Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams


  Slartibartfast assured him that it would, that they were perfectly safe and that it was all going to be extremely instructive and not a little harrowing.

  Ford and Arthur decided just to relax and be harrowed.

  - Why not, - said Ford, - go mad?

  In front of them and, of course, totally unaware of their presence for the very good reason that they weren't actually there, were the three pilots. They had also constructed the ship. They had been on the hill path that night singing wholesome heartwarming songs. Their brains had been very slightly turned by the nearby crash of the alien spaceship. They had spent weeks stripping every tiniest last secret out of the wreckage of that burnt-up spaceship, all the while singing lilting spaceship-stripping ditties. They had then built their own ship and this was it. This was their ship, and they were currently singing a little song about that too, expressing the twin joys of achievement and ownership. The chorus was a little poignant, and told of their sorrow that their work had kept them such long hours in the garage, away from the company of their wives and children, who had missed them terribly but had kept them cheerful by bringing them continual stories of how nicely the puppy was growing up.

  Pow, they took off.

  They roared into the sky like a ship that knew precisely what it was doing.

  - No way, - said Ford a while later after they had recovered from the shock of acceleration, and were climbing up out of the planet's atmosphere, - no way, - he repeated, - does anyone design and build a ship like this in a year, no matter how motivated. I don't believe it. Prove it to me and I still won't believe it. - He shook his head thoughtfully and gazed out of a tiny port at the nothingness outside it.

  The trip passed uneventfully for a while, and Slartibartfast fastwound them through it.

  Very quickly, therefore, they arrived at the inner perimeter of the hollow, spherical Dust Cloud which surrounded their sun and home planet, occupying, as it were, the next orbit out.

  It was more as if there was a gradual change in the texture and consistency of space. The darkness seemed now to thrum and ripple past them. It was a very cold darkness, a very blank and heavy darkness, it was the darkness of the night sky of Krikkit.

  The coldness and heaviness and blankness of it took a slow grip on Arthur's heart, and he felt acutely aware of the feelings of the Krikkit pilots which hung in the air like a thick static charge. They were now on the very boundary of the historical knowledge of their race. This was the very limit beyond which none of them had ever speculated, or even known that there was any speculation to be done.

  The darkness of the cloud buffeted at the ship. Inside was the silence of history. Their historic mission was to find out if there was anything or anywhere on the other side of the sky, from which the wrecked spaceship could have come, another world maybe, strange and incomprehensible though this thought was to the enclosed minds of those who had lived beneath the sky of Krikkit.

  History was gathering itself to deliver another blow.

  Still the darkness thrummed at them, the blank enclosing darkness. It seemed closer and closer, thicker and thicker, heavier and heavier. And suddenly it was gone.

  They flew out of the cloud.

  They saw the staggering jewels of the night in their infinite dust and their minds sang with fear.

  For a while they flew on, motionless against the starry sweep of the Galaxy, itself motionless against the infinite sweep of the Universe. And then they turned round.

  - It'll have to go, - the men of Krikkit said as they headed back for home.

  On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms.

  Chapter 13

  - So you see, - said Slartibartfast, slowly stirring his artificially constructed coffee, and thereby also stirring the whirlpool interfaces between real and unreal numbers, between the interactive perceptions of mind and Universe, and thus generating the restructured matrices of implicitly enfolded subjectivity which allowed his ship to reshape the very concept of time and space, - how it is.

  - Yes, - said Arthur.

  - Yes, - said Ford.

  - What do I do, - said Arthur, - with this piece of chicken?

  Slartibartfast glanced at him gravely.

  - Toy with it, - he said, - toy with it.

  He demonstrated with his own piece.

  Arthur did so, and felt the slight tingle of a mathematical function thrilling through the chicken leg as it moved four-dimensionally through what Slartibartfast had assured him was five-dimensional space.

  - Overnight, - said Slartibartfast, - the whole population of Krikkit was transformed from being charming, delightful, intelligent...

  -...if whimsical... - interpolated Arthur.

