have  their  
own  theories  about  what  answer  I'm  eventually  to  come  up  with,  and  
who  better  to  capitalize  on  that  media  market  than  you  yourself?  So  
long  as  you  can  keep  disagreeing  with  each  other  violently  enough  
and  slagging  each  other  off  in  the  popular  press,  you  can  keep  
yourself  on  the  gravy  train  for  life.  How  does  that  sound?"    
The  two  philosophers  gaped  at  him.    
"Bloody  hell,"  said  Majikthise,  "now  that  is  what  I  call  thinking.  
Here  Vroomfondel,  why  do  we  never  think  of  things  like  that?"    
"Dunno,"  said  Vroomfondel  in  an  awed  whisper,  "think  our  brains  
must  be  too  highly  trained  Majikthise."    
So  saying,  they  turned  on  their  heels  and  walked  out  of  the  door  
and  into  a  lifestyle  beyond  their  wildest  dreams.    


Chapter  26    

"Yes,  very  salutary,"  said  Arthur,  after  Slartibartfast  had  related  the  
salient  points  of  the  story  to  him,  "but  I  don't  understand  what  all  this  
has  got  to  do  with  the  Earth  and  mice  and  things."    
"That  is  but  the  first  half  of  the  story  Earthman,"  said  the  old  man.  
"If  you  would  care  to  discover  what  happened  seven  and  a  half  
millions  later,  on  the  great  day  of  the  Answer,  allow  me  to  invite  you  
to  my  study  where  you  can  experience  the  events  yourself  on  our  
Sens-­‐O-­‐Tape  records.  That  is  unless  you  would  care  to  take  a  quick  
stroll  on  the  surface  of  New  Earth.  It's  only  half  completed  I'm  afraid  ʹ  
we  haven't  even  finished  burying  the  artificial  dinosaur  skeletons  in  
the  crust  yet,  then  we  have  the  Tertiary  and  Quarternary  Periods  of  
the  Cenozoic  Era  to  lay  down,  and..."    
"No  thank  you,"  said  Arthur,  "it  wouldn't  be  quite  the  same."    
"No,"  said  Slartibartfast,  "it  won't  be,"  and  he  turned  the  aircar  
round  and  headed  back  towards  the  mind-­‐numbing  wall.    


Chapter  27    

Slartibartfast's  study  was  a  total  mess,  like  the  results  of  an  
explosion  in  a  public  library.  The  old  man  frowned  as  they  stepped  in.    
"Terribly  unfortunate,"  he  said,  "a  diode  blew  in  one  of  the  life-­‐
support  computers.  When  we  tried  to  revive  our  cleaning  staff  we  
discovered  they'd  been  dead  for  nearly  thirty  thousand  years.  Who's  
going  to  clear  away  the  bodies,  that's  what  I  want  to  know.  Look  why  
don't  you  sit  yourself  down  over  there  and  let  me  plug  you  in?"    
He  gestured  Arthur  towards  a  chair  which  looked  as  if  it  had  been  
made  out  of  the  rib  cage  of  a  stegosaurus.    
"It  was  made  out  of  the  rib  cage  of  a  stegosaurus,"  explained  the  
old  man  as  he  pottered  about  fishing  bits  of  wire  out  from  under  
tottering  piles  of  paper  and  drawing  instruments.  "Here,"  he  said,  
"hold  these,"  and  passed  a  couple  of  stripped  wire  end  to  Arthur.    
The  instant  he  took  hold  of  them  a  bird  flew  straight  through  him.    
He  was  suspended  in  mid-­‐air  and  totally  invisible  to  himself.  
Beneath  him  was  a  pretty  treelined  city  square,  and  all  around  it  as  
far  as  the  eye  could  see  were  white  concrete  buildings  of  airy  
spacious  design  but  somewhat  the  worse  for  wear  ʹ  many  were  
cracked  and  stained  with  rain.  Today  however  the  sun  was  shining,  a  
fresh  breeze  danced  lightly  through  the  trees,  and  the  odd  sensation  
that  all  the  buildings  were  quietly  humming  was  probably  caused  by  
the  fact  that  the  square  and  all  the  streets  around  it  were  thronged  
with  cheerful  excited  people.  Somewhere  a  band  was  playing,  brightly  
coloured  flags  were  fluttering  in  the  breeze  and  the  spirit  of  carnival  
was  in  the  air.    
Arthur  felt  extraordinarily  lonely  stuck  up  in  the  air  above  it  all  
without  so  much  as  a  body  to  his  name,  but  before  he  had  time  to  
reflect  on  this  a  voice  rang  out  across  the  square  and  called  for  
everyone's  attention.    

A  man  standing  on  a  brightly  dressed  dais  before  the  building  
which  clearly  dominated  the  square  was  addressing  the  crowd  over  a  
"O  people  waiting  in  the  Shadow  of  Deep  Thought!"  he  cried  out.  
"Honoured  Descendants  of  Vroomfondel  and  Majikthise,  the  Greatest  
and  Most  Truly  Interesting  Pundits  the  Universe  has  ever  known...  The  
Time  of  Waiting  is  over!"    
Wild  cheers  broke  out  amongst  the  crowd.  Flags,  streamers  and  
wolf  whistles  sailed  through  the  air.  The  narrower  streets  looked  
rather  like  centipedes  rolled  over  on  their  backs  and  frantically  waving  
their  legs  in  the  air.    
"Seven  and  a  half  million  years  our  race  has  waited  for  this  Great  
and  Hopefully  Enlightening  Day!"  cried  the  cheer  leader.  "The  Day  of  
the  Answer!"    
Hurrahs  burst  from  the  ecstatic  crowd.    
"Never  again,"  cried  the  man,  "never  again  will  we  wake  up  in  the  
morning  and  think  Who  am  I?  What  is  my  purpose  in  life?  Does  it  
really,  cosmically  speaking,  matter  if  I  don't  get  up  and  go  to  work?  
For  today  we  will  finally  learn  once  and  for  all  the  plain  and  simple  
answer  to  all  these  nagging  little  problems  of  Life,  the  Universe  and  
As  the  crowd  erupted  once  again,  Arthur  found  himself  gliding  
through  the  air  and  down  towards  one  of  the  large  stately  windows  
on  the  first  floor  of  the  building  behind  the  dais  from  which  the  
speaker  was  addressing  the  crowd.    
He  experienced  a  moment's  panic  as  he  sailed  straight  through  
towards  the  window,  which  passed  when  a  second  or  so  later  he  
found  he  had  gone  right  through  the  solid  glass  without  apparently  
touching  it.    
No  one  in  the  room  remarked  on  his  peculiar  arrival,  which  is  
hardly  surprising  as  he  wasn't  there.  He  began  to  realize  that  the  
whole  experience  was  merely  a  recorded  projection  which  knocked  
six-­‐track  seventy-­‐millimetre  into  a  cocked  hat.    
The  room  was  much  as  Slartibartfast  had  described  it.  In  seven  and  
a  half  million  years  it  had  been  well  looked  after  and  cleaned  regularly  
every  century  or  so.  The  ultramahagony  desk  was  worn  at  the  edges,  
the  carpet  a  little  faded  now,  but  the  large  computer  terminal  sat  in  

