The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  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."

  "But . . ."

  "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--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--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--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 monsters."

  Zaphod tapped impatiently on the hatch.

  "I'm sorry," he said, "I think we might be better off with a slide rule."

  "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 that?"

  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 b
y 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--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--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 creator.

  "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 overpopulated?"

  "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 know."

  "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 here."

  "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 Ford.

  "Well, I hope you all have a really miserable time," complained Arthur.

  "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 off.

  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--simple angular patterns in bright colours. Trillian stopped and studied one of them but could not interpret any sense in them. She called to Zaphod.

  "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--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 with?"

  "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 Magr
athea, 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--why did I want to do something?--how did I work out how to do it?--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--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 scouts?"

  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 cerebellum."

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