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Chapter Ten

Ford hurled himself at the door of the editor-in-chief's office, tucked himself into a tight ball as the frame splintered and gave way once again, rolled rapidly across the floor to where the smart grey crushed leather sofa was and set up his strategic operational base behind it.

That, at least, was the plan.

Unfortunately the smart grey crushed leather sofa wasn't there.

Why, thought Ford, as he twisted himself round in mid-air, lurched, dived and scuttled for cover behind Harl's desk, did people have this stupid obsession with rearranging their office furniture every five minutes?

Why, for instance, replace a perfectly serviceable if rather muted grey crushed leather sofa with what appeared to be a small tank?

And who was the big guy with the mobile rocket launcher on his shoulder? Someone from head office? Couldn't be. This was head office. At least it was the head office of the Guide. Where these InfiniDim Enterprises guys came from Zarquon knew. Nowhere very sunny, judging from the slug-like colour and texture of their skins. This was all wrong, thought Ford. People connected with the Guide should come from sunny places.

There were several of them, in fact, and all of them seemed to be more heavily armed and armoured than you normally expected corporate executives to be, even in today's rough and tumble business world.

He was making a lot of assumptions here, of course. He was assuming that the big, bull-necked, slug-like guys were in some way connected with InfiniDim Enterprises, but it was a reasonable assumption and he felt happy about it because they had logos on their armour-plating which said `InfiniDim Enterprises' on them. He had a nagging suspicion that this was not a business meeting, though. He also had a nagging feeling that these slug-like creatures were familiar to him in some way. Familiar, but in an unfamiliar guise.

Well, he had been in the room for a good two and a half seconds now, and thought that it was probably about time to start doing something constructive. He could take a hostage. That would be good.

Vann Harl was in his swivel chair, looking alarmed, pale and shaken. Had probably had some bad news as well as a nasty bang to the back of his head. Ford leapt to his feet and made a running grab for him. Under the pretext of getting him into a good solid double underpinned elbow-lock, Ford managed surreptitiously to slip the Ident-i-Eeze back into Harl's inner pocket.

Bingo!

He'd done what he came to do. Now he just had to talk his way out of here.

`OK,' he said. `I...' He paused.

The big guy with the rocket launcher was turning towards Ford Prefect and pointing it at him, which Ford couldn't help feeling was wildly irresponsible behaviour.

`I...' he started again, and then on a sudden impulse decided to duck.

There was a deafening roar as flames leapt from the back of the rocket launcher and a rocket leapt from its front.

The rocket hurtled past Ford and hit the large plate-glass window, which billowed outwards in a shower of a million shards under the force of the explosion. Huge shock waves of noise and air pressure reverberated around the room, sweeping a couple of chairs, a filing cabinet and Colin the security robot out of the window.

Ah! So they're not totally rocket-proof after all, thought Ford Prefect to himself. Someone should have a word with somebody about that. He disentangled himself from Harl and tried to work out which way to run.

He was surrounded.

The big guy with the rocket launcher was moving it up into position for another shot. Ford was completely at a loss for what to do next.

`Look,' he said in a stern voice. But he wasn't certain how far saying things like `Look' in a stern voice was necessarily going to get him, and time was not on his side. What the hell, he thought, you're only young once, and threw himself out of the window. That would at least keep the element of surprise on his side.


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