sparkling  glory  on  the  desk's  leather  top,  as  bright  as  if  it  had  been  
constructed  yesterday.    
Two  severely  dressed  men  sat  respectfully  before  the  terminal  and  
"The  time  is  nearly  upon  us,"  said  one,  and  Arthur  was  surprised  to  
see  a  word  suddenly  materialize  in  thin  air  just  by  the  man's  neck.  The  
word  was  Loonquawl,  and  it  flashed  a  couple  of  times  and  the  
disappeared  again.  Before  Arthur  was  able  to  assimilate  this  the  other  
man  spoke  and  the  word  Phouchg  appeared  by  his  neck.    
"Seventy-­‐five  thousand  generations  ago,  our  ancestors  set  this  
program  in  motion,"  the  second  man  said,  "and  in  all  that  time  we  will  
be  the  first  to  hear  the  computer  speak."    
"An  awesome  prospect,  Phouchg,"  agreed  the  first  man,  and  Arthur  
suddenly  realized  that  he  was  watching  a  recording  with  subtitles.    
"We  are  the  ones  who  will  hear,"  said  Phouchg,  "the  answer  to  the  
great  question  of  Life...!"    
"The  Universe...!"  said  Loonquawl.    
"And  Everything...!"    
"Shhh,"  said  Loonquawl  with  a  slight  gesture,  "I  think  Deep  Thought  
is  preparing  to  speak!"    
There  was  a  moment's  expectant  pause  whilst  panels  slowly  came  
to  life  on  the  front  of  the  console.  Lights  flashed  on  and  off  
experimentally  and  settled  down  into  a  businesslike  pattern.  A  soft  
low  hum  came  from  the  communication  channel.    
"Good  morning,"  said  Deep  Thought  at  last.    
"Er...  Good  morning,  O  Deep  Thought,"  said  Loonquawl  nervously,  
"do  you  have...  er,  that  is..."    
"An  answer  for  you?"  interrupted  Deep  Thought  majestically.  "Yes.  
I  have."    
The  two  men  shivered  with  expectancy.  Their  waiting  had  not  been  
in  vain.    
"There  really  is  one?"  breathed  Phouchg.    
"There  really  is  one,"  confirmed  Deep  Thought.    
"To  Everything?  To  the  great  Question  of  Life,  the  Universe  and  

Both  of  the  men  had  been  trained  for  this  moment,  their  lives  had  
been  a  preparation  for  it,  they  had  been  selected  at  birth  as  those  
who  would  witness  the  answer,  but  even  so  they  found  themselves  
gasping  and  squirming  like  excited  children.    
"And  you're  ready  to  give  it  to  us?"  urged  Loonquawl.    
"I  am."    
"Now,"  said  Deep  Thought.    
They  both  licked  their  dry  lips.    
"Though  I  don't  think,"  added  Deep  Thought,  "that  you're  going  to  
like  it."    
"Doesn't  matter!"  said  Phouchg.  "We  must  know  it!  Now!"    
"Now?"  inquired  Deep  Thought.    
"Yes!  Now..."    
"Alright,"  said  the  computer  and  settled  into  silence  again.  The  two  
men  fidgeted.  The  tension  was  unbearable.    
"You're  really  not  going  to  like  it,"  observed  Deep  Thought.    
"Tell  us!"    
"Alright,"  said  Deep  Thought.  "The  Answer  to  the  Great  
"Of  Life,  the  Universe  and  Everything..."  said  Deep  Thought.    
"Is..."  said  Deep  Thought,  and  paused.    
"Forty-­‐two,"  said  Deep  Thought,  with  infinite  majesty  and  calm.    

Chapter  28    

It  was  a  long  time  before  anyone  spoke.    
Out  of  the  corner  of  his  eye  Phouchg  could  see  the  sea  of  tense  
expectant  faces  down  in  the  square  outside.    
"We're  going  to  get  lynched  aren't  we?"  he  whispered.    
"It  was  a  tough  assignment,"  said  Deep  Thought  mildly.    
"Forty-­‐two!"  yelled  Loonquawl.  "Is  that  all  you've  got  to  show  for  
seven  and  a  half  million  years'  work?"    
"I  checked  it  very  thoroughly,"  said  the  computer,  "and  that  quite  
definitely  is  the  answer.  I  think  the  problem,  to  be  quite  honest  with  
you,  is  that  you've  never  actually  known  what  the  question  is."    
"But  it  was  the  Great  Question!  The  Ultimate  Question  of  Life,  the  
Universe  and  Everything!"  howled  Loonquawl.    
"Yes,"  said  Deep  Thought  with  the  air  of  one  who  suffers  fools  
gladly,  "but  what  actually  is  it?"    
A  slow  stupefied  silence  crept  over  the  men  as  they  stared  at  the  
computer  and  then  at  each  other.    
"Well,  you  know,  it's  just  Everything...  Everything..."  offered  
Phouchg  weakly.    
"Exactly!"  said  Deep  Thought.  "So  once  you  do  know  what  the  
question  actually  is,  you'll  know  what  the  answer  means."    
"Oh  terrific,"  muttered  Phouchg  flinging  aside  his  notebook  and  
wiping  away  a  tiny  tear.    
"Look,  alright,  alright,"  said  Loonquawl,  "can  you  just  please  tell  us  
the  Question?"    
"The  Ultimate  Question?"    
"Of  Life,  the  Universe,  and  Everything?"    
Deep  Thought  pondered  this  for  a  moment.    

"Tricky,"  he  said.    
"But  can  you  do  it?"  cried  Loonquawl.    
Deep  Thought  pondered  this  for  another  long  moment.    
Finally:  "No,"  he  said  firmly.    
Both  men  collapsed  on  to  their  chairs  in  despair.    
"But  I'll  tell  you  who  can,"  said  Deep  Thought.    
They  both  looked  up  sharply.    
"Who?"  "Tell  us!"    
Suddenly  Arthur  began  to  feel  his  apparently  non-­‐existent  scalp  
begin  to  crawl  as  he  found  himself  moving  slowly  but  inexorably  
forward  towards  the  console,  but  it  was  only  a  dramatic  zoom  on  the  
part  of  whoever  had  made  the  recording  he  assumed.    
"I  speak  of  none  other  than  the  computer  that  is  to  come  after  
me,"  intoned  Deep  Thought,  his  voice  regaining  its  accustomed  
declamatory  tones.  "A  computer  whose  merest  operational  
parameters  I  am  not  worthy  to  calculate  ʹ  and  yet  I  will  design  it  for  
you.  A  computer  which  can  calculate  the  Question  to  the  Ultimate  
Answer,  a  computer  of  such  infinite  and  subtle  complexity  that  
organic  life  itself  shall  form  part  of  its  operational  matrix.  And  you  
yourselves  shall  take  on  new  forms  and  go  down  into  the  computer  to  
navigate  its  ten-­‐million-­‐year  program!  Yes!  I  shall  design  this  
computer  for  you.  And  I  shall  name  it  also  unto  you.  And  it  shall  be  
called...  The  Earth."    
Phouchg  gaped  at  Deep  Thought.    
"What  a  dull  name,"  he  said  and  great  incisions  appeared  down  the  
length  of  his  body.  Loonquawl  too  suddenly  sustained  horrific  gashed  
from  nowhere.  The  Computer  console  blotched  and  cracked,  the  walls  
flickered  and  crumbled  and  the  room  crashed  upwards  into  its  own  
Slartibartfast  was  standing  in  front  of  Arthur  holding  the  two  wires.    
"End  of  the  tape,"  he  explained.    

Chapter  29    

"Zaphod!  Wake  up!"    
"Hey  come  on,  wake  up."    
"Just  let  me  stick  to  what  I'm  good  at,  yeah?"  muttered  Zaphod  and  
rolled  away  from  the  voice  back  to  sleep.    
"Do  you  want  me  to  kick  you?"  said  Ford.    
"Would  it  give  you  a  lot  of  pleasure?"  said  Zaphod,  blearily.    
"Nor  me.  So  what's  the  point?  Stop  bugging  me."  Zaphod  curled  
himself  up.    
"He  got  a  double  dose  of  the  gas,"  said  Trillian  looking  down  at  him,  
"two  windpipes."    
"And  stop  talking,"  said  Zaphod,  "it's  hard  enough  trying  to  sleep  
anyway.  What's  the  matter  with  the  ground?  It's  all  cold  and  hard."    
"It's  gold,"  said  Ford.    
With  an  amazingly  balletic  movement  Zaphod  was  standing  and  
scanning  the  horizon,  because  that  was  how  far  the  gold  ground  
stretched  in  every  direction,  perfectly  smooth  and  solid.  It  gleamed  
like...  it's  impossible  to  say  what  it  gleamed  like  because  nothing  in  
the  Universe  gleams  in  quite  the  same  way  that  a  planet  of  solid  gold  
"Who  put  all  that  there?"  yelped  Zaphod,  goggle-­‐eyed.    
"Don't  get  excited,"  said  Ford,  "it's  only  a  catalogue."    
"A  who?"    
"A  catalogue,"  said  Trillian,  "an  illusion."    
"How  can  you  say  that?"  cried  Zaphod,  falling  to  his  hands  and  
knees  and  staring  at  the  ground.  He  poked  it  and  prodded  it  with  his  
fingernail.  It  was  very  heavy  and  very  slightly  soft  ʹ  he  could  mark  it  
with  his  fingernail.  It  was  very  yellow  and  very  shiny,  and  when  he  

