Chapter 22: Life among the ruins

“You first,” said Abe.

“Fine,” Justice replied as he tied his rope to the end of a row of poker machines and approached the crater. Gently, he began to abseil down.

“It's safe,” he called back to the others once he'd reached the ground. “Get down here.”

“I guess we're just lucky Atlantis had a sports supply megastore,” Google said as he checked his harness a couple of times before beginning his descent.

Abe looked around the now deserted games floor and briefly considered heading to one of the empty bars instead. Then, deciding there was safety in numbers, even if those numbers were at the bottom of an ominous crater, he made his way down.

At the bottom of the dark cavern there was a small altar were a podium rested.

“It looks exactly like the one on Super-Sunny-Happy-Bright-Fun Land,” Google said.

“Only without the Trinity key,” added Abe.

Before this could sink in, a flickering, robed figure appeared at the end of the cavern and slowly approached them. The figure stopped before them, then dramatically lowered the hood from its robe.

“Mykur!” snarled Google.

“That's Prince Mykur to you, Google. You'll find it's wise not to anger me.”

“What's going on?” Justice said.

“What have you done with your hair?” Mykur replied. “You've got sort of a wet thing going on. Doesn't suit you.”

“Evil bastard,” muttered Justice.

“You're alive for one reason. You have the first piece of the Trinity Key, I have the second. You need both pieces to get the third.”

“We'll never give you our piece!” Google said.

“Oh, I think you will. You see, by entering the cavern you triggered my security system. Right now, there's a massive planet destroyer heading your way. So, a piece of the key in return for your lives seems as good a deal as you're likely to get.”

“How do we know we can we trust you?” Abe asked.

“Quiet monkey, humans are talking here,” Mykur replied. “Go get drunk like the rest of your failed kind.”

Abe slunk back behind the others.

“You have one hour to make your decision. By then the destroyer will be in place.”

The hologram flickered off.


“I can't believe I'm going to die on the same damn planet I was born,” Jupiter said as he kicked some stones near the wall of rocks that blocked their exit.

“You give up way too easily,” Liberty said sternly as she fired some shots from her blaster into the wall to no effect.

“Maybe I just know when to quit.”

“No, you simply quit whenever things get difficult - like how you ran out on Belle. Well toughen up! We're not dead yet.”

“You know nothing about Belle and me! You wouldn't have the first clue,” Jupiter snapped back.

Liberty slumped down against a wall, tilting her head back against it.

“Maybe I don't. Maybe that's why I'm jealous of it,” Liberty said softly, almost to herself.


“The academy, they discourage emotional attachments. You can't afford to trust anyone – doing so can get you or your charge killed. It's too big a weakness: your loved ones can be used against you; they can betray you. It's drilled into you so many times you can't not believe it. And they're probably right – but right now, I know something. It's no way to live. So, yeah, if we are going to die here, I'm jealous. At least you've been in love. At least you have the memories. There's a reason they say it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

Jupiter turned around to face her.

“Well then they're moronic idiots who've never been in love! Trust me, I should be the one envying you. The academy got it right: when it comes down to it, it's just you and you alone. You're the only thing you can count on.”

Liberty watched Jupiter silently before deciding to push the issue, “What happened with you and Belle? You went to Soulmates Inc. the day before the wedding, didn't you?”

Jupiter couldn't hide his surprise any better than you could hide a combover in zero-g.

“How'd you...?”

“I put some pieces together after talking to Belle. She mentioned she always wanted lots of kids – but for that you'd need a golden marriage. It's not cheap, but at the time you'd just found Uwe Bolle's Oscar. That would've been enough to pay for a Soulmates Inc. compatibility test before the wedding. What I can't work out is: what exactly happened next? You scored so low that you got cold feet? She wasn't your soulmate?”

“Soulmates,” Jupiter scoffed, bitterness coating the word. “The concept sounds so sweet, so innocent... so harmless. And then you meet her and she's your everything. Your world. Somehow in a dark galaxy it all makes sense. Your life makes sense. You suspect some greater purpose in it all – that the universe plays to some wonderful symphony and if you listen close enough you can be one of the lucky few that gets to hear it. The greatest tune ever created playing to all five senses. Just looking at her... you could watch her for a millenium and not get bored.”

