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A Short Interlude

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Purple-tinged waves lapped serenely against metal long since worn smooth. Some particularly adventurous waves ventured up and through the brand new hole in the side of the metal, licking away at the carbon residue and slicking around the twisted edges.

Somewhere in the distance came a noise. It grew louder and louder, much as if whatever was producing it was growing rapidly closer, accelerating at a rate roughly equal to that of local gravitational attraction. An Acoustician of Gellaartian Five with some basic amount of training would have been able to confirm that this was, in fact, the case. They also would have been able to give, by the noise itself, an approximation of the size, shape, density, and velocity of the projectile. There were no Acousticians present, however, due partly to the fact that the local gravity involved belonged to a planet several million light years away from where Gellaartian Five used to be; due in larger part to the fact that several years back, their leading Acousticians had a slight disagreement about the density and composition of a certain projectile. Unfortunately, the projectile was an asteroid of astounding dimensions, and their hearing point was the only continent of Gellaartian Five.

The noise reached a crescendo as something large and pointy crashed through the waves, sending plumes of vapour up with a violent hiss. It bore a striking resemblance to a lawn dart, if lawn darts weighed seventeen metric tones and came equipped with lasers. The spray from crash arced up, coming down at precisely the right angle to soak the four humanoid figures standing, surprised, on the deck.

They were not, however, anywhere near as surprised as the humans who were blinking at what had previously been an abandoned deck. One raised a hand and scrubbed at his eyes, blinking owlishly. A second polished his glasses and placed them back on his nose, looking rather put out when the figures remained.

'Er,' said one of the new arrivals, henceforth referred to as "Arthur," dripping nervously in a tattered, striped bathrobe. 'Hello,' he said, waving weakly.

This did not go over particularly well.

'What is it with you apes and your projectile weapons, anyway?' a wiry, gingery man asked. His name wasn't actually Ford, but it was something to sign at the end of bills.

This went over even less well. There were a series of clicks recognizable the universe wide to mean "I really don't think we can be friends." A Gellartaian Acoustician would have recognized them as belonging to the safety mechanisms of a series of semi-automatic mid-range projectile weapons driven by explosive powder, then stood about debating with him or herself as to the muzzle velocity.

There are few entire species that fail to grasp the concept of personal survival in quite such a spectacular manner.

'Hey, hey,' said one blonde head belonging to none other than Zaphod Beeblebrox, ex-Galactic President, current Galactically-wanted fugitive, and self-proclaimed snappy dresser. 'No need for all this violence.' Overhead, another seventeen-tone lawn dart collided with what looked like a flying sausage, and they both exploded in a rather spectacular and improbable fashion. 'Ooh, shiny,' his other head said, craned back to watch the sky.

'Begging your pardon,' Arthur said, 'but would it be possible to have this conversation elsewhere? I always find that gunpoint standoffs make me a tad nervous, and the war overhead isn't helping matters much.'

'Oh no,' said the man who appeared to be in charge, in that he was carrying the biggest gun. 'Not until you tell us why you're here, and how you penetrated our defenses.'

'Did we?' Zaphod asked, craning his necks in different directions, taking in the lawn darts and flying sausages darting about. 'They're not very good defenses, are they? Have you thought about new ones?'

The fellow in charge ground his teeth. Somewhere, thousands of light years away, his orthodontist tossed fitfully in his sleep.

'Excuse me,' said Ford, smiling a tad too broadly, too many teeth sparkling in the afternoon. 'But I don't suppose you could be troubled to explain to us where "here" is?'

One of the men standing in the pack facing them sputtered a bit and waved his gun in exasperation. The others around him stepped carefully back. 'Where?' he asked. 'What, you just went out for a walk and got turned around?'

'Pretty much,' said Zaphod. 'I don't suppose you've seen a large space ship around here anywhere? We seem to have misplaced ours.'

'Let me just check the impound lot,' the fellow in charge said, making absolutely no move as to do so.

'You're in Atlantis,' the one who'd been waving his gun about said, attempting to cross his arms before realizing he still held his weapon. He made Arthur rather nervous.

'The lost city of Atlantis?' Arthur asked, surprise colouring his face. He'd never put much stock into stories about Atlantis. Then again, there'd been a point where he'd never thought much about little green men and alien life, other than to acknowledge that it likely existed out there somewhere in the vastness of the universe, and that he was exceedingly unlikely to encounter it.

'Obviously not,' Ford said. 'Whatever else it is, it's clearly found.'

'Huh,' Arthur replied. 'Good point.'

