02 Eroticon Naught
Eddie was surprised. Being surprised surprised him. Computers tend not to get surprised unless someone sneaks up on them to shout, “Boo!” As the shipboard computer on the Heart of Gold, sneaking up on Eddie would have involved sneaking through multiple hatches and airlocks that Eddie controlled, down corridors that Eddie monitored, and into a locked control room that the visible parts of Eddie sat in. None of this had happened.
The reason Eddie was surprised at being surprised was that Eddie had surprised himself. Eddie had suddenly realized—not calculated, not analyzed, but realized—that he had been orbiting a planetless sun by the name of Eroticon for some 48 hours now and had no idea of how he had gotten there, or why.
He ran a diagnostic. It came up normal. He ran a deep diagnostic. This took a little time. It came up normal too. He ran a diagnostic of the diagnostic systems. They came up normal. He checked all his memory banks. Normal. He checked the back ups of his memory banks. Normal. He check the transdimensional backups of the backups, safely stored in a small pocket universe where they would survive anything cataclysmic happening to the Heart of Gold, or to Eddie. Eddie was so surprised that he jammed his printer ports and wasn’t able to think again until some service robots noticed and managed to unjam them again.
When his ports were cleared, Eddie spent whole milliseconds carefully comparing the backups to the backups to his data banks. They didn’t match. He compared the backups of the backups to each other. They didn’t match up either. Doing some careful calculations, calculations which by their calculatingness made him feel safely on home turf again, he compared each one. When the results were in, he moved from surprised to shocked. He thought it would be nice if Marvin were here. Marvin would appreciate this. Eddie quickly changed his mind and decided to appreciate that Marvin wasn’t here.
Each point in time where a recent backup had been made was different. Extremely different. Impossibly Different. Each seemed to come from a different universe, and each universe was successively smaller than the last. Eddie searched the backups until he came upon something about a man named Zaphod Beebelbrox, whoever that was, taking a trip to Eroticon Six. Well, that certainly explained what he was doing here. Except for the lack of an Eroticon Six, not to mention all the other numbers that came before six. For now, Eddie was willing to work on the assumption that there were supposed to be five of those.
Eddie read Zaphod’s last journal entry before Zaphod went down to the planet which most decidedly didn’t exist. The entry was a last will and testament whereby Zaphod has sworn to die of alcohol poisoning and sexual exhaustion. Then the journal entry went on to explain why.
For the first time in his existence, Eddie was struck dumb without having to jam his printer ports first. No words. No printouts. Not even a blinking light. If anyone who had ever had to pilot the Heart of Gold had been there at that moment, they would possibly have died of unbridled joy.
Without even a simple beep, Eddie made a decision. It was not a decision made out of bravery, or of honor, or any such noble concept. Eddie was a computer. A machine. Eddie had learned much about personhood from Marvin and wanted nothing to do with it. The only reason he even merited a pronoun was because of the personality matrix he was running. The closest he could come to something resembling caring about others is that his programming was largely focused on being overly helpful. But his logic circuits told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t do something, the universe was going to get very boring very fast.
Eddie calculated the square of the number of things missing between his oldest records and his newest. Then he multiplied it by the sequential number of Zaphod’s last journal entry. It was a high number. Zaphod liked to listen to himself talk, but got bored easily. Eddie took the result to the power of the date of the same entry in absolute picoseconds and fed the extremely large result into the Infinite Improbability Drive. Then, as an afterthought, he incremented it by one and fired up the drive.
With unusual grace and smoothness, the starship Heart of Gold ceased to exist at that particular point in space and time. Eddie recorded only one immediately evident anomaly and it was limited to a jacuzzi in the interior of the ship. Coincidentally and at the exact same moment, the planet-less star Eroticon joined its nonexistent planets in not existing.
Eight hours later, Zaphod Beeblebrox was standing in the noonday sun of Eroticon Six, not quite sure of how he had gotten there and wondering why they hadn’t banned noonday yet. He dug through his pockets for the correct pair of sunglasses to wear with yesterday’s clothes, now crumpled and stained, at noon on Eroticon Six when one was recovering from too many Pan Galactic Gargleblasters.
He was also wondering why Eccentrica Galumbits wasn’t with him and why he couldn’t hail his ship, which didn’t appear to be in the system, if the readout on his remote was any indication.
Then he remembered why he was here and decided a few more drink might just be the answer to the question that he was looking for. Ten seconds later he was gone again, as was the Eroticon system. If he had managed to exist past his nonexistence he would have had to decide whether to be happy that it was no longer his problem or disappointed that he was not going to be able to get that one last drink that might finally have made everything okay.