SLAYERS REFLECT #5 : ...And Justice for Almost All
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

azing up at the night sky is a common hobby in humanity.  Every now and then, after a particularly grueling day of sacking, looting and pillaging, even the most hardened bandit needs to look up at the sky, notice the stars for what might be the first time, and ask : what's it all about, really?  When you get down to it?  And why is it so damn hard to set fire to a thatch roof after a light rain?
    However, the dense forests of the countryside and the hazardous mountain peaks and light pollution spilling out of the cities make stargazing difficult.  Astronomers around the world, except for a particular one in Sailoon who turns green at the mention of it, prefer the open sea to do their work.  Out here, riding the waves, you have only the light of stars to guide you, the skill of your navigator to keep you steady, and the endless horizon to surround you.  It's a peace rivaled only by a coma, and considerably more pleasant.
    Amelia rested her arms on the rim around the crow's nest, asking what it's all about.  Up here, the wind moved fast, carrying the smell of sea salt with it as the boat rocked gently in the waters.  She smiled.  No, nothing could disturb her now.  It was so peaceful.
    A sharp BANG sounded from somewhere below decks, and a window was opened; frantic coughing and black smoke puffed out of the ship.
    Amelia peered down at the mess, curious.  She saw the cabin boy -- who she hadn't properly met yet since Zel insisted on everybody getting to bed right away.  Amelia couldn't sleep, she was too excited.  The boy wasn't asleep either; he opened a door and exited, waving the smoke away.  Tucking some device under an arm, he started to scale the rope ladder leading to the crow's nest when he spotted Amelia.
    "Oh... sorry, ma'am," he apologized.  "Can you scoot over?  I've got to realign the Charter Box.  The fire blew it out."
    "Sure," Amelia smiled, moving off to one side.  The boy tried to climb in and not invade Amelia's personal space, but in the cramped crow's nest, that was an impossibility.  He decided to accept that and try to install the portable telescope with a minimum of elbow bumping.
    "This sort of thing happens once a month," he explained, tilting the scope upwards and peering into the viewing port.  "Steam's not an exact science yet, and if I use too many of the compressed coals, boom.  Overheats and overloads the works."
    "What's all that mean?" Amelia asked, curiously.  "I've been wondering how this ship works.  You said it was modified or something?  Where's the crew?  And, um.. what's your name, exactly?"
    "Oh!  Sorry.  Name's Dayvid.  And there's no crew; the Guppy runs on science," the boy said, looking up and smiling.  "Pure science, no magic involved.  It's a trend I'm hoping will catch on.  Most folks don't believe in science, you know."
    "My dad employs an astronomer, but he also does magical studies," Amelia said.
    "Must be rich to be able to afford that," Dayvid said.  "What's your name again?"
    "It's Amelia," Amelia said.  "Amelia Wil Tesla Sailoon.  I--"
    "PRINCESS Amelia?" Dayvid asked, a moment of fright zipping into his voice.  He calmed himself quickly.  "You're a member of the Sailoon royal family and you want to go to Justivalero?"
    "Umm... yes.  It's a very important quest."
    Dayvid considered this, and shook his head.  "Must be pretty important indeed, then.  Don't worry, you'll be safe on the Guppy."
    Amelia nodded, not exactly getting the picture, but she was distracted by the bright shiny object Dayvid was fiddling with and neglected to ask further.  "How does that thing work, anyway?"
    "I can use it to trace the stars and track them by positional numbers," Dayvid said.  "I feed those numbers into the Charter Box with my levers and then we're back on route.  Science can be pretty powerful that way."
    "I don't think I've really used science alone for anything.  What can it do?"
    "Plenty!  There's a lot you can do with it.  Like, this ship; I designed and built her myself.  My mom wanted me to go to some private school, but I was too busy doing things to take that many years off.  So, I bought a used ship, did a ton of random jobs to raise cash, fixed it up so I could handle the entire craft myself and went off."
    "Wow!" Amelia said, impressed.  "How old are you?"
    "Fifteen or so," Dayvid said, resuming his studying of the stars.  He sketched out a few dots on the paper he brought with him, mapping out their location.  "But don't get me wrong, I'm old for my age, or something.  Everybody says so."
    Smiling, Amelia rested against the railing, and looked up.  "Don't you just love the stars?"
