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Chapter Nineteen

Ford Prefect was irritated to be continually wakened by the sound of gunfire.

He slid himself out of the maintenance hatchway which he had fashioned into a bunk for himself by disabling some of the noisier machinery in his vicinity and padding it with towels. He slung himself down the access ladder and prowled the corridors moodily.

They were claustrophobic and ill-lit, and what light there was was continually flickering and dimming as power surged this way and that through the ship, causing heavy vibrations and rasping humming noises.

That wasn't it, though.

He paused and leaned back against the wall as something that looked like a small silver power drill flew past him down the dim corridor with a nasty searing screech.

That wasn't it either.

He clambered listlessly through a bulkhead door and found himself in a larger corridor, though still ill-lit.

The ship lurched. It had been doing this a fair bit, but this was heavier. A small platoon of robots weent by making a terrible clattering.

Still not it, though.

Acrid smoke was drifting up from one end of the corridor, so he walked along it in the other direction.

He passed a series of observation monitors let into the walls behind plates of toughened but still badly scratched perspex.

One of them showed some horrible green scaly reptilian figure ranting and raving about the Single Transferable Vote system. It was hard to tell whether he was for or against it, but he clearly felt very strongly about it. Ford turned the sound down.

That wasn't it, though.

He passed another monitor. It was showing a commercial for some brand of toothpaste that would apparently make you feel free if you used it. There was nasty blaring music with it too, but that wasn't it.

He came upon another, much larger three-dimensional screen that was monitoring the outside of the vast silver Xaxisian ship.

As he watched, a thousand horribly beweaponed Zirzla robot starcruisers came searing round the dark shadow of a moon, silhouetted against the blinding disc of the star Xaxis, and the ship simultaneously unleashed a vicious blaze of hideously incomprehensible forces from all its orifices against them.

That was it.

Ford shook his head irritably and rubbed his eyes. He slumped on the wrecked body of a dull silver robot which clearly had been burning earlier on, but had now cooled down enough to sit on.

He yawned and dug his copy of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy out of his satchel. He activated the screen, and flicked idly through some level three entries and some level four entries. He was looking for some good insomnia cures. He found Rest, which was what he reckoned he needed. He found Rest and Recuperation and was about to pass on when he suddenly had a better idea. He looked up at the monitor screen. The battle was raging more fiercely every second and the noise was appalling. The ship juddered, screamed, and lurched as each new bolt of stunning energy was delivered or received.

He looked back down at the Guide again and flipped through a few likely locations. He suddenly laughed, and then rummaged in his satchel again.

He pulled out a small memory dump module, wiped off the fluff and biscuit crumbs, and plugged it into an interface on the back of the Guide.

When all the information that he could think was relevant had been dumped into the module, he unplugged it again, tossed it lightly in the palm of his hand, put the Guide away in his satchel, smirked, and went in search of the ship's computer data banks.

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