fter being sent to a brief sleep by Naga via spellwork, Lina rested, smug and content.
    She knew how THIS worked.  When she woke up, she would likely be on a table with a giant pendulum swinging ever closer.  Or better, that she'd be dangling over some sort of bottomless put, with a candle slowly burning through the rope that's holding her there.  Maybe they'd just be simple and toss her into an arena with a few wild beasts.
    Either way, there was NOTHING to worry about!  She was the heroine, after all, and even Drama dictates that she escape her confines and exact revenge on her captors.  What's more, she'd find all about Drama's evil schemes since of COURSE she'd be dead anyway, and he'd feel comfy cozy telling her.
    That's why when she woke up, she started to feel very alarmed.
    Yes, she was strapped down to the requisite table with strange sharp things around her, but it wasn't a basic dungeon.  It was a scientist's lab.
    Lina had only seen one lab before, the one Dayvid had hastily constructed in his quarters at Sailoon Palace.  He had a nice and neat table, with a few bubbling beakers; some spare parts for strange machines were in one corner, and every wall had chalkboards, scribbled with mathematics and physics and others 'ics Lina didn't know.  The whole thing smelled vaguely of socks and instant ramen.
    There was enough science stuff for her to recognize this as a lab, but it wasn't a nice, funny lab like Dayvid's.  This one had long coils that went 'zap'.  It had a large bay window, through which lightning periodically crashed.  It had big scary sharp knives on mechanical arms, it had tubes of glowing green fluid, in which various strange creatures floated.  It wasn't lit by a simple window and a few lanterns, it had great roaring torches and scary underlighting.
    What's more, she was strapped into some bizarre chair/table, surrounded by far too many probing things for her comfort, and NATURALLY some idiot had taken off all her clothes, save her underwear, thank the Lord.
    Lina was inside one of the few genuine Mad Scientist's labs that were in existence.
    "Ah, I see you've awakened," the Mad Scientist said, consulting a clipboard.  Of course he would have wild hair and a pointy, evil beard, and squinty eyes; it was dramatic, after all.  He turned his facial expression on Lina with maximum contempt and amusement.  "And high time, too!  Now, the procedure may begin!  Naga, if you will start the apparatus?"
    (An evil machine can't be called a machine.  It's always called an APPARATUS.)
    Off to the side, Naga -- in a white lab coat, open to show her usual leathers -- was holding a remote control, attached to Lina's current problem.  "Aye, sir!"
    "What?  Whoa, what!!" Lina protested.  "Aren't you going to tell me your evil plans?  At LEAST?"
    At least the freak was sticking to one convention...
    "I suppose it couldn't hurt," Drama stupidly assumed.  "It's very simple.  I want to know what's making you tick, Lina Inverse!"
    "I'm not a clock.  Can I go now?"
    "Somehow, YOU, above all others, were chosen by the Lord of Nightmares to bring back her truant children," Drama continued, ignoring her.  "You have been given the wings, according to Naga.  NOBODY is supposed to have the wings, not since the fall!  I will discover their secrets, highly valuable information to my.. colleagues.  Of course, to do this, I have to very carefully scrutinize your body--"
    "I can TELL that much," Lina grumbled, still a bit red from embarrassment.  "When I get out of here, I'm going to have to personally remove your scrotum for this.  I just thought you could use the warning."
    "You don't even realize your importance, do you?" Drama asked, honestly.  "You have no idea what your task is!  Did you even understand what Merlin Giga was going on about?  I am one of the few who is aware of his machinations..."
    Lina, despite being enraged and exposed and pissed off and slowly getting very frightened, dogged Drama's instinct to tell all.  "I suppose if they're not going to work out, you can go ahead and tell me, mmm?"
    "Naah," Drama said.  "Naga, if you'll please?"
    Naga pushed the Red Button.
    The chair shook, motors coming to life.  A green light traced Lina's body, sizing up exactly where to start probing.
    "H... HEY!" Lina said.  "How do you expect me to get out of this?"
