Now There's a Frood Who Knows Where His Towel Is
The Guide has this to say about The Doctor:
"Despite the name, he's not a real Doctor and will not react kindly if you harass him to prescribe you Altarian Mega-Aspirin, also known as Bosh (a drug that, besides being highly illegal in most of the known universe, has the unfortunate side-effect of making your bodily waste come to life, meaning that if you happen to go out for a curry with a BoshHead, you are strongly advised to part company with them directly the meal is over.) He can, however, travel in time, space and all other dimensions and vanquish 98% of all foes. Verdict: a good guy to have around for the Hitchhiker in a sticky situation."
Ford pressed the Off button. "Well, his story checks out."
"I don't trust him," Arthur frowned. "It's that jacket. Makes him look like a market trader."
"Some of my best friends have been market traders," Ford said. "OK, so the market was on Perseus B and what they were trading was powered Hyperrhino Horn, an aphrodisiac so potent that, after one trader accidentally dropped his supply into a reservoir the entire population of three cities died two days later of sexual exhaustion, but they were sound guys."
"Still..." Arthur tried to inject a note of reasonable but not paranoid caution into his voice, but Ford was already striding toward the Doctor.
"Hi," the Doctor said, grasping Ford's hand firmly. "Always nice to meet fellow travellers in the vast, terrible emptiness of time and space. And I'm starving."
He looked round to see Rose poking her head round the door of the Tardis. "Come on, grub's up."
"I'm getting tired of saying this," Rose said, " but where are we?"
"A special restaurant," the Doctor beamed. "The food's a little overpriced but the scenery is fantastic."
"Hey!" Ford exclaimed, "You have a monkey too! I tell you what, these things are resilient."
"They don't half go on, though," the Doctor said.
Rose had a familiar look on her face. "I think you're in for it now, mate," the Doctor said.
She marched up to Ford and pointed a finger at him. "I don't know who you are, or what you are, or if you're a tree or a robot or a super-intelligent shade of the colour blue, but nobody calls me a monkey."
"She prefers to be known as a chimp," the Doctor stage-whispered.
Arthur looked as though he were trying to calculate pi to ten thousand decimal places in his head. "You're human?" he finally stammered to Rose.
"Last time I checked," she said, "but recently I've been starting to wonder."
"You're not the only one. I say, Ford, I thought we were going to a restaurant, but I can't see any tables. I suppose this is some kind of alien place where the food just appears hovering in front of you, is it?"
"No, it's the car park." Ford said. "Don't worry, Zaphod's gone ahead to sort everything out. Come with us, you two, I'm sure we'll be able to pull some strings and get you in."
They started walking across the car park.
"A special restaurant, eh," Rose said, grabbing the Doctor's sleeve. "Is there going to be anything I like there?"
"They don't serve Turkey Twizzlers at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, no," the Doctor said, "but you'll find something. Maybe the.."
"Wait a minute!" Rose stopped walking. "The end of the Universe! I don't believe you! Everywhere we go is the end of something, the end of the world, the end of the universe, the end of that 5-day Vogon opera I still can't believe I let you talk me into!"
"It had good reviews."
"Well, I'm sick of it. I want a Maccy D's, or a Pizza Hut, or even a Little Chef."
"I say, steady on," Arthur interjected.
"Space is weird!" Rose continued, her face creased with annoyance. "And the people are weird, and surprise, surprise, here's more aliens."
"Er..." Arthur said.
"Can't we just once go somewhere not weird?"
The Doctor let out a long sigh. Ford looked sympathetic. He leaned towards the Doctor and whispered, "I get this all the time. Only it's usually brought on by hot beverages."
The Doctor put his arm around Rose. "Hey," he started, "Don't..."
"Excuse me!" Arthur interrupted. "I just thought the young lady might like to know I'm not! Not an alien, I mean. I'm a monk...I mean, a human."
"Then why are you wearing that dressing gown and that retro digital watch?" Rose said.
"It's a long story. And this is new! I just thought...look, I saw the end of the world too, and I was rather annoyed about it for quite a while. You can ask Ford. So I know how you feel."
Rose's face lit up. "Really? You're human? And English? Wow!" She pulled away from the Doctor. "So, how did you get here...?"
Ford and the Doctor watched as the humans walked away from them. Little snippets of their conversation wafted back; "Henrik's? My mother used to buy my school uniform there..." and "..milk and two sugars..."
The Doctor looked around. "So, how's Zaphod these days? Still got the two heads?"
"You know Zaphod?" Ford said. "Mind you, I'm not surprised. I'm a little out of the loop, gossip-wise, getting stuck on that stupid rock for all those years."
