?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Angel

artemis2050

The Meaning of It All

or, There and Back Again


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Python Completely Different
artemis2050

FIC: Because I have nothing else to do...

...I thought I'd post something out of my ordinary vein.

This is not X-Men. This is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I have really no idea if anyone here is into that, but I wrote this a long time ago and it still rather amuses me. And I miss Douglas Adams.

I thought about updating this in view of the recent movie, but I decided it was a period piece so I left it as it was. This is based on the characters as I knew them from the radio series (and the old BBC TV series, though I liked that less), and of course the books that followed. (Oh yes, that was the order.)

It will probably be obvious from context, but at the end I've given a relevant cast list in case anyone is confused. *g* And if you never read or saw the thing, you will probably not really get this, so don't worry, I won't feel bad if you skip it.

Title: Split Improbability
Fandom: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Artemis2050
Disclaimer: I own nothing. This is a tribute to the late great Douglas Adams, in whose memory we should all raise a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.



Split Improbability

“Oh, I say now—” were the last words the Englishman spoke as he felt himself being pulled out of his armchair, straight through the wall of his London flat, into a space/time vortex, and right smack into a parallel universe.

His name was Mark Wing-Davey, and we shall learn more of his wisdom later.

Well, in fact, we shall learn more of his wisdom right now as we haven’t yet a subplot to fall back on. As Mark disappeared from the Earth/London continuum, he simultaneously appeared on the bridge of a very well-known spaceship in an alternate universe, thereby dislodging a very surprised two-headed, three-armed alien who was originally from the vicinity of Betelgeuse Five into his (Mark’s) previously occupied, that is to say London, point of existence.

The alien’s name was Zaphod Beeblebrox, and he is the one we shall have to get back to.

Mark Wing-Davey was a calm, thirtyish, rather ordinary-looking and usually unadventurous English actor. All this rather took his breath away. He sat quite still for a full minute, chewing the last bite of the biscuit he’d been eating in London and taking in his surroundings. What bothered him even more than the idea he’d suddenly gone mad was the sneaking suspicion that he hadn’t. Cautiously he extended his hand and touched the arm of the chair he was sitting in. It definitely wasn’t his old brown leather overstuffed armchair, but it did feel familiar. Mark sat up, even more cautiously, and risked a glance around the room.
Apart from the TV cameras, which were distinctly lacking, and the fourth wall, which was alarmingly present, the location was quite familiar. He half expected to see the door open and Stephen Moore walk in.

The door opened and Stephen Moore walked in. He was dressed in the awkward robot suit of bygone days on the BBC set. Mark began to feel very much more comfortable for some reason, even though he somehow knew that this wasn’t, as he was secretly hoping, all a wild practical joke cooked up by Douglas Adams and the crew at work. He managed a bright smile, a smile that radiated good sportsmanship and a healthy, confident, I-can-take-a-joke attitude. However, instead of smiling back and saying something along the lines of, “Hi Mark, we’ve got you this time haven’t we,” Stephen gave a clanking sort of jump and said in a mournful voice, “I suppose this is your idea of a joke.”

The depressed voice and the accusing inflection were all as he remembered, but Mark knew quite well that the metallic twinge in the voice had been added by electronics after recording. One last fleeting hope—that there was a tape recorder hidden somewhere in the room—fled even faster when the robot took two noisy steps forward. Never in a million years had Stephen’s costume actually clanked. Mark’s mouth went dry and he began to feel rather odd. His brain, which had already come to the correct conclusion, disgustedly tore up thirty years’ worth of accumulated notes on how-the-world-works.

He looked into the mournful countenance of what he now realized was the authentic Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Mark stood up and found to his vast secret delight that he was still wearing his dressing gown.

Marvin continued bleakly, “If it amuses you to go and change your heads while my back is turned I would hate to ruin your fun. Call that a joke? ‘Coz I don’t. Here I am, brain the size of a planet and I’m expected to act as foil to outdated humanoid comic material. I’ll never understand humans. Oh, God, I’m so depressed. I’m not—”

“Getting you down, am I?” Mark joined in gleefully. “Marvin baby, I am so glad to see you. You’re never going to believe this.” He took another look around. “Hell, I don’t believe this. Just tell me, for the record, where am I?”

Marvin fixed him with his usual dull stare. “You really want to know.”

Mark nodded.

“Where you are.”

“Yes.”

“Nothing more you’d like to know? Our exact relative position to the Antares Cluster perhaps.”

“Just where I am, Marvin,” Mark directed.