breathed  on  it  his  breath  evaporated  off  it  in  that  very  peculiar  and  
special  way  that  breath  evaporates  off  solid  gold.    
"Trillian  and  I  came  round  a  while  ago,"  said  Ford.  "We  shouted  
and  yelled  till  somebody  came  and  then  carried  on  shouting  and  
yelling  till  they  got  fed  up  and  put  us  in  their  planet  catalogue  to  keep  
us  busy  till  they  were  ready  to  deal  with  us.  This  is  all  Sens-­‐O-­‐Tape."    
Zaphod  stared  at  him  bitterly.    
"Ah,  shit,"  he  said,  "you  wake  me  up  from  my  own  perfectly  good  
dream  to  show  me  somebody  else's."  He  sat  down  in  a  huff.    
"What's  that  series  of  valleys  over  there?"  he  said.    
"Hallmark,"  said  Ford.  "We  had  a  look."    
"We  didn't  wake  you  earlier,"  said  Trillian.  "The  last  planet  was  
knee  deep  in  fish."    
"Some  people  like  the  oddest  things."    
"And  before  that,"  said  Ford,  "we  had  platinum.  Bit  dull.  We  
thought  you'd  like  to  see  this  one  though."    
Seas  of  light  glared  at  them  in  one  solid  blaze  wherever  they  looked.    
"Very  pretty,"  said  Zaphod  petulantly.    
In  the  sky  a  huge  green  catalogue  number  appeared.  It  flickered  
and  changed,  and  when  they  looked  around  again  so  had  the  land.    
As  with  one  voice  they  all  went,  "Yuch."    
The  sea  was  purple.  The  beach  they  were  on  was  composed  of  tiny  
yellow  and  green  pebbles  ʹ  presumably  terribly  precious  stones.  The  
mountains  in  the  distance  seemed  soft  and  undulating  with  red  peaks.  
Nearby  stood  a  solid  silver  beach  table  with  a  frilly  mauve  parasol  and  
silver  tassles.    
In  the  sky  a  huge  sign  appeared,  replacing  the  catalogue  number.  It  
said,  Whatever  your  tastes,  Magrathea  can  cater  for  you.  We  are  not  
And  five  hundred  entirely  naked  women  dropped  out  of  the  sky  on  
In  a  moment  the  scene  vanished  and  left  them  in  a  springtime  
meadow  full  of  cows.    
"Ow!"  said  Zaphod.  "My  brains!"    
"You  want  to  talk  about  it?"  said  Ford.    

"Yeah,  OK,"  said  Zaphod,  and  all  three  sat  down  and  ignored  the  
scenes  that  came  and  went  around  them.    
"I  figure  this,"  said  Zaphod.  "Whatever  happened  to  my  mind,  I  did  
it.  And  I  did  it  in  such  a  way  that  it  wouldn't  be  detected  by  the  
government  screening  tests.  And  I  wasn't  to  know  anything  about  it  
myself.  Pretty  crazy,  right?"    
The  other  two  nodded  in  agreement.    
"So  I  reckon,  what's  so  secret  that  I  can't  let  anybody  know  I  know  
it,  not  the  Galactic  Government,  not  even  myself?  And  the  answer  is  I  
don't  know.  Obviously.  But  I  put  a  few  things  together  and  I  can  begin  
to  guess.  When  did  I  decide  to  run  for  President?  Shortly  after  the  
death  of  President  Yooden  Vranx.  You  remember  Yooden,  Ford?"    
"Yeah,"  said  Ford,  "he  was  that  guy  we  met  when  we  were  kids,  the  
Arcturan  captain.  He  was  a  gas.  He  gave  us  conkers  when  you  bust  
your  way  into  his  megafreighter.  Said  you  were  the  most  amazing  kid  
he'd  ever  met."    
"What's  all  this?"  said  Trillian.    
"Ancient  history,"  said  Ford,  "when  we  were  kids  together  on  
Betelgeuse.  The  Arcturan  megafreighters  used  to  carry  most  of  the  
bulky  trade  between  the  Galactic  Centre  and  the  outlying  regions  The  
Betelgeuse  trading  scouts  used  to  find  the  markets  and  the  Arcturans  
would  supply  them.  There  was  a  lot  of  trouble  with  space  pirates  
before  they  were  wiped  out  in  the  Dordellis  wars,  and  the  
megafreighters  had  to  be  equipped  with  the  most  fantastic  defence  
shields  known  to  Galactic  science.  They  were  real  brutes  of  ships,  and  
huge.  In  orbit  round  a  planet  they  would  eclipse  the  sun.    
"One  day,  young  Zaphod  here  decides  to  raid  one.  On  a  tri-­‐jet  
scooter  designed  for  stratosphere  work,  a  mere  kid.  I  mean  forget  it,  
it  was  crazier  than  a  mad  monkey.  I  went  along  for  the  ride  because  
I'd  got  some  very  safe  money  on  him  not  doing  it,  and  didn't  want  him  
coming  back  with  fake  evidence.  So  what  happens?  We  got  in  his  tri-­‐
jet  which  he  had  souped  up  into  something  totally  other,  crossed  
three  parsecs  in  a  matter  of  weeks,  bust  our  way  into  a  megafreighter  
I  still  don't  know  how,  marched  on  to  the  bridge  waving  toy  pistols  
and  demanded  conkers.  A  wilder  thing  I  have  not  known.  Lost  me  a  
year's  pocket  money.  For  what?  Conkers."    
"The  captain  was  this  really  amazing  guy,  Yooden  Vranx,"  said  
Zaphod.  "He  gave  us  food,  booze  ʹ  stuff  from  really  weird  parts  of  the  

Galaxy  ʹ  lots  of  conkers  of  course,  and  we  had  just  the  most  
incredible  time.  Then  he  teleported  us  back.  Into  the  maximum  
security  wing  of  Betelgeuse  state  prison.  He  was  a  cool  guy.  Went  on  
to  become  President  of  the  Galaxy."    
Zaphod  paused.    
The  scene  around  them  was  currently  plunged  into  gloom.  Dark  
mists  swirled  round  them  and  elephantine  shapes  lurked  indistinctly  
in  the  shadows.  The  air  was  occasionally  rent  with  the  sounds  of  
illusory  beings  murdering  other  illusory  beings.  Presumably  enough  
people  must  have  liked  this  sort  of  thing  to  make  it  a  paying  
"Ford,"  said  Zaphod  quietly.    
"Just  before  Yooden  died  he  came  to  see  me."    
"What?  You  never  told  me."    
"What  did  he  say?  What  did  he  come  to  see  you  about?"    
"He  told  me  about  the  Heart  of  Gold.  It  was  his  idea  that  I  should  
steal  it."    
"His  idea?"    
"Yeah,"  said  Zaphod,  "and  the  only  possible  way  of  stealing  it  was  
to  be  at  the  launching  ceremony."    
Ford  gaped  at  him  in  astonishment  for  a  moment,  and  then  roared  
with  laughter.    
"Are  you  telling  me,"  he  said,  "that  you  set  yourself  up  to  become  
President  of  the  Galaxy  just  to  steal  that  ship?"    
"That's  it,"  said  Zaphod  with  the  sort  of  grin  that  would  get  most  
people  locked  away  in  a  room  with  soft  walls.    
"But  why?"  said  Ford.  "What's  so  important  about  having  it?"    
"Dunno,"  said  Zaphod,  "I  think  if  I'd  consciously  known  what  was  so  
important  about  it  and  what  I  would  need  it  for  it  would  have  showed  
up  on  the  brain  screening  tests  and  I  would  never  have  passed.  I  think  
Yooden  told  me  a  lot  of  things  that  are  still  locked  away."    
"So  you  think  you  went  and  mucked  about  inside  your  own  brain  as  
a  result  of  Yooden  talking  to  you?"    
"He  was  a  hell  of  a  talker."    

