he turtle moves.
"How long is this going to take?" Zelgadis asked,
reaching out to nudge the little reptile onward.
Dayvid grabbed Zel's wrist before he touched it.
"Don't disturb it! It needs to make very precise calculations.
Otherwise, it won't read the stone's programmed vision correctly and will
lead us to the wrong part of--"
"Okay, okay, I get the point," Zelgadis said, sitting
back. "But we've been staring at this stupid thing for the better
part of an hour now. When's it going to get where it's going?"
"You are very impatient," Chi'Nai observed.
"You should simply sit and wait. No other actions will make the machine
The chimera kept his silence, studying the thing
in irritation. Dayvid had explained how the thing worked... some
odd mix of dreamstuff, with Xelloss doing the forging, and Dayvid's science
to guide it. He had the map-stone hooked up to an Apparatus (the
boy did specialize in making them), piping the vision into the turtle over
and over. The turtle would 'resonate', whatever that meant, and would
feel unbalanced in the direction of the vision's pull, etc., etc... and
somehow, it'd stop with the little pen pointing to the right spot on the
map it was crawling over.
The others had more important things to do.
Gourry had gone to visit his aunt, Lina had gone off to visit her god,
and Amelia was helping Timmy get settled in. Naga was presumably
still in the waking world, hunting Mazoku. Xelloss had run off on
his usual enigmatic little errands. All that was left of the posse
were himself, Chi'Nai and Dayvid... and all they had to do at the moment
Zel considered wandering around Sailoon, but A)
he wanted to be close to the action, and B)... it wasn't Sailoon.
He recognized all the buildings and streets, and
the details were there.. but not all of them. A loose cobblestone
that he had for some reason remembered sticking out in the middle of Main
Street was repaired. A building wasn't really the same shade of white
he had remembered it to be. Buildings themselves felt.. wrong.
Too large, too small, too clean, too dirty. It wasn't bad, exactly,
just different in creepy ways for someone used to the city at large.
Since no real conversation was going on, he decided
to dig further.
"So how'd you rebuild the city?" he asked.
"Oh... that was the winged's idea," Davyid said.
"This is how they made things. Back when they lived here, I mean,
before our world existed. They just took every memory of the city
the survivors had, mixed them together and made a dream-city based on it."
"It's not the same, though."
"Nobody remembers things the same way," Davyid said.
"Whenever two minds conflict over how they see something, or if only one
person remembers it, there's bound to be some differences to reality."
"It is still an amazing feat," Chi'Nai said.
"I don't think chimeras could accomplish the same task, even with these
"They suck at dreaming," Zelgadis said casually.
"They're not human anymore."
The boy didn't quite get it, but shrugged, and let
it go. "Anyway... you know... we've been theorizing. I know
some people are saying the world's going to end -- although I don't quite
see how given that the war isn't much of a war -- but if we tried, we could
pull a LOT of people into the World of Dreams and just live here forever.
I mean, it'd be hard work, but we've got an evacuation plan ready."
"It's better to be safe than sorry," Zelgadis agreed.
"Lina'll probably know more about that world ending thing after her talk
with the Lord of Nightmares, anyway. You can make extra preparations
Zel turned to look at the door to Dayvid's laboratory,
and the sorceress framed in it.
"Better to be safe than sorry, right?" Lina repeated.
"Especially given what I've found out. Call a staff meeting, guys,
we need everybody in on this."
The scene looked familiar.
The Great Hall of Sailoon Palace remained quite
identical to its destroyed counterpart, thanks to the combined memories
and dreams of hundreds of servants. But the real deja vu, in Lina's
opinion, was the way everybody was staring at her. Waiting for her
to command the troops.
This was really the first time they had all been
together since setting off on this madcap quest. Going clockwise
around the table, Lina mentally counted off: Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadis,
Chi'Nai, Xelloss, Dayvid, Love, Myth, Paradox, Reason, Luck, Drama.
Twenty four eyes in all.
Lina cleared her throat. "I suppose you're
all wondering why I've called you here."
"No, not really," Xelloss chirped.
"Oh. Well... okay, then, let's get right to
business," Lina said. "I'm happy to report that the Lord of Nightmares
has given me basically nothing to report. She's relying on us wacky
humans to just sort of figure it out and act as we go along."
"We're doomed," Zelgadis doomed.
"Actually, according to her, that's what I'm.. what
we're best at," Lina responded. "So, here's what's gonna happen.