    "How so?" Dayvid asked, not taking his eye off the telescope's viewfinder.
    "They're pretty," Amelia said.  "Especially out here.  They twinkle.  I've always enjoyed looking at the stars... my mother.. she used to show my sister and I all the constellations.  There's Cassandra the Ignored, the Two Fish, the White Stag, the Lamppost... and of course the Sorceress.  She even knew the stories behind them, stories about heroes and heroines who helped found the nations of the world.  Everybody says they're myths, of course..."
    "Perfectly reasonable explanation," Dayvid agreed.  "Fantastically dramatic stories are usually fictional."
    "Maybe, but they're still nice stories," Amelia said.  She looked up at the Medium Fork, the third prong pointing to the Star of the Lost.  "They say a lot about how we should live.  About justice, and love and peace... stuff like that.  Things that are important to someone in my family's position.  Dad tried to live up to those myths."
    "My dad ran out on us when I was six," Dayvid said, casually tossing off the statement.  "I don't recall him being mythical in any way."
    "Oh..." Amelia said, swallowing that.  "Sorry."
    "It's no big deal.  He probably would have wanted me to be a wizard or something like him, anyway, so it's best that he took a hike so I could get on with my life," Dayvid said.  He pulled away from the telescope, and detached it from the crow's nest.
    Amelia changed subjects. "What do you see when you see the stars through that, Dayvid-san?"
    Dayvid considered the question.
    "I see a way to calibrate the Charter Box so we don't drift off course," he suggested, shrugging.  "I'm sorry.  I'm not much of a poet, but at least I'm honest about it."
    "Ah," Amelia said, nodding.
    The captain / cook / navigator returned to studying the stars, circling some numbers on his worksheet.  Amelia twiddled her thumbs, watching him examine the layout of those tiny dots.
    "Maybe you should meet Melvin," Amelia said, trying to keep up a conversation.  "He's our astronomer.  He's very good at science stuff too, I think.  Maybe he could help you with your Chatter Box."
    "Charter Box," Dayvid corrected, standing up and neatly folding up the telescope.
    "What time's breakfast?" Amelia asked.  "I may be a little late.. I'm too restless to sleep, unlike Zelgadis-san or Melvin-san."
    "Nine o'clock.  I've got a good sundial with a chiming alarm set for it," Dayvid said.  "But I think this Melvin guy may be a bit late too, he's been up and about for a few hours now."
    "Really?  Where?"
    "Said he had to go out for a walk," Dayvid said.  "Probably just touring the ship or something."
    Amelia looked down at the decks.  "There's not that much to tour, though..."
    "I try not to ask too many questions when it comes to my passengers," Dayvid shrugged.  "The ones that pay the most tend to want some privacy and stuff."
    "Don't worry!  You can ask us anything," Amelia smiled.  "We're on a quest of justice and righteousness!"
    Dayvid considered that, hefting the heavy telescope once more, which was slipping from his grasp.  "Okay... mind if I ask you a favor?  Aligning the gear is easier with four hands..."
    "I don't know any spells that'll give you extra arms," Amelia said.
    Melvin had, in fact, gone for a walk.  First he looked at the mess hall, checking out the sparse furnishings and kitchen.  Next he took a look below decks, at the storage area, which was filled to the brim with machines and schematics; a miniature factory, of sorts.  After that he took a stroll through the barracks, confirming that Zelgadis was still sleeping, then he found a nice secluded part of the ship and began to wander across the span of reality and into a world which had the existence of a wisp of air.
    The glowing blue door reopened, and Melvin stepped out, making sure to seal the rift behind him.  Smiling, he turned and walked directly into Zelgadis.
    "Hello," Zel said, politely.
    "Why, you gave me quite a scare," Melvin said, mocking surprise creeping into his voice.  "Hello yourself.  I thought you were sleeping the sleep of the dead, shall we say?"
    "You'd be surprised how few hours I actually need to get back up to speed," Zel said, casually leaning against the wall to block Melvin's path.  "Unlike Lina, who prefers to sleep until noon."
    "I, unfortunately, require a bit of down time myself.  Um.  So, if you'll excuse me--"
    "What spell was that, exactly?" Zelgadis asked.
    "A trifle, a trifle."
