Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams


  They hadn't reckoned with the attendant personality disorders, which the coldness, the darkness, the dampness, the crampedness and the loneliness were doing nothing to decrease.

  It was not happy with its task.

  Apart from anything else, the mere coordination of an entire planet's military strategy was taking up only a tiny part of its formidable mind, and the rest of it had become extremely bored. Having solved all the major mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical, etymological, meteorological and psychological problems of the Universe except his own, three times over, he was severely stuck for something to do, and had taken up composing short dolorous ditties of no tone, or indeed tune. The latest one was a lullaby.

  Marvin droned:

  Now the world has gone to bed,

  Darkness won't engulf my head,

  I can see by infra-red,

  How I hate the night.

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

  Now I lay me down to sleep,

  Try to count electric sheep,

  Sweet dream wishes you can keep,

  How I hate the night.

  - Marvin! - hissed a voice.

  His head snapped up, almost dislodging the intricate network of electrodes which connected him to the central Krikkit War Computer.

  An inspection hatch had opened and one of a pair of unruly heads was peering through whilst the other kept on jogging it by continually darting to look this way and that extremely nervously.

  - Oh, it's you, - muttered the robot. - I might have known.

  - Hey, kid, - said Zaphod in astonishment, - was that you singing just then?

  - I am, - Marvin acknowledged bitterly, - in particularly scintillating form at the moment.

  Zaphod poked his head in through the hatchway and looked around.

  - Are you alone? - he said.

  - Yes, - said Marvin. - Wearily I sit here, pain and misery my only companions. And vast intelligence of course. And infinite sorrow. And...

  - Yeah, - said Zaphod. - Hey, what's your connection with all this?

  - This, - said Marvin, indicating with his less damaged arm all the electrodes which connected him with the Krikkit computer.

  - Then, - said Zaphod awkwardly, - I guess you must have saved my life. Twice.

  - Three times, - said Marvin.

  Zaphod's head snapped round (his other one was looking hawkishly in entirely the wrong direction) just in time to see the lethal killer robot directly behind him seize up and start to smoke. It staggered backwards and slumped against a wall. It slid down it. It slipped sideways, threw its head back and started to sob inconsolably.

  Zaphod looked back at Marvin.

  - You must have a terrific outlook on life, - he said.

  - Just don't even ask, - said Marvin.

  - I won't, - said Zaphod, and didn't. - Hey look, - he added, - you're doing a terrific job.

  - Which means, I suppose, - said Marvin, requiring only one ten thousand million billion trillion grillionth part of his mental powers to make this particular logical leap, - that you're not going to release me or anything like that.

  - Kid, you know I'd love to.

  - But you're not going to.

  - No.

  - I see.

  - You're working well.

  - Yes, - said Marvin. - Why stop now just when I'm hating it?

  - I got to find Trillian and the guys. Hey, you any idea where they are? I mean, I just got a planet to choose from. Could take a while.

  - They are very close, - said Marvin dolefully. - You can monitor them from here if you like.

  - I better go get them, - asserted Zaphod. - Er, maybe they need some help, right?

  - Maybe, - said Marvin with unexpected authority in his lugubrious voice, - it would be better if you monitored them from here. That young girl, - he added unexpectedly, - is one of the least benightedly unintelligent life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting.

  Zaphod took a moment or two to find his way through this labyrinthine string of negatives and emerged at the other end with surprise.

  - Trillian? - he said. - She's just a kid. Cute, yeah, but temperamental. You know how it is with women. Or perhaps you don't. I assume you don't. If you do I don't want to hear about it. Plug us in.

  -...totally manipulated.

  - What? - said Zaphod.

  It was Trillian speaking. He turned round.

  The wall against which the Krikkit robot was sobbing had lit up to reveal a scene taking place in some other unknown part of the Krikkit Robot War zones. It seemed to be a council chamber of some kind - Zaphod couldn't make it out too clearly because of the robot slumped against the screen.

