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Chapter Thirty

Zaphod Beeblebrox crawled bravely along a tunnel, like the hell of a guy he was. He was very confused, but continued crawling doggedly anyway because he was that brave.

He was confused by something he had just seen, but not half as confused as he was going to be by something he was about to hear, so it would now be best to explain exactly where he was.

He was in the Robot War Zones many miles above the surface of the planet Krikkit.

The atmosphere was thin here and relatively unprotected from any rays or anything which space might care to hurl in his direction.

He had parked the starship Heart of Gold amongst the huge jostling dim hulks that crowded the sky here above Krikkit, and had entered what appeared to be the biggest and most important of the sky buildings, armed with nothing but a Zap gun and something for his headaches.

He had found himself in a long, wide and badly lit corridor in which he was able to hide until he worked out what he was going to do next. He hid because every now and then one of the Krikkit robots would walk along it, and although he had so far led some kind of charmed life at their hands, it had nevertheless been an extremely painful one, and he had no desire to stretch what he was only half-inclined to call his good fortune.

He had ducked, at one point, into a room leading off the corridor, and had discovered it to be a huge and, again, dimly lit chamber.

In fact, it was a museum with just one exhibit --- the wreckage of a spacecraft. It was terribly burnt and mangled, and, now that he had caught up with some of the Galactic history he had missed through his failed attempts to have sex with the girl in the cybercubicle next to him at school, he was able to put in an intelligent guess that this was the wrecked spaceship which had drifted through the Dust Cloud all those billions of years ago and started the whole business off.

But, and this is where he had become confused, there was something not at all right about it.

It was genuinely wrecked. It was genuinely burnt, but a fairly brief inspection by an experienced eye revealed that it was not a genuine spacecraft. It was as if it was a full-scale model of one --- a solid blueprint. In other words it was a very useful thing to have around if you suddenly decided to build a spaceship yourself and didn't know how to do it. It was not, however, anything that would ever fly anywhere itself.

He was still puzzling over this --- in fact he'd only just started to puzzle over it --- when he became aware that a door had slid open in another part of the chamber, and another couple of Krikkit robots had entered, looking a little glum.

Zaphod did not want to tangle with them and, deciding that just as discretion was the better part of valour so was cowardice the better part of discretion, he valiantly hid himself in a cupboard.

The cupboard in fact turned out to be the top part of a shaft which led down through an inspection hatch into a wide ventilation tunnel. He led himself down into it and started to crawl along it, which is where we found him.

He didn't like it. It was cold, dark and profoundly uncomfortable, and it frightened him. At the first opportunity --- which was another shaft a hundred yards further along --- he climbed back up out of it.

This time he emerged into a smaller chamber, which appeared to be a computer intelligence centre. He emerged in a dark narrow space between a large computer bank and the wall.

He quickly learned that he was not alone in the chamber and started to leave again, when he began to listen with interest to what the other occupants were saying.

``It's the robots, sir,'' said one voice. ``There's something wrong with them.''

``What, exactly?''

These were the voices of two War Command Krikkiters. All the War Commanders lived up in the sky in the Robot War Zones, and were largely immune to the whimsical doubts and uncertainties which were afflicting their fellows down on the surface of the planet.

``Well, sir I think it's just as well that they are being phased out of the war effort, and that we are now going to detonate the supernova bomb. In the very short time since we were released from the envelope -''

``Get to the point.''

``The robots aren't enjoying it, sir.''

``What?''

``The war, sir, it seems to be getting them down. There's a certain world-weariness about them, or perhaps I should say Universe-weariness.''

``Well, that's all right, they're meant to be helping to destroy it.''

``Yes, well they're finding it difficult, sir. They are afflicted with a certain lassitude. They're just finding it hard to get behind the job. They lack oomph.''

``What are you trying to say?''

``Well, I think they're very depressed about something, sir.''

``What on Krikkit are you talking about?''

``Well, in the few skirmishes they've had recently, it seems that they go into battle, raise their weapons to fire and suddenly think, why bother? What, cosmically speaking, is it all about? And they just seem to get a little tired and a little grim.''

``And then what do they do?''

``Er, quadratic equations mostly, sir. Fiendishly difficult ones by all accounts. And then they sulk.''

``Sulk?''

``Yes, sir.''

``Whoever heard of a robot sulking?''

``I don't know, sir.''

``What was that noise?''

It was the noise of Zaphod leaving with his head spinning.


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