We'll go to the place where that last thing is and take it and then proceed
to step two!"
Gourry raised his hand politely, like he was in
"What's step two?" he asked.
"There is no step two yet. We'll burn that
bridge when we come to it," Lina said. "Any questions?"
"What's step ONE?" Zelgadis asked. "In more
"I think I can help with that.." Dayvid said, pulling
some handwritten notes and papers from his Pocket Organizer (a strange
invention he made that crumples all your papers up into a tightly packed
wedge with some kind of key-based indexing, unless of course it loses track
of them.) He uncrumpled the papers, picked the right one, and tapped
it. "This is where we're going, according to my navigational makes-math-go-faster.
"It'd HAVE to be named that, wouldn't it?" Zelgadis
"Remember, kids, chaos is our friend," Lina cheered.
"So! We'll just take the Sub Ways, and--"
Reason cut in. "The Way Station to that island
has been disconnected for generations. All links to it collapsed
days after they were built, and the creators of the Ways refused to rebuild
"...and according to the research I did with some
sailors in town," Dayvid continued, "The island is surrounded by a stable
hurricane that never goes away. Any ship approaching is usually destroyed
in the winds. In fact, that's the way it always has been. I
don't think anybody's ever set foot on that island."
"Hmm. Setback," Lina admitted. "Okay.
I'll fly out there and figure out what to do when I get there."
Paradox jumped in. "Fly over the ocean?
Are you out of your mind? Even with magic and with our.. your wings,
it's ridiculously far!"
Lina shook her head. "My memory's not the
best, but... anybody got a Way Station map?"
Dayvid looked up from the dozens of little wads
of paper that were popping out of his organizer, and picked one seemingly
at random, rolling it to Lina. She uncrumpled it, and studied the
"Okay... I can take a Way Station to Algeriya.
That's a mini-continent right next to the island. I cross that, then
it's a short hop across a sea inlet and through the storm and BAM!
I'm there. Seems reasonable. Eh, Reason?"
"No," Reason said.
That gave Lina Pause. "No?"
"What... um. I think what Reason means to
say is that you can't go," Gourry said, speaking up without raising his
hand. "Not alone. We've got to come with you."
Lina groaned. "Guys! This is my fight.
I doubt you could do much, anyway. The Lord of Nightmares picked
me to handle this, and--"
"What, and pass up such obvious entertainment?"
Xelloss put in. "Oh, I wouldn't miss the end of the world for the
"Hey! Don't make me cash in that promise,
"What prom... ah! I remember," Xelloss said,
"Exactly. You promised you'd leave if I asked
you to," Lina said. "It was the only thing you could do to get me
to trust you. It might've been months ago, but it still holds."
"Oh, fine. If you're going to be a spoilsport
about it, I'll stay here in the World of Dreams," Xelloss grumped, giving
Zelgadis coughed lightly, and spoke. "I didn't
make any stupid promises like that," he said. "I'm coming whether
you want me to or not."
"Me too!!!" Amelia squealed, hurting many ears.
"I mean, whenever you run off to fight somebody big, all your friends are
with you! That's just how it is."
"Father would want me to ensure that our relic was
used appropriately," Chi'Nai rationalized.
"Actually," Reason said, "My original objection
is because Algeriya was vaporized a week ago, and the Way Station along
with it. But I suppose this other reason is valid."
Lina.. stared at her for a moment, before shaking
it off and addressing the group at large.
"Look, I know you all want to do the dramatic thing
and stick around for the Battle Royale with Cheese, but let's be serious
here," she insisted. "You don't HAVE to put yourselves in absolutely
obvious danger. I mean... you guys would be safer up here, where
no matter what goes boom, you won't go boom too..."
The looks in those twenty four eyes were solid.
Lina glanced to Gourry, who had the hardest look of determination she could
ever remember seeing in those two globs of glazed putty that were his eyes.
"...and I take it you don't care about any of that?"
"Not really, no," Zelgadis said. "Since when
did we let you go do anything alone?"
Amelia remembered. "What about the time Lina
had to go into the World of Dreams to face Nightmare, and--"
"BESIDES that," Zelgadis said. "The Lord of
Nightmares told us not to go that time. Did L-sama say the same thing
"Okay, then. Issue resolved," Zel said.
"Actually, we resolved it before you got here, Lina. Gourry, Amelia,
Chi'Nai, Dayvid and I are all coming with you. It was just a matter
of letting you know."
