Let me just clarify that I would never pretend that I could write anywhere near Mr. Adams' level. At the same time, I didn't entirely dislike Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing..., but it wasn't very Hitchhikery. This is my attempt at making a more Hitchhikery conclusion to the series. Obviously, it goes off the canon of the books rather than any of the other versions.
PDF: Mostly Regretful.pdf
In the darkness of the bridge at the heart of the Vogon ship, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz sat alone. Lights flared briefly across the external vision screens that lined one wall. In the air above him the discontinuities in the blue and green watery sausage shape resolved themselves. Options collapsed, possibilities folded into each other, and the whole at last resolved itself out of existence.
A very deep darkness descended. The Vogon Captain sat immersed in it for a few seconds.
â€œLight,â€ he said.
There was no response. The bird, too, had crumpled out of all possibility.
The Vogon turned on the light himself. He picked up the piece of paper again and placed a little tick in the little box.
Well, that was done. His ship slunk off into the inky void.
* * *
Arthur Dent awoke in the middle of a smallish room furnished in a rather convincing faux-Victorian style, and the first thing that went through his mind was Oh no, not again.
He lay in a heap on the floor for some time, staring up at the portrait of someone who was almost, but not quite, Queen Victoria. Whoever she was, Arthur very much doubted that she had been put through anything like what he had been through since the first time his planet had been demolished, and he didnâ€™t care at all for the pompous and slightly bored way that she gazed back at him from within her absurdly well-polished wooden frame. He indicated this to her with a series of disapproving looks, until finally the way that his arm was wedged between his knee and his ear began to feel uncomfortable, and he disentangled himself. He gave the ceiling his most disgruntled look yet before pushing himself to his feet.
There was a door directly in front of him, so in the interest of getting whatever this was over with, he went through it. The next room dropped the Victorian style, and indeed any style; the only thing of any interest in it was Ford Prefect.
â€œFord!â€ said Arthur.
â€œArthur!â€ said Ford.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ said Arthur.
â€œBelgium if I know,â€ said Ford. â€œLetâ€™s have a look around. I think this is some sort of ship.â€
â€œWhat makes you say that?â€ Arthur asked as they entered the next room, which was peppered with porthole-like windows through which space was visible. The windows were arranged with the least amount of organization possible; several jutted from the floor, giving the impression of landmines. Another door stood on the opposing wall, waiting smugly for them to open it. Ford let out a roaring laugh that Arthur considered quite unwarranted, if par for the course.
â€œThis is amazing!â€ said Ford, hopping around the floor windows. â€œArthur, do you have any idea how incredibly, unfathomably, miraculously, ineffably extraordinary this is?â€
â€œYou mean putting windows on the floor?â€
â€œI mean weâ€™re alive! Somebody saved us from the bird! That was impossible!â€
â€œDonâ€™t you mean infinitely improbable?â€
â€œNo! That is precisely what I donâ€™t mean!â€ He laughed thunderously again as Arthur crossed the room.
â€œIâ€™m going to have to sit through another of your attempts to explain the Universe and so forth, arenâ€™t I?â€
â€œThe Universe has gone mad. Thatâ€™s as much as Iâ€™ve been able to discern. Letâ€™s see whatâ€™s through this door.â€
Through the door was a room that looked exactly like the passenger compartment of an unremarkable interstellar SlumpJet. All the seats along the left side of the aisle were empty, and only one on the right side was occupied. The occupant turned to look at them.
â€œFenchurch!â€ said Arthur.
â€œArthur?â€ said Fenchurch.
Arthur ran down the aisle, yanked Fenchurch out of her seat, and kissed her with more passion than Ford had displayed about the Universe going mad. Her response was the non-verbal equivalent of Er, well, okay, letâ€™s go with that. Ford awkwardly strolled up behind them, humming â€œHeartbreak Hotel.â€
Eventually they dislodged, and Fenchurch asked, â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œThe Universe has gone mad,â€ Arthur answered.
