'Oompah Oompah Oompah Oompah Oompah Oompah
Oompah Oompah Oompah Oompah Oompah....'
"Amelia, stop dancing."
"Huh? Oh, sorry."
Zelgadis twitched slightly. "I'm calm. I'm calm. The music is not causing my urge to kill to rise..."
A pasty-faced clerk walked up to the reception desk, and clanged a portable gong on the counter. "Now serving : 146!"
"Wait! What happened to 145?!" Zelgadis asked.
"We already called you," the clerk said. "Didn't you hear?"
"The polka was too loud," Melvin smiled. "I don't think we did."
The clerk gave a little 'Watch Me Not Care' sort of shrug. "Take another number and get back in line."
"I'll have you know I'm a very powerful sorcerer," Zelgadis warned.
Crossing his arms in a defiant paper pusher stance, the clerk stuck out his lower lip. "Threatening to turn me into a frog won't get you in ahead of the line."
There was an brief inrush of air, and a croak.
"I don't make threats," Zelgadis said, after the fact.
"Ummmm... Zelgadis-san, I don't think turning civil servants into toads--"
"--is a very polite thing to do. We're trying to be honorable and valiant on this quest, right?"
"We are? Since when?"
Melvin stepped up. "If I may make a suggestion?"
The others looked at him.
"Since we seem to be hitting difficulties here, how about if you, Amelia, allow Zelgadis a certain amount of leeway in the congeniality department, then we can be very honorable and valiant once outside the country to make up for the gap?" Melvin smiled. "That would be an acceptable deal. After all, don't you want to show Lina how good a leader you are by finishing your job as fast as you can?"
Amelia's brain struggled over ethics, morality, law, consequences, desires, needs and personality quirks for awhile. The boys sat around and waited for her to reach a decision.
"Ooooookay," Amelia said. "But don't go overboard, alright?"
"Yeah, yeah," Zel agreed.
A huge demon monstrosity, phallic tentacles dripping
with pink goo faced off against the three adventurers.
"What IS that thing?!" Gourry asked, his sword drawn and ready.
"It's wearing a tie!" Lina said, seeing the dinky strip of fabric around what could possibly be a neck. "I have a feeling it works here..."
"OOHOHOHOOO! I will destroy the beast in one blow!!" Naga laughed, charging up enough electricity to destroy everything in a twenty foot radius..
"Naga!" Lina shouted. "Ask questions, THEN shoot! This thing could help us!"
"Glooorrrrp glar fhppthtttttb(squick squick)," the monster replied.
"Don't be silly, Lina. Clearly it has such horribly disgusting intentions towards our bodies that we must strike it down before it even considers such things!" Naga assumed.
"But think! What if-- wait a minute, why am I arguing this?" Lina said, returning to her classical methods of dealing with Naga.
"Ow!" Naga yelped, her spell piffling out.
"That's better. Now, umm... Mr. Thing, you speak human?"
The monster paused. A tentacle reached into the front pocket of what could possibly be a designer sport coat, and withdrew a hearing aid, which it shoved into an orifice on its head.
"I say, not every day we see chaps like you down here in the 'ol offices. How do you do?" the monster said in gentle, well inflected words.
"..." Lina replied.
"Are you lost, guvn'r? I know my way around here like the back of my pseudopods, you know."
"Yes! That's it! We're lost!" Gourry nodded emphatically. "Where's room thirteen?"
"Thirteen?" the unholy wretch asked, scratching its twisted little head. "There isn't a thirteen on this floor. Terribly sorry. ...or did you mean the fourth subbasement dungeon? This is the fifth, afraid."
Gourry bopped his fist into his palm, the universal signal of understanding. "I see! So we were on the wrong floor, like I thought. I must have good instincts! My uncle was a navigator, you know."
"..." Lina continued.
After Zelgadis was kind enough to revert the clerk
back to human form and someone got the dazed bureaucrat a glass of water
to calm his nerves, the group immediately and swiftly was ushered into
a posh looking office where they instantly proceeded to continue to wait.
It was posh by the standards of the day, meaning it had carpeting and an indoor gas lamp. Gas lamps were harder to obtain in city environments because they tended to explode and turn perfectly normal buildings into fifty foot tall pillars of fire. Having one meant you were either very rich, very suicidal, or both.
Amelia busied herself toying with a strange group of metal balls that, when you pulled one back and let it swing down into the row, would knock the one on the other end up into the air. Zel couldn't see any possible use for it.
"I say, insurance people live well," Melvin commented, sweeping a finger along a shelf for dust. "Even civil ones. Maybe I'm in the wrong occupation."
"What's taking the guy?" Zel asked. "We've been here for a half hour."
"He probably has many other important clients to attend to," Amelia said. "We at Sailoon take safety very seriously, you know. Maintaining vigilance and standards makes for a better tomorrow!"