“You’ll be sorry.” With the mechanical equivalent of a sigh, Marvin turned on a bright chirping salesman’s voice that nonetheless sounded as though the salesman were about to collapse, writhe and spontaneously combust, and recited, “You are now aboard the prototype spaceship Heart of Gold, featuring the new prototype Infinite Improbability Drive. Our ship is fully outfitted with every mechanical convenience known to man, including beverage and sustenance synthesizers, shipboard macro-computers, automated doors and a Humanlike Android, all fitted with the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s finest Genuine People Personalities.” There was a short pause. Then, in his normal voice but with needless sarcasm, “I suppose now you want to know your own name. I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Hit me with it, Marvin.” Mark closed his eyes and let a slow smile spread across his face.

“Zaphod Beeblebrox the First, President of the Imperial Galactic Government.” Marvin watched without an ounce of surprise as the human leaped to the top of the command chair with a shout of utter ecstasy, landed hard on the arm of the chair and waved a fist excitedly in the air. He muttered, “I’ll never make sense of all this. Life, don’t talk to me about life. I can’t stand it.”

Mark recovered somewhat and said in ringing Zaphod-ish tones, “So how about it, metal man? What’s the news? Where’s Trillian, Ford, Arthur?” He looked around, fully expecting their analogues to walk in.

Marvin merely glared, and spoke one word. “Who?”

Mark was taken aback but not discouraged. “Tricia McMillan! Ford Prefect...Arthur Dent?”

Marvin somehow looked disgusted without actually changing his facial expression. “There we go again. Don’t tell me, I understand. Send old Marvin off after a lot of people that don’t exist. Don’t think I don’t appreciate the sentiment. Maybe you’d like me to just go jump in a lake? There’s one just outside you know.”

“Hold it, metal man!” Mark was crouched in the chair pointing an accusing finger at Marvin. “A lake outside? Where the—” He ran to the wall where a porthole had always appeared on the telly when they’d needed one. “Let me see out of this bloody ship!”

The wall shuddered and dissolved. He looked out at what could only be the ocean world of Damogran. The shimmering, endless seas alone assured him of that, and if they hadn’t, the twenty-foot-high transparent globe floating outside would have convinced him, not to mention the conspicuously labeled Presidential Speedboat. Mark whirled back to Marvin. “Quick, kid—when do I make the inaugural speech for this thing?”

“In two hours, fourteen minutes and eleven seconds,” came the somber reply. “Thought I couldn’t handle that one, eh?”

Mark glanced at his digital watch. Assuming the time zones had remained relative, it was just after eight AM on a Thursday. He groaned, his euphoria rapidly ebbing away. Once the chain of events begun by what Zaphod was supposed to do at that speech began, he was going to be in real trouble. “Marvin, I’ve got a lot of planning to do. I was meant to be at a cocktail party tonight in Islington. Find me a computer, fast.”

*********************************************************

“Wheee-hoooo!”

Zaphod Beeblebrox sat up in the comfortably shabby brown armchair and looked around the room with the same curiosity but far less trepidation than his analogue. Since no robot wandered conveniently into the room, he began to talk to himself rapidly.

“Okay, Zaphod baby, if you’re not out of your skulls again then something very very strange is going on. Sounds a lot like the stories they were telling about that Infinite Improbability whatsis in that ship—God, that’s a gorgeous ship. I wonder what I’m going to do with it. More to the point though is where is it right now or even more to the point where am I? I remember punching a button. I remember seeing a lot of lights. I do not remember drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. I would like a drink.” Having come to this logical conclusion he wandered around the room until he located a bottle of twelve-year-old Scotch in a niche behind copies of some books by somebody named Douglas Adams. He poured himself two shots, drank one off with each head, and returned to his pacing and muttering.

There was a knock on the door. A pretty young woman poked her head in. “Mark?”

Zaphod was, for once in a long career, caught off guard. Having no idea who ‘Mark’ was and less still who the young woman was, he took his usual tack and bluffed. “Not in, love, can I help you?”

The girl looked disgusted. “I’ve had just about enough. When are you going to knock off fooling about with that false head and arm? I’m sick of your lousy rotten job with that bloody show.”

Zaphod’s other head opened its eyes. “Pardon?”

“And you can drop that phony French accent as well!” The girl delivered this parting shot as she slammed the door.

Both Zaphod’s minds whirled dizzily and came to rest on the buoying vision of the Scotch bottle. He poured himself another drink and his eye fell on a stack of bound folders lying on a shelf of the bookcase. The typed heading on the uppermost book read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Episode One: 22 February 1978.” Zaphod raised three eyebrows, picked it up and began to read.