"Yeah,  but  Zaphod  old  mate,  you  want  to  look  after  yourself  you  
Zaphod  shrugged.    
"I  mean,  don't  you  have  any  inkling  of  the  reasons  for  all  this?"  
asked  Ford.    
Zaphod  thought  hard  about  this  and  doubts  seemed  to  cross  his  
"No,"  he  said  at  last,  "I  don't  seem  to  be  letting  myself  into  any  of  
my  secrets.  Still,"  he  added  on  further  reflection,  "I  can  understand  
that.  I  wouldn't  trust  myself  further  than  I  could  spit  a  rat."    
A  moment  later,  the  last  planet  in  the  catalogue  vanished  from  
beneath  them  and  the  solid  world  resolved  itself  again.    
They  were  sitting  in  a  plush  waiting  room  full  of  glass-­‐top  tables  
and  design  awards.    
A  tall  Magrathean  man  was  standing  in  front  of  them.    
"The  mice  will  see  you  now,"  he  said.    


Chapter  30    

"So  there  you  have  it,"  said  Slartibartfast,  making  a  feeble  and  
perfunctory  attempt  to  clear  away  some  of  the  appalling  mess  of  his  
study.  He  picked  up  a  paper  from  the  top  of  a  pile,  but  then  couldn't  
think  of  anywhere  else  to  put  it,  so  he  but  it  back  on  top  of  the  
original  pile  which  promptly  fell  over.  "Deep  Thought  designed  the  
Earth,  we  built  it  and  you  lived  on  it."    
"And  the  Vogons  came  and  destroyed  it  five  minutes  before  the  
program  was  completed,"  added  Arthur,  not  unbitterly.    
"Yes,"  said  the  old  man,  pausing  to  gaze  hopelessly  round  the  room.  
"Ten  million  years  of  planning  and  work  gone  just  like  that.  Ten  
million  years,  Earthman...  can  you  conceive  of  that  kind  of  time  span?  
A  galactic  civilization  could  grow  from  a  single  worm  five  times  over  in  
that  time.  Gone."  He  paused.    
"Well  that's  bureaucracy  for  you,"  he  added.    
"You  know,"  said  Arthur  thoughtfully,  "all  this  explains  a  lot  of  
things.  All  through  my  life  I've  had  this  strange  unaccountable  feeling  
that  something  was  going  on  in  the  world,  something  big,  even  
sinister,  and  no  one  would  tell  me  what  it  was."    
"No,"  said  the  old  man,  "that's  just  perfectly  normal  paranoia.  
Everyone  in  the  Universe  has  that."    
"Everyone?"  said  Arthur.  "Well,  if  everyone  has  that  perhaps  it  
means  something!  Perhaps  somewhere  outside  the  Universe  we  
"Maybe.  Who  cares?"  said  Slartibartfast  before  Arthur  got  too  
excited.  "Perhaps  I'm  old  and  tired,"  he  continued,  "but  I  always  think  
that  the  chances  of  finding  out  what  really  is  going  on  are  so  absurdly  
remote  that  the  only  thing  to  do  is  to  say  hang  the  sense  of  it  and  just  
keep  yourself  occupied.  Look  at  me:  I  design  coastlines.  I  got  an  award  
for  Norway."    

He  rummaged  around  in  a  pile  of  debris  and  pulled  out  a  large  
perspex  block  with  his  name  on  it  and  a  model  of  Norway  moulded  
into  it.    
"Where's  the  sense  in  that?"  he  said.  "None  that  I've  been  able  to  
make  out.  I've  been  doing  fjords  in  all  my  life.  For  a  fleeting  moment  
they  become  fashionable  and  I  get  a  major  award."    
He  turned  it  over  in  his  hands  with  a  shrug  and  tossed  it  aside  
carelessly,  but  not  so  carelessly  that  it  didn't  land  on  something  soft.    
"In  this  replacement  Earth  we're  building  they've  given  me  Africa  to  
do  and  of  course  I'm  doing  it  with  all  fjords  again  because  I  happen  to  
like  them,  and  I'm  old  fashioned  enough  to  think  that  they  give  a  
lovely  baroque  feel  to  a  continent.  And  they  tell  me  it's  not  equatorial  
enough.  Equatorial!"  He  gave  a  hollow  laugh.  "What  does  it  matter?  
Science  has  achieved  some  wonderful  things  of  course,  but  I'd  far  
rather  be  happy  than  right  any  day."    
"And  are  you?"    
"No.  That's  where  it  all  falls  down  of  course."    
"Pity,"  said  Arthur  with  sympathy.  "It  sounded  like  quite  a  good  
lifestyle  otherwise."    
Somewhere  on  the  wall  a  small  white  light  flashed.    
"Come,"  said  Slartibartfast,  "you  are  to  meet  the  mice.  Your  arrival  
on  the  planet  has  caused  considerable  excitement.  It  has  already  
been  hailed,  so  I  gather,  as  the  third  most  improbable  event  in  the  
history  of  the  Universe."    
"What  were  the  first  two?"    
"Oh,  probably  just  coincidences,"  said  Slartibartfast  carelessly.  He  
opened  the  door  and  stood  waiting  for  Arthur  to  follow.    
Arthur  glanced  around  him  once  more,  and  then  down  at  himself,  
at  the  sweaty  dishevelled  clothes  he  had  been  lying  in  the  mud  in  on  
Thursday  morning.    
"I  seem  to  be  having  tremendous  difficulty  with  my  lifestyle,"  he  
muttered  to  himself.    
"I  beg  your  pardon?"  said  the  old  man  mildly.    
"Oh  nothing,"  said  Arthur,  "only  joking."    

Chapter  31    

It  is  of  course  well  known  that  careless  talk  costs  lives,  but  the  full  
scale  of  the  problem  is  not  always  appreciated.    
For  instance,  at  the  very  moment  that  Arthur  said  "I  seem  to  be  
having  tremendous  difficulty  with  my  lifestyle,"  a  freak  wormhole  
opened  up  in  the  fabric  of  the  space-­‐time  continuum  and  carried  his  
words  far  far  back  in  time  across  almost  infinite  reaches  of  space  to  a  
distant  Galaxy  where  strange  and  warlike  beings  were  poised  on  the  
brink  of  frightful  interstellar  battle.    
The  two  opposing  leaders  were  meeting  for  the  last  time.    
A  dreadful  silence  fell  across  the  conference  table  as  the  
commander  of  the  Vl'hurgs,  resplendent  in  his  black  jewelled  battle  
shorts,  gazed  levelly  at  the  G'Gugvuntt  leader  squatting  opposite  him  
in  a  cloud  of  green  sweet-­‐smelling  steam,  and,  with  a  million  sleek  
and  horribly  beweaponed  star  cruisers  poised  to  unleash  electric  
death  at  his  single  word  of  command,  challenged  the  vile  creature  to  
take  back  what  it  had  said  about  his  mother.    
The  creature  stirred  in  his  sickly  broiling  vapour,  and  at  that  very  
moment  the  words  I  seem  to  be  having  tremendous  difficulty  with  my  
lifestyle  drifted  across  the  conference  table.    
Unfortunately,  in  the  Vl'hurg  tongue  this  was  the  most  dreadful  
insult  imaginable,  and  there  was  nothing  for  it  but  to  wage  terrible  
war  for  centuries.    
Eventually  of  course,  after  their  Galaxy  had  been  decimated  over  a  
few  thousand  years,  it  was  realized  that  the  whole  thing  had  been  a  
ghastly  mistake,  and  so  the  two  opposing  battle  fleets  settled  their  
few  remaining  differences  in  order  to  launch  a  joint  attack  on  our  own  
Galaxy  ʹ  now  positively  identified  as  the  source  of  the  offending  
For  thousands  more  years  the  mighty  ships  tore  across  the  empty  
wastes  of  space  and  finally  dived  screaming  on  to  the  first  planet  they  
came  across  ʹ  which  happened  to  be  the  Earth  ʹ  where  due  to  a  