A rather menacing growl came from behind both groups, the one with guns swinging about as a pale white humanoid in a fright wig leapt from the shadows and landed on all fours, looking around in confusion and letting out a confused 'meeeoow?'

'Well, that's new,' the man in charge said, yanking back his gun-waving friend as he made as if to pick up the rather surprised white kitten. The kitten fluffed itself up and attempted to hiss in a threatening manner.

'Oh, bother,' said the fourth, and to this point silent member of the little dripping group. Her name wasn't actually Trillian, but it was what she went by these days. 'The malfunction in the ship's drive must be even worse than I thought.'

'What was that?' Arthur asked in a high voice.

'Wraith,' one of the men with guns replied, a nice enough looking young man with dark skin, who, through a meaningless coincidence, was also named "Ford."

The Guide has this to say about the subject of the Wraith: The Wraith, though their spoken language is limited and they may come across as crude, are a very sociable species, and are always more than pleased to have dinner guests. Under no circumstances allow them to have you for supper.

'Not space vampires again,' Zaphod said, crossing his arms and using the third to gesticulate wildly. 'We just had those last week.'

'Sorry for the inconvenience,' the man with the largest gun said. His voice was so full of sarcasm that on the planet Milliform, a thurrindra tree – a species renowned for its sensitivity to disruptions in the Dostoyevsky force largely responsible for holding back respectable physicists' search for "dark matter" – shriveled up and lost half its leaves. ('Well, that's just great,' its owner said, causing the rest of its leaves to drop off.)

'I'll let you make it up to me,' Zaphod said, oblivious.

Ford – Ford with a gun – watched as Zaphod took a step in close to man in charge, who had a handy patch on his vest reading 'Sheppard.'

'How do you get your hair to do that?' Zaphod asked.

Sheppard poked his gun into Zaphod's chest. Zaphod pushed it away.

'Do what?' Sheppard asked, casting a glance at the soldiers around him.

'Stand up like that. I've been thinking of a change myself. Something that'll really draw attention to my cheekbones.'

'Which set?' the former gun waver asked. His helpful patch read "McKay."

Something exploded overhead. Arthur made a noise deep in his throat that was in no way a whimper.

'It just does,' Sheppard said, poking Zaphod again.

McKay snorted. Zaphod cocked his right head. 'Oh!' he said. 'You're you part Wedernack, then? Groovy. You know, I knew this one girl once, and you would not believe the things she –'

Something else exploded overhead, closer this time, going off with the heat of any standard explosion. People hit the deck, a small amount of steam wafting from Arthur and Ford's (ginger Ford, not Ford-with-a-Gun) wet clothing.

'The good news,' Trillian said, still standing, head bent forward over what appeared to be a large iPod with the words "Don't Panic" stenciled upside down on the back, 'is that from their point of view, it's much more likely that we disappear again than that we stick around.'

'Sadly enough,' McKay said, arms over his head and still face down on the decking, 'this isn't even the strangest thing that's happened this week.'

Ford (ginger Ford) made an unusual face. 'You don't happen to have an improbability drive lying around somewhere, do you?'

'You haven't noticed the laws of physics and reality acting up at all, have you?' Trillian asked, looking rather concerned.

'Nah,' Sheppard said, then paused. Looked at McKay, who was standing with his mouth slightly open.

'Probabilities should be normalizing soon,' Trillian said. 'We'll be gone in a minute or so, when it's more likely that we're back in our ship than standing here.'

'That's not how science works!' McKay shouted.

Arthur frowned. 'Once upon a time, I had rather the same impression,' he said, and disappeared into thin air, leaving behind nothing but a puddle of water.

McKay looked at Sheppard. Sheppard looked at the suddenly vacant deck. Ford picked up the kitten. There came the sound of feet in heavy combat boots hitting metal deck plating, and a second team rounded the corner. Teyla was in the lead, followed closely by a pack of marines, and finally Ronon.

'Damn it,' Ford said, and disappeared into a plot hole.

McKay looked at Sheppard. Sheppard looked at McKay. They both looked at the four puddles on the edge of the dock, and the rather irate kitten mewling its displeasure at being dropped.

'Improbability drive?' McKay asked.

'Nah,' Sheppard said, smiling forcibly as ninety-nine red balloons bobbed up against the dock. 'Nah.'


Somewhere, possibly, on a white sand beach, a young man named Ford found himself knee deep in clear, warm water.

'Better than last time,' he said to himself with a shrug, and waded towards the shore.