    "Try me."
    "Well, if you must know, it was simply a gate to connect me to... my room, back in Sailoon," Melvin replied.  "I had run out of my little pills, and you know, ocean travel can be quite unsettling to the nerves.  Um.  I got a refill."
    "May I see those pills?"
    "No," Melvin smiled.
    "Maybe I wasn't clear," Zelgadis said, slowly drawing his sword, the metallic 'ching' punctuating his words.  "May I see those pills?"
    "Oh dear, my nerves," Melvin said, pretending to shake.  "You're upsetting me greatly."
    "Let me tell you a funny story," Zelgadis said, testing the grip and weight of his sword, a practice exercise which can be easily interpreted as a threat.  "When I was first studying magic, I came across a form called Image Magic.  Centuries old, quite legendary, origins unknown.  But my teacher told me that no sorcerer will actively claim to know it, since it's considered a lowly trick form of magic.  He also said that everybody learns it anyway, quietly, because it's so useful and sneaky.  Very hypocritical.  Sort of like wearing an image yourself to deceive those around you, isn't it?"
    "What an interesting ethical puzzle," Melvin smiled.  "And the point to this tirade is?"
    "Sorcerers tolerate use of Image Magic, because of the counterbalance," Zel smiled.  "A little spell called 'Flow Break'.  You can cast it quietly and remove the illusion spell over any object... or person.  If they're not using a spell, of course, nothing happens.  I'm curious... what do you think would happen if I, just out of sheer curiosity, cast it on you?"
    "Nothing, afraid," Melvin pointed out, highly amused.  "That little ditty requires an equal or greater casting power to the dispelling as was given to the original image, Chimera-san... that is, if I was hypothetically using it.  Hypothetically."
    "That explains why nothing happened when I cast it on the day you arrived," Zel nodded.
    "You realize, the only reason I'm playing this silly little game of yours is to make sure you don't feel disappointed in me not living up to your expectations, yes?" Melvin asked.  His stance was relaxed, stepping back, looking Zelgadis over appraisingly.  "You try to be realistic, Zel-kun, but you've got the streak of heroic drama in you.  It surfaces every so often.  Who am I to be so rude as to deny you the satisfaction of trying to menace me?"
    Zelgadis smiled.  "Good question.  Who are you?"
    "Does it really matter?" Melvin asked.
    "It does to Lina.  She's having me keep an eye on you.  And your cover's as good as blown, so you might as well say."
    Melvin perked the Eyebrow of Curiosity.  "Oh?  Is that so?  Lina's bloodhound, snooping on the trail of the mysterious stranger.  How interesting... very well.  For Lina's curiosity, perhaps I'll bend my standards just a tad and show you a bit of what's going on.  But you'll have to trust me to show you."
    "I trust you as far as I could spit a rat," Zel said flatly.
    "Not far enough, afraid," Melvin said, tisk-tisking.  "You were curious about the rift I made.  Would you like to see it for yourself?"
    "I'm not stupid," Zelgadis said.  "If you plan to lure me off to some other place with that spell and kill me, I'm clearly not going to fall for it."
    "If only Lina would send REASONABLE bloodhounds after me," Melvin sighed.  "Here I am trying to be nice, too.  We'll do this the hard way."
    "We'll do it no way," Zel said, moving his sword into the ready position.  "I want your name, not some fancy tri--"
    Zelgadis stopped moving.
    Melvin lowered the ruby-tipped staff he now was carrying.  "Much better.  You're more compliant this way, sort of a... if you'll pardon the pun, a stone statue?  Now..."
    He turned, and his image started to fade away... the geeky skin of light he wore dissolving, revealing more traditional priest's robes.  The staff tapped against the floor twice.
    "Power beyond the known powers..." the person who was not Melvin sang, the intoning of a spell.  Power swirled at his feet, glowing an aquatic blue.  "Deeper than the deepest mind.  Between the known worlds, vaporous as ether, I call upon the way to that which has no entrance... let the obstacles between what is and is not be shattered!  GIGA'S DREAM!"
    The glowing blue portal slowly opened, a line turning sideways to be a rectangular door.
    Spell finished, Xelloss turned to face the frozen Zelgadis.  "So, shall we view a pipe dream or two?"  His smile was wide and happy.


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