Content warning: vulgar slang
Surreptitious slurps of soy sauce were the only thing keeping Jean from going mad during the search for survivors on Planet Gatwad. When sneaking off from the group for a quick taste, she stumbled across a bunker. Obligated to investigate, she floated through its concrete walls and saw a figure dressed in a mascot costume, sprawled out on the floor. Its get-up was purple and furry—a far cry from the traditional Gatwadian garb.
‘Oi! Wake up, furry bugger,’ Jean said.
Jean chuckled when she saw a hand-drawn poster pinned to the wall. Underneath a giant mushroom cloud was the ironical caption--'Visit Gatwad! Have a blast!’.
‘Oi! Furry!’ Jean repeated.
The mascot stirred, sending an empty bottle rolling across the concrete floor. Sitting up sluggishly, it goggled at Jean through bulbous green eyes.
‘Don’t you remember?’ The speech was slurred; a hallmark of inebriation--and muffled by the costume head.
‘What?’ Jean said.
‘Don’t you recognise me?’ The mascot shouted.
‘I was on Wobbly Palace, the children’s TV programme. I’m Jollywobs--award-winning actor.’
Jean pretended that she knew about television. ‘Oh, yes, TV. So, you managed to get out of the city in time?’
'They kicked me off the show for drinking, then I floated around bar hopping. If I wasn’t fired, then I would’ve been toast. The TV station was one of the ground zeroes.’
‘Alcohol,’ Jean said solemnly, ‘has been crucial to your survival.’
Jollywobs nodded in agreement. ‘My ruin and my saviour. I’m getting sober once I’ve finished this lot.’ She gestured to the shelves of grain alcohol, where canned goods with long expiry dates were conspicuously absent.
'Getting sober? I can help with that.' Jean said.
Fixing Jollywobs’ drinking problem would break search and rescue protocol, but Commander Jennings could suck it.
With the wave of a limb, Jean transformed Jollywobs from a state of complete 'Wobbly Palace' inebriation to one of perfect lucidity. ‘Holy miracle on a stick—no hangover, either! Genius.’
Jean explained the terms of teleportative asylum; Jollywobs would be heading to the genie planet of Fludgeonblahl. But before leaving, the Gatwadian children’s TV star was granted a last look at her home planet. In preparation for entering the irradiated atmosphere, Jean helped Jollywobs don a baggy respirator suit over her purple costume.
When they arrived outside in the poisoned air, Jean scanned the surrounding fields. ‘By the way, what is this crop?'
‘Soybeans,’ Jollywobs said flatly.
Jean’s mouth fell open and her eyes widened. ‘Ever make any sauce out of these bad boys?’
‘Sauce? They're for feeding livestock. They’d only make you sick--they’re completely irradiated,’ said Jollywobs. ‘The farmer died because he refused to work in a respirator suit.’
‘Did he keep all of his machinery here?’
‘I hope you're not thinking of harvesting poisonous beans?'
In order to persuade Jollywobs, Jean took out the last of her private supply; the dregs of the soy sauce packet from Earth she'd decanted into a small glass bottle. ‘This is Earth soy sauce,’ she said. ‘Open wide.’ Jean reached through a layer of fabric and one of costume-fur. With a pinch of the pipette, she dispensed a drop onto Jollywobs’ extended tongue.
'It's worth the trouble, don’t you think?' Jean asked.
Jollywobs licked her lips. She saw the rest a group of five genies approaching over Jean’s shoulder. The team, headed up by Neil—a notoriously headstrong fascist—had finished up searching the grid.
‘Will you help me?’ Jean asked Jollywobs, unaware that the group had snuck up on them.
‘Help with what?’ Neil asked.
Jean turned to face her colleagues. ‘Aren’t you tired of doing the bidding of the Gods and The Alliance?’ They looked uncomfortable and afraid to answer in front of Neil.
Neil grinned smugly. ‘It is an honour to serve. For all of us.’ He looked everyone over and they feigned agreement. Jollywobs began backing away towards the bunker.
‘Look,’ Jean said. ‘These fields are filled with opportunity. Soybeans are our chance to break free!’
‘There is no breaking free,’ Neil said. ‘We are born to serve.’
‘You’re wrong. I’ve tasted freedom. It’s pungent, salty and made from beige orbs. I intend to find out how.’
Neil shook his head and tutted. ‘To begin with, you’re breaking protocol. Furthermore, genies do not require sustenance. Why waste The Alliance's time?’
‘The grey world of Fludgeonblahl suffers from a dearth of pleasures. They are lacking experiences that stimulate independent thought and nourish autonomy. The sauce will provide these things.’
One genie, convinced by Jean's rousing speech, hovered over to join her. And after nervously glancing at Neil, the three sheepish genies eventually joined Jean too.
'I'm reporting this disobedience,’ Neil said. ‘Expect to hear from Commander Jennings imminently.’
Jollywobs ran out of the bunker, wielding a vacuum cleaner and letting rip a guttural war-cry; she thrust the nozzle at Neil and sucked him up into the dusty old bag.
'Quick!’ One of the genies shouted. ‘Contain his essence. Plug the nozzle.’
Jean scooped up a handful of clay and shoved blocked the vacuum off. Neil was carried to the bunker where Jollywobs used the reverse function to shoot him into one of her empty bottles.
