Chapter 18: Stingrays and Soulmates

“Wait here while I organise some accommodation for you two – trust me, you'll need your sleep before fronting the federation,” Belle said as she went running off towards an escalator.
Jupiter watched on as Liberty did a slow 360 turn, casually taking in the sights of the shopping centre that was Mars.
“Uh, where does everyone sleep around here?” she asked. “All I can see are shops.”
“Oh, everyone sleeps in Ikea,” Jupiter replied.
“There's an elegant range of bedroom setups to choose from.”
“Everyone sleeps in Ikea?”
“Well not the same Ikea obviously – each state has its own Ikea superstore.”
“How many states are there?”
“Well, there's Northland, Southland, Eastland and Chadstone.”
“Yeah, no one's quite sure why we called it that.”

Liberty glanced to her right at the large Ikea store.
“But what if you want some privacy? Say, if a couple wanted to be intimate.”
“Oh, then you could stay at Fantastic Furniture – it's less crowded.”
“So I can't have my own room?”
“Were you wanting to get intimate? Because I'm flattered and...”
“No! I just mean, what if you want privacy? You can't have any if there's a whole suburb sharing your bedroom.”
“It's just the way of the Malacandra.”
Belle arrived back, holding a couple of keys.
“Have you got all your stuff?”
“Yeah, let's go,” Liberty said, picking up her bags and heading towards the superstore.
“Where are you going?” asked Belle confused.
“Ikea – I need some sleep.”
Belle laughed and looked across at Jupiter.
He shrugged his shoulders, “The classics never get old.”
Belle turned to a confused Liberty.
“It's just an old joke for the tourists – all the shops on Mars are family run. Everyone has housing out the back of their store.”
Liberty glared across at Jupiter.
“Well, I did tell you not to trust him,” added Belle. “Now you can come with me, you're staying at my place. Jupiter, you're staying with Harvard's parents.”
“Who's Harvard?” Liberty asked.
“My husband.”


“Let's just take the red stingray submersible and get out of here. I'm boiling,” Abe said as he turned up the air conditioning on his jacket.
“That!? You can't take that!” Sunny laughed.
“Why not?”
“Are you, mad? You'd drown – it's full of holes!” he answered.
“But you said...”
“You're on a planet of practical jokers, remember. Here, take the blue one over there instead.”
“How do we know we can trust you, Sunny?” Justice asked.
“We've already had our fun at your expense. Why, to prove it, I'll even admit to you that my real name's not Sunny – I was just kidding around.”
“What's your name then?”
“It's Sunnie.”
Google and Justice looked over at each other confused.
"But that's what you said your name was."
"No, I said it was Sunny, not Sunnie."
Justice scratched his head.
“Let's just take the blue one and get the hell out of here,” Abe said, as he headed back towards The Love Crusader.


“You can sleep in here,” Belle told Liberty as she placed some covers on a bed in small spare room.
“Thanks – considering everything, you've been very kind.”
“Mykur needs to be stopped. My problems with Jupiter count for nothing in the big picture. But I'll get my money from him eventually, you can count on that.”
“He didn't tell you that part? What a surprise,” Belle said as she took a seat on the arm of a bedside chair. “Before he and Abe did a runner on me, we'd just located Uwe Boll's Oscar for best director.”
“I thought that was a myth.”
“So did everyone, but we found it. And it was going to be our biggest payday yet. Only Jupiter doesn't like to share. I woke up to find The Love Crusader gone and my portion of the reward credits with it. I kidded myself - kept thinking Jupiter would return the first couple of days. Surely my future husband wouldn't abandon me in the middle of nowhere. But he would and he did. All I had left were my clothes and the ship's distress beacon.”
“You're more forgiving than me. I would've hunted him down,” said Liberty.
Belle laughed.
“I'm not that forgiving. I was counting all the ways I could kill him when I set off the distress beacon,” she paused, smiling. “Thinking there might have been a crash and a potential civial lawsuit, lawyers were the first to respond to my signal. That's when I met Harvard and the need for revenge slowly faded.”


“Well, I think it honestly looks the goods,” said Justice as he gave the blue stingray submersible a once-over.
Abe rubbed his chin as he walked around the Love Crusader's cargo bay.
“How can we trust them though?”
“We need to trust someone Ape,” Google said, before catching Abe's glare. “Sorry, I meant Abe. It's just so confusing how close your name is compared to what you are.”
“Yes, I can see the problem Morongle. Oops, I meant Google. Sorry.”
Justice stepped in between the two of them.
“Google, why don't you head to the games room while Abe and I prepare for Atlantis.”
“But they don't even have a holo-deck on this thing,” he protested.
“Well try reading something in the library.”
Google sighed and made his way out of the room, leaving Justice and Abe to continue their preparations.


