“And this guy,” ranted Ford, “was on a drive to sell more of them! His five-year mission to seek out and explore strange new worlds, and sell Advanced Music Substitute Systems to their restaurants, elevators and wine bars! Or if they didn’t have restaurants, elevators and wine bars yet, to artificially accelerate their civilization growth until they bloody well did have! Where’s that coffee!”
“I threw it away.”
“Make some more. I have now remembered what I did next. I saved civilization as we know it. I knew it was something like that.”
He stumbled determinedly back into the sitting room, where he seemed to carry on talking to himself, tripping over the furniture and making beep beep noises.
A couple of minutes later, wearing his very placid face, Arthur followed him.
Ford looked stunned.
“Where have you been?” he demanded.
“Making some coffee,” said Arthur, still wearing his very placid face. He had long ago realized that the only way of being in Ford’s company successfully was to keep a large stock of very placid faces and wear them at all times.
“You missed the best bit!” raged Ford. “You missed the bit where I jumped the guy! Now,” he said, “I shall have to jump him, all over him!”
He hurled himself recklessly at a chair and broke it.
“It was better,” he said sullenly, “last time,” and waved vaguely in the direction of another broken chair which he had already got trussed up on the dining table.
“I see,” said Arthur, casting a placid eye over the trussed up wreckage, “and, er, what are all the ice cubes for?”
“What?” screamed Ford. “What? You missed that bit too? That’s the suspended animation facility! I put the guy in the suspended animation facility. Well I had to didn’t I?”
“So it would seem,” said Arthur, in his placid voice.
“Don’t touch that!!!” yelled Ford.
Arthur, who was about to replace the phone, which was for some mysterious reason lying on the table, off the hook, paused, placidly.
“OK,” said Ford, calming down, “listen to it.”
Arthur put the phone to his ear.
“It’s the speaking clock,” he said.
“Beep, beep, beep,” said Ford, “is exactly what is being heard all over that guy’s ship, while he sleeps, in the ice, going slowly round a little-known moon of Sesefras Magna. The London Speaking Clock!”
“I see,” said Arthur again, and decided that now was the time to ask the big one.
“Why?” he said, placidly.
“With a bit of luck,” said Ford, “the phone bill will bankrupt the buggers.”
He threw himself, sweating, on to the sofa.
“Anyway,” he said, “dramatic arrival don’t you think?”
The flying saucer in which Ford Prefect had stowed away had stunned the world.
Finally there was no doubt, no possibility of mistake, no hallucinations, no mysterious CIA agents found floating in reservoirs.
This time it was real, it was definite. It was quite definitely definite.
It had come down with a wonderful disregard for anything beneath it and crushed a large area of some of the most expensive real estate in the world, including much of Harrods.
The thing was massive, nearly a mile across, some said, dull silver in colour, pitted, scorched and disfigured with the scars of unnumbered vicious space battles fought with savage forces by the light of suns unknown to man.
A hatchway opened, crashed down through the Harrods Food Halls, demolished Harvey Nicholls, and with a final grinding scream of tortured architecture, toppled the Sheraton Park Tower.
After a long, heart-stopping moment of internal crashes and grumbles of rending machinery, there marched from it, down the ramp, an immense silver robot, a hundred feet tall.
It held up a hand.
“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”
Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the non-stop frenetic news reports on the television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.