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Chapter Eight

``So, do we just sit here, or what?'' said Zaphod angrily, ``what do these guys out here want?''

``You, Beeblebrox,'' said Roosta, ``they're going to take you to the Frogstar --- the most totally evil world in the Galaxy.''

``Oh, yeah?'' said Zaphod. ``They'll have to come and get me first.''

``They have come and got you,'' said Roosta, ``look out of the window.''

Zaphod looked, and gaped.

``The ground's going away!'' he gasped, ``where are they taking the ground?''

``They're taking the building,'' said Roosta, ``we're airborne.''

Clouds streaked past the office window.

Out in the open air again Zaphod could see the ring of dark green Frogstar Fighters round the uprooted tower of the building. A network of force beams radiated in from them and held the tower in a firm grip.

Zaphod shook his head in perplexity.

``What have I done to deserve this?'' he said, ``I walk into a building, they take it away.''

``It's not what you've done they're worried about,'' said Roosta, ``it's what you're going to do.''

``Well don't I get a say in that?''

``You did, years ago. You'd better hold on, we're in for a fast and bumpy journey.''

``If I ever meet myself,'' said Zaphod, ``I'll hit myself so hard I won't know what's hit me.''

Marvin trudged in through the door, looked at Zaphod accusingly, slumped in a corner and switched himself off.

On the bridge of the Heart of Gold, all was silent. Arthur stared at the rack in front of him and thought. He caught Trillian's eyes as she looked at him inquiringly. He looked back at the rack.

Finally he saw it.

He picked up five small plastic squares and laid them on the board that lay just in front of the rack.

The five squares had on them the five letters E, X, Q, U and I. He laid them next to the letters S, I, T, E.

``Exquisite,'' he said, ``on a triple word score. Scores rather a lot I'm afraid.''

The ship bumped and scattered some of the letters for the 'n'th time.

Trillian sighed and started to sort them out again.

Up and down the silent corridors echoed Ford Prefect's feet as he stalked the ship thumping dead instruments.

Why did the ship keep shaking? he thought.

Why did it rock and sway?

Why could he not find out where they were?

Where, basically, were they?

The left-hand tower of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy offices streaked through interstellar space at a speed never equalled either before or since by any other office block in the Universe.

In a room halfway up it, Zaphod Beeblebrox strode angrily.

Roosta sat on the edge of the desk doing some routine towel maintenance.

``Hey, where did you say this building was flying to?'' demanded Zaphod.

``The Frogstar,'' said Roosta, ``the most totally evil place in the Universe.''

``Do they have food there?'' said Zaphod.

``Food? You're going to the Frogstar and you're worried about whether they got food?''

``Without food I may not make it to the Frogstar.''

Out of the window, they could see nothing but the flickering light of the force beams, and vague green streaks which were presumably the distorted shapes of the Frogstar Fighters. At this speed, space itself was invisible, and indeed unreal.

``Here, suck this,'' said Roosta, offering Zaphod his towel.

Zaphod stared at him as if he expected a cuckoo to leap out of his forehead on a small spring.

``It's soaked in nutrients,'' explained Roosta.

``What are you, a messy eater or something?'' said Zaphod.

``The yellow stripes are high in protein, the green ones have vitamin B and C complexes, the little pink flowers contain wheatgerm extracts.''

Zaphod took and looked at it in amazement.

``What are the brown stains?'' he asked.

``Bar-B-Q sauce,'' said Roosta, ``for when I get sick of wheatgerm.''

Zaphod sniffed it doubtfully.

Even more doubtfully, he sucked a corner. He spat it out again.

``Ugh,'' he stated.

``Yes,'' said Roosta, ``when I've had to suck that end I usually need to suck the other end a bit too.''

``Why,'' asked Zaphod suspiciously, ``what's in that?''

``Anti-depressants,'' said Roosta.

``I've gone right off this towel, you know,'' said Zaphod handing it back.

Roosta took it back from him, swung himself off the desk, walked round it, sat in the chair and put his feet up.

``Beeblebrox,'' he said, sticking his hands behind his head, ``have you any idea what's going to happen to you on the Frogstar?''

``They're going to feed me?'' hazarded Zaphod hopefully.

``They're going to feed you,'' said Roosta, ``into the Total Perspective Vortex!''

Zaphod had never heard of this. He believed that he had heard of all the fun things in the Galaxy, so he assumed that the Total Perspective Vortex was not fun. He asked what it was.

``Only,'' said Roosta, ``the most savage psychic torture a sentinent being can undergo.''

Zaphod nodded a resigned nod.

``So,'' he said, ``no food, huh?''

``Listen!'' said Roosta urgently, ``you can kill a man, destroy his body, break his spirit, but only the Total Perspective Vortex can annihilate a man's soul! The treatment lasts seconds, but the effect lasts the rest of your life!''

``You ever had a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster?'' asked Zaphod sharply.

``This is worse.''

``Phreeow!'' admitted Zaphod, much impressed.

``Any idea why these guys might want to do this to me?'' he added a moment later.

``They believe it will be the best way of destroying you for ever. They know what you're after.''

``Could they drop me a note and let me know as well?''

``You know,'' said Roosta, ``you know, Beeblebrox. You want to meet the man who rules the Universe.''

``Can he cook?'' said Zaphod. On reflection he added:

``I doubt if he can. If he could cook a good meal he wouldn't worry about the rest of the Universe. I want to meet a cook.''

Roosta sighed heavily.

``What are you doing here anyway?'' demanded Zaphod, ``what's all this got to so with you?''

``I'm just one of those who planned this thing, along with Zarniwoop, along with Yooden Vranx, along with your great grandfather, along with you, Beeblebrox.''

``Me?''

``Yes, you. I was told you had changed, I didn't realize how much.''

``But ...''

``I am here to do one job. I will do it before I leave you.''

``What job, man, what are you talking about?''

``I will do it before I leave you.''

Roosta lapsed into an impenetrable silence.

Zaphod was terribly glad.


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