Here's the bit from Chapter 40 I skipped on this
page, for those interested.
Chapter 40 -- skipped bit
... ... ... ... ...
She waved them on.
Every twenty miles or so there was a little stone hut with
showers and sanitary facilities, but the going was tough, and the
high sun baked down on the Great Red Plain, and the Great Red
Plain rippled in the heat.
"Is it possible," asked Arthur at one of the larger booths, "to
rent one of those little scooters? Like the one Lajestic
"The scooters," said the little lady who was serving at an ice
cream bar, "are not for the devout."
"Oh well, that's easy then," said Fenchurch, "we're not
particularly devout. We're just interested."
"Then you must turn back now," said the little lady severely, and
when they demurred, sold them a couple of Final Message sunhats
and a photograph of themselves with their arms tight around each
other on the Great Red Plain of Rars.
They drank a couple of sodas in the shade of the booth and then
trudged out into the sun again.
"We're running out of border cream," said Fenchurch after a few
more miles. "We can go to the next booth, or we can return to the
previous one which is nearer, but means we have to retrace our
They stared ahead at the distant black speck winking in the heat
haze; they looked behind themselves. They elected to go on.
They then discovered that they were not only not the first ones
to make this journey, but that they were not the only ones making
Some way ahead of them an awkward low shape was heaving itself
wretchedly along the ground, stumbling painfully slowly, half-
It was moving so slowly that before too long they caught the
creature up and could see that it was made of worn, scarred and
It groaned at them as they approached it, collapsing in the hot
"So much time," it groaned, "oh so much time. And pain as well,
so much of that, and so much time to suffer it in too. One or the
other on its own I could probably manage. It's the two together
that really get me down. Oh hello, you again."
"Marvin?" said Arthur sharply, crouching down beside it. "Is that
"You were always one," groaned the aged husk of the robot, "for
the super-intelligent question, weren't you?"
"What is it?" whispered Fenchurch in alarm, crouching behind
Arthur, and grasping on to his arm. "He's sort of an old friend,"
said Arthur. "I ..."
"Friend!" croaked the robot pathetically. The word died away in a
kind of crackle and flakes of rust fell out of its mouth. "You'll
have to excuse me while I try and remember what the word means.
My memory banks are not what they were you know, and any word
which falls into disuse for a few zillion years has to get
shifted down into auxiliary memory back-up. Ah, here it comes."
The robot's battered head snapped up a bit as if in thought.
"Hmm," he said, "what a curious concept."
He thought a little longer.
"No," he said at last, "don't think I ever came across one of
those. Sorry, can't help you there."
He scraped a knee along pathetically in the dust, an then tried
to twist himself up on his misshapen elbows.
"Is there any last service you would like me to perform for you
perhaps?" he asked in a kind of hollow rattle. "A piece of paper
that perhaps you would like me to pick up for you? Or maybe you
would like me," he continued, "to open a door?"
His head scratched round in its rusty neck bearings and seemed to
scan the distant horizon.
"Don't seem to be any doors around at present," he said, "but I'm
sure that if we waited long enough, someone would build one. And
then," he said slowly twisting his head around to see Arthur
again, "I could open it for you. I'm quite used to waiting you
"Arthur," hissed Fenchurch in his ear sharply, "you never told me
of this. What have you done to this poor creature?"
"Nothing," insisted Arthur sadly, "he's always like this ..."
"Ha!" snapped Marvin. "Ha!" he repeated. "What do you know of
always? You say `always' to me, who, because of the silly little
errands your organic lifeforms keep on sending me through time
on, am now thirty-seven times older than the Universe itself?
Pick your words with a little more care," he coughed, "and tact."
He rasped his way through a coughing fit and resumed.
"Leave me," he said, "go on ahead, leave me to struggle painfully
on my way. My time at last has nearly come. My race is nearly
run. I fully expect," he said, feebly waving them on with a
broken finger, "to come in last. It would be fitting. Here I am,
brain the size ..."
Between them they picked him up despite his feeble protests and
insults. The metal was so hot it nearly blistered their fingers,
but he weighed surprisingly little, and hung limply between their
They carried him with them along the path that ran along the left
of the Great Red Plain of Rars toward the encircling mountains of
Arthur attempted to explain to Fenchurch, but was too often
interrupted by Marvin's dolorous cybernetic ravings.
They tried to see if they could get him some spare parts at one
of the booths, but Marvin would have none of it.
"I'm all spare parts," he droned.
"Let me be!" he groaned.
"Every part of me," he moaned, "has been replaced at least fifty
times ... except ..." He seemed almost imperceptibly to brighten
for a moment. His head bobbed between them with the effort of
memory. "Do you remember, the first time you ever met me," he
said at last to Arthur. "I had been given the intellect-
stretching task of taking you up to the bridge? I mentioned to
you that I had this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left
side? That I had asked for them to be replaced but they never
He left a longish pause before he continued. They carried him on
between them, under the baking sun that hardly ever seemed to
move, let alone set.
"See if you can guess," said Marvin, when he judged that the
pause had become embarrassing enough, "which parts of me were
never replaced? Go on, see if you can guess.
"Ouch," he added, "ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch."
At last they reached the last of the little booths, set down
Marvin between them and rested in the shade. Fenchurch bought
some cufflinks for Russell, cufflinks that had set in them little
polished pebbles which had been picked up from the Quentulus
Quazgar Mountains, directly underneath the letters of fire in
which was written God's Final Message to His Creation.
Arthur flipped through a little rack of devotional tracts on the
counter, little meditations on the meaning of the Message.
"Ready?" he said to Fenchurch, who nodded.
They heaved up Marvin between them.
They rounded the foot of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains,
... ... ... ... ...
<=== Chapter 40 page
Jos van Geffen --
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last modified: 26 February 2000