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Chapter Nineteen

``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 by surprise.


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