Two hours and six drinks later he set down the last of the scripts. A satisfied smile touched one set of lips; the other was asleep again. “So,” he sighed contentedly, “that’s how it all comes out.”

He curled up on the rug and fell into a happy drunken stupor.

**********************************************************

Mark had changed into a metallic space-style jumpsuit in a glittering shade of what Marvin assured him was Ultrablue. He was uncomfortable, but not because of the jumpsuit. He was arguing with a computer, and not having a very good time of it.

“Look friend, I’m telling you I come from another universe. Another dimension. Got that?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Beeblebrox,” the cheery voice returned.

Mark groaned. “My name is not Zaphod Beeblebrox. My name is Mark Wing-Davey and if you don’t get that through your logic circuits straight off, you’ll be stuck with an English radio actor running your galaxy.” He paused and considered. “On the other hand, have you ever heard of America?”

“Yes, Mr. Beeblebrox,” came the totally unexpected reply. “It’s a place on a small primitive planet called Earth. Puts the ‘mostly’ in ‘harmless.’ “

Mark almost fell off his seat. “Where have you heard of it?”

“In a book, Mr. Beeblebrox.”

“What book, you mechanized heap of malfunctioning cross-matched circuitry?”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, sir, the enlarged edition.”

Mark muttered weakly, “Oh, that thing.”

Marvin clunked wearily into the room. “I’ve been told to deliver a message. Brain taxing time again you see.” He paused. “Although I don’t suppose it really matters. No one would entrust anything of significance to me.”

Mark looked up. “What is it, Marvin?”

“Nothing important. Only a challenge, they said, to keep my mind busy. Trot on up to the bridge, Marvin, and tell Mr. Beeblebrox that Trillian is here to see him.” There was a further pause in which Mark said nothing, which opportunity Marvin took to start in again. “Only just created last week ,I came into the world bright, optpmistic, eager to benefit mankind with the fruit of my intellect and what am I asked to do? Fetch and carry, deliver messages, take memos. Call that job satisfaction? How depressing. Have you got any return message? If you wait long enough she may go away again.”

“No!” Mark sputtered frantically. “Send her in. I’ll go there. Where—what—how—” He ran down as an extraordinarily lovely girl looking almost but not exactly unlike Susan Sheridan entered the room. Trillian regarded him curiously for a minute and then nodded. Mark was wondering how to begin when she spoke.

“The resemblance is astonishing, isn’t it?”

Mark started, stared and finally recovered his voice from the deep freeze in which he had apparently carelessly lost it. “Then you believe me? That I’m not Zaphod Beeblebrox?”

“Oh yes. In fact I was expecting something of the sort. You see, Zaphod was fooling about with the controls of the Infinite Improbability Drive when he disappeared. Shockingly careless of them really. I didn’t think they’d have been so foolish as to have left it on.” She shrugged. “At any rate, you’ll have to fill in for a bit until we can get you back where you belong. The scientists are all quite annoyed about the whole thing.”

“I should think,” Mark babbled, “that you’d be able to do something about all this. I mean, I can’t possibly take Zaphod’s place as I’ve got several contracts to get on with back in England and I rather doubt your fellow can act. Even supposing he got back to where I live, in which case he must be carrying on with my girlfriend.”

Trillian came over and rather sympathetically helped him to a chair. “I understand how you feel. Remember I’m from Earth as well. Although not your Earth.”

“You don’t know the half of it! All the trouble is about to start. Your Earth is about to be—” He barely caught himself in time. “I trust you have your mice with you?” Puzzled, Trillian nodded. “Could I talk to them for a moment?”

There was a pause. “Talk? To my white mice?”

Mark nodded.

“Still slightly disoriented I expect. You could lie down or—”

“I don’t have time to explain. Just show me where the rodents roost.” Mark got up and strode briskly and, he hoped, purposefully, toward the door. It opened with a happy, “Hi there!”

Trillian looked at Marvin, started to ask a question, thought better of it, and hurried after Mark. Marvin limped (quite unnecessarily) over to the computer console and turned it on.

Another bright voice opened, “Hi there! I’m Eddie, your Shipboard Computer and—” An ugly note crept into its voice. “Oh, it’s you again, is it?”