  He tried to move the robot, but it was heavy with its grief and tried to bite him, so he just looked around as best he could.

  - Just think about it, - said Trillian's voice, - your history is just a series of freakishly improbable events. And I know an improbable event when I see one. Your complete isolation from the Galaxy was freakish for a start. Right out on the very edge with a Dust Cloud around you. It's a set-up. Obviously.

  Zaphod was mad with frustration because he couldn't see the screen. The robot's head was obscuring his view of the people Trillian as talking to, his multi-functional battleclub was obscuring the background, and the elbow of the arm it had pressed tragically against its brow was obscuring Trillian herself.

  - Then, - said Trillian, - this spaceship that crash-landed on your planet. That's really likely, isn't it? Have you any idea of what the odds are against a drifting spaceship accidentally intersecting with the orbit of a planet?

  - Hey, - said Zaphod, - she doesn't know what the zark she's talking about. I've seen that spaceship. It's a fake. No deal.

  - I thought it might be, - said Marvin from his prison behind Zaphod.

  - Oh yeah, - said Zaphod. - It's easy for you to say that. I just told you. Anyway, I don't see what it's got to do with anything.

  - And especially, - continued Trillian, - the odds against it intersecting with the orbit of the one planet in the Galaxy, or the whole of the Universe as far as I know, that would be totally traumatized to see it. You don't know what the odds are? Nor do I, they're that big. Again, it's a set-up. I wouldn't be surprised if that spaceship was just a fake.

  Zaphod managed to move the robot's battleclub. Behind it on the screen were the figures of Ford, Arthur and Slartibartfast who appeared astonished and bewildered by the whole thing.

  - Hey, look, - said Zaphod excitedly. - The guys are doing great. Ra ra ra! Go get 'em, guys.

  - And what about, - said Trillian, - all this technology you suddenly managed to build for yourselves almost overnight? Most people would take thousands of years to do all that. Someone was feeding you what you needed to know, someone was keeping you at it.

  - I know, I know, - she added in response to an unseen interruption, - I know you didn't realize it was going on. This is exactly my point. You never realized anything at all. Like this Supernova Bomb.

  - How do you know about that? - said an unseen voice.

  - I just know, - said Trillian. - You expect me to believe that you are bright enough to invent something that brilliant and be too dumb to realize it would take you with it as well? That's not just stupid, that is spectacularly obtuse.

  - Hey, what's this bomb thing? - said Zaphod in alarm to Marvin.

  - The supernova bomb? - said Marvin. - It's a very, very small bomb.

  - Yeah?

  - That would destroy the Universe in toto, - added Marvin. - Good idea, if you ask me. They won't get it to work, though.

  - Why not, if it's so brilliant?

  - It's brilliant, - said Marvin, - they're not. They got as far as designing it before they were locked in the envelope. They've spent the last five years building it. They think they've got it right but they haven't. They're as stupid as any other organic lif
e form. I hate them.

  Trillian was continuing.

  Zaphod tried to pull the Krikkit robot away by its leg, but it kicked and growled at him, and then quaked with a fresh outburst of sobbing. Then suddenly it slumped over and continued to express its feelings out of everybody's way on the floor.

  Trillian was standing alone in the middle of the chamber tired out but with fiercely burning eyes.

  Ranged in front of her were the pale-faced and wrinkled Elder Masters of Krikkit, motionless behind their widely curved control desk, staring at her with helpless fear and hatred.

  In front of them, equidistant between their control desk and the middle of the chamber, where Trillian stood, as if on trial, was a slim white pillar about four feet tall. On top of it stood a small white globe, about three, maybe four inches in diameter.

  Beside it stood a Krikkit robot with its multi-functional battleclub.

  - In fact, - explained Trillian, - you are so dumb stupid - (She was sweating. Zaphod felt that this was an unattractive thing for her to be doing at this point) - you are all so dumb stupid that I doubt, I very much doubt, that you've been able to build the bomb properly without any help from Hactar for the last five years.