  -...ordinary people, - said Slartibartfast, - into charming, delightful, intelligent...

  -...whimsical...

  -...manic xenophobes. The idea of a Universe didn't fit into their world picture, so to speak. They simply couldn't cope with it. And so, charmingly, delightfully, intelligently, whimsically if you like, they decided to destroy it. What's the matter now?

  - I don't like the wine very much, - said Arthur sniffing it.

  - Well, send it back. It's all part of the mathematics of it.

  Arthur did so. He didn't like the topography of the waiter's smile, but he'd never liked graphs anyway.

  - Where are we going? - said Ford.

  - Back to the Room of Informational Illusions, - said Slartibartfast, rising and patting his mouth with the mathematical representation of a paper napkin, - for the second half.

  Chapter 14

  - The people of Krikkit, - said His High Judgmental Supremacy, Judiciary Pag, LIVR (the Learned, Impartial and Very Relaxed) Chairman of the Board of Judges at the Krikkit War Crimes Trial, - are, well, you know, they're just a bunch of real sweet guys, you know, who just happen to want to kill everybody. Hell, I feel the same way some mornings. Shit.

  - OK, - he continued, swinging his feet up on to the bench in front of him and pausing a moment to pick a thread off his Ceremonial Beach Loafers, - so you wouldn't necessarily want to share a Galaxy with these guys.

  This was true.

  The Krikkit attack on the Galaxy had been stunning. Thousands and thousands of huge Krikkit warships had leapt suddenly out of hyperspace and simultaneously attacked thousands and thousands of major worlds, first seizing vital material supplies for building the next wave, and then calmly zapping those worlds out of existence.

  The Galaxy, which had been enjoying a period of unusual peace and prosperity at the time, reeled like a man getting mugged in a meadow.

  - I mean, - continued Judiciary Pag, gazing round the ultra-modern (this was ten billion years ago, when "ultra-modern" meant lots of stainless steel and brushed concrete) and huge courtroom, - these guys are just obsessed.

  This too was true, and is the only explanation anyone has yet managed to come up with for the unimaginable speed with which the people of Krikkit had pursued their new and absolute purpose - the destruction of everything that wasn't Krikkit.

  It is also the only explanation for their bewildering sudden grasp of all the hypertechnology involved in building their thousands of spaceships, and their millions of lethal white robots.

  These had really struck terror into the hearts of everyone who had encountered them - in most cases, however, the terror was extremely short-lived, as was the person experiencing the terror. They were savage, single-minded flying battle machines. They wielded formidable multifunctional battleclubs which, brandished one way, would knock down buildings and, brandished another way, fired blistering Omni-Destructo Zap Rays and, brandished a third way, launched a hideous arsenal of grenades, ranging from minor incendiary devices to Maxi-Slorta Hypernuclear Devices which could take out a major sun. Simply striking the grenades with the battleclubs simultaneously primed them, and launched them with phenomenal accu
racy over distances ranging from mere yards to hundreds of thousands of miles.

  - OK, - said Judiciary Pag again, - so we won. - He paused and chewed a little gum. - We won, - he repeated, - but that's no big deal. I mean a medium-sized galaxy against one little world, and how long did it take us? Clerk of the Court?

  - M'lud? - said the severe little man in black, rising.

  - How long, kiddo?

  - It is a trifle difficult, m'lud, to be precise in this matter. Time and distance...

  - Relax, guy, be vague.

  - I hardly like to be vague, m'lud, over such a...

  - Bite the bullet and be it.

  The Clerk of the Court blinked at him. It was clear that like most of the Galactic legal profession he found Judiciary Pag (or Zipo Bibrok 5/108, as his private name was known, inexplicably, to be) a rather distressing figure. He was clearly a bounder and a cad. He seemed to think that the fact that he was the possessor of the finest legal mind ever discovered gave him the right to behave exactly as he liked, and unfortunately he appeared to be right.

  - Er, well, m'lud, very approximately, two thousand years, - the Clerk murmured unhappily.