*********************************************************************************

Zaphod awoke several hours later and immediately reached for the bottle of Scotch. Sadly, it was now empty. Zaphod sighed.
He got up and began wandering around the room aimlessly. His eye fell on an old newspaper. He picked it up and began to leaf through it. He got bored and began to look through a desk calendar. Marked in large red letters on the open page were the words, “PARTY AT DOUGLAS’. 226-7709.” Zaphod smiled—twice. He picked up the phone, experimented for a moment, and managed to dial.

“Hello Douglas? This is Mark. Listen, I need a lift over to your party...” As he spoke he began to unfasten his extra head. He wouldn’t need it where he was going.

*****************************************************************************

Mark was no longer having fun in this universe. Feeling more like Arthur Dent than an analogue of Zaphod Beeblebrox should feel (and not wanting to admit it), he was kneeling in front of a large glass case containing a spinning wheel, lots of wood chips, and two ordinary-looking white mice.

“Look, guys, I know you’re running this experiment, but I’m telling you you’re about to have a very large problem, do you understand? If I don’t get back to my own Earth I could blow your whole equation.” He looked nervously over his shoulder at Trillian, who was watching him patiently. He lowered his voice. “Look, I know all about your experiment. The subtle psychology stuff, the deeper ulterior motive, the Ultimate Answer.” There was no sign of comprehension from the white mice. Trillian looked at him skeptically. Mark got fed up and snapped, ”See what good it does you then, chaps. The whole thing goes for naught in the end anyway. Someone’s going to blow the whole thing—” He bit his tongue to keep from mentioning Vogons, but it was too late. Trillian gave a startled exclamation.

The two white mice were standing on their hind legs with their paws on the glass, regarding him suspiciously. One pointed with one paw to the cover of the cage. A squeaky, tinny voice emanated from the other.
“Let us out, Earthman. We must talk.”

****************************************************************************

Zaphod shoved the hatbox in which he’d stored his extra head under his third arm and suddenly realized he’d better store that as well. He had barely finished concealing it in the box when a pretty blonde girl drove up in a red car and beeped the horn. Zaphod hesitated. According to Douglas, he was to wait for a Susan Sheridan. According to the script, she was supposed to be Trillian. “Well, Central Casting blew another one,” he reasoned.

He picked up the box and went outside. He hopped into the car and took the plunge. “Hey Susan...How’s it been? Long time no see.” Casually he stashed the box in the back seat. They chatted on light subjects—Zaphod had long since discovered that you could get away with very little in fact in the way of specific planetary knowledge if you just stated very very obvious things about the weather and universal politics—until she pulled up and parked on a roadway already crowded with cars.

They went into the party, and for once Zaphod found himself less interested in finding the bar than in finding his host. With some careful questioning, he finally located Douglas Adams. The man was, interestingly enough, actually standing on the bar, to the obvious dismay of the hired barman. Zaphod looked on in admiration as this six foot four inch spectacle neatly sidestepped all attempts by the barman and two caterers to haul him down despite looking as though he were extremely likely at any moment to fall down of his own accord. Zaphod wandered casually behind the bar, picked up a bottle of Scotch and waved it tantalizingly in front of the large wavering man, who reached for it. In this moment of distraction he was seized by the two caterers and hauled down under vigorous protest. Before he could think of something even more devastating to do, Zaphod threw a comeradely arm about his shoulders and thrust the bottle into his hands. “Come on mate, let’s step outside and share this. I’ve got something important to show you.”

Douglas Adams willingly followed his creation outside.

*******************************************************************************

Mark now sat in an uncomfortably close simalcrum of the interrogation rooms seen in old American gangster films. One mouse kept flashing a tiny penlight in his eyes and the other kept asking him questions in its tiny, tinny voice.

“Tell us all you know about the Earth-computer, Earthling!”

Mark blinked wearily. “I’ve told you, I can’t. For all I know you guys might botch up something historically significant if you tried to do something about it. Just trust me, the mistake happened practically at the onset and there’s nothing much you can do about it now.” He tried to scratch his nose, but the mind-force of the mice kept him still. “Why don’t you just go off and try again and let Earth blow itself up in peace?”

“Earthling, if you refuse to co-operate, we will have no choice but to perform an examination of your brain cortex. The process is not a pleasant one!”

Mark took a deep breath, closed his eyes and thought I am Zaphod Beeblebrox the First. He opened his eyes and said, “Yeah yeah, I know. Quite a sight, right? You bunch can’t even come up with new threats.” An ironic thought occurred to him. “Why don’t you ask Marvin?”