The door opened, and an obese man in a business suit wandered in, tripping on the carpet and knocking over a potted plant which hit the gas lamp and immediately caught on fire, which quickly spread through a row of dusty old books on the nearby shelf.
Amelia panicked, waving her arms around in a blur. Melvin giggled. Zelgadis immediately cast an elemental Shamanist spell and doused the fire.
"Sorry, sorry," the insurance agent apologized, leveraging himself off the ground in full defiance of physics. He shifted his bulk over to the ridiculously small chair behind his desk. "I was busy setting off fireworks behind the building with some of my pals, then we had to get a delivery of scissors to the Claims department really quick... I got caught up. Anyway, what can I do you for?"
"Uhh..." Amelia started, still shaken, not stirred. "We need travel insurance. For an ocean trip."
"Oh, that's easy... where'd I put those forms.." the man mumbled to himself, rooting through the desk. Fishing out a stack of greasy papers, he handed them to Amelia. "Sorry, I had my sandwich on them. Fill these out in hectiplacate."
Amelia looked at the smudged, impossible to read primitive ink printed document. "Umm.. as leader, I delegate this task to Melvin!"
"I hear and obey," Melvin smiled, taking the papers and a nearby stylus and setting to work.
"That's it, I trust? Just forms?" Zel asked.
"Oh, no. We also gotta get you certified on Ocean Safety with our training course," the clerk said. "I think the next session starts in... ummm... where's my timetable... oh, right. Three hours from now."
"Three hours," Zel repeated, stomach sinking.
"It'll probably take me that long to finish these anyway," Melvin noted, still writing.
"I'm going to go get us some takeout food," Zelgadis announced, getting up. "Saileese Fried Mutton okay with everyone?"
"Oooo! I want an Amusing Meal!" Amelia smiled. "They've got miniature figures shaped like my daddy this month!"
"Yes, I guess that would justify the inflated price of them," Zel said, rolling his eyes. "You know, I bet Lina's already enjoying some foreign cuisine on her little road trip while we're stuck in here."
"AAARHGHGH!!!!" Lina yelled, pulling at her hair.
"How weird," Gourry understated. He looked at the nearby door, which was marked 13. The door next to that was 13. The door a few feet down the hall was 13, as was the one at the end of the hall and another at the juncture to the next hall. In fact, every door visible and probably the ones that weren't visible had a jaunty 13 scored onto them with a red hot iron.
"You know," Naga commented, getting philosophical, "The more I see of Evilanian architecture, the more I appreciate it. This is truly evil. Perhaps I should invite my worst enemies to come here sometime, to trap them in an endless maze of pain and torment! OOOHHOOHOOOOOHOHHOHOOO!!"
Lina cried tears of despair, while throttling Gourry. "I'm hungry! I'm tired! I'm weak with fatigue! When will the nightmare end?! WHEN?"
"Wgaggaggaa," Gourry responded, wobbling around when Lina let go. He shook his head to clear it, regretted that instantly, and decided to just hold very still. "Well... if all the doors are thirteen... and we gotta use the thirteenth door.. then any of them should work. Right?"
"Or only one of them does and we have to find the right thirteen out of about two hundred doors!" Naga almost smiled. "How amazingly EVIL!"
"I like being an optometrist," Gourry smirked.
"'Optimist', Gourry," Lina corrected.
"Oh, no, I don't know anything about eyeballs."
Gourry picked the nearest #13, and pulled the imposing door open...
...to reveal a small office, with a nebbishy looking clerk writing up some forms behind a desk. A half-eaten sandwich and mug of coffee was mixed in with the various papers and forms, and considerably more important, a sign hanging over the desk read PASSPORTS GIVEN HERE.
Lina's eyes filled with stars. "Gourry! You're a lifesaver!"
Gourry smiled, and puffed out his chest a little. "Well, I--"
"YOU FOUND FOOD!" Lina exclaimed, zooming into the room fast enough to leave a Lina-shaped cloud of smoke where she was standing. She immediately scooped up the sandwich, and ate it in one gulp, her stomach making happy-noises.
The clerk looked up in surprise. "Hey, that was my fried egg, chili and chutney sandwich!"
Lina turned purple.
"Excuse me! We're looking for passports!" Gourry said, raising his voice so it could be heard over Lina's gagging and choking. "We need to get into Evilania so we can look for a bookstore or something."
Papers were shuffled as the clerk searched for the right forms, then eventually handed out three identical papers to Naga, Gourry and the recovering Lina. "Fill these out with a number two quill at the form filling station over there."
Naga held up her paper closer to her face, because truthfully she had slightly bad eyesight but never wanted to admit that she needed glasses, no matter how much property damage it caused. "A questionnaire? Hmmm..." She fetched a quill, and started checking off boxes. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes..."
Lina finally caught her breath, only to lose it again when she saw the questions. "WHAT?! What kind of passport application is this? 'I enjoy dressing up in black leather and chrome studs, Y/N'... 'I sometimes enjoy hurting small animals, Y/N'... 'I feel dirty when I mastruuu...' OI! We're not gonna answer any weirdo perverted questions!! Right, guys?!"