"Oh, good to know my command is being taken seriously,"
Myth spoke up. "The winged are going to stay
behind in the World of Dreams. That way, we can pull people in if
everything starts going wrong."
"Besides," Zelgadis added, "Dayvid here's got a
better means of transportation than any silly pair of wings..."
The S.S. Guppy, the world's most heavily modified leaky
little battered wooden boat, rocketed across the ocean at a incalculable
speeds. The last time he had tried to lower some knots in the water
to check their rate of velocity, the rope tore in half from the drag.
The thing was moving so fast that Lina's vomit spewed over the side in
a technicolor dream which stretched for double digit amounts of feet before
it even reached the water, a fact that didn't comfort her in the slightest.
Still a bit green, she hauled her torso back over
the railing and into safety. The absolute last thing she wanted to
do was fall into the ocean.
"I should have flown," Lina mumbled to herself,
keeping a firm hand over her stomach. "I should have flown.
I should have flown..."
"I'm the queen of the world! WOOOO!" Amelia
called, from the crow's nest high above, waving her arms in the wind.
"Lina-san! Isn't this new thing Dayvid made fun?"
"Fun. Yes, that's a word you could call it,
if you had no common sense," Lina muttered. She switched volumes and called
back up. "The hell does he call this thing again?!"
"The Makes-Boats-Go-Really-Really-Fast Engine!"
she called out, flinging herself out of the crow's nest and to a water
grav-- no, actually, she grabbed the rope ladder and scaled down the mast,
to join Lina. "He says it uses this funny spinny thing in the water
that goes so fast the boat actually skims over the surface, which is why
he put that big fin thing in the back to spoil it!"
"What, like milk?"
"Umm.. I dunno. But BOY, is it fast!"
"If you don't mind, I think I'll go to my cabin
now, pull the pillow over my head and pray to suffocate peacefully," Lina
said, lurching along the slightly bouncing deck of the ship. "Wake
me when we get there."
"But we won't get there until tomorrow," Amelia
said. "You can't stay in your cabin until then!"
"Name six good reasons why."
"Uhh... uh... one! I'm throwing a party tonight!"
she said. "A big celebration, now that we're all together and on
a quest again! We--"
"A celebration?" Lina asked. "Since when is
being on a quest a GOOD thing?"
"Well.. of course it is!" Amelia declared.
"A quest is a journey against hardships to prove that goodness can overcome
any obstacle! With our proud spirits burning bright, we will win!"
"A quest is a series of irritating tasks that lead
to a really large, painful fight and a letdown of a reward," Lina countered.
"Gosh, it's a wonder you're so good at them with
that attitude," Amelia said, amazed (but in an impressed sort of way).
"I guess you just have natural talent!"
"Yeah... I guess I do, at that," Lina had to admit.
After all, God told her so, and that usually was a good indicator.
"But a party?"
"So we can all have fun and be friends and catch
up on old times!" Amelia nodded so hard that her head almost came off.
"After all, we've been separated for awhile!"
Lina's will wobbled a little.. but she shook her
head, with a sigh. "I'm just not up to it... I'd prefer to go to
bed and be woken around the time the world ends, if you...... oh, god.
Yes -- Amelia was giving her sorceress pal the infamous
'Sailoon Royalty Kicked Puppy' look. Huge, watery eyes, cute little
balled up fists under her chin, humble posture... if it was possible to
radiate hurt needing, Amelia was giving off at least sixty thousand rads
And the voice... "But.. but I just wanted to do
something nice for everybody, and--"
"Okay! Okay!" Lina agreed, before that went
into dangerous, cavity inducing areas. "Groovy. Let's party.
"WAHOOO!!" Lina shouted, downing the last of the sake
bottle. She tipped it over upside down, shaking it just in case there
was anything hiding up there, then tossed it aside. "Gimmie annudder!"
This time, Amelia was the worried one. "Anoooo...
don't think you should have--"
"More!" Lina demanded. "Or I won't shave the
"What, is it hairy?" Gourry asked, not quite following
The party was loud; the party was disjointed.
Dayvid had brought along a karaoke machine, which had become a near permanent
fixture in Amelia's life to date, but it had gotten stuck in PLAYBACK mode
and was continually pumping cheesily sweet pop music into the ship's galley.
After awhile, all ears had filtered it out, but it did mean you had to
shout a lot to be heard. Fortunately for the group, the nearest police
station was hundreds of miles away, and nobody would be knocking and issuing
a complaint from the neighbors.
Off in the corner, the chimeras were busy having
their usual debate of the hour.
