The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  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 mood!"

  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 shooting."

  "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 them.

  The fusillade continued for several seconds at unbearable intensity.

  When it stopped, there were a few seconds of near quietness as 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 everything!"

  "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 bit?"

  "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 computer.

  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--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 simultaneously.

  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 Slartibartfast.

  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 controls.

  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 connect

  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--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 dust.

  "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 away."

  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."


  President: full title President of the Imperial Galactic Government.

  The term Imperial is kept though it is now an anachronism. The hereditary Emperor is nearly dead and has been so for many centuries. In the last moments of his dying coma he was locked in a statis field which keeps him in a state of perpetual unchangingness. All his heirs are now long dead, and this means that without any drastic political upheaval, power has simply and effectively moved a rung or two down the ladder, and is now seen to be vested in a body which used to act simply as advisers to the Emperor--an elected Governmental assembly headed by a President elected by that assembly. In fact it vests in no such place.

  The President in particular is very much a figurehead--he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had--he has already spent two of his ten Presidential years in prison for fraud. Very very few people realize that the President and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these very few people only six know whence ultimate political power is wielded. Most of the others secretly believe that the ultimate decision-making process is handled by a computer. They couldn't be more wrong.

  (<< back)


  Ford Prefect's original name is only pronuncible in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect, now virtually extinct since the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758 which wiped out all the old Praxibetel communities on Betelgeuse Seven. Ford's father was the only man on the entire planet to survive the Great Collapsing Hrung disaster, by an extraordinary coincidence that he was never able satisfactorily to explain. The whole episode is shrouded in deep mystery: in fact no one ever knew what a Hrung was nor why it had chosen to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven particularly. Ford's father, magnanimously waving aside the clouds of suspicion that had inevitably settled around him, came to live on Betelgeuse Five where he both fathered and uncled Ford; in memory of his now dead race he christened him in the ancient Praxibetel tongue.

  Because Ford never learned to say his original name, his father eventually died of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts of the Galaxy. The other kids at school nicknamed him Ix, which in the language of Betelgeuse Five translates as "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven."

  (<< back)

  FB2 document info

  Document ID: hyxagsnjytcccrliaoz

  Document version: 1.3

  Document creation date: 29.07.2002

  Created using: wml2fb, FBE, hands, AlReader2, FictionBook Editor Release 2.6 software

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  Document history:

  v. 1.0 - making of fb2 by Haali [29.07.2002]

  v. 1.1 - proofread&formatted by Rollon using hard copy [02.05.2005]

  v. 1.2 - minor betterment of formatting done, by Stranger [13.08.2005]

  v. 1.3 - proofread, changed ellipsis and added some missing commas by olimo [2011]


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  Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  (Series: The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy # 1)




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