After locking Neil in the bomb shelter, the group took a tour of the farm’s machinery to ponder its soybean raising capabilities.
After a few days of calamitous fumbling with stiffened machinery, the group began their harvesting. The soybean cooperative of genies, or SCOG as it became known, went into full production. John, the least clunky driver, operated the harvester, and the rest of the group separated the chaff from the beans in the outbuildings.
Jean had perhaps the most difficult job in finding the recipe for soy sauce; it took a great deal of trial and error. Of course, radiation-immune genies like her didn’t mind one bit about consuming a few unbalanced atoms with an excess of internal energy. She even thought the nuclear wind added a pleasing dimension to the flavour of the atoms.
Taking up residence in the abandoned farmhouse kitchen, Jean tried grinding raw beans into a paste and adding water; the texture was a disaster and the flavour bland. Adding salt was progressive, but it was far from savoury or rich. It wasn’t until she’d exhausted the cupboards’ supply of herbs and spices that she decided to look for ingredients in the fields. Bringing some wheat back and carelessly laying a sheath on a hot burner produced a delicious smell. These roasted grains played an important part in the final flavour profile, because they would help the beans to ferment.
Jean saved all of her failed attempts in pots and pans, leaving them to stand in the outbuildings for weeks. The wheat batch began to ferment, and the sauce took on a new dimension of savoury richness and umami; those unbalanced atoms really did make it tastier.
With the recipe perfected, it was time to deal with the logistics of distribution. John towed a bottle bank from the city suburbs, and the genies sterilised the containers and filled them up with product.
As Jollywobs would be spending the most time in the bunker designing the artwork for the packaging (she opted for the motto ‘The sauce provides'), she was tasked with keeping an eye on Neil. But one night, she returned to her bunker after a SCOG meeting only to find Neil’s bottle cracked open.
With their prisoner escaped, and The Alliance no doubt informed of their activities, the thought of being forcefully extracted plagued the cooperative. To assuage everyone’s fears, Jean assumed the role of headstrong leader; plotting their mission to Fludgeonblahl to distribute the sauce. If they could load the airship and begin distribution on Fludgeonblahl before The Alliance arrived to detain them, they stood a chance of making an impact.
The SCOG manifesto was officially written by Jollywobs: putting an end to genie servitude; promoting a new way of thinking; and rebellion against the hold of the Gods and The Alliance. The weight of the operation came to rest upon Jollywobs’ furry shoulders; she would pilot the ship and transport the product. Teleportation, of course, would have been the easy option, but as Jean discovered, large amounts of carbon-based condiments did not teleport; they got lost in the ether. So, travelling through space and time linearly was the only way to transport the sauce.
On Fludgeonblahl, the arrival of Neil’s news of Jean’s anarchist condiment and her rebellion sent the government into a frenzy. Scientists began concocting a synthetic savoury sauce of their own—designed to numb the taste pleasure centres. If people tasted the government sludge before Jean’s real deal, there wouldn’t be an uprising at all; the populace would remain numb.
Any hopes of a stealthy infiltration of Fludgeonblahl had been dashed. Jean would be competing with a condiment that ran counter to her ideals; one that would kill the senses rather than enliven them. The more tongues she could land her sauce on, the greater number of minds freed and speed of distribution would be the deciding factor in advancing genie autonomy.
The airship, fully laden with savoury weaponry, took flight from Fludegonblahl rather unceremoniously due to Jollywobs’ amateurish piloting.
'You're not on Wobbly Palace now, Jollywobs,’ Jean said, from her co-pilot seat. ‘There’s no room for your juvenile antics in space. Let's have a smooth ride shall we? And how about fastening your safety belt?'
Jollywobs smirked at the mention of a seatbelt. ‘You ratcheted down the cargo, right?’
'Yes,' said John.
‘Well, all of you shut up and let me fly!'
‘You're way off course!' Jean cried. 'We're heading for Solgar.’ Jollywobs would not relinquish the controls; Jean lunged at them and the ship lurched. ‘That sun
will boil our sauce. And us!’
John swooped in and grabbed at Jollywobs. He pulled the purple costume head off and flung it across the ship, revealing a dome that was distinctly un-Gatwadian. It was incredibly genie-like. Incredibly Neil-like.
‘I’ll melt us all before I let a bunch of commies corrupt Fludgeonblahl,’ he said.
‘Give me the controls, you fascist!’ Jean bellowed.
As Jean lunged again for at the controls, the ship rolled sideways, loosening the cargo straps. Several bottles flew from the cargo bay into the cockpit and rained down upon the controls. A bottle hit the emergency hatch button and Neil, the only genie not strapped in, flew out of into space instantly. The image of a purple dot speeding through space towards a high-impact crash or a fiery death would stick with the cooperative for a long time; equidistant from Solgar and the nameless moon of Gatwad, he was tampered with by gravity as the two astral bodies fought over his mass.
Jean closed the hatch. ‘Quick detour anyone? I know someone on Gatwad that could use our help.’
‘I bet Jollywobs feels naked without her costume,’ John said. 'I hope she's got a back-up.'
Jean haphazardly swung the ship around and aimed its nose at Gatwad. ‘To the bunker! And then—to Fludgeonblahl.’
'What were the chances of that bottle hitting the hatch button? If it hadn't, we would have--'
'Never fear, John.' Jean smiled knowingly. 'The sauce provides.’