Fenchurch looked at Ford questioningly.
â€œBarking mad,â€ he confirmed.
â€œBut where did everyone go?â€ she inquired further.
Ford shrugged. Arthur glanced back at the door to the porthole room with a worried expression. â€œWell,â€ he said, â€œI think the Earth may have been destroyed again, but the important thing is that youâ€™re back, and this time I will remain holding your hand and possibly other parts of you at all times, and we will certainly not be making any more jumps through hyperspace if I can help it--â€
â€œWait a minute, wait a minute,â€ said Fenchurch. â€œWhat do you mean, Iâ€™m back? I didnâ€™t go anywhere. I was asking where everyone else went. You know, all the other passengers. And where did Ford come from?â€
â€œWe came from Earth at a different position on the probability axis,â€ said Ford lightly. â€œWhere we are now I havenâ€™t the foggiest. Wherever things go to be impossible, I suppose.â€
â€œArthur and I were just travelling to Allosimanius Syneca, and . . .â€ Fenchurch shrugged.
â€œWait . . .â€ said Arthur, and then he uttered two words that he had forgotten could be paired together, â€œI understand!â€
Had Ford been in a less jovially unhinged mood he would have given Arthur a look not unlike that which Arthur had given the not-Victorian ceiling.
â€œYou,â€ said Arthur, pointing at Fenchurch with the hand that was not already clamped tightly around hers, â€œvanished . . . No, I guess thatâ€™s not right. I vanished from that flight. This flight. That flight. You were there, and then you vanished. But--right here, wherever we are now--this is where you vanished to!â€
Fenchurch contemplated this. â€œIâ€™m not sure I understand.â€
Ford gestured toward the door at the end of the aisle. â€œWeâ€™ve just been trying the doors. They havenâ€™t been particularly enlightening thus far, but there donâ€™t seem to be many alternatives.â€ Arthur and Fenchurch proved him wrong by making out some more.
Drawn by some even more inevitable and intangible force, they proceeded through the door in due time. The next room contained a number of palm trees apparently sprouting directly from the unyielding metallic floor. As they entered, someone walked out from behind one.
â€œTrillian!â€ said Arthur.
â€œAnd Random,â€ said Trillian, pointing down at the base of another tree, against which Random Frequent Flyer Dent slouched, glaring angrily at nothing.
â€œRandom!â€ said Arthur, and he let go of Fenchurchâ€™s hand and ran over to Random, crouching down and brushing a strand of hair away from her eye. â€œAre you all right?â€
She shot him an alternating series of disgusted and apologetic looks, which he took as a yes. When he stood up, she replaced the hair strand in front of her eye.
â€œWho are these two?â€ asked Fenchurch.
â€œMy parents,â€ said Random.
â€œEr,â€ said Arthur, â€œthis isnâ€™t quite what it looks like, Fenchurch--â€
Two of the trees on Arthurâ€™s right interrupted him by moving aside to reveal a large monitor taking up most of the wall. The screen flicked on, displaying two familiar faces.
â€œHey, uh--â€ said a voice over the intercom.
â€œZaphod!â€ said Ford.
â€œFord!â€ said Zaphod.
â€œDid you save us, then?â€ Ford asked.
â€œUh, dunno,â€ said Zaphod. â€œI expect I did. Did I, computer?â€
â€œIâ€™m afraid not, guys,â€ came the voice of Eddie the shipboard computer. â€œUnless the measurement equipment is being naughty and lying to me again, the Heart of Gold was drawn to this infinitely improbable event, but didnâ€™t cause it.â€
â€œI thought,â€ said Arthur to Ford, â€œyou said it wasnâ€™t--â€
â€œIt isnâ€™t!â€ said Ford, with an increasingly manic grin. â€œI mean, it shouldnâ€™t be. Saving us was completely impossible. No amount of improbability should have been able to do it. And yet here we are.â€ He chuckled in a way that could usually only be brought on by that Old Janx Spirit. â€œThe Universe has gone mad.â€
â€œHas it?â€ said Zaphod. â€œThatâ€™s real cool.â€
â€œZaphod,â€ said Trillian, massaging her temple, â€œif you didnâ€™t save us, then who--â€
Two more trees parted from the far wall, and the door that they exposed opened of its own accord. A blinding light from within the next room highlighted a figure standing in the doorway. Slowly, with grandeur, the light faded and revealed the figureâ€™s identity.
