Two severely dressed men sat respectfully before the terminal and waited.
“The time is nearly upon us,” said one, and Arthur was surprised to see a word suddenly materialize in thin air just by the man’s neck. The word was Loonquawl, and it flashed a couple of times and then disappeared again. Before Arthur was able to assimilate this the other man spoke and the word Phouchg appeared by his neck.
“Seventy-five thousand generations ago, our ancestors set this program in motion,” the second man said, “and in all that time we will be the first to hear the computer speak.”
“An awesome prospect, Phouchg,” agreed the first man, and Arthur suddenly realized that he was watching a recording with subtitles.
“We are the ones who will hear,” said Phouchg, “the answer to the great question of Life …!”
“The Universe …!” said Loonquawl.
“And Everything …!”
“Shhh,” said Loonquawl with a slight gesture, “I think Deep Thought is preparing to speak!”
There was a moment’s expectant pause whilst panels slowly came to life on the front of the console.
Lights flashed on and off experimentally and settled down into a businesslike pattern.
A soft low hum came from the communication channel.
“Good morning,” said Deep Thought at last.
“Er … Good morning, O Deep Thought,” said Loonquawl nervously, “do you have …er, that is …”
“An answer for you?” interrupted Deep Thought majestically. “Yes. I have.”
The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain.
“There really is one?” breathed Phouchg.
“There really is one,” confirmed Deep Thought.
“To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?”
Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.
“And you’re ready to give it to us?” urged Loonquawl.
“Now,” said Deep Thought.
They both licked their dry lips.
“Though I don’t think,” added Deep Thought, “that you’re going to like it.”
“Doesn’t matter!” said Phouchg. “We must know it! Now!”
“Now?” inquired Deep Thought.
“Yes! Now …”
“Alright,” said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.
“You’re really not going to like it,” observed Deep Thought.
“Alright,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question…”
“Of Life, the Universe and Everything …” said Deep Thought.
“Is …” said Deep Thought, and paused.
“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.
uit ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams, 1978