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Chapter Four
The First Skirmish

    "Lina, Lina dear, wake-up..." Xellos tickled the end of Lina's nose gently and smiled as she drowsily pushed his hand away and turned over again.  Luxuriating in the sleepy emotions that she was putting out, he smiled and tickled her nose again, soliciting another grumble.  Giving into temptation, he leaned over and pressed his lips to hers.  She moaned and deepened the kiss, eyes still closed, then suddenly her eyes shot open and she pushed him away furiously.

     "Xellos, we talked about this," Lina shouted furiously.

     "No, Lina dearest.  You talked, I listened.  I don't remember agreeing.  I know how I feel; I've been tasting human emotions long enough to recognize infatuation and lust, this is not either of those."

     "I'll back off for now, my dear, but don't expect me to give up on you.  I can be patient but I much prefer to move things along." Xellos winked at her saucily.  "I am irresistible you know."

     Lina bit back a chuckle and set her face into severe lines.  "Enough nonsense, tell me about the astral plane."

     "Pretty empty.  There was a Gourry look-a-like up there though, complete with a sword of light. I figure it was the one Canal mentioned; we'll have to ask her more about him."  Xellos then added, "I think there's quite a few questions she has for us now too.  I shut off the surveillance again when I got back, I can't feel her but he's started radiating a lot of frustration and concern when I shut down the system."

     "Do you think she'll confront us?" Lina asked.

     "Naw, then she'll have to admit she was trying to listen in on our private conversations.  She doesn't know that we'd do the same thing in her shoes." Xellos laughed.  "The pure of heart are never completely so. They do like the appearance of goodness though.  I always used to get the best meals from the town martyrs."

     "Xellos." Lina smiled. "You are the most cynical person I know."

     "I try my best, now let's go and talk to Canal and Kain before she blows a fuse or he loses the battle in trying to calm her down."

      "And most importantly, it's time to eat," Lina exclaimed as she rushed out the door.

     "Of course, how could I forget?" Xellos muttered as he followed her out the door.

     "Just what..." Canal started to say angrily as they entered the control room.

     "Is there a problem?" Xellos asked, an angelic expression on his face.

     "Cut it out, Xellos," Lina warned in a quiet voice.  "Quit baiting her. Remember there's no meal to be had."

     "Right, Lina, but it's so much fun."

     Kain looked at Lina and Xellos sharply, he couldn't understand what they were saying but he was beginning to realize that Xellos was not as harmless as he thought.  There was a dangerous edge to him that Lina seemed to blunt.

     "Canal was just a bit upset because, because Milly isn't here to cook for you." Canal shot a look at Kain as he tried to soothe feelings. "Milly is the Greatest Cook in the Universe and Canal felt that her guests deserved the best."

     "And who's going to pay for the new kitchen?" Canal wondered.

     Realizing that he had said the wrong thing again, Kain opted to go in another direction.  "How did you two sleep?" Kain flushed a deep red