  - Who's this guy Hactar? - said Zaphod, squaring his shoulders.

  If Marvin replied, Zaphod didn't hear him. All his attention was concentrated on the screen.

  One of the Elders of Krikkit made a small motion with his hand towards the Krikkit robot. The robot raised his club.

  - There's nothing I can do, - said Marvin. - It's on an independent circuit from the others.

  - Wait, - said Trillian.

  The Elder made a small motion. The robot halted. Trillian suddenly seemed very doubtful of her own judgment.

  - How do you know all this? - said Zaphod to Marvin at this point.

  - Computer records, - said Marvin. - I have access.

  - You're very different, aren't you, - said Trillian to the Elder Masters, - from your fellow worldlings down on the ground. You've spent all your lives up here, unprotected by the atmosphere. You've been very vulnerable. The rest of your race is very frightened, you know, they don't want you to do this. You're out of touch, why don't you check up?

  The Krikkit Elder grew impatient. He made a gesture to the robot which was precisely the opposite of the gesture he had last made to it.

  The robot swung its battleclub. It hit the small white globe.

  The small white globe was the supernova bomb.

  It was a very, very small bomb which was designed to bring the entire Universe to an end.

  The supernova bomb flew through the air. It hit the back wall of the council chamber and dented it very badly.

  - So how does she know all this? - said Zaphod.

  Marvin kept a sullen silence.

  - Probably just bluffing, - said Zaphod. - Poor kid, I should never have left her alone.

  Chapter 32

  - Hactar! - called Trillian. - What are you up to?

  There was no reply from the enclosing darkness. Trillian waited, nervously. She was sure that she couldn't be wrong. She peered into the gloom from which she had been expecting some kind of response. But there was only cold silence.

  - Hactar? - she called again. - I would like you to meet my friend Arthur Dent. I wanted to go off with a Thunder God, but he wouldn't let me and I appreciate that. He made me realize where my affections really lay. Unfortunately Zaphod is too frightened by all this, so I brought Arthur instead. I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this.

  - Hello? - she said again. - Hactar?

  And then it came.

  It was thin and feeble, like a voice carried on the wind from a great distance, half heard, a memory of a dream of a voice.

  - Won't you both come out, - said the voice. - I promise that you will be perfectly safe.

  They glanced at each other, and then stepped out, improbably, along the shaft of light which streamed out of the open hatchway of the Heart of Gold into the dim granular darkness of the Dust Cloud.

  Arthur tried to hold her hand to steady and reassure her, but she wouldn't let him. He held on to his airline hold-all with its tin of Greek olive oil, its towel, its crumpled postcards of Santorini and its other odds and ends. He steadied and reassured that instead.

  They were standing on, and in, nothing.

  Murky, dusty nothing. Each grain of dust of the pulverized computer sparkled dimly as it turned and twisted slowly, catching the sunlight in the darkness. Each particle of the computer, each speck of dust, held within itself, faintly and weakly, the pattern of the whole. In reducing the computer to dust the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax had merely crippled the computer, not killed it. A weak and insubstantial field held the particles in slight relationships with each other.

  Arthur and Trillian stood, or rather floated, in the middle of this bizarre entity. They had nothing to breathe, but for the moment this seemed not to matter. Hactar kept his promise. They were safe. For the moment.

  - I have nothing to offer you by way of hospitality, - said Hactar faintly, - but tricks of the light. It is possible to be comfortable with tricks of the light, though, if that is all you have.

  His voice evanesced, and in the dark dust a long velvet paisley-covered sofa coalesced into hazy shape.

  Arthur could hardly bear the fact that it was the same sofa which had appeared to him in the fields of prehistoric Earth. He wanted to shout and shake with rage that the Universe kept doing these insanely bewildering things to him.

  He let this feeling subside, and then sat on the sofa - carefully. Trillian sat on it too.

  It was real.

  At least, if it wasn't real, it did support them, and as that is what sofas are supposed to do, this, by any test that mattered, was a real sofa.