The squeaky voice had taken on a nasty note. “You forget, Earthling, we are not the mice of your early sixties sitcoms.” The mouse dripped sarcasm from its whiskers. “Do you honestly think that atrocious piece of atrophying tin knows anything more than we do? We are of another, higher—”

“Dumber—”

“Plane of existence!” The mouse finished furiously.

Mark silently vowed never to watch another Disney cartoon in his life. “Where’s an exterminator when you need one?” he muttered.

On the bridge of the Heart of Gold, Trillian was struggling to undo the computerized lock the mice had placed on the controls of the Infinite Improbability Drive, having deduced that the chances of returning this displaced actor to his rightful stage were, well....extremely improbable.

********************************************************************

Douglas Adams stared incredulously at the unbelievable contents of the hatbox. Gingerly he reached in with one finger to prod at the head. “Are you saying—that’s real?”

“Real as you are, chum. So I’d like to know how you plan to get me out of this little mess?” Zaphod sat down in the most comfortable armchair in Douglas’ study and looked maddeningly at home.

The author turned a flabbergasted countenance to the supposedly fictional alien. “I haven’t the foggiest notion,” he admitted. “This is all getting rather out of hand. I don’t really do this sort of thing you know.”

“Don’t be daft, man,” Zaphod snorted. “You started it, didn’t you? Hook up with your computer and sort it out.”

“What?” Douglas turned and realized what Zaphod was talking about. “No, that’s only a word processor. It’s not much more than a glorified typewriter really. I certainly can’t—Hey!” He did a perfect double-take as he noticed that the unprepossesing Macintosh was actually whizzing along at great speed, running off a simultaneous hard copy of—something. He took a hesitant step toward the mechanism. “Probably just a glitch in the system...running off some old copy...” he murmured in a way that was meant to be self-reassuring but wasn’t.

Zaphod sat up impatiently. “Well, go find out, Earthman. If you were hip enough to come up with an idea as froody as me, I don’t know what I’ve got to go about stage-directing for.”

Douglas looked at him, irritated. “The last time I went fooling about with an energy-overloaded computer, you lot got blasted several million years through time straight into Milliways, remember?”

“Hey, yeah, I read that. I could do with a bite.” Zaphod got up and brushed past Douglas. He picked up the top sheet of the hard copy and glanced at it. “Hey look man, it’s from Eddie.”

“Who?” queried a thoroughly confused Adams.

“You know, the shipboard computer.” He read further. “Says he’s temporarily transferred his higher centers of consciousness to this place because Marvin keeps trying to talk to him.” He clucked his tongue sympathetically. “Don’t blame him. In fact if that swutting robot was your idea I’d like to suggest a bit of editing.”

“You mean...” Douglas pointed a shaking finger at the racing console. “Eddie is in there?”

“You got it. He’s telling us everything that’s happening in my galaxy. Here, have a look.” He shoved a lot of papers into Douglas’ hands and crossed back to his seat.

Clutching the papers, Douglas stared at the alien, wild-eyed. “But that’s impossible!”

Zaphod allowed himself a large smile as he sank back into the comfortable chair. “No, man,” he grinned. “Just very very improbable.”

**********************************************************************************

Trillian tried frantically to switch into the main computer banks. Somehow, all but the auxiliary systems appeared to be nonfunctional. Finally, in desperation, she even tried to get hold of the computer’s personality on the off chance that she could actually persuade it to tell her what was wrong between the jokes, the local news and the light music. Instead of the usual eager offer of assistance, she came across a recording.

“Hi everybody, this is Eddie your friendly shipboard computer and, gosh, I’d really like to be there to help you out, but for reasons of my own mental health I’ve taken a quick vacation. Wish you were here!”

Trillian sank back into her seat, defeated. Aloud, she asked, “Now what could possibly make a computer worry about its mental health?”

A moment later she sat bolt upright and seized the intercom mike. “MARVIN!! Get up to the bridge this instant!”

A mournful voice sounded from directly behind her and she jumped. “I’m here. Although it can’t possibly be as important as all that if I’m involved, nothing ever is.”

Trillian turned steely eyes on Marvin. “Now see here, tin man. I don’t know what it is you’ve done to send this poor computer into hiding, but just you apologize and get it to come back. We need it to save Mark and Zaphod.”

Marvin sighed almost pathetically and moved to the console. “I only wanted someone to talk to.”

****************************************************************************

Douglas uttered half-audible rantings and ravings as he read, for the third time, the “manuscript” being provided by Eddie. “I don’t believe...this is great...hey! I never thought...Are you all...Great Scott, what the—” He broke off as the steady clicking from the word processor stopped. He bent over the display as Zaphod sat up and put down his Scotch.