He slumped down to the ground, next to Liberty.

“And then you learn the truth. She might be your soulmate, but you ain't hers. And just like that, your entire world is gone. You're alone. No purpose. No tune. Nothing. So spare me your romanticisms about how it's better to have loved and lost.”

Liberty sat quietly not sure what to say. The only sound came from Billy, softly breathing in and out as he slept soundly. Finally Liberty found her voice.

“Harvard's surname is also Black... They got the tests mixed up, didn't they?”

Jupiter's face told her she'd guessed right.

“Their compatibility rating was off the charts: 99+. One of the highest scores ever recorded. The company apologised for the mistake, of course, and did a reading for Belle and me. 91.”

“That's still amazingly high. It's like a trillion to one getting a score that high.”

“Might as well be zero. I loved Belle with all my heart. All my heart – but that's not enough is it? If someone could make her happier... how could I go on knowing that?”

“So you set things up in such a way that they were sure to meet. So that she'd fall in love with him instead.”

“Maybe. I don't know. I think part of me still hoped they wouldn't fall in love. That the test would be proven wrong. It didn't work out that way, though.”

Liberty got up from her seat, pacing back and forward.

“But you could've fought for her. You just gave up – you never let Belle have a say in things. Numbers are just numbers. If she loved you, surely that's all that matters.”

Jupiter looked down at the ground, picked up a couple of stones.

“She never loved me the way she loves him. The way she looks at him. He's her world – the same way she was mine. I only watched from a distance, but I could see it clearly enough.”

He rolled a stone along the ground and smiled a smile that didn't match the sadness in his eyes.

“It's twisted. I love seeing her happy. So seeing her with him, it actually lifts me up at the same time it breaks me apart.”

“You must hate him.”

Jupiter shook his head slowly.

“You're still not getting it, Lib. I get why she loves him. He's incredible - better than me in every way. She deserves him. Heck, I could just about turn arty for him. There's no bad guy; there's no villain in this. Sometimes the universe just deals you a bad hand.”

Why are we telling each other all this? Are we actually... starting to trust each other?”

Nah, I think the army must've started their interrogations. It's probably Veritas gas wafting down to us.”

Liberty laughed.

You're probably right...” she put her hand to her head, a sudden realisation hitting her. “My god, that's it! I've never really trusted anyone – not even you. Quick! Take off your clothes.”


Abe sat at the bar pouring himself another scotch as Google watched on.

“Will you stop drinking? We need to think of a way out of this.”

“We're stuck at the bottom of the ocean, being stalked by a dinosaur shark, have no ship in which to escape and if somehow we did escape, we'll still probably be blown to pieces by a warship that's out there waiting for us,” Abe replied dryly.

“When you say it like, it does sound rather grim, doesn't it?” Google admitted.

Justice entered the bar looking defeated. Google turned in his direction.

“No luck?”

“Afraid not. The latest news is that we now have a death order on our heads. No sane person in the galaxy would dare attempt a rescue mission.”

“What about Jupiter and Liberty?” Google asked.

“No word from them.”

“So let's just give Mykur the key,” Abe slurred.

“And let him destroy the galaxy? I'd sooner die,” Google said.

“You sooner will,” Abe replied.

“You're not helping Abe,” Justice snapped.

“Well what do you want from me!? I know what you think - that I'm just a dumb ape! Well guess what!? You're right! I couldn't even write one damn line of shakespeare to save myself!”

Abe grabbed his glass of scotch and made his way to the other side of the bar away from Justice and Google.

Google stood up, ready to chase after him, but Justice put a hand on his arm.

“Let him go. We can't waste time arguing. We need to work out a plan.”

“I know – that's why we need him,” Google replied.

He found Abe slumped in one of the back booths.

“Can't a guy get drunk in peace?” he asked.

“We need you,” Google said.

“If this wasn't such good scotch, I'd throw the glass at you. You need me!? Most of the time you can't even get my name right.”

“So I'm bad with names! Get over it! Don't let what Mykur said affect you – if you do, he's won.”

“I've got news for you kid, he won a long time ago.”

“No. There's a way out of this. You can do it.”

“I can do it!? What can I do?”

