Tuesday, 19 June 2012

(Douglas Adams) - Chapter Three

There was a whir, a bright light, then we were in a vast room with several people standing at consoles, and in the centre of the room was a huge pulsating sphere.
            Anathema smiled at DNA.
           ‘Any ideas?’ she asked.
           ‘Shit!’ he said ‘You’ve got a Belgium Nuclear-Ion Generator!’
           ‘What’s that?’ I asked ‘If nobody minds if I ask a question?’
           ‘It’s a Heavy-Charged Particle Reactor that can generate enough power to propel a planet this size to ..’
           ‘Ninety-nine percent of light speed’ Betelgeuse grinned.
           ‘But that’s not enough to get you to Earth and destroy it’ said DNA ‘It would take ...’
            Anathema laughed.
           ‘Very good. True, if that is, we intended to use it as a propulsion system at all’ she laughed again ‘Bob, meet my Little If, or LIF ...’
           ‘This little baby doesn’t have to take us anywhere’ Betelgeuse said ‘It can do to planets, and suns, what it did to you’ he shrugged ‘With a few minor adjustments. And is why you’re here’
            ‘I won’t do it!’ said DNA ‘An Improbability Drive is one thing, but the Improbability Factor is far too unstable for anything else. It’d be like looking for a box of dynamite in the dark with a lighted candle. I won’t do it!’
            ‘You can, and you will’ said Anathema ‘It got you here, six hundred light years, in a fraction of a second, right? All I need from you is a little tweaking to get it to do the same to an entire planet. I’m going to throw your fucking planet right into your miserable little sun, and you are going to help me do it, for the fucking mess you created, okay?’
              I coughed, apologetically, if a cough can ever be construed as an apology.
             ‘Yes’ I said.
              DNA looked at me, the others stared at me.
              ‘I can do it’ I said ‘It’s me, or, rather I, who is the scientist, not him. I am Hermann Gaswind-Phaart’ I looked at Anathema ‘German. A Physics Professor of the Third Reich, kidnapped by USA military intelligence after World War Two, and forced to work on Project Orion in the 1950’s’
              ‘Wow!’ said Anathema ‘You got your memory back, whoopee!’
              ‘The idea then was a nuclear pulse rocket, a vehicle propelled by a series of controlled nuclear explosions’ I said ‘Some of the multiple blasts being absorbed by the spaceship, so adding an increment to its velocity. A test model was built, using deuterium and helium-3 pellets, detonated at a rate of 1,500 a second to give a smoother acceleration to a top speed of 80 per cent of light speed’
               ‘He’s right’ Betelgeuse announced ‘Except it exploded in the Nevada Desert on take-off, killing all the observing scientists and officials. It was believed that Professor Hermann Gaswind-Phaart sabotaged the project, killing himself and everybody else, to avenge the death of his beloved Fuehrer’ he came to attention, and snapped his arm up.
              ‘Heil Hitler!’
               I automatically did the same.
              ‘Gotcha!’  Betelgeuse grinned, and then nodded at Anathema ‘It’s him all right’
               Anathema took my face in her filthy hands, and kissed me, long and hard, again.
               This time I didn’t protest.
              ‘That’s my man! I could just eat you!’ Anathema said ‘Now get to it!’
               ‘No!’ said DNA ‘Don’t do it!’
                I looked at him.
               ‘I know what I’m doing’ I said.
                Anathema laughed, so did Betelgeuse.
                I went to the Nuclear-Ion Generator, pressed a few panel-control buttons, studied the effect, and then I opened up a small section of the Generator.
               ‘Ahhhh …’ I said, then I started to pull out wires, exchange them with others, and talked, as I worked ‘A scientist, an artist, and an electrician, were about to be executed for murder. The scientist was the first to sit in the electric chair, but when the switch was thrown, nothing happened, and because the law stated if it didn’t work the first time the man could go free, he was released, and he told the guard he didn’t think much of the scientific principle on which the electric chair was built. The next in the chair was the artist. He said he thought it was aesthetically ugly, and when the switch was thrown, it didn’t work for him either, so he was freed. The electrician sat in the chair, looked at it, and said, if you swap the green wire for the red wire, the damn thing will work …’

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