“What is it, Earthman?”

“Eddie’s stopped sending! No explanation. It just says , ‘oops, gotta go’ and quits.” He looked at Zaphod expectantly.

“Marvin apologized I expect,” Zaphod offered shortly, and sank back down in his seat.

“Is that all you’ve got to say? Listen, this thing finishes up with the mice about to put Mark into the Total Perspective Vortex! Do you know what that does to a man’s mind?”

“It didn’t do much to mine,” Zaphod observed calmly.

“You were a special case! I worked in a whole alternate universe to account for it!” Douglas waved a handful of pages violently in the air and several flew about the room.

Zaphod brushed one from his drink. “Invent another,” he suggested.

Douglas whirled, wild-eyed. “What are you talking about?”

“Write the ending, dum-dum. Fast. I don’t suppose he can survive the real Vortex if I couldn’t. And who knows what might happen to me if he doesn’t.” He took another slug of scotch and burped. “Don’t look so shocked, mate. It all comes out right in the end, doesn’t it?”

Dazed, Douglas Adams turned slowly toward the keyboard. He placed his fingers on the keys almost reverently. A fire came into his eyes.

Zaphod raised his glass in a toast. “Go to it, Monkeyman.”

*******************************************************************************

“Look, can’t we talk this over or something?” Mark pleaded as his feet took another involuntary step toward a large box attached with numerous cables and wires to a bit of fairy cake. All his earthly fears and Dent-like tendencies has returned full force.”I mean, I really think this is a bit much just because I can’t tell you what happens to your bloody computer.”

“You refer to the work of ten million years,” squeaked one mouse.

“And besides,” added the other, “once your mind has been cauterized by the effects of the Vortex, we will be able to extract the information we need much more easily.”

Mark groaned inwardly and took another reluctant step toward the open door.

Above them, on the bridge, Trillian worked equations through logic banks quickly and brilliantly. She had finally enlisted Eddie’s help, but still, she was fast losing hope. Completing another fruitless sequence, she shot at Marvin, “I don’t suppose your planet-sized brain can come up with a way to get us out of this. The fate of the galaxy may ultimately depend on Zaphod.”

“I can tell you’re not really interested,” Marvin droned. Trillian left off in the midst of a sum and turned on him.

“You mean you have the solution? Spit it out, you overpriced abacus, or I’ll personally hook you up to an Eternal Revenue Generator and then you’ll see what boredom is.”

“It’s only that I’ve noticed that when Earthlings get into situations like these, they always seem to solve their problems with a cup of really hot tea.” Trillian’s eyes widened; she jumped up and ran out of the room. Marvin clanked wearily after her. “I knew you weren’t really interested.”

******************************************************************************

Douglas typed furiously. Zaphod finished reattaching his arm and head and read over his shoulder for a bit. Suddenly he burst out laughing. Distracted, Douglas looked up. “What is it?”

“Oh, man, that’s too much. The Finite Improbability Generator? Those things have been outdated for weeks now. But go with it. Bloody stroke of genius. This’s great.” Both his heads swiveled as there was a knock on the door and a guest poked his head into the room. Both his jaws dropped. “Arthur?”

Simon Jones came all the way inside. “Mark? What on earth are you doing in that ridiculous costume? Were we supposed to come as our characters?” He leaned out into the hall. “Hey, Geoff, come and have a look at this.” Another man entered.

Zaphod’s eyes crossed. Having four of them let him do that in a most interesting pattern. “Ford?” he squeaked. He looked at the label of the bottle he’d been drinking from and reassured himself that it was not a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

Geoffrey McGivern waved a friendly greeting. “They’ve improved that getup, Mark. Looks almost real now.” He came over to look at Douglas’ work. “What’s this? The sequel?”

Zaphod sat down on the carpet, his minds whirling dizzily.

******************************************************************************

Mark began to feel a bit muzzy as the doors of the cabinet slid shut behind him. He pressed his hands against the smooth sides of the box. He heard clicks and swishes from outside; the Vortex was being put in order.

Trillian finally located the outdated Finite Improbability Generator at the bottom of a locked closet stuck in a disused laboratory with a sign on the door saying Dangerous! Nuclear Waste Receptacle! She blew off the worst of the dust and hastily set about brewing the tea. She stuck the sensors directly into the pot so as to achieve the greatest effect.

Lights began to whirl dimly, then more strongly, in the Vortex. Mark closed his eyes even though he knew it wouldn’t help.