  The voice on the solar wind breathed to them again.

  - I hope you are comfortable, - it said.

  They nodded.

  - And I would like to congratulate you on the accuracy of your deductions.

  Arthur quickly pointed out that he hadn't deduced anything much himself, Trillian was the one. She had simply asked him along because he was interested in life, the Universe, and everything.

  - That is something in which I too am interested, - breathed Hactar.

  - Well, - said Arthur, - we should have a chat about it sometime. Over a cup of tea.

  There slowly materialized in front of them a small wooden table on which sat a silver teapot, a bone china milk jug, a bone china sugar bowl, and two bone china cups and saucers.

  Arthur reached forward, but they were just a trick of the light. He leaned back on the sofa, which was an illusion his body was prepared to accept as comfortable.

  - Why, - said Trillian, - do you feel you have to destroy the Universe?

  She found it a little difficult talking into nothingness, with nothing on which to focus. Hactar obviously noticed this. He chuckled a ghostly chuckle.

  - If it's going to be that sort of session, - he said, - we may as well have the right sort of setting.

  And now there materialized in front of them something new. It was the dim hazy image of a couch - a psychiatrist's couch. The leather with which it was upholstered was shiny and sumptuous, but again, it was only a trick of the light.

  Around them, to complete the setting, was the hazy suggestion of wood-panelled walls. And then, on the couch, appeared the image of Hactar himself, and it was an eye-twisting image.

  The couch looked normal size for a psychiatrist's couch - about five or six feet long.

  The computer looked normal size for a black space-borne computer satellite - about a thousand miles across.

  The illusion that the one was sitting on top of the other was the thing which made the eyes twist.

  - All right, - said Trillian firmly. She stood up off the sofa. She felt that she was being asked to feel too comfortable and to accept too many illusions.

  - Very good, - she said. - Can you construct real things too? I
mean solid objects?

  Again there was a pause before the answer, as if the pulverized mind of Hactar had to collect its thoughts from the millions and millions of miles over which it was scattered.

  - Ah, - he sighed. - You are thinking of the spaceship.

  Thoughts seemed to drift by them and through them, like waves through the ether.

  - Yes, - he acknowledge, - I can.

  - But it takes enormous effort and time. All I can do in my... particle state, you see, is encourage and suggest. Encourage and suggest. And suggest...

  The image of Hactar on the couch seemed to billow and waver, as if finding it hard to maintain itself.

  It gathered new strength.

  - I can encourage and suggest, - it said, - tiny pieces of space debris the odd minute meteor, a few molecules here, a few hydrogen atoms there - to move together. I encourage them together. I can tease them into shape, but it takes many aeons.

  - So, did you make, - asked Trillian again, - the model of the wrecked spacecraft?

  - Er... yes, - murmured Hactar. - I have made... a few things. I can move them about. I made the spacecraft. It seemed best to do.

  Something then made Arthur pick up his hold-all from where he had left it on the sofa and grasp it tightly.

  The mist of Hactar's ancient shattered mind swirled about them as if uneasy dreams were moving through it.

  - I repented, you see, - he murmured dolefully. - I repented of sabotaging my own design for the Silastic Armorfiends. It was not my place to make such decisions. I was created to fulfill a function and I failed in it. I negated my own existence.

  Hactar sighed, and they waited in silence for him to continue his story.

  - You were right, - he said at length. - I deliberately nurtured the planet of Krikkit till they would arrive at the same state of mind as the Silastic Armorfiends, and require of me the design of the bomb I failed to make the first time. I wrapped myself around the planet and coddled it. Under the influence of events I was able to generate, they learned to hate like maniacs. I had to make them live in the sky. On the ground my influences were too weak.

  - Without me, of course, when they were locked away from me in the envelope of Slo-Time, their responses became very confused and they were unable to manage.

  - Ah well, ah well, - he added, - I was only trying to fulfill my function.

 
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