terrible  miscalculation  of  scale  the  entire  battle  fleet  was  accidentally  
swallowed  by  a  small  dog.    
Those  who  study  the  complex  interplay  of  cause  and  effect  in  the  
history  of  the  Universe  say  that  this  sort  of  thing  is  going  on  all  the  
time,  but  that  we  are  powerless  to  prevent  it.    
"It's  just  life,"  they  say.    
A  short  aircar  trip  brought  Arthur  and  the  old  Magrathean  to  a  
doorway.  They  left  the  car  and  went  through  the  door  into  a  waiting  
room  full  of  glass-­‐topped  tables  and  perspex  awards.  Almost  
immediately,  a  light  flashed  above  the  door  at  the  other  side  of  the  
room  and  they  entered.    
"Arthur!  You're  safe!"  a  voice  cried.    
"Am  I?"  said  Arthur,  rather  startled.  "Oh  good."    
The  lighting  was  rather  subdued  and  it  took  him  a  moment  or  so  to  
see  Ford,  Trillian  and  Zaphod  sitting  round  a  large  table  beautifully  
decked  out  with  exotic  dishes,  strange  sweetmeats  and  bizarre  fruits.  
They  were  stuffing  their  faces.    
"What  happened  to  you?"  demanded  Arthur.    
"Well,"  said  Zaphod,  attacking  a  boneful  of  grilled  muscle,  "our  
hosts  here  have  been  gassing  us  and  zapping  our  minds  and  being  
generally  weird  and  have  now  given  us  a  rather  nice  meal  to  make  it  
up  to  us.  Here,"  he  said  hoiking  out  a  lump  of  evil  smelling  meat  from  
a  bowl,  "have  some  Vegan  Rhino's  cutlet.  It's  delicious  if  you  happen  
to  like  that  sort  of  thing."    
"Hosts?"  said  Arthur.  "What  hosts?  I  don't  see  any..."    
A  small  voice  said,  "Welcome  to  lunch,  Earth  creature."    
Arthur  glanced  around  and  suddenly  yelped.    
"Ugh!"  he  said.  "There  are  mice  on  the  table!"    
There  was  an  awkward  silence  as  everyone  looked  pointedly  at  
He  was  busy  staring  at  two  white  mice  sitting  in  what  looked  like  
whisky  glasses  on  the  table.  He  heard  the  silence  and  glanced  around  
at  everyone.    
"Oh!"  he  said,  with  sudden  realization.  "Oh,  I'm  sorry,  I  wasn't  quite  
prepared  for..."    

"Let  me  introduce  you,"  said  Trillian.  "Arthur  this  is  Benji  mouse."    
"Hi,"  said  one  of  the  mice.  His  whiskers  stroked  what  must  have  
been  a  touch  sensitive  panel  on  the  inside  of  the  whisky-­‐glass  like  
affair,  and  it  moved  forward  slightly.    
"And  this  is  Frankie  mouse."    
The  other  mouse  said,  "Pleased  to  meet  you,"  and  did  likewise.    
Arthur  gaped.    
"But  aren't  they..."    
"Yes,"  said  Trillian,  "they  are  the  mice  I  brought  with  me  from  the  
She  looked  him  in  the  eye  and  Arthur  thought  he  detected  the  
tiniest  resigned  shrug.    
"Could  you  pass  me  that  bowl  of  grated  Arcturan  Megadonkey?"  
she  said.    
Slartibartfast  coughed  politely.    
"Er,  excuse  me,"  he  said.    
"Yes,  thank  you  Slartibartfast,"  said  Benji  mouse  sharply,  "you  may  
"What?  Oh...  er,  very  well,"  said  the  old  man,  slightly  taken  aback,  
"I'll  just  go  and  get  on  with  some  of  my  fjords  then."    
"Ah,  well  in  fact  that  won't  be  necessary,"  said  Frankie  mouse.  "It  
looks  very  much  as  if  we  won't  be  needing  the  new  Earth  any  longer."  
He  swivelled  his  pink  little  eyes.  "Not  now  that  we  have  found  a  
native  of  the  planet  who  was  there  seconds  before  it  was  destroyed."    
"What?"  cried  Slartibartfast,  aghast.  "You  can't  mean  that!  I've  got  
a  thousand  glaciers  poised  and  ready  to  roll  over  Africa!"    
"Well  perhaps  you  can  take  a  quick  skiing  holiday  before  you  
dismantle  them,"  said  Frankie,  acidly.    
"Skiing  holiday!"  cried  the  old  man.  "Those  glaciers  are  works  of  art!  
Elegantly  sculptured  contours,  soaring  pinnacles  of  ice,  deep  majestic  
ravines!  It  would  be  sacrilege  to  go  skiing  on  high  art!"    
"Thank  you  Slartibartfast,"  said  Benji  firmly.  "That  will  be  all."    
"Yes  sir,"  said  the  old  man  coldly,  "thank  you  very  much.  Well,  
goodbye  Earthman,"  he  said  to  Arthur,  "hope  the  lifestyle  comes  

With  a  brief  nod  to  the  rest  of  the  company  he  turned  and  walked  
sadly  out  of  the  room.    
Arthur  stared  after  him  not  knowing  what  to  say.    
"Now,"  said  Benji  mouse,  "to  business."    
Ford  and  Zaphod  clinked  their  glasses  together.    
"To  business!"  they  said.    
"I  beg  your  pardon?"  said  Benji.    
Ford  looked  round.    
"Sorry,  I  thought  you  were  proposing  a  toast,"  he  said.    
The  two  mice  scuttled  impatiently  around  in  their  glass  transports.  
Finally  they  composed  themselves,  and  Benji  moved  forward  to  
address  Arthur.    
"Now,  Earth  creature,"  he  said,  "the  situation  we  have  in  effect  is  
this.  We  have,  as  you  know,  been  more  or  less  running  your  planet  for  
the  last  ten  million  years  in  order  to  find  this  wretched  thing  called  
the  Ultimate  Question."    
"Why?"  said  Arthur,  sharply.    
"No  ʹ  we  already  thought  of  that  one,"  said  Frankie  interrupting,  
"but  it  doesn't  fit  the  answer.  Why?  Forty-­‐Two...  you  see,  it  doesn't  
"No,"  said  Arthur,  "I  mean  why  have  you  been  doing  it?"    
"Oh,  I  see,"  said  Frankie.  "Well,  eventually  just  habit  I  think,  to  be  
brutally  honest.  And  this  is  more  or  less  the  point  ʹ  we're  sick  to  the  
teeth  with  the  whole  thing,  and  the  prospect  of  doing  it  all  over  again  
on  account  of  those  whinnet-­‐ridden  Vogons  quite  frankly  gives  me  
the  screaming  heeby  jeebies,  you  know  what  I  mean?  It  was  by  the  
merest  lucky  chance  that  Benji  and  I  finished  our  particular  job  and  
left  the  planet  early  for  a  quick  holiday,  and  have  since  manipulated  
our  way  back  to  Magrathea  by  the  good  offices  of  your  friends."    
"Magrathea  is  a  gateway  back  to  our  own  dimension,"  put  in  Benji.    
"Since  when,"  continued  his  murine  colleague,  "we  have  had  an  
offer  of  a  quite  enormously  fat  contract  to  do  the  5D  chat  show  and  
lecture  circuit  back  in  our  own  dimensional  neck  of  the  woods,  and  
we're  very  much  inclined  to  take  it."    
"I  would,  wouldn't  you  Ford?"  said  Zaphod  promptingly.    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Ford,  "jump  at  it,  like  a  shot."    