Trillian added extra tea leaves. The Finite Improbability Generator kicked into high gear. The paint on the walls changed from pink to a rather bilious green.

**********************************************************************************

Douglas tapped furiously on the keyboard, disregarding the surprised cries the two actors made when the comfortable armchair suddenly turned into a Russian samovar and a cardboard box marked Megadodo Publications, Megadodo House, Ursa Minor.

*********************************************************************************

Marvin wandered onto the bridge. Trillian lay on the floor making a last-minute adjustment to the Brownian motion converter. Eddie was saying feverishly, “Improbability sum potential two million, one hundred thirty one thousand, nine hundred sixty to one and rising. Improbability sum potential two million—I-don’t-think-this-is-going-to-work-in-time— two hundred sixty one thousand, nine hundred seventy to one against and rising. Oh dear.”

Marvin reached into the teapot and took the two contacts from the Generator between his metal fingers. Sparks exploded from his body, the teapot and the generator as near-infinite improbability energy coursed through them. Trillian screamed and rolled away from the rapidly disintegrating Generator.

*********************************************************************************

The Macintosh exploded in a shower of smoke and sparks. Douglas jerked his hands away from the keyboard. Simon Jones and Geoffrey McGivern turned to look at the figure huddled on the carpet. “Mark?” Geoffrey finally ventured. “What’ve you done with the head and the arm?”

“And what are you doing in your dressing gown?” Simon added indignantly. “Everyone knows that’s my trademark.”

Mark Wing-Davey opened one eye, then the other. His gaze fell on Douglas, who sat with his hands lying limply at his sides. “Doug? Is that you?” The author nodded. “Then he was here? I mean, you know—” He suddenly realized the others were present. “It really happened?”

Simon and Geoffrey exchanged glances and started to edge toward the door.

Douglas nodded. A curiously placid smile touched his lips. “It happened. He was right here, in this room.” His hands caressed the manuscript lovingly. “It’s all right here.” He turned to Mark. “What was it like—there?”

Mark crawled toward the forgotten bottle of Scotch, captured it on the third try, and gulped some down. “I don’t want to talk about it. Doug, you’ve got to do something about those mice! They’re vicious! Bloody dangerous!” He staggered across to the sofa, carefully tucked up all mouse-ascendable dangling ends, and promptly fell asleep with the bottle tucked safely in the crook of his arm.

Douglas Adams, with the pleasure of a god adding life to his latest planet, reached for a pen and added the words The End to the script. Slowly, happily, he slumped forward over the keyboard.

Two sets of snores were heard.

*********************************************************************************

Trillian glared at Marvin. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done, you malfunctioning sulking machine? You may have just killed—” She broke off with a gasp. A beatific expression of contentment had settled across Marvin’s face.

“I think...” breathed the robot, “that I’m happy.”

“Infinity minus one,” Eddie piped up. “Improbability sum now complete.”

The expression faded. “No...never mind. I was wrong. And don’t worry. I don’t expect gratitude for saving Zaphod’s life or even the whole universe. Oh no. I’m far too intelligent. And I’ll have to do it again before it’s over, you wait and see. Why I bother is beyond even me. ‘Save the universe, Marvin. Pick up that candy wrapper—’” Marvin ground gears deep within his chest and stomped away.

The doors of the Total Perspective Vortex opened and Zaphod Beeblebrox stepped out jauntily. He looked at the astounded mice and said, “Hi!”

In a voice even squeakier than usual, one mouse asked, “Where did you get the head and the arm, Earthman?”

“And how did you survive the mind-annihilating effects of the Vortex?”

“In the first place, kid, I’m not an Earthman. And this is all old hat to me. The Vortex just told me what it always does. I’m a really terrific and great guy!” He reached down and picked up the dumbfounded mice. “I think you guys have some maze-running and wheel-spinning to catch up on, right?”

“But...but, how?” stuttered one mouse as he dumped them back into the cage.

Zaphod grinned. “Didn’t I tell you, baby? I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox!” He strolled off in search of Trillian—and a drink.

*********************************************************************************

In the study of an Islington flat, near where an exhausted author and an equally exhausted actor lay slumbering peacefully after an unusual Thursday, and where a Russian samovar was busily brewing excellent tea, a stream of banjo and synthesizer music began to emanate from a small cardboard box bearing customs marks from no earthly port. A Peter-Jonesy sort of voice added itself to the music.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” it intoned, “is a wholly remarkable book.”