    "I don't," Drama said.  "Why would I?"
    "I'm the heroine!  I HAVE to get out of the deathtrap!"
    "Not in MY story, dear," Drama smirked.  "My pursuit of science and the vanquishing of my enemies makes me the heroic figure of the day!  You are simply a bandit invader coming to oppress the spirit of invention and progress, which I will get some usefulness out of.  Your friends will provide similar needs, once I fish them out of the dungeon.  For now, I must bid adieu; plenty of experiments to attend to.  Naga, I trust you'll keep an eye on her and stun her into submission if she attempts anything unusual?"
    "Aye, sir!" Naga said, smiling.
    "Naaagaa!" Lina whined.  "How can you just stand there and let him get away with this?  Spooky lighting?  Exaggerated gestures?  Deathtraps?  HE'S the villain, not me!  Snap out of it or I'm going to be carved like a turkey!!"
    Naga held her hand to her mouth to let off an evil laugh, but spotted one of the scalpels adjusting its angle of approach to Lina, ready to start the experiment in a few minutes.  Something about it...
    "Ah... this is going to have a lot of.. blood, isn't it?" Naga asked Drama, in an entirely non-self assured voice.
    "Of course.  You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs," Drama cliched.
    "I don't like blood..." Naga remembered.  Her eyes defocused slightly, trying to recall something.  "I can't stand the sight of it... I can't remember why, something a long time ago, but..."
    Lina picked up on this.
    "I remember!  I think!" Lina said, trying to distract Naga.  "You were... okay, it was back when we were traveling together, and you got REALLY drunk after we had found the legendary lost idol of Tehocan, and you were saying... something about your mother?  I couldn't make it out through the slurring, but your mother and blood, I remember that--"
    "This is childish," Drama frowned.  "Naga, tend to your post."
    "But.. I don't want to see Lina get cut up!" Naga said, gradually rising from the spell Drama's Talents had placed on her.  "She's a friend, and.. and the Killers--"
    Drama waved his hand, and Lina could almost SEE the golden light reflect off Naga's eyes.  Her posture went back to her usual self-confident stance.
    "Aye, sir!" Naga said.  "I'll see to it that the machine works correctly, for the glory of my high lord, Drama!"
    "Better," Drama said, satisfied.
    "So you ARE bending her will with your cockamamie Talent," Lina accused.  "You know, I prefer Myth's stories.  I don't get sliced and diced in those, for starters."
    "Myth is.. an amateur," Drama said.  "She knows nothing of how to make a PROPER story.  True tales of fantastic deeds are told with more style, more LIFE!  People in those stories know their roles.  And to make sure you play your role, I think I'll have to expend a bit more effort..."
    Lina opened her mouth to ask what he was yammering about, but only saw a brief moment of gold, and... and...
    Was scared!
    "AAAAAAAAA!!!" she cried, mind clouded with passivity and feminine helplessness.  "Whatever am I going to do?!  HELP!  HEEEEELP!!"
    "Considerably better!" Drama smiled.  "The Damsel in Distress would never be able to escape on her own.  My work here is complete.  Ta ta, all."
    As Drama left, he completely failed to realize the error in his strategy.
    The Dungeons were Dungeons.  They lacked Dragons, but they made up for it with harsh, unyielding iron, brickwork and plenty of spare manacles and moans of torment.
    Myth had never been thrown into a dungeon before, and the experience wasn't sitting well with her.  First of all, it was cold.  Second, it was damp.  Third, they took her book away and she had no hope of escaping and probably would be sent to a horrifying death soon which was very possible since wingless may be long-lived but they are no means immune from having sharp objects pushed into their bodies and Myth really was very alarmed that this might be part of her immediate future.
    Where was Lina?  Lina should be rescuing her.  She was a damsel in distress here, and the very fact distressed her.
    Myth lived a lot of her life distressed.  She didn't see herself as very powerful, certainly not in any way that would keep even a two-bit mugger from removing her from this world.  She had survived not one, but TWO wars between powerful godlike beings -- many close calls, many moments when she repeated to herself : I'm not going to make it this time.  I'm not going to make it this time.