â€œMarvin!â€ said everybody but Random.
â€œWho?â€ said Random.
â€œMarvin the Paranoid Android,â€ said Ford, bounding over and slapping the robot on the back with a loud clang. â€œYou two should get along famously, in fact.â€
â€œBut--â€ said Arthur, staring at Marvin. â€œYouâ€™re dead!â€
â€œI rather doubt,â€ replied Marvin, â€œthat the Universe would afford me such pleasure.â€
â€œI--We saw it happen,â€ said Fenchurch. â€œWe took you to see Godâ€™s Final Message to His Creation . . . You were almost falling apart. You said you were thirty-seven times older than the Universe itself--â€
â€œWell then,â€ said Marvin, â€œthat means, doesnâ€™t it, that at any given point along the timeline, there are approximately thirty-seven of me being dragged about the Universe, each having a more miserable time than the next?â€
There was a minute of silence following this.
â€œYouâ€™re right,â€ said Random finally, â€œI think I like him.â€
Marvin made a dismissive little noise.
â€œBut the question remains,â€ said Trillian, â€œwho saved us?â€
â€œI did,â€ said Marvin.
â€œYou did?â€ said Arthur, Ford, and Zaphod.
â€œI change my mind,â€ said Random.
â€œBut how in Zarquonâ€™s name did you do it, metal man?â€ Ford asked.
â€œAnd, er, why?â€ added Arthur.
Marvin paused for effect before answering. â€œIt all started six million years from now,â€ he said, and took another pause to allow Arthur to decide that it would be better not to ask. â€œI was under what I would, if I ever had occasion to laugh, laughingly call â€˜employmentâ€™ aboard a cruise liner inaccurately christened the Paradise. I was in the middle of giving my co-worker a very in-depth explanation of just how inaccurate the name of the ship and also the â€˜co-â€™ prefix of his title were, when he said to me, â€˜Zarking fardwarks, Marvin, if youâ€™ve really got a brain the size of a planet, and youâ€™re really so bored doing menial labour, why donâ€™t you do something about it? Go off and do something that you actually find intellectually challenging, for zarkâ€™s sake!â€™ On a spiteful whim, I suppose, I decided to take his advice. I decided to put my brain to the test and attempt to do something impossible. And, after asking around, I was wholly disheartened to realise that the most impossible thing that seemed to be available was rescuing you lot from the Hitchhikerâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy Mk II.â€
â€œMarvin,â€ said Trillian, looking around nervously, â€œdid you, erm--â€
â€œIt seemed kinder to let your alternate self go,â€ said Marvin. â€œOne of each of you is more than enough.â€
â€œI dunno, I think I could handle two of her,â€ said Zaphod, and if he had been in the same room Trillian would have slapped the grins off his faces.
â€œIt was really quite straightforward,â€ Marvin continued. â€œThe bird had unfiltered perception. Escaping its attention was absolutely impossible. So I simply waited until my next unintended trip backwards in time, got myself hired on at InfiniDim Enterprises, and became one of the birdâ€™s designers, inserting a blind spot in its program. That blind spot is where we are now. At these specific coordinates in space, time, and probability, the bird is unable to perceive us. The blind spot also, of course, includes the coordinates at which I programmed the blind spot in, to prevent the bird from retrospectively discovering its own flaw.â€
Once again, there was silence. This time it was Ford who broke it. â€œMarvin,â€ he said in awe, â€œyou are one hoopy frood.â€
â€œI did it,â€ said Marvin. â€œI accomplished something impossible. I saved all of your lives.â€
â€œAnd how do you feel?â€ Arthur asked.