Finis

Douglas Adams.......The Author
Mark Wing-Davey.....Zaphod Beeblebrox
Stephen Jones.....Marvin (the Paranoid Android)
Susan Sheridan......Tricia McMillan (Trillian)
Simon Jones.....Arthur Dent
Ford Prefect.....Geoffrey McGivern
The Book.....Peter Jones
Tags:

  • 1
(Deleted comment)
Oh, AWESOME!

*spins with you, giggling madly*

I was sure no one I knew would get this at *all*.

Methinks Douglas would be flattered.

There is flattery indeed. *blushes* I would hate to have to tell you how long ago I wrote this. *g*

This was a lot of fun. I didn't read the book or watch the movie, but I know the gist of the story, enough to thoroughly enjoy this. (grins happily)

Ooh, excellent. *g* Perhaps we can encourage you to try them. They're really great fun (the original radio series is for the real hardcore retro geeks, of course). I liked the new movie, too, but the books rock.

It's such an old fannish plot to use, but I had fun with it.

Oh, I love the radio series, and I have a horrible weakness for the BBC TV version too, wobbly second-head and all.
It also, totally, has the best theme music ever.

Great fic. Completely cracked, and therefore fabulous.

You know, I might have guessed you would be on this particular Vogon Constructor Fleet. *g*

The radio series stands alone. I have it on *vinyl*, if you can believe such a thing. And I also have the BBC version on DVD, heaven help me.

*dies* The theme music! *Adored* it. And can I geek out completely for a minute here? I have "The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts", and there is a gorgeous explanation of the choice of the theme music:

"Simon (ed. Brett, not Jones) remembers that right from the start Douglas knew exactly what he wanted. For instance, he spent some time looking for a signature tune which had to be electronic but which also had a banjo in it. Quite why he was so keen on a banjo is a bit of a mystery (he says he thought it would help give an 'on the road, hitch-hiking feel' to the whole thing), but there is no doubt that the choice of Journey of the Sorcerer from the Eagles album One of These Nights was inspired. Interestingly many of the people who wrote in asking what it was were surprised to find that they already had it. It just seemed to be one of those album tracks that nobody had noticed until it was taken out of context."

/end uber-geekery

Thanks so much!

You know, I might have guessed you would be on this particular Vogon Constructor Fleet. *g*

And I totally promise not to read you any of the Captain's poetry...

The radio series stands alone. I have it on *vinyl*, if you can believe such a thing.

HEE! I can believe it. We did have it on tape wayback in the day but I have no idea what happened to it. I keep meaning to get it on CD but never quite get around to it. One day, one day...

I did get the Tv version on DVD a couple of years ago though. Mostly because the VHS version wore out, but also because it had the Tomorrow's World special on Zaphod's second head, from back in the day when some flapping eyelids and rubber lips were the height of animatronic genius.

What I am slightly annoyed with though, is that the Beeb recorded and broadcast a new (and different... though mostly 'shorter') version of the radio play with most of the original radio voice actors shortly before the movie came out. And at the time the only working radio we had was the one in my car. Which mostly meant I didn't hear it because I really wasn't willing to sit in my car for half an hour at a time in high summer just to hear something that was slightly different to something I already heard.

I have no idea if they released that though. They probably should have done...

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

Great job with the story; sounded perfectly "in voice".

*is dumbstruck*

How did I not know that half my flist was this familiar with the Guide? Sheesh. And I shoulda guessed. Y'all are too good to not appreciate the classics.

The very young author who actually wrote this thanks you profusely. *g*

One of my ex-roommates, one year, gave each other lovely pseudo-leather bound copies of the first four books of the trilogy. One of the bestest prezzies evah.

the first four books of the trilogy

Does that sentence not beautifully sum up the insanity that is HHGG? *g*

And yeah. Definitely.

Hey, you know, if you got it, flaunt it.

Something that Prez Zaphod Beeblebrox knows well, being a really hoopy frood who knows where his towel is.

I enjoyed that immensely, It was spot on. Douglas will be missed.

Thanks muchly!

Mr. Adams was a great writer and by all accounts a wonderful person to know. We lost him much, much too soon.

That was AMAZING. I'm sure Eddie is reading this to Adams right now just to get away from Marvin again. After all, it's just another plane... right? =^n.n^=

Goodness gracious, I certainly hope so. *g*

Thank you so much! It will be one of my great regrets of this life that I never got to show it to Mr. Adams myself. If Eddie can get it to him, I only hope he'll be amused.

I'm sure he would be! =^n.n^=

  • 1