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 connected.
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.
``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.