"I never said her dancing on the table and yelling
was a GOOD thing, just a normal thing," Zelgadis said. "That's how
humans react to alcohol. It amplifies feelings, like feeling good,
in this case."
"Another reason to lack emotional responses," Chi'Nai
counterpointed. "That way, alcohol does not affect you so drastically,
aside from ordinary dehydration."
"Okay, I'll concede that it'd help when drunk.
But how often is someone drunk compared to sober?" Zel asked. "Why
ditch it all just so you can tank up?... god. WHY am I arguing this?"
"My argument is too logical to continue such a protest."
"No, not that," Zelgadis said. "Look... I
don't like emotions much either. The few times I really caved to
them, stuff went bad. In a big way. One time, I got totally
angry at what I thought someone had done to Lina that I didn't notice an
obvious trap until I was caught... I mean, if I could have stayed as cool
as you do, it wouldn't have happened."
Chi'Nai had to give pause. "Then why ARE you
"Because... because! I don't know. Because
you're arguing against it, maybe," Zel guessed, dismissively. "I'm
supposed to be helping you and your whole race recover from this state,
you know. I promised your dad."
"It can't be done," Chi'Nai stated, hard fact as
hard as her skin. "At least I have mastered living without them,
unlike my father."
A germ of an idea festered in Zel's head.
"Prove it, then."
"Get drunk," he suggested. "Right here, right
now. It holds a magnifying glass up to your feelings, right?
If you don't change in the slightest, if you don't go nuts, I'll believe
you. But if you've got even a shred of something in there, it'll
show. Makes logical sense.... doesn't it?"
The chimera girl hesitated. "That.. would
be juvenile. At best."
"Chicken," Zel accused, smiling all the way.
Now he was starting to enjoy this. True, it WAS juvenile, but...
somehow, he was getting a kick out of psychologically fencing with the
"You will not goad me," she defended.
"And you're just afraid you could be wrong.
Then you'd have to face the fact that you DO have some emotions.
Boy, that'd shake your world, wouldn't it?"
"...I will prove you wrong. Get a bottle,"
Chi'Nai agreed. "Then perhaps you will learn how silly this is."
Lina was already dead asleep by the time Chi'Nai had
gotten to her fifth bottle.
"I'd better get her to a bed to rest," Gourry said
before departing with her. "I mean, otherwise, she'll be in terrible
shape to save the world tomorrow."
Amelia and Dayvid retired next, both a little bit
drunk as well.
Even after the others had exited, Chi'Nai was still
going. Zelgadis watched, curiously; the two hadn't talked very much
during the process, not trying to tip the hand to each other, other than
the occasional taunt. The only sound was the occasional clink of
a bottle, and that karaoke machine, which still hadn't run out of the compressed
air that kept it playing.
"I'll... have you know," Chi'Nai said, wheezing
slightly, "That I am experiencing many ill.. illll... negative effects
of alcohol by this point. My motor control is not very......... fast."
"I can tell," Zelgadis said. "Feeling emotional
"Of course not," Chi'Nai said. "You should
just admit failure. More drink won't change anything... won't.. no,
it won't change anything. You and father are wrong. I'm sick
of fighting about it."
"We could discuss anything else. Weather,
literature, sports, poetry, intellectual pursuits.. but no, every time
you're always goading me about THAT!" Chi'Nai said, an edge sliding into
her tone. "You're very, very--"
"Irritating?" Zelgadis offered.
"Repetitive," Chi'Nai adjusted. "I don't need
feelings. And I don't need to explain why I don't need feelings to
you, of all people. I don't like you or how you make me fe.. act.
And that's a fact. So....."
She got up unsteadily, setting the empty bottle
she held aside, took three places, picked up the karaoke machine, tore
it in half and dropped it and jumped on the bits until it stopped playing
the music that had been quietly driving her up a wall throughout the whole
experiment and went to bed.
Then only Zelgadis remained, utterly speechless.
The mangled remains of the music box gave off a few yellow sparks, and
collapsed once more.
He was tempted to say some metaphor aloud like 'Looks
like I cracked her stone' or 'Perhaps there's gold beneath the rock' but
just went to bed as well, shaking his head. That is what he had done,
however; she had admitted the truth, whether she accepted it or not.
But what did she mean, how HE made her feel?
With luck, Zelgadis thought, he could fill her father's
wish somewhere in the course of this impending endgame disaster.
Then maybe he'd understand.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.