"Yeah, we go way back," the Doctor said. "I looked a bit different then, though. What was I thinking?"
Ford stopped. "Oh, damn!" he said. "I left my sub-etha radio on the ship. I had to hide it to stop Arthur trying to pick up 'Just a Minute'."
"I found Rose using my sonic screwdriver to clean her fingernails."
"Humans, eh? I'll just pop back and get it."
"I'll come with you. I always like to see some inferior technology."
The Heart of Gold was a tip; Zaphod had insisted on trying on thirteen jackets before finding one that flattered his extra arm, and Trillian and Arthur had spent two hours trying to make tea from some promisingly brown leaves they'd found in an alien convenience store, meaning there were little heaps of brown stuff and teaspoons everywhere. "Sorry about the mess," Ford said. He picked up a few things half-heartedly, then grimaced. "I can't believe it! Marvin used my towel to mop up the drink Arthur spilt."
"Ah, yes, the towel." The Doctor grinned. "You know, there was once a time when Zaphod wouldn't go anywhere without his. That towel saw things that would make Eccentrica Gallumbits go white."
"You've been hitchhiking, then?" Ford asked. "Funny, you don't have a Guide."
"I lost it. Or sold it. I can't quite remember. I don't need one anyway. Wherever I go, that's my home!" The Doctor grinned wildly and not altogether convincingly.
"Home." Ford looked glum. "Yes."
"Well. Yes. Tell yourself it's just a word."
"Does that help?"
"No. But it's always nice to tell yourself lies. Stops you getting caught out by those of other people."
There was an awkward pause. "How did you meet the human?" Ford asked. "I sometimes rather regret bringing mine with me."
"Rose? Ah, she's OK. She sings sometimes, and she doesn't *always* end up in deadly peril. Keeps me entertained, know what I mean?"
"Yeah, they're not a bad species, I suppose. Nothing a few million years of evolution wouldn't fix."
"Bit late for that, though." The Doctor was running his hands across the control panel. "Nice bit of kit, this. I like the 80s styling."
"What?" Ford was crawling into an air duct to retrieve his sub-etha radio.
The Doctor looked round to make sure Ford wasn't looking. Then he started singing under his breath as he carefully pushed some buttons as quietly as he could. "Why we play that song so loud? Because we want to..."
There was a succession of bumps and thuds as Ford scrambled out of the duct. "I can't remember hiding it that far...What are you doing?"
The engines started whirring. A high-pitched squeal filled the air.
"Just thought I'd try something out!" the Doctor smiled. "Where are you from, Ford?"
"A small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. But that's the Improbability Drive! Crazy things happen when you use that!"
A smooth female voice came over the intercom. "Improbability ten to the power of two and rising."
"Do. They. Really." The Doctor said, pulling a deck of cards from his jacket and pulling all four aces from it.
"Improbability ten to the power of twelve and rising."
"Yes!" Ford said. "You wouldn't believe the stuff we saw!" A small swarm of bees came through the air duct and formed the word 'Hello!' before flying off.
"Improbability ten to the power of sixteen and rising."
Every chair in the room turned into a small frog.
"Improbability ten to the power of twenty-five and rising."
All Ford's clothes fell off.
"Well I never!" the Doctor said. "That really was extremely improbable."
"Improbability ten to the power of thirty and rising."
Ford's eyes shot wide, wide open. "So was that!" he whimpered.
When Arthur, Rose, Zaphod and Trillian got back to the Heart of Gold, they really did not expect to see Ford lying on his towel looking very shell-shocked indeed. Or ten small frogs hopping around the cockpit. Or the Doctor putting his trousers on.
"Rose!" he said, "You're just in time."
"I don't think this is something I want to be in time for," she said.
The smooth female voice returned. "Improbability level ten to the power of two and falling."
"Oh, that thing," Arthur said. "Who switched that on?"
The Doctor picked his jacket up, shook a frog out of the sleeve and smiled. "I did." he said. "You'll thank me in a minute. Rosie, we're off."
He grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the ship. Everyone stared first at the door, then at Ford. "What happened here?" said Zaphod. "This is some hoopy stuff we're talking about!"
"I don't want to talk about it," Ford said. "But...it was improbable all right."
"And what did he mean by I'll thank him later?" Arthur said. At that moment there was a small ping from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Drinks Dispenser. A small china cup, on a saucer, with a silver teaspoon next to it, sat in the bottom. It steamed gently. Arthur looked at it nervously, then picked it up and took a sip. He gasped. "It's tea! Real tea! With just the right amount of milk! Ford, who WAS that man?"
"He's a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a jacket," Ford whispered. "And does he know how to use a sonic screwdriver."
From outside the ship, they heard a strange noise, and then everything fell very quiet.