    Maybe it was the first time that did it, the time that really put fear of death into her...
    The kingdom of the wing.. the winged, they were.  They had no names for themselves as a group.  They just were who they were, with nothing to compare it against.  They knew very little, in fact, being creatures of innocence and ignorance.
    But the one among them had one piece of knowledge that changed it all.  The one that would eventually be called Nightmare had developed an intriguing new concept called death.  Death and life, since one didn't seem to be able to exist without the other, but death fascinated him more.  Love took up the work of developing life as a concept, since she felt she applied to it well; and the others let the most beautiful of them play with his idea of death...
    Then he tried to kill Myth, and that's when she knew the fear that she could stop existing.  She was the first one of them to know that fear.
    The Lord cast them out for the offense, and they became the fallen, the wingless, and then ALL of them had to fear the cessation of existence...
    But for Myth, it was more personal.  More personal by far.  After that, she took no chances; no stupid bravery, no getting into the line of fire.  Determined nothing would bring around her death.  So what did she do now?  She got INTO the story, she got into Lina's tale, and now she was just as much at risk of demise as the others!  And why?  For an ideal?  For a hope that the Lord of Nightmares would forgive them?  Not much had come of this wild notion, except a cold, damp, clammy dungeon, and not much hope in sight.
    Some people would beat at the walls in anger over themselves.  Myth wasn't aggressive.  She held it in, until she couldn't stop from crying.
    A voice from the cell next to hers floated in.
    "Prithee, what dost you weep for?"
    "G.. Gourry?" Myth asked, a flicker of hope rekindling.  "Is that you?"
    "The blackhearted dogs swarmed me," Gourry mumbled.  It sounded like he had taken a bad blow to the head.  "My ears ring like the gongs of heaven.  Tell me, is the fair sorceress with you?"
    "No.. no, I don't know where she is," Myth said.  "She could be in his dungeon, asleep.  If she was awake, she'd be yelling her head off, probably..."
    And then, Drama's fatal mistake was known.
    "Hark!  Dost thine ears hear what mine hear??" Gourry said, leaping to his feet, pressing up to the bars.
    "Huh?  I don't hear anything..."
    "A call... a cry for help!" Gourry exclaimed.  "The fair lady.. she is in DANGER!  I must take leave of this place, and rescue her, or all is naught!"
    Myth sighed.  "It's just Drama's Talent working on you, Gourry.  We can't get out of here."
    "Even if I have to wrench mine arms from their sockets, I WILL escape!!" Gourry said, voice low and angry.  "I will pry these bars apart with every ounce of my strength!"
    "They're hard iron.  They won't bend..." Myth said... and paused.  "Wait.  If Gourry's the real hero, and Lina's the damsel in distress, and we're all in a castle dungeon... this is JUST like a story Drama wrote way back when!  It's been repeated enough times to become typical and resonant, and... and I know what to do next!  I don't even need to use a Talent!"
    "You have a plan of action, my lady?" Gourry asked.
    Myth leaned up against her cell door, and called out.  "HELP!  GUARD!  GUAAARD!  GOURRY'S SICK!  HE'S VERY ILL!!"
    "Good thinking, good bardess!" Gourry cheered.  "Oooooh... ohh, my stomach..."
    Two burly big bastards waddled down into the dungeon, wearing the finest in torture technician fashions.  They ignored Myth, and rapped on Gourry's bars.  "What's all this, then?" one asked.
    After that, the rest was straightforward.
    Since the hero needed to go save the damsel at the last possible second, the machine was slowing down.  Its mechanical gears didn't understand why, but the process of preparing to dig into the victim just wasn't going as fast as it should; a few error lights popped up suggesting that the owner make repairs, but nobody noticed them.
    Lina didn't notice, because she was too busy shouting things like 'Eeek, help me' and 'I'm scared'.  Somehow, her hair had gotten prettier and her eyes more sparkly; a side effect of her enchantment.  Deep inside, she was feeling very, very angry, but not in any conscious way.