Arthur  glanced  at  them,  wondering  what  all  this  was  leading  up  to.    
"But  we've  got  to  have  a  product  you  see,"  said  Frankie,  "I  mean  
ideally  we  still  need  the  Ultimate  Question  in  some  form  or  other."    
Zaphod  leaned  forward  to  Arthur.    
"You  see,"  he  said,  "if  they're  just  sitting  there  in  the  studio  looking  
very  relaxed  and,  you  know,  just  mentioning  that  they  happen  to  
know  the  Answer  to  Life,  the  Universe  and  Everything,  and  then  
eventually  have  to  admit  that  in  fact  it's  Forty-­‐two,  then  the  show's  
probably  quite  short.  No  follow-­‐up,  you  see."    
"We  have  to  have  something  that  sounds  good,"  said  Benji.    
"Something  that  sounds  good?"  exclaimed  Arthur.  "An  Ultimate  
Question  that  sounds  good?  From  a  couple  of  mice?"    
The  mice  bristled.    
"Well,  I  mean,  yes  idealism,  yes  the  dignity  of  pure  research,  yes  
the  pursuit  of  truth  in  all  its  forms,  but  there  comes  a  point  I'm  afraid  
where  you  begin  to  suspect  that  if  there's  any  real  truth,  it's  that  the  
entire  multi-­‐dimensional  infinity  of  the  Universe  is  almost  certainly  
being  run  by  a  bunch  of  maniacs.  And  if  it  comes  to  a  choice  between  
spending  yet  another  ten  million  years  finding  that  out,  and  on  the  
other  hand  just  taking  the  money  and  running,  then  I  for  one  could  do  
with  the  exercise,"  said  Frankie.    
"But..."  started  Arthur,  hopelessly.    
"Hey,  will  you  get  this,  Earthman,"  interrupted  Zaphod.  "You  are  a  
last  generation  product  of  that  computer  matrix,  right,  and  you  were  
there  right  up  to  the  moment  your  planet  got  the  finger,  yeah?"    
"So  your  brain  was  an  organic  part  of  the  penultimate  
configuration  of  the  computer  programme,"  said  Ford,  rather  lucidly  
he  thought.    
"Right?"  said  Zaphod.    
"Well,"  said  Arthur  doubtfully.  He  wasn't  aware  of  ever  having  felt  
an  organic  part  of  anything.  He  had  always  seen  this  as  one  of  his  
"In  other  words,"  said  Benji,  steering  his  curious  little  vehicle  right  
over  to  Arthur,  "there's  a  good  chance  that  the  structure  of  the  
question  is  encoded  in  the  structure  of  your  brain  ʹ  so  we  want  to  buy  
it  off  you."    

"What,  the  question?"  said  Arthur.    
"Yes,"  said  Ford  and  Trillian.    
"For  lots  of  money,"  said  Zaphod.    
"No,  no,"  said  Frankie,  "it's  the  brain  we  want  to  buy."    
"I  thought  you  said  you  could  just  read  his  brain  electronically,"  
protested  Ford.    
"Oh  yes,"  said  Frankie,  "but  we'd  have  to  get  it  out  first.  It's  got  to  
be  prepared."    
"Treated,"  said  Benji.    
"Thank  you,"  shouted  Arthur,  tipping  up  his  chair  and  backing  away  
from  the  table  in  horror.    
"It  could  always  be  replaced,"  said  Benji  reasonably,  "if  you  think  
it's  important."    
"Yes,  an  electronic  brain,"  said  Frankie,  "a  simple  one  would  
"A  simple  one!"  wailed  Arthur.    
"Yeah,"  said  Zaphod  with  a  sudden  evil  grin,  "you'd  just  have  to  
program  it  to  say  What?  and  I  don't  understand  and  Where's  the  tea?  
who'd  know  the  difference?"    
"What?"  cried  Arthur,  backing  away  still  further.    
"See  what  I  mean?"  said  Zaphod  and  howled  with  pain  because  of  
something  that  Trillian  did  at  that  moment.    
"I'd  notice  the  difference,"  said  Arthur.    
"No  you  wouldn't,"  said  Frankie  mouse,  "you'd  be  programmed  not  
Ford  made  for  the  door.    
"Look,  I'm  sorry,  mice  old  lads,"  he  said.  "I  don't  think  we've  got  a  
"I  rather  think  we  have  to  have  a  deal,"  said  the  mice  in  chorus,  all  
the  charm  vanishing  fro  their  piping  little  voices  in  an  instant.  With  a  
tiny  whining  shriek  their  two  glass  transports  lifted  themselves  off  the  
table,  and  swung  through  the  air  towards  Arthur,  who  stumbled  
further  backwards  into  a  blind  corner,  utterly  unable  to  cope  or  think  
of  anything.    

Trillian  grabbed  him  desperately  by  the  arm  and  tried  to  drag  him  
towards  the  door,  which  Ford  and  Zaphod  were  struggling  to  open,  
but  Arthur  was  dead  weight  ʹ  he  seemed  hypnotized  by  the  airborne  
rodents  swooping  towards  him.    
She  screamed  at  him,  but  he  just  gaped.    
With  one  more  yank,  Ford  and  Zaphod  got  the  door  open.  On  the  
other  side  of  it  was  a  small  pack  of  rather  ugly  men  who  they  could  
only  assume  were  the  heavy  mob  of  Magrathea.  Not  only  were  they  
ugly  themselves,  but  the  medical  equipment  they  carried  with  them  
was  also  far  from  pretty.  They  charged.    
So  ʹ  Arthur  was  about  to  have  his  head  cut  open,  Trillian  was  
unable  to  help  him,  and  Ford  and  Zaphod  were  about  to  be  set  upon  
by  several  thugs  a  great  deal  heavier  and  more  sharply  armed  than  
they  were.    
All  in  all  it  was  extremely  fortunate  that  at  that  moment  every  
alarm  on  the  planet  burst  into  an  earsplitting  din.    


Chapter  32    

"Emergency!  Emergency!"  blared  the  klaxons  throughout  
Magrathea.  "Hostile  ship  has  landed  on  planet.  Armed  intruders  in  
section  8A.  Defence  stations,  defence  stations!"    
The  two  mice  sniffed  irritably  round  the  fragments  of  their  glass  
transports  where  they  lay  shattered  on  the  floor.    
"Damnation,"  muttered  Frankie  mouse,  "all  that  fuss  over  two  
pounds  of  Earthling  brain."  He  scuttled  round  and  about,  his  pink  eyes  
flashing,  his  fine  white  coat  bristling  with  static.    
"The  only  thing  we  can  do  now,"  said  Benji,  crouching  and  stroking  
his  whiskers  in  thought,  "is  to  try  and  fake  a  question,  invent  one  that  
will  sound  plausible."    
"Difficult,"  said  Frankie.  He  thought.  "How  about  What's  yellow  and  
Benji  considered  this  for  a  moment.    
"No,  no  good,"  he  said.  "Doesn't  fit  the  answer."    
They  sank  into  silence  for  a  few  seconds.    
"Alright,"  said  Benji.  "What  do  you  get  if  you  multiply  six  by  
"No,  no,  too  literal,  too  factual,"  said  Frankie,  "wouldn't  sustain  the  
punters'  interest."    
Again  they  thought.    
Then  Frankie  said:  "Here's  a  thought.  How  many  roads  must  a  man  
walk  down?"    
"Ah,"  said  Benji.  "Aha,  now  that  does  sound  promising!"  He  rolled  
the  phrase  around  a  little.  "Yes,"  he  said,  "that's  excellent!  Sounds  
very  significant  without  actually  tying  you  down  to  meaning  anything  
at  all.  How  many  roads  must  a  man  walk  down?  Forty-­‐two.  Excellent,  
excellent,  that'll  fox  'em.  Frankie  baby,  we  are  made!"    
They  performed  a  scampering  dance  in  their  excitement.    

