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Chapter Thirty-seven

For a total of three days and nights the giant silver robot stood in stunned amazement straddling the remains of Knightsbridge, swaying slightly and trying to work out a number of things.

Government deputations came to see it, ranting journalists by the truckload asked each other questions on the air about what they thought of it, flights of fighter bombers tried pathetically to attack it --- but no lizards appeared. It scanned the horizon slowly.

At night it was at its most spectacular, floodlit by the teams of television crews who covered it continuously as it continuously did nothing.

It thought and thought and eventually reached a conclusion.

It would have to send out its service robots.

It should have thought of that before, but it was having a number of problems.

The tiny flying robots came screeching out of the hatchway one afternoon in a terrifying cloud of metal. They roamed the surrounding terrain, frantically attacking some things and defending others.

One of them at last found a pet shop with some lizards, but it instantly defended the pet shop for democracy so savagely that little in the area survived.

A turning point came when a crack team of flying screechers discovered the Zoo in Regent's Park, and most particularly the reptile house.

Learning a little caution from their previous mistakes in the petshop, the flying drills and fretsaws brought some of the larger and fatter iguanas to the giant silver robot, who tried to conduct high-level talks with them.

Eventually the robot announced to the world that despite the full, frank and wide-ranging exchange of views the high level talks had broken down, the lizards had been retired, and that it, the robot would take a short holiday somewhere, and for some reason selected Bournemouth.

Ford Prefect, watching it on TV, nodded, laughed, and had another beer.

Immediate preparations were made for its departure.

The flying toolkits screeched and sawed and drilled and fried things with light throughout that day and all through the night time, and in the morning, stunningly, a giant mobile gantry started to roll westwards on several roads simultaneously with the robot standing on it, supported within the gantry.

Westward it crawled, like a strange carnival buzzed around by its servants and helicopters and news coaches, scything through the land until at last it came to Bournemouth, where the robot slowly freed itself from it transport system's embraces and went and lay for ten days on the beach.

It was, of course, by far the most exciting thing that had ever happened to Bournemouth.

Crowds gathered daily along the perimeter which was staked out and guarded as the robot's recreation area, and tried to see what it was doing.

It was doing nothing. It was lying on the beach. It was lying a little awkwardly on its face.

It was a journalist from a local paper who, late one night, managed to do what no one else in the world had so far managed, which was to strike up a brief intelligible conversation with one of the service robots guarding the perimeter.

It was an extraordinary breakthrough.

``I think there's a story in it,'' confided the journalist over a cigarette shared through the steel link fence, ``but it needs a good local angle. I've got a little list of questions here,'' he went on, rummaging awkwardly in an inner pocket, ``perhaps you could get him, it, whatever you call him, to run through them quickly.''

The little flying ratchet screwdriver said it would see what it cold do and screeched off.

A reply was never forthcoming.

Curiously, however, the questions on the piece of paper more or less exactly matched the questions that were going through the massive battle-scarred industrial quality circuits of the robot's mind. They were these:

``How do you feel about being a robot?''

``How does it feel to be from outer space?'' and

``How do you like Bournemouth?''

Early the following day things started to be packed up and within a few days it became apparent that the robot was preparing to leave for good.

``The point is,'' said Fenchurch to Ford, ``can you get us on board?''

Ford looked wildly at his watch.

``I have some serious unfinished business to attend to,'' he exclaimed.


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