    Naga was, of course, taunting her endlessly to pass the time, despite a nagging feeling in the back of her head that this wasn't what she wanted, that it was about to get very bloody and she should be doing something... yes, attending to the machine, that had to be it...
    Any doubts about their roles were thrown out the window when Gourry arrived, nicked from various small combats with the guards, but very much alert and ready to rescue.
    "LINA!!" he recognized dramatically.  "Hold on!  I'm coming!!"
    "I'll just go wait over here," Myth notified anybody who cared, as she crawled under a sturdy table.
    "SO!  You have escaped!" Naga realized, drawing her own sword -- a magic-on-sword fight didn't make sense, but sword-on-sword did.  "You go no further, knight!  In the name of my lord and master, I will vanquish thee!  HAVE AT YOU!"
    "Oh, Gourry, help me!" Lina squealed in a sickeningly cute voice.  "Hurry!"
    So the two fought blades for several minutes, the clock (since there HAD to be a clock) ticking down the seconds, slowly reaching that ominous zero...
    The fight trashed most of the room.  Anything that was breakable filled its duty.  Swords were embedded in things and pulled out at the last possible moment, to block an oncoming strike; the two locked swords and taunted each other.  The cycle repeated, until finally, Gourry struck a mighty blow -- and Myth could SWEAR she saw lines of motion behind him and the same movement repeated three times.
    Naga's sword went spinning away, useless.
    "I am.. defeated!" Naga gasped.
    "I will not kill a woman," Gourry nobly said, and simply clocked the hilt of his sword over Naga's head.  She curled up delicately on the spot, more or less unharmed, but taking a nap anyway.
    A cloud of smoke billowed in the center of the room, lightning arcing from wall to wall; Gourry's sword blocked a magical blow, as the man of the hour arose.
    "ENOUGH!!" Drama shouted, as the organ music crescendoed with his arrival.  "I will, kill you!"
    Myth really wished she had her notebook.
    She glanced around, hoping to find anything she could write on; the lab was a wreck, but there weren't any papers in safe reaching distance.  Lina's pack was nearby, however, and she grabbed that instead.
    Drama formed a sword out of golden energy, holding a nonexistent handle.  Gourry readied himself, and the two charged each other, from across the room... running towards each other... running towards each other... running towards each other... running towards each other... running towards each other--
    The two dashed past, and skidded to a halt, facing away from each other.  All was still...
    And finally, Drama collapsed.  Classic samurai battle ending #34.
    "VICTORY!!" Gourry declared, posing against the raging sea!!
    He strode mightily over to the contraption Lina was stuffed into, and with a single stroke of his sword, cleaved the arms holding scalpels in half.  He loosed the straps, and pulled her away from the device, only 0:07 seconds before it would have made a mess.
    "Oh, Gourry!" Lina sighed happily, stars in her eyes.  "You came back for me!"
    "Of course, my lady," Gourry smiled, valiant as ever.  "I could not leave you in that cur's hands.  For it is my quest to protect thee!  And just as well, for I..."
    "Yes?  Yes?"
    "Yes?" Lina asked.
    "I LOVE thee, my lady!" Gourry declared, and swept her up into a kiss that the violins just ADORED...
    And off to the side, Myth's jaw dropped.
    Realizing the Talents were still in effect, she quickly dug through Lina's backpack, grabbing a spare Man-Trap.  Myth unscrewed the lid, crawled out to Drama's unconscious body, and sealed him away--
    The music died instantly.
    Nobody made any sudden moves.
    "Ummmmm..." Myth said, feeling someone should break the silence.  "I got him.  We can go now.  We'll probably have to take the Sub Ways back, since it's the only short way from here, but... um... guys?  Hello?"
    Lina finally untangled herself, eyes as wide as saucers, face as red as a tomato.  Gourry's was too.
    And her first response was :
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
 Special thanks to Jed Hagen for helping me find the second half of the dropcap picture! ^_^