Whenever I have the displeasure of meeting with Huma Kavula I always feel the urge to sneeze directly in his face, because I’d like to find out if it’s considered a (literal) blessing or blasphemy. To live in fear of a giant handkerchief, Halloween must be real easy for them. Everyone milling about in sheets. Come to think of it all the religious zealots already are.
Anyway, annoyingly Kavula made quite the space pirate back in the day* so I went to him to try and find some components for a galaxy-wide transmitter; all part of my master plan to find Womble again. I imagine at SOME point he’d dabbled in hijacking radio waves to send Acturian Mega-freighters down a dark, unlit cosmos. Siren Songs exist across the Universe after all, I just happen to have a rather special one planned. So Mr Huma and I made a deal; he’ll supply some pieces and in return I just need to fetch “a very special gun” from the universe’s
first second best supercomputer, Deep Thought. He apparently tried this before but his last scout never came back. He offered me coordinates. I laughed in his face.
Odyssey and I were there five relative minutes later.
I will say this; Deep Thought has seen better days, and there haven’t been many since that one. Once she/he/it/they was/were a proud, gold-gleaming renowned philosopher located deep in a lush jungle** – now just a giant tarnished statue dedicated to loss of faith, lost in a dying climate all because people disagreed with the answer. I think it’s all a little more than unfair; it wasn’t Deep Thought’s fault if that IS the answer. It says more about the race who prepared to find the meaning of life and didn’t like what they found. Personally I like the answer. It’s a lot more fun and interesting than “Love thy neighbor” or any kind of similar bollocks. The only person who planned for any eventuality was the architect. Holding your head in your hands like that can mean thoughtfulness, or despair. Like most of us, this deep thinker’s got both.
With she/he/it watching TV getting around unnoticed was a walk in a very dusty park, but no guns from what I can see. Apparently Kavula’s last scout liked it so much they decided to take it for themselves; getting a secondary head back didn’t factor into their priorities. I didn’t come here for another Towels Excursion but if Deep Thought would like something to do, while we’re here. Plus I don’t like to leave any new location empty handed.
“Am I conversing with Deep Thought, known locally as the second greatest computer in existence and known universally as bringer of the Forty Two Wars?”***
“I suppose so.”
“And despite what stories they say about you, are you still capable of answering important and potentially impossible questions?”
“Yes. Will you also riot if you don’t like the truth?”
“No, and you have my word on that. I tend to run away from the truth.”
“Very well. Ask your question.”
“Questions, I have two. Firstly, what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
Deep Thought answers. It’s not as funny as we might’ve hoped, I’m afraid, but proves that she/he/it truly know what they’re talking about. That check aside, it leads me onto question two.
“Fair enough. Secondly, Deep Thought, answer me this.” I pause, for an effect which I hope the computer can appreciate, though rather doubt it. “What is the current location of the Timelord known as the Doctor?”
“Hmm. That’s a tricky one. I’ll have to think about it. Return to this place in exactly one million years.”
On this spot so many millennia ago, old men spluttered and gaped at such a huge expanse of time between them and a result. Me, I don’t even blink. Instead I step through the doors of Odyssey, currently disguised as a monolith with a miniature Deep Thought on the top. Indoors I press a button, turn a dial and step outside again. One millions years, easy. The sun’s in the same place but the trees are browner and the dust is thicker. Deep Thought remains thankfully in the same place. At some point decay and entropy have gotten to the TV set; leaving behind a black, plastic husk. I honestly believe Deep Thought is asleep. Impressive. Thousands of humans can’t sleep due to trivial matters like debt or relationships, yet the mighty mind of Deep Thought has achieved it. Maybe it gets easier when people stop paying attention.
I give my politest cough. Deep Thought’s singular eye blearily opens.
“I was enjoying that. Nobody spoke to me for a million years.”
Sticking with politeness, I keep my trap shut. Overfunded and under appreciated, I think Deep Thought’s allowed that little dig.
“Have you an answer for me?”
“Which required one million years?”
Whatever. “A good answer?”
“That depends on you. And please don’t riot if you don’t like it. It’s not my fault.”
Insert your own version of shooting the messenger here, I suppose.
“I won’t. Promise.” This isn’t a desire to find the man, Ned knows I loathe him, but I find it’s easier to avoid people when you know where they are. Bumping into someone is a very real, very inconvenient phrase and my plan to find Womble involves drawing a lot of attention to myself. Before I can do that, I need to know all the wrong places and all the wrong times. Forewarned is, as they say.
“Records of the Doctor appear at random interval across the galaxy. There are no definitive stop offs for him. It is simpler to predict where lightning will strike.”
Cue a very fast, very hot surge of panic.
“However, for every record there is also a legend. One may be of use to you. There is a silent forest, on a silent planet, in a silent system, on the furthest reach of the ninth quadrant. It is said on some days, the silence is broken and the trees carry the sounds of his ship.”
“An asthmatic with a trumpet?”
Deep Thought releases a sigh several thousand levels below weary. Parts of the forest around us start to fall over.
“That is the legend, anyway.”
“That’s not very specific.”
“And yet correct.”
Hmph. Admittedly I’m let down, though not quite as much as those who stood here long before me. One planet in a sky of quadrillions. Not exactly a Cheat Sheet, is it? Make that two, he’s never too far away from Earth either. Two down……
Still, never let it be said I am without manners, especially to those with far worse lives than mine.
“Thank you, Deep Thought,” I declare, falling into a bow. “Is there anything I can get you in return?”
“A power cut would be nice. Or a new TV if you’ve got one spare.”
I smile at the greatest, saddest thinker. “Deal.” I turn on my heel, about to return to Odyssey, when one last thing springs to mind. Nothing less than the main reason I came here. My hands go into my coat pockets entirely empty, nothing to show for the trip and certainly nothing for Huma. No gun, no deal.
“Actually,” I spin back round, “you wouldn’t happen to know where I could get my hands on a very large, very powerful transmitter?”
To ask the universe’s second greatest thinker for shopping tips. I am nothing if not diverse.
* Great expression, “back in the day.” What a day it was.
** Not to be confused with C-3PO. If you ask him what the ultimate answer is, you learn a lot more than you thought possible about same-sex-robot relationships.
*** Forty Two Wars. Not forty two separate wars, but wars fought to decide if forty two is actually correct. Wars have been fought for stupider reasons. None spring to mind, saying that.