Liberty rose early the next morning, anxious about pleading their case to the federation. She marched into the kitchen to find Belle already awake.
“Hope you like eggs,” Belle said happily.
“Everything but horse eggs,” Liberty replied.
“Don't worry, I steer clear of all that genetically engineered muck, too.”
Liberty took her seat at the dinning table as Belle placed a plate down in front of her.
“Is that... Is that a 501?” Liberty asked as she stared across at a blaster hanging on the wall.
“Yeah, it's a beauty isn't it. They don't make them like that anymore.”
Liberty walked up to inspect it closer.
“Do you mind if I?”
“No, go for it,” Belle replied as Liberty un-hooked the pistol from the wall. “It's been deactivated of course. We don't have active blasters in the house anymore.”
“Why's that?”
“Harvard and I have three kids.”
“Three kids... so you're...”
“Soulmates, yes.”

Late in the 21st century, the company Soulmates Inc. was formed. For an expensive, one-off fee you and your partner could have your DNA and psychological make-up analysed to determine your compatibility. The process was proven to be incredibly accurate, with most couples lucky to get a compatibility above 50%.

Looking for ways to proudly declare their successful love match, some customers who scored a high number would purchase t-shirts declaring their result. However, eventually this wasn't enough for some couples who felt that their results should lead to greater rights. When a Soulmates Inc. commercial declared that no couple with a compatibility over 75% had ever divorced, these couples had their angle.

After a year of campaigning by some of Soulmate Inc.'s most elite customers, a law was passed whereby only couples with a match greater than 75% would be allowed to raise more than two children. After all, it was argued, who knew what damage was being done to children raised by incompatible parents. Marriages for couples that met the strict new guidelines were quickly nicknamed 'Golden Marriages'.

A rival group tried to highlight that the cost of using Soulmates Inc. made a Golden Marriage unachievable to the lower and middle class. However, politicians around the world ignored their pleas much to the confusion of the general public. Perhaps less confusing was that somehow every high level politician in the world miraculously had a soulmate compatibility of over 75% with not only their spouses, but also their lovers and office interns.

“Don't get me wrong – I think the Golden Marriage laws are horrible, but I always wanted a large family,” Belle told Liberty.
Liberty let out a smile.
“Nothing - I think I just worked something out.”
“Well, I hope your luck continues – you're going to need it if you want to survive meeting the federation.”


Abe looked out the passenger seat window of the stingray, glancing across at Justice nervously.
“You sure about this?”
In response Justice pressed a button opening the cargo bay doors underneath the submersible – just a safety bar below keeping the vessel safely inside The Love Crusader. The roar of the outside wind invaded their ears. Down below the ocean planet of Atlantis was visible – fifty foot waves crashing violently to a rhythm all of their own.
Abe gulped as Google strapped himself into the back seat. Justice took one last look around the outside of the stingray.
“Trust me, there's nothing wrong with it – I think Sunnie was telling the truth about no more practical jokes,” he said as he jumped into the driver's seat.
Justice gently lifted himself up to discover a now deflated whoopee cushion on the driver's seat.
““What was that noise?” Abe asked.
“Ah, I just farted. Sorry,” Justice replied, as he quickly shoved the whoopee cushion into his pocket. “Like I said, there's nothing to worry about...”

With the flick of a switch the safety bar slid away and the stingray plunged down towards the icy waters of Atlantis.

5 Response to Chapter 18: Stingrays and Soulmates

  1. Dale says:

    What fate awaits Jupiter and Liberty at the Federation? How will Jupiter get along with Harvard? Will Abe, Google and Justice make it to Atlantis? Will someone find out how Chadstone got its name??

    This is really quite captivating at the moment! And still very, very fun. :)

  2. Jimzip says:

    ... and still, no Cher...

    Jimzip :D

  3. Jimzip says:

    Ok I can't leave my comment at that!

    Of course, a fine installment. Chadstone was a welcome hit from left field. But I'm more interested in Atlantis! ;)

    Jimzip :D

  4. Huh, I really thought it was the cola wars that would be the first of my future predictions to come true, but looks like it'll be soulmates inc.

  5. Jimzip says:

    Um. A) That's creepy. B) Start patenting your ideas before you publish them. X)

    Jimzip :D