  - And how many guys zilched out?

  - Two grillion, m'lud. - The Clerk sat down. A hydrospectic photo of him at this point would have revealed that he was steaming slightly.

  Judiciary Pag gazed once more around the courtroom, wherein were assembled hundreds of the very highest officials of the entire Galactic administration, all in their ceremonial uniforms or bodies, depending on metabolism and custom. Behind a wall of Zap-Proof Crystal stood a representative group of the people of Krikkit, looking with calm, polite loathing at all the aliens gathered to pass judgment on them. This was the most momentous occasion in legal history, and Judiciary Pag knew it.

  He took out his chewing gum and stuck it under his chair.

  - That's a whole lotta stiffs, - he said quietly.

  The grim silence in the courtroom seemed in accord with this view.

  - So, like I said, these are a bunch of really sweet guys, but you wouldn't want to share a Galaxy with them, not if they're just gonna keep at it, not if they're not gonna learn to relax a little. I mean it's just gonna be continual nervous time, isn't it, right? Pow, pow, pow, when are they next coming at us? Peaceful coexistence is just right out, right? Get me some water somebody, thank you.

  He sat back and sipped reflectively.

  - OK, - he said, - hear me, hear me. It's, like, these guys, you know, are entitled to their own view of the Universe. And according to their view, which the Universe forced on them, right, they did right. Sounds crazy, but I think you'll agree. They believe in...

  He consulted a piece of paper which he found in the back pocket of his Judicial jeans.

  - They believe in "peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life, and the obliteration of all other life forms".

  He shrugged.

  - I've heard a lot worse, - he said.

  He scratched his crotch reflectively.

  - Freeeow, - he said. He took another sip of water, then held it up to the light and frowned at it. He twisted it round.

  - Hey, is there something in this water? - he said.

  - Er, no, m'lud, - said the Court Usher who had brought it to him, rather nervously.

  - Then take it away, - snapped Judiciary Pag, - and put something in it. I got an idea.

  He pushed away the glass and leaned forward.

  - Hear me, hear me, - he said.

  The solution was brilliant, and went like this:

  The planet of Krikkit was to be enclosed for perpetuity in an envelope of Slo-Time, inside which life would continue almost infinitely slowly. All light would be deflected round the envelope so that it would remain invisible and impenetrable. Escape from the envelope would be utterly impossible unless it were locked from the outside.

  When the rest of the Universe came to its final end, when the whole of creation reached its dying fall (this was all, of course, in the days before it was known that the end of the Universe would be a spectacular catering venture) and life and matter ceased to exist, then the planet of Krikkit and its sun would emerge from its Slo-Time envelope and continue a solitary existence, such as it craved, in the twilight of the Universal void.

  The Lock would be on an asteroid which would slowly orbit the envelope.

  The key would be the symbol of the Galaxy - the Wikkit Gate.

  By the time the applause in the court had died down, Judiciary Pag was already in the Sens-O-Shower with a rather nice member of the jury that he'd slipped a note to half an hour earlier.

  Chapter 15

  Two months later, Zipo Bibrok 5/108 had cut the bottoms off his Galactic State jeans, and was spending part of the enormous fee his judgments commanded lying on a jewelled beach having Essence of Qualactin rubbed into his back by the same rather nice member of the jury. She was a Soolfinian girl from beyond the Cloudworlds of Yaga. She had skin like lemon silk and was very interested in legal bodies.

  - Did you hear the news? - she said.

  - Weeeeelaaaaah! - said Zipo Bibrok 5/108, and you would have had to have been there to know exactly why he said this. None of this was on the tape of Informational Illusions, and is all based on hearsay.

  - No, - he added, when the thing that had made him say - Weeeeelaaaaah - had stopped happening. He moved his body round slightly to catch the first rays of the third and greatest of primeval Vod's three suns which was now creeping over the ludicrously beautiful horizon, and the sky now glittered with some of the greatest tanning power ever known.