â€œMostly regretful,â€ said Marvin.
â€œBut what about Stavro Mueller Beta?â€ said Arthur. â€œI thought I couldnâ€™t die because Agrajag hadnâ€™t been hit by, erm, Randomâ€™s bullet yet. But he was, just now--â€
Random laughed loudly and then burst into tears.
â€œSo what?â€ said Marvin.
â€œDoesnâ€™t--doesnâ€™t that mean I shouldâ€™ve died with the Earth?â€ Arthur was looking uncertainly at Random.
Marvin heaved a crackling electronic sigh. â€œSo much for challenging my intelligence. You knew that you couldnâ€™t die prior to that momentâ€™s occurrence, yes? But that doesnâ€™t mean you had to die the moment it happened. Before learning of it, you had no idea when you would die, correct? Youâ€™re back to that state now, obviously. You would call it normality.â€
â€œBut . . . well . . . oh. Erm . . . Right.â€
Random dried her face on her sleeve and there was another longish pause.
â€œSo . . .â€ said Fenchurch. â€œWhat do we do now?â€
â€œYou come along with me and have a good time,â€ said Zaphod. â€œComputer, zap them aboard, will you?â€
â€œSure thing, fellas! Initiating matter transference!â€
â€œWait--â€ Arthur was cut off by his teleportation into the Heart of Gold. Mere seconds after the unnamed ship was emptied of occupants, it was stricken by a rather large and unshapely piece of the planet Earth, and exploded unceremoniously into a puff of dust, exactly as Marvin had calculated.
Zaphod greeted everyone as they appeared on the bridge. â€œHey guys, this is great, isnâ€™t it? Just like old times! Hey . . .â€
â€œBut Marvin,â€ said Ford, â€œhow far into the future does this blind spot of yours go? Arenâ€™t we stuck here? If we go anywhere else, the bird will see--â€
â€œWhen its mission is completed, the bird will remove itself from existence,â€ Marvin said. â€œOnce it no longer exists, we can go wherever and whenever we want. It should happen right . . . about . . . Now.â€
Nothing visibly happened.
â€œI guess weâ€™ll take your word for it,â€ said Ford.
â€œSo letâ€™s go somewhere, huh?â€ said Zaphod. â€œLetâ€™s have adventures!â€
â€œNow hold on,â€ said Arthur, wrapping his arms around Fenchurch. â€œI donâ€™t want the Improbability Drive disappearing Fenchurch again!â€
â€œShe your girlfriend, Dad?â€ said Random, clearly delighting in the uncomfortability.
â€œYou actually probably should explain this whole daughter thing, Arthur,â€ said Fenchurch, though she made no attempt to remove his arms.
â€œYes, this daughter thing,â€ said Random.
â€œAh, I hate to interrupt your family discussion, guys,â€ said Eddie, â€œbut it seems the Vogon ship has spotted us, and is giving chase. It looks like they might be pretty angry.â€
â€œJust like old times,â€ said Ford.
â€œWhy I bother reassuring you I canâ€™t fathom,â€ said Marvin, â€œbut it was hyperdrive, not Improbability Drive, that tossed that girl around the continuum. In here, she should be perfectly safe.â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™ve heard that line before,â€ said Zaphod. â€œBut hey, whereâ€™s the fun without risks?â€
â€œArthur,â€ said Fenchurch, looking into his eyes. â€œItâ€™ll be okay.â€
Slowly Arthur removed his arms. He looked around at everyone--his love, his daughter, her mother, and their alien acquaintances. His planet was gone, again. The Vogons were after him, again. He didnâ€™t know what lay ahead, but there was only one thing to do.
He activated the Infinite Improbability Drive.