It is, of course, well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale of the problem is not always appreciated. For instance, at the very moment that Arthur Dent said, “I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle” a freak wormhole opened up in the fabric of the space-time continuum and carried his words far, far back in time across almost infinite reaches of space, to a distance galaxy where strange and war-like beings were poised on the brink of frightful interstellar battle. The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time, and a dreadful silence fell across the conference table, as the commander of the Vl’hurgs, resplendent in his black jewelled battle shorts, gazed levelly at the G’gugvuntt leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of green, sweet-smelling steam, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed star cruisers poised to unleash electric death at his single word of command, challenged the vile creature to take back what it had said about his mother. The creature stirred in his sickly broiling vapor and at the very moment the words “I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle” drifted across the conference table. Unfortunately, in the Vl’hurg tongue this was the most dreadful insult imaginable, and there was nothing for it but to wage terrible war. Eventually of course, it was realised that the whole thing had been a ghastly mistake and so the two opposing battle fleets settled their few remaining differences in order to launch a joint attack on our galaxy – now positively identified as the source of the offending remark. For thousands more years the mighty starships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the planet Earth-where, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog. Those who study the complex interplay of cause and effect in the history of the universe say that this sort of thing is going on all the time, but are powerless to prevent it. “It’s just life,” they say. Meanwhile, Arthur Dent is about to discover the answer to the disturbing question posed in last week’s instalment: Are his companions, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian lying, bleeding to death in a subterranean corridor, or have they merely slipped out for a quick meal somewhere?