"Uhhh.. uhhhhh... uhhhhh..." Gourry agreed, turning red in the face from embarrassment as he read his form.
Naga walked over, and pushed her completed form across the desk. "All done!"
A few quick passes with his quill, and the clerk checked out Naga's form. "Excellent! Welcome to Evilania, like-minded individual. Hail Evilania and all its tainted fruits!"
"Hail Evilania!" Naga repeated, saluting. "This country will be a most enjoyable place for a quest. Don't you think so, Lina? OOHHOHOHOOO!!"
Amelia, Zelgadis, and Melvin stood in rank and file
with the other three Sailoon citizens who were here for Ocean Safety Training.
Nobody budged an inch.
The last person who tried to shift from one foot to the other was made to do fifty pushups. Someone who sneezed had to do fifty pushups one-handed. The drill instructor, one Corporal Punishment, paced back and forth in front of the recruits, his Sailoon military helmet polished to a degree that could melt a hole in a wall from the reflected sunlight.
"Never before have I seen a more worthless load of maggots!" he declared in a voice that could probably be heard in Evilania. "But when I'm done kicking your sorry asses from this side of Sailoon Harbor to the next, you WILL BE lean, mean, OCEAN SAFETY MACHINES! NOW SOUND OFF LIKE YOU'VE GOT A PAIR!!! YOU WITH THE STUPID GRIN!"
"Who, me?" Melvin smiled.
The corporal got so far into Melvin's personal space that he could be charged rent.
"There's a joker in every bunch! Well, the Sailoon Oceanic Safety Council don't got room for no jokers! You try anything funny with me, mister, and I'll bust you down to civilian so hard your grandparents die!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"
"PERFECTLY, YOUR EXCELLENCY!" Melvin barked, retaining his grin.
The corporal sneered, and gave Melvin the evil eye, before proceeding down the line. "You, little girl! You think a powder puff like you has what it takes not to accidentally fall overboard and drown in a hurricane!? WELL, DO YOU!"
"Uh, no, sir!" Amelia yelped. "I mean, yes, sir! Sir, yes, I mean! Sir! Um.. actually, I'm the princess of Sailoon, so really you should be calling me ma'am, sir, but--"
"WHAT?!" the veteran barked. "So now we got some miss pretty perfect PRIN-CESS on our squad? Thinking she deserves special treatment?! WELL, AS FAR AS THE SAILOON OCEANIC SAFETY COUNCIL IS CONCERNED, YOU ARE LITTLE MORE THAN SEA SCUM! Drop and give me infinity!"
Amelia's resolve dissolved like it was dropped in acid, and she immediately got down and started pushing out weak little exercises. The corporal nodded in satisfaction, and moved on... and paused.
"You look funny, boy," he said, his breath not meeting Zelgadis's approval. "You ain't from around here, are you? Some kind of foreign spy trying to ride OUR waves and learn OUR safety protocols?? WHERE YOU COME FROM, WORM?"
"I don't feel the need to tell you," Zel said, voice cooler than Vanilla Ice.
The corporal almost stepped back. "Well well well, we got a dissenter in the ranks, don't we?"
"Are you going to give us the stupid safety test or not, 'sir?'" Zelgadis asked. "I've been here for hours. My legs are killing me. And I'm starting to consider going across the road and blowing up that Accordion Players Guild. Although I could start with you first, if you prefer."
"HAH! Boy thinks he has the mettle to go up against the veteran of two foreign wars?!" the corporal balked.
"Big deal," Zel said. "I helped take down Shaburanigdo, the dark lord of all."
"Think you're something tough, do ya, boy? Wanna put your money where your mouth is??"
Zelgadis cracked his knuckles. "Amelia? Would having a little tete-a-tete with General Mayhem here go too far beyond our agreement for leeway?"
"Nnhggh... nhnh... six..." Amelia grunted, pushing up.
"I'll take that as a no."
The corporal turned red. "Alright, punk! 'bout time your elder taught you some lessons!" He pulled his ceremonial combat oar from his belt, readying it. "HAVE AT Y--"
"RA TILT!!" Zelgadis yelled, angling the spirit dimension's energy across reality and channeling it as a steady stream of raw psychic force. With a howl of ethereal winds, the corporal was blasted at subsonic speeds across the harbor, through a few masts, and into the window of a mattress factory a thousand feet away.
Melvin clapped in appreciation. "Bravo, bravo."
"I just used the most powerful spell in Shamanism to smack an annoying person," Zelgadis realized. "Melvin, do you think I'm turning into Lina?"
"Why, of course not. Your hair is such a nice bluish green, not orange."
Zelgadis turned to the others, looking downright tired. "How about if we just forge that guy's signature on our forms and move on?"
There was a consensus of nodding.
"Good. Amelia? You can stop that now."
"Nnhh.. seven... ano? Oh. Sorry!"