Ursa Minor Beta
Ursa Minor Beta is, some say, one of the most appalling places in the known Universe.
Although it is excruciatingly rich, horrifyingly sunny and more full of wonderfully exciting people than a pomegranate is of pips, it can hardly be insignificant that when a recent edition of Playbeing magazine headlined an article with the words "When you are tired of Ursa Minor Beta you are tired of life", the suicide rate quadrupled overnight.
Not that there are any nights on Ursa Minor Beta.
It is a West Zone planet which by an inexplicable and somewhat suspicious freak of topography consists almost entirely of sub- tropical coastline. By an equally suspicious freak of temporal relastatics, it is nearly always Saturday afternoon just before the beach bars close.
No adequate explanation for this has been forthcoming from the dominant lifeforms on Ursa Minor Beta, who spend most of their time attempting to achieve spiritual enlightenment by running round swimming pools, and inviting Investigation Officials form the Galactic Geo-Temporal Control Board to "have a nice diurnal anomaly".
There is only one city on Ursa Minor Beta, and that is only called a city because the swimming pools are slightly thicker on the ground there than elsewhere.
If you approach Light City by air - and there is no other way of approaching it, no roads, no port facilities - if you don't fly they don't want to see you in Light City - you will see why it has this name. Here the sun shines brightest of all, glittering on the swimming pools, shimmering on the white, palm-lined boulevards, glistening on the healthy bronzed specks moving up and down them, gleaming off the villas, the hazy airpads, the beach bars and so on.
Most particularly it shines on a building, a tall beautiful building consisting of two thirty-storey white towers connected by a bridge half-way up their length.
The building is the home of a book, and was built here on the proceeds of an extraordinary copyright law suit fought between the book's editors and a breakfast cereal company.
The book is a guide book, a travel book.
It is of course that invaluable companion for all those who want to see the marvels of the known Universe for less than thirty Altairan Dollars a day - The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
If you stood with your back to the main entrance lobby of the Guide offices (assuming you had landed by now and freshened up with a quick dip and shower) and then walked east, you would pass along the leafy shade of Life Boulevard, be amazed by the pale golden colour of the beaches stretching away to your left, astounded by the mind-surfers floating carelessly along two feet above the waves as if it was nothing special, surprised and eventually slightly irritated by the giant palm trees that hum toneless nothings throughout the daylight hours, in other words continuously.
If you then walked to the end of Life Boulevard you would enter the Lalamatine district of shops, bolonut trees and pavement cafes where the UM-Betans come to relax after a hard afternoon's relaxation on the beach. The Lalamatine district is one of those very few areas which doesn't enjoy a perpetual Saturday afternoon - it enjoys instead the cool of a perpetual early Saturday evening. Behind it lie the night clubs.
If, on this particular day, afternoon, stretch of eveningtime - call it what you will - you had approached the second pavement cafe on the right you would have seen the usual crowd of UM- Betans chatting, drinking, looking very relaxed, and casually glancing at each other's watches to see how expensive they were. You would also have seen a couple of rather dishevelled looking hitch-hikers from Algol who had recently arrived on an Arcturan Megafreighter aboard which they had been roughing it for a few days. They were angry and bewildered to discover that here, within sight of the Hitch Hiker's Guide building itself, a simple glass of fruit juice cost the equivalent of over sixty Altairan dollars.
"Sell out," one of them said, bitterly.