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Chapter Twenty-six

``I don't know,'' said Zaphod, for what seemed to him like the thirty-seventh time, ``they could have killed me, but they didn't. Maybe they just thought I was a kind of wonderful guy or something. I could understand that.''

The others silently registered their opinions of this theory.

Zaphod lay on the cold floor of the flight deck. His back seemed to wrestle the floor as pain thudded through him and banged at his heads.

``I think,'' he whispered, ``that there is something wrong with those anodized dudes, something fundamentally weird.''

``They are programmed to kill everybody,'' Slartibartfast pointed out.

``That,'' wheezed Zaphod between the whacking thuds, ``could be it.'' He didn't seem altogether convinced.

``Hey, baby,'' he said to Trillian, hoping this would make up for his previous behaviour.

``You all right?'' she said gently.

``Yeah,'' he said, ``I'm fine.''

``Good,'' she said, and walked away to think. She stared at the huge visiscreen over the flight couches and, twisting a switch, she flipped local images over it. One image was the blankness of the Dust Cloud. One was the sun of Krikkit. One was Krikkit itself. She flipped between them fiercely.

``Well, that's goodbye Galaxy, then,'' said Arthur, slapping his knees and standing up.

``No,'' said Slartibartfast, gravely. ``Our course is clear.'' He furrowed his brow until you could grow some of the smaller root vegetables in it. He stood up, he paced around. When he spoke again, what he said frightened him so much he had to sit down again.

``We must go down to Krikkit,'' he said. A deep sigh shook his old frame and his eyes seemed almost to rattle in their sockets.

``Once again,'' he said, ``we have failed pathetically. Quite pathetically.''

``That,'' said Ford quietly, ``is because we don't care enough. I told you.''

He swung his feet up on the instrument panel and picked fitfully at something on one of his fingernails.

``But unless we determine to take action,'' said the old man querulously, as if struggling against something deeply insouciant in his nature, ``then we shall all be destroyed, we shall all die. Surely we care about that?''

``Not enough to want to get killed over it,'' said Ford. He put on a sort of hollow smile and flipped it round the room at anyone who wanted to see it.

Slartibartfast clearly found this point of view extremely seductive and he fought against it. He turned again to Zaphod who was gritting his teeth and sweating with the pain.

``You surely must have some idea,'' he said, ``of why they spared your life. It seems most strange and unusual.''

``I kind of think they didn't even know,'' shrugged Zaphod. ``I told you. They hit me with the most feeble blast, just knocked me out, right? They lugged me into their ship, dumped me into a corner and ignored me. Like they were embarrassed about me being there. If I said anything they knocked me out again. We had some great conversations. `Hey ... ugh!' `Hi there ... ugh!' `I wonder ...ugh!' Kept me amused for hours, you know.'' He winced again.

He was toying with something in his fingers. He held it up. It was the Gold Bail --- the Heart of Gold, the heart of the Infinite Improbability Drive. Only that and the Wooden Pillar had survived the destruction of the Lock intact.

``I hear your ship can move a bit,'' he said. ``So how would you like to zip me back to mine before you ...''

``Will you not help us?'' said Slartibartfast.

``I'd love to stay and help you save the Galaxy,'' insisted Zaphod, rising himself up on to his shoulders, ``but I have the mother and father of a pair of headaches, and I feel a lot of little headaches coming on. But next time it needs saving, I'm your guy. Hey, Trillian baby?''

She looked round briefly.

``Yes?''

``You want to come? Heart of Gold? Excitement and adventure and really wild things?''

``I'm going down to Krikkit,'' she said.


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