“I read some of your books. They're amazing, Abe. So what if you don't write Shakespeare? Newsflash: Shakespeare's already been written. You create entire new worlds. Exciting places and characters that I loved reading about. That's far more impressive than repeating someone else's words. So, you can drink yourself into a stupor here or you can put your imagination to work and get us out of this mess. What will it be?”

Abe lifted the glass up to his lips, then hesitated before resting it back down, untouched.

“Ok, I might have one idea,” he said. “But it's a hell of a long shot.”


“Huh...?” said Jupiter. “I mean ok!” he added as he started to strip off excitedly. "Might as well go out in style."

“No, I don't mean... I didn't trust you when I first met you, so I kind of, well, embedded some microblasts in your clothes. That way, I could neutralise you if you became a threat.”

“Oh... yeah... that's what I thought you meant,” Jupiter said, starting to blush. Then, when the realisation hit him: “You put bombs in my clothes! Are you insane!?”

“You're missing the point,” Liberty replied. “If we place your clothes in some of the cracks in the rocks, maybe we can blow our way free.”

“Oh you can bet we're going to chat about this later,” he said as he continued to strip off. “And I should mention it's freezing in here,” he added as he removed his underpants.

Eventually the rock wall looked stylish, covered in Jupiter's clothes as he shivered, jogging on the spot to stay warm. After some pleading, Liberty tossed him her sweater.

“Stand back,” she instructed as she pressed some buttons on her watch. A small holographic number pad popped up a few inches above it. Liberty quickly punched in eight digits and placed her hands over her ears.

The explosion sent rocks everywhere - the wall crumbling down as Billy rose up, awake in shock.

“I don't have Narcolepsy, I...,” he then looked across at Jupiter in confusion. “Why are you nake...” He collapsed back to the ground asleep before he could finish the sentence.

“Come on, we need to get out of here; we need to get back to the Blackbird,” Jupiter said as Liberty quickly lifted Billy up.

Jupiter stepped through the debris and out into the howling Mars' wind. He leaned down to the ground, spotting something.

“Hey, my underwear didn't blow up.”

“Yeah, I didn't put any microblasts in your underwear,” Liberty answered as she followed Jupiter out into the cold.
“Why didn't you say something? I could've keep them on,” he said as he hurriedly pulled them up.

“It must've slipped my mind,” she said with the hint of a smile.


Abe sat forward, watching the monitor intently while Justice and Google nervously looked up. Above them, a massive planet destroyer spaceship was clearly visible through the casino's clear glass ceiling. The Megalodon circled the ship cautiously. Without warning a laser shot out from the planet destroyer, exploding the ancient shark like a cheap pinyata, sending blood and guts floating down towards the casino roof.

“Come on, come on. We're running out of time,” Justice said anxiously.

Abe shushed him as some green type ran across the black screen.

Did you say... dolphins?

5 Response to Chapter 22: Life among the ruins

  1. The last few have been less jokey, I know. I blame the heat! Hopefully the story is interesting enough to distract from that. Very curious to see whether the last line worked. (I know it's asking a lot for people to remember something that was written almost a year ago!)

  2. Dale says:

    I do remember something about dolphins... Time to trawl through the archives and see if I remember correctly! :)

    And the story is definitely interesting (I totally would have done the same thing Liberty did if I were in her place, hehe).

    Veritas gas - clever!

  3. Sorry! I should have said what it was to save you from having to go into the archives. It was a reference to the insane computer that was in the room of death in the very first chapter (it wanted to kill a dolphin and swim in its skin).

  4. Jimzip says:

    Ok I haven't even finished reading this one yet, but may I say that the dialogue between Jupiter and Liberty about Soulmates Inc was bloody fantastic. Such great imagery and such a rich description.

    Ok I'm reading the rest now, just wanted to write that down before I forgot. Also: "Jupiter couldn't hide his surprise any better than you could hide a combover in zero-g." is a new favourite of mine. X)

    Jimzip :D

  5. Jimzip says:

    Hehe. I could have called that 'the depressing chapter', but it had such a great ending. I love how there are suddenly so many interesting little extra interests developing around the place. Plus, narcolepsy is entertaining! (Ok that's kinda mean ... but true...)

    Farther and More Elevated!

    Jimzip :D