s the sun set on another Las Sailoon day, business drew to a close.  More wood pulp was imported to make more forms, workers went off to bars catering to bureaucrats and exchanged high fives and war stories of how they inconvenienced dozens and dozens of people, and in the end, everybody lurched home tired, drunk, or both.
    Zelgadis wished he was drunk, because he certainly was tired.  The papers Melvin carried around with him, insurance forms and certificates certifying that yes indeed, his companions were fully capable of surviving an ocean voyage without doing anything stupid like jumping off the mast and then suing the captain, were ready to be used.
    Unfortunately, the ship they originally were trying to book had already taken off for parts unknown.  In fact, practically all of the passenger craft had set sail.  The only one left was...
    "Boy, there must be a strong magic to keep that hull afloat!" Amelia commented.
    "I believe the magic in question is called 'Desperate Belief,'" Melvin said.
    The S.S. Guppy was not exactly the pride of the fleet.  Holes had been patched over roughly with crisscrossed boards and rusty nails.  The life preservers were deflated.  Someone had stripped the lifeboat for firewood.  The sail seemed to have a few pairs of underwear sewn into it to cover up tears.
    The trio stood on the dock for awhile, considering their immediate future.
    "You know?" Zelgadis asked nobody in particular.  "By this point, I really don't care.  It could be a couple of logs lashed together with kite string.  I want to get on a boat, get going towards Justivalero, and then go to bed.  Who's with me?"
    "I am!  It'll probably be really exciting!" Amelia smiled.
    "Yes, the constant nagging fear of an icy cold death in the ocean waters can be a thrill," Melvin smiled.  "I have a feeling I'll run out of allergy pills quite fast."
    Amelia dashed up the gangway (gangplank? ladder? mouseholed dangerous looking slab of wood connecting it to the dock?), full of Pep, which has been defined as the boundless energy available to all young idealistic girls.  Melvin strolled along without a care behind her; Zelgadis dragged his weak form along, relying heavily on the rickety hand rail.
    A young man, maybe in his early teens, was asleep at the railing.  He wore the ratty, probably not changed in aeons clothes normally associated with the cabin boy, along with the scruffy hair and vague scent of one who regularly bathes in distilled sea water.  He blinked his way to consciousness when Amelia tapped him politely on the shoulder.  "Whaha?  What?"
    "We'd like to sail to Justivalero!" Amelia smiled.
    It took a moment for that to sink in.
    "You're kidding, right?  Justivalero?" the cabin boy asked.  "You're from Sailoon and you want to go to Justivalero?"
    "You betcha!"
    "No amount of money could get ME to go there," he grumbled, until Melvin shook a change purse the size of a cow's stomach in front of him.  "Let's get moving!  We're burning daylight here!  Hup hup!"
    "Great!!" Amelia cheered.  "Signal the captain and we'll get going!"
    The cabin boy puffed out his chest a little. "I AM the captain.  And the navigator.  And the cabin boy and the cook..."
    "This explains why the deck seems so completely devoid of crew," Melvin noted.
    "Actually, I'm the only crew member here..." the boy smiled nervously, rubbing a hand behind his head in the classic pose of the ancient Ronin, Goh Dai. "Don't worry! This is a heavily modified boat, I can handle it.  Can I take your bags?"
    Zelgadis looked at all of the no bags.
    "Or not," the boy said sheepishly.
    "You were right, Amelia.  I'm excited already," Melvin smiled.

    Getting the passports was the easy part.  Once they had completed the highly personal and slightly perverted questionnaire, and after Lina threatened to shove the clerk's head so far up the body part in Question #34 that he would be able to see his lunch, the passport guy was convinced the three were sufficiently evil to pass for Evilanians, and they were off.
    The hard part was finding their way out of the building.  Somehow, the halls had rearranged themselves while they were busy being interrogated by proxy, and the stairs had apparently been relocated.
    Hours passed.  Hunger grew, as did whining complaints.  Eventually, they resorted to drilling straight up through the building with highly destructive magic, leaving confused looking janitors and scorched offices in their wake, eventually popping out on the roof.
    Lina was trembling.  "Food.  Food.  Food."
    "Well, I'm glad to be out of there!" Gourry said, trying to be enthusiastic for her.  "Now, it's on to getting a coach ticket, and... ano.. Lina, you're OW!  Hey, wha OW!"
    "Mmhpmphmph," Lina responded, continuing to try to eat Gourry's leg.
    Naga scanned the city skyline.  "Most of the coach stations are closed, it seems... ah!  Lina, I see one! Lina?... oh."
    "Help," Gourry said weakly, unsuccessfully prying Lina off of his limb.  She had already gnawed through his armor with a blank, starved look in her eyes.
    Naga laughed a bit at the absurdity of her two sidekicks, then flew down to street level, blew up a sausage-in-a-bun stand and carried up an armful of slightly charred greasy snack foods.  "Lina!  I brou--"
    The emaciated sorceress snatched all the taste delights in a blinding flash and swallowed them whole.  Naga hoped leather was good for you, because she was missing a glove as well.
    There was a deep rumbling, as Lina's stomach went into maximum overdrive.  A few scary moments passed, and...
    "YOSH!" Lina exclaimed, clenching a fist.  "Lina Inverse Calorie POWER UP!  Ready to go!"


    Somewhere a few miles out to sea, Zelgadis slept like a rock.


    Sailoon is known worldwide for its highly sophisticated system of travel.  The roads are always in excellent condition, there are frequent rest stops to water your horse, take a nap or get prepackaged nutritionally hazardous snack foods, and most major cities had coach stations where you could rent a horse-drawn carriage and ride in comfort and style.
    If you're stinking rich, that is.  If you weren't, or if you were unlucky enough to be caught up trying to get a passport all day, the best you could do would be a shady 'midnight rental' coach station.  Good for those in flight from prosecution or men trying to escape angry husbands, it promised fast escapes.  What it didn't provide was quality escapes.
    The coach Lina, Gourry and Naga had rented was not exactly top of the line.  It seated three uncomfortably, and offered 'arrow resistant' armor, which Lina managed to poke through with her pinky finger.  The driver's seat on top had no sort of safety harness, which was bad, because the two mares who drew the carriage were foaming at the mouth and trying to break out of their restraining gear.
    "No driver?" Lina gagged.  "We have to drive and maintain this blasted thing on our own?  I thought we could kick back and relax on this trip!"
    "We could wait until tomorrow, although with the money we've got..." Gourry said, absently counting the coins in their purse and getting the wrong amount.
    "I certainly am not driving," Naga said.  "It wouldn't be fitting.  I will ride inside while one of you two drives."
    "Forget that!  I don't know how to steer one of these things!" Lina protested.
    Both girls looked to Gourry, who was still struggling with basic economics.
    "Ano?" he asked.  "Oh... uh.. I can drive, I guess. Can't be too hard, right?"
    Lina looked at the sky, and waited for a dramatic ominous thunderclap of forewarning.
    There wasn't one.
    "Good," she said, approvingly.  The sorceresses piled into the back, and Gourry unrestrained the horses.  He climbed onto the top of the carriage, got his balance, and snapped the reigns.
    The coach shot off at the speed of a pair of rabid horses, quickly exiting the city through a thankfully open gate, leaving a pair of smoking wheel tracks in its wake.
    Then the thunder sounded.

Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.