  A fragrant breeze wandered up from the quiet sea, trailed along the beach, and drifted back to sea again, wondering where to go next. On a mad impulse it went up to the beach again. It drifted back to sea.

  - I hope it isn't good news, - muttered Zipo Bibrok 5/108, - 'cos I don't think I could bear it.

  - Your Krikkit judgment was carried out today, - said the girl sumptuously. There was no need to say such a straightforward thing sumptuously, but she went ahead and did it anyway because it was that sort of day. - I heard it on the radio, - she said, - when I went back to the ship for the oil.

  - Uhuh, - muttered Zipo and rested his head back on the jewelled sand.

  - Something happened, - she said.

  - Mmmm?

  - Just after the Slo-Time envelope was locked, - she said, and paused a moment from rubbing in the Essence of Qualactin, - a Krikkit warship which had been missing presumed destroyed turned out to be just missing after all. It appeared and tried to seize the Key.

  Zipo sat up sharply.

  - Hey, what? - he said.

  - it's all right, - she said in a voice which would have calmed the Big Bang down. - Apparently there was a short battle. The Key and the warship were disintegrated and blasted into the space-time continuum. Apparently they are lost for ever.

  She smiled, and ran a little more Essence of Qualactin on to her fingertips. He relaxed and lay back down.

  - Do what you did a moment or two ago, - he murmured.

  - That? - she said.

  - No, no, - he said, - that.

  She tried again.

  - That? - she asked.

  - Weeeeelaaaaah!

  Again, you had to be there.

  The fragrant breeze drifted up from the sea again.

  A magician wandered along the beach, but no one needed him.

  Chapter 16

  - Nothing is lost for ever, - said Slartibartfast, his face flickering redly in the light of the candle which the robot waiter was trying to take away, - except for the Cathedral of Chalesm.

  - The what? - said Arthur with a start.

  - The Cathedral of Chalesm, - repeated Slartibartfast. - It was during the course of my researches at the Campaign for Real Time that I...

  - The what? - said Arthur again.

  The old man paused and gathered his thoughts, for what he hoped would be one last onslaught on his story. The robot waiter mo
ved through the space-time matrices in a way which spectacularly combined the surly with the obsequious, made a snatch for the candle and got it. They had had the bill, had argued convincingly about who had had the cannelloni and how many bottles of wine they had had, and, as Arthur had been dimly aware, had thereby successfully manoeuvred the ship out of subjective space and into a parking orbit round a strange planet. The waiter was now anxious to complete his part of the charade and clear the bistro.

  - All will become clear, - said Slartibartfast.

  - When?

  - In a minute. Listen. The time streams are now very polluted. There's a lot of muck floating about in them, flotsam and jetsam, and more and more of it is now being regurgitated into the physical world. Eddies in the space-time continuum, you see.

  - So I hear, - said Arthur.

  - Look, where are we going? - said Ford, pushing his chair back from the table with impatience. - Because I'm eager to get there.

  - We are going, - said Slartibartfast in a slow, measured voice, - to try to prevent the war robots of Krikkit from regaining the whole of the Key they need to unlock the planet of Krikkit from the Slo-Time envelope and release the rest of their army and their mad Masters.

  - It's just, - said Ford, - that you mentioned a party.

  - I did, - said Slartibartfast, and hung his head.

  He realized that it had been a mistake, because the idea seemed to exercise a strange and unhealthy fascination on the mind of Ford Prefect. The more that Slartibartfast unravelled the dark and tragic story of Krikkit and its people, the more Ford Prefect wanted to drink a lot and dance with girls.

  The old man felt that he should not have mentioned the party until he absolutely had to. But there it was, the fact was out, and Ford Prefect had attached himself to it the way an Arcturan Megaleech attaches itself to its victim before biting his head off and making off with his spaceship.

  - When, - said Ford eagerly, - do we get there?

  - When I've finished telling you why we have to go there.

  - I know why I'm going, - said Ford, and leaned back, sticking his hands behind his head. He gave one of his smiles which made people twitch.

 
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