Near  them  on  the  floor  lay  several  rather  ugly  men  who  had  been  
hit  about  the  head  with  some  heavy  design  awards.    
Half  a  mile  away,  four  figures  pounded  up  a  corridor  looking  for  a  
way  out.  They  emerged  into  a  wide  open-­‐plan  computer  bay.  They  
glanced  about  wildly.    
"Which  way  do  you  reckon  Zaphod?"  said  Ford.    
"At  a  wild  guess,  I'd  say  down  here,"  said  Zaphod,  running  off  down  
to  the  right  between  a  computer  bank  and  the  wall.  As  the  others  
started  after  him  he  was  brought  up  short  by  a  Kill-­‐O-­‐Zap  energy  bolt  
that  cracked  through  the  air  inches  in  front  of  him  and  fried  a  small  
section  of  adjacent  wall.    
A  voice  on  a  loud  hailer  said,  "OK  Beeblebrox,  hold  it  right  there.  
We've  got  you  covered."    
"Cops!"  hissed  Zaphod,  and  span  around  in  a  crouch.  "You  want  to  
try  a  guess  at  all,  Ford?"    
"OK,  this  way,"  said  Ford,  and  the  four  of  them  ran  down  a  
gangway  between  two  computer  banks.    
At  the  end  of  the  gangway  appeared  a  heavily  armoured  and  
space-­‐suited  figure  waving  a  vicious  Kill-­‐O-­‐Zap  gun.    
"We  don't  want  to  shoot  you,  Beeblebrox!"  shouted  the  figure.    
"Suits  me  fine!"  shouted  Zaphod  back  and  dived  down  a  wide  gap  
between  two  data  process  units.    
The  others  swerved  in  behind  him.    
"There  are  two  of  them,"  said  Trillian.  "We're  cornered."    
They  squeezed  themselves  down  in  an  angle  between  a  large  
computer  data  bank  and  the  wall.    
They  held  their  breath  and  waited.    
Suddenly  the  air  exploded  with  energy  bolts  as  both  the  cops  
opened  fire  on  them  simultaneously.    
"Hey,  they're  shooting  at  us,"  said  Arthur,  crouching  in  a  tight  ball,  
"I  thought  they  said  they  didn't  want  to  do  that."    
"Yeah,  I  thought  they  said  that,"  agreed  Ford.    
Zaphod  stuck  a  head  up  for  a  dangerous  moment.    
"Hey,"  he  said,  "I  thought  you  said  you  didn't  want  to  shoot  us!"  
and  ducked  again.    
They  waited.    

After  a  moment  a  voice  replied,  "It  isn't  easy  being  a  cop!"    
"What  did  he  say?"  whispered  Ford  in  astonishment.    
"He  said  it  isn't  easy  being  a  cop."    
"Well  surely  that's  his  problem  isn't  it?"    
"I'd  have  thought  so."    
Ford  shouted  out,  "Hey  listen!  I  think  we've  got  enough  problems  
on  our  own  having  you  shooting  at  us,  so  if  you  could  avoid  laying  
your  problems  on  us  as  well,  I  think  we'd  all  find  it  easier  to  cope!"    
Another  pause,  and  then  the  loud  hailer  again.    
"Now  see  here,  guy,"  said  the  voice  on  the  loud  hailer,  "you're  not  
dealing  with  any  dumb  two-­‐bit  trigger-­‐pumping  morons  with  low  
hairlines,  little  piggy  eyes  and  no  conversation,  we're  a  couple  of  
intelligent  caring  guys  that  you'd  probably  quite  like  if  you  met  us  
socially!  I  don't  go  around  gratuitously  shooting  people  and  then  
bragging  about  it  afterwards  in  seedy  space-­‐rangers  bars,  like  some  
cops  I  could  mention!  I  go  around  shooting  people  gratuitously  and  
then  I  agonize  about  it  afterwards  for  hours  to  my  girlfriend!"    
"And  I  write  novels!"  chimed  in  the  other  cop.  "Though  I  haven't  
had  any  of  them  published  yet,  so  I  better  warn  you,  I'm  in  a  meeeean  
Ford's  eyes  popped  halfway  out  of  their  sockets.  "Who  are  these  
guys?"  he  said.    
"Dunno,"  said  Zaphod,  "I  think  I  preferred  it  when  they  were  
"So  are  you  going  to  come  quietly,"  shouted  one  of  the  cops  again,  
"or  are  you  going  to  let  us  blast  you  out?"    
"Which  would  you  prefer?"  shouted  Ford.    
A  millisecond  later  the  air  about  them  started  to  fry  again,  as  bolt  
after  bolt  of  Kill-­‐O-­‐Zap  hurled  itself  into  the  computer  bank  in  front  of  
The  fusillade  continued  for  several  seconds  at  unbearable  intensity.    
When  it  stopped,  there  were  a  few  seconds  of  near  quietness  ad  
the  echoes  died  away.    
"You  still  there?"  called  one  of  the  cops.    
"Yes,"  they  called  back.    
"We  didn't  enjoy  doing  that  at  all,"  shouted  the  other  cop.    

"We  could  tell,"  shouted  Ford.    
"Now,  listen  to  this,  Beeblebrox,  and  you  better  listen  good!"    
"Why?"  shouted  Back  Zaphod.    
"Because,"  shouted  the  cop,  "it's  going  to  be  very  intelligent,  and  
quite  interesting  and  humane!  Now  either  you  all  give  yourselves  up  
now  and  let  us  beat  you  up  a  bit,  though  not  very  much  of  course  
because  we  are  firmly  opposed  to  needless  violence,  or  we  blow  up  
this  entire  planet  and  possibly  one  or  two  others  we  noticed  on  our  
way  out  here!"    
"But  that's  crazy!"  cried  Trillian.  "You  wouldn't  do  that!"    
"Oh  yes  we  would,"  shouted  the  cop,  "wouldn't  we?"  he  asked  the  
other  one.    
"Oh  yes,  we'd  have  to,  no  question,"  the  other  one  called  back.    
"But  why?"  demanded  Trillian.    
"Because  there  are  some  things  you  have  to  do  even  if  you  are  an  
enlightened  liberal  cop  who  knows  all  about  sensitivity  and  
"I  just  don't  believe  these  guys,"  muttered  Ford,  shaking  his  head.    
One  cop  shouted  to  the  other,  "Shall  we  shoot  them  again  for  a  
"Yeah,  why  not?"    
They  let  fly  another  electric  barrage.    
The  heat  and  noise  was  quite  fantastic.  Slowly,  the  computer  bank  
was  beginning  to  disintegrate.  The  front  had  almost  all  melted  away,  
and  thick  rivulets  of  molten  metal  were  winding  their  way  back  
towards  where  they  were  squatting.  They  huddled  further  back  and  
waited  for  the  end.    


Chapter  33    

But  the  end  never  came,  at  least  not  then.    
Quite  suddenly  the  barrage  stopped,  and  the  sudden  silence  
afterwards  was  punctuated  by  a  couple  of  strangled  gurgles  and  thuds.    
The  four  stared  at  each  other.    
"What  happened?"  said  Arthur.    
"They  stopped,"  said  Zaphod  with  a  shrug.    
"Dunno,  do  you  want  to  go  and  ask  them?"    
They  waited.    
"Hello?"  called  out  Ford.    
No  answer.    
"That's  odd."    
"Perhaps  it's  a  trap."    
"They  haven't  the  wit."    
"What  were  those  thuds?"    
They  waited  for  a  few  more  seconds.    
"Right,"  said  Ford,  "I'm  going  to  have  a  look."    
He  glanced  round  at  the  others.    
"Is  no  one  going  to  say,  No  you  can't  possibly,  let  me  go  instead?"    
They  all  shook  their  heads.    
"Oh  well,"  he  said,  and  stood  up.    
For  a  moment,  nothing  happened.    
Then,  after  a  second  or  so,  nothing  continued  to  happen.  Ford  
peered  through  the  thick  smoke  that  was  billowing  out  of  the  burning  
Cautiously  he  stepped  out  into  the  open.    

Still  nothing  happened.    
Twenty  yards  away  he  could  dimly  see  through  the  smoke  the  
space-­‐suited  figure  of  one  of  the  cops.  He  was  lying  in  a  crumpled  
heap  on  the  ground.  Twenty  yards  in  the  other  direction  lay  the  
second  man.  No  one  else  was  anywhere  to  be  seen.    
This  struck  Ford  as  being  extremely  odd.    
Slowly,  nervously,  he  walked  towards  the  first  one.  The  body  lay  
reassuringly  still  as  he  approached  it,  and  continued  to  lie  reassuringly  
still  as  he  reached  it  and  put  his  foot  down  on  the  Kill-­‐O-­‐Zap  gun  that  
still  dangled  from  its  limp  fingers.    
He  reached  down  and  picked  it  up,  meeting  no  resistance.    
The  cop  was  quite  clearly  dead.    
A  quick  examination  revealed  him  to  be  from  Blagulon  Kappa  ʹ  he  
was  a  methane-­‐breathing  life  form,  dependent  on  his  space  suit  for  
survival  in  the  thin  oxygen  atmosphere  of  Magrathea.    
The  tiny  life-­‐support  system  computer  on  his  backpack  appeared  
unexpectedly  to  have  blown  up.    
Ford  poked  around  in  it  in  considerable  astonishment.  These  
miniature  suit  computers  usually  had  the  full  back-­‐up  of  the  main  
computer  back  on  the  ship,  with  which  they  were  directly  linked  
through  the  sub-­‐etha.  Such  a  system  was  fail-­‐safe  in  all  circumstances  
other  than  total  feedback  malfunction,  which  was  unheard  of.    
He  hurried  over  to  the  other  prone  figure,  and  discovered  that  
exactly  the  same  impossible  thing  had  happened  to  him,  presumably  
He  called  the  others  over  to  look.  They  came,  shared  his  
astonishment,  but  not  his  curiosity.    
"Let's  get  shot  out  of  this  hole,"  said  Zaphod.  "If  whatever  I'm  
supposed  to  be  looking  for  is  here,  I  don't  want  it."  He  grabbed  the  
second  Kill-­‐O-­‐Zap  gun,  blasted  a  perfectly  harmless  accounting  
computer  and  rushed  out  into  the  corridor,  followed  by  the  others.  
He  very  nearly  blasted  hell  out  of  an  aircar  that  stood  waiting  for  
them  a  few  yards  away.    
The  aircar  was  empty,  but  Arthur  recognized  it  as  belonging  to  

It  had  a  note  from  him  pinned  to  part  of  its  sparse  instrument  
panel.  The  note  had  an  arrow  drawn  on  it,  pointing  at  one  of  the  
It  said,  This  is  probably  the  best  button  to  press.    


Chapter  34    

The  aircar  rocketed  them  at  speeds  in  excess  of  R17  through  the  
steel  tunnels  that  lead  out  onto  the  appalling  surface  of  the  planet  
which  was  now  in  the  grip  of  yet  another  drear  morning  twilight.  
Ghastly  grey  lights  congealed  on  the  land.    
R  is  a  velocity  measure,  defined  as  a  reasonable  speed  of  travel  
that  is  consistent  with  health,  mental  wellbeing  and  not  being  more  
than  say  five  minutes  late.  It  is  therefore  clearly  an  almost  infinitely  
variable  figure  according  to  circumstances,  since  the  first  two  factors  
vary  not  only  with  speed  taken  as  an  absolute,  but  also  with  
awareness  of  the  third  factor.  Unless  handled  with  tranquility  this  
equation  can  result  in  considerable  stress,  ulcers  and  even  death.    
R17  is  not  a  fixed  velocity,  but  it  is  clearly  far  too  fast.    
The  aircar  flung  itself  through  the  air  at  R17  and  above,  deposited  
them  next  to  the  Heart  of  Gold  which  stood  starkly  on  the  frozen  
ground  like  a  bleached  bone,  and  then  precipitately  hurled  itself  back  
in  the  direction  whence  they  had  come,  presumably  on  important  
business  of  its  own.    
Shivering,  the  four  of  them  stood  and  looked  at  the  ship.    
Beside  it  stood  another  one.    
It  was  the  Blagulon  Kappa  policecraft,  a  bulbous  sharklike  affair,  
slate  green  in  colour  and  smothered  with  black  stencilled  letters  of  
varying  degrees  of  size  and  unfriendliness.  The  letters  informed  
anyone  who  cared  to  read  them  as  to  where  the  ship  was  from,  what  
section  of  the  police  it  was  assigned  to,  and  where  the  power  feeds  
should  be  connected.    
It  seemed  somehow  unnaturally  dark  and  silent,  even  for  a  ship  
whose  two-­‐man  crew  was  at  that  moment  lying  asphyxicated  in  a  
smoke-­‐filled  chamber  several  miles  beneath  the  ground.  It  is  one  of  
those  curious  things  that  is  impossible  to  explain  or  define,  but  one  
can  sense  when  a  ship  is  completely  dead.    

Ford  could  sense  it  and  found  it  most  mysterious  ʹ  a  ship  and  two  
policemen  seemed  to  have  gone  spontaneously  dead.  In  his  
experience  the  Universe  simply  didn't  work  like  that.    
The  other  three  could  sense  it  too,  but  they  could  sense  the  bitter  
cold  even  more  and  hurried  back  into  the  Heart  of  Gold  suffering  from  
an  acute  attack  of  no  curiosity.    
Ford  stayed,  and  went  to  examine  the  Blagulon  ship.  As  he  walked,  
he  nearly  tripped  over  an  inert  steel  figure  lying  face  down  in  the  cold  
"Marvin!"  he  exclaimed.  "What  are  you  doing?"    
"Don't  feel  you  have  to  take  any  notice  of  me,  please,"  came  a  
muffled  drone.    
"But  how  are  you,  metalman?"  said  Ford.    
"Very  depressed."    
"What's  up?"    
"I  don't  know,"  said  Marvin,  "I've  never  been  there."    
"Why,"  said  Ford  squatting  down  beside  him  and  shivering,  "are  
you  lying  face  down  in  the  dust?"    
"It's  a  very  effective  way  of  being  wretched,"  said  Marvin.  "Don't  
pretend  you  want  to  talk  to  me,  I  know  you  hate  me."    
"No  I  don't."    
"Yes  you  do,  everybody  does.  It's  part  of  the  shape  of  the  Universe.  
I  only  have  to  talk  to  somebody  and  they  begin  to  hate  me.  Even  
robots  hate  me.  If  you  just  ignore  me  I  expect  I  shall  probably  go  
He  jacked  himself  up  to  his  feet  and  stood  resolutely  facing  the  
opposite  direction.    
"That  ship  hated  me,"  he  said  dejectedly,  indicating  the  policecraft.    
"That  ship?"  said  Ford  in  sudden  excitement.  "What  happened  to  it?  
Do  you  know?"    
"It  hated  me  because  I  talked  to  it."    
"You  talked  to  it?"  exclaimed  Ford.  "What  do  you  mean  you  talked  
to  it?"    
"Simple.  I  got  very  bored  and  depressed,  so  I  went  and  plugged  
myself  in  to  its  external  computer  feed.  I  talked  to  the  computer  at  
great  length  and  explained  my  view  of  the  Universe  to  it,"  said  Marvin.    

"And  what  happened?"  pressed  Ford.    
"It  committed  suicide,"  said  Marvin  and  stalked  off  back  to  the  
Heart  of  Gold.    


Chapter  35    

That  night,  as  the  Heart  of  Gold  was  busy  putting  a  few  light  years  
between  itself  and  the  Horsehead  Nebula,  Zaphod  lounged  under  the  
small  palm  tree  on  the  bridge  trying  to  bang  his  brain  into  shape  with  
massive  Pan  Galactic  Gargle  Blasters;  Ford  and  Trillian  sat  in  a  corner  
discussing  life  and  matters  arising  from  it;  and  Arthur  took  to  his  bed  
to  flip  through  Ford's  copy  of  The  Hitchhiker's  Guide  to  the  Galaxy.  
Since  he  was  going  to  live  in  the  place,  he  reasoned,  he'd  better  start  
finding  out  something  about  it.    
He  came  across  this  entry.    
It  said:  'The  History  of  every  major  Galactic  Civilization  tends  to  
pass  through  three  distinct  and  recognizable  phases,  those  of  Survival,  
Inquiry  and  Sophistication,  otherwise  known  as  the  How,  Why  and  
Where  phases."    
"For  instance,  the  first  phase  is  characterized  by  the  question  How  
can  we  eat?  the  second  by  the  question  Why  do  we  eat?  and  the  third  
by  the  question  Where  shall  we  have  lunch?"    
He  got  no  further  before  the  ship's  intercom  buzzed  into  life.    
"Hey  Earthman?  You  hungry  kid?"  said  Zaphod's  voice.    
"Er,  well  yes,  a  little  peckish  I  suppose,"  said  Arthur.    
"OK  baby,  hold  tight,"  said  Zaphod.  "We'll  take  in  a  quick  bite  at  the  
Restaurant  at  the  End  of  the  Universe."    


Source Exif Data:
File Type                       : PDF
File Type Extension             : pdf
MIME Type                       : application/pdf
PDF Version                     : 1.4
Linearized                      : No
Page Count                      : 171
Producer                        :
Modify Date                     : 2018:08:31 19:13:45+02:00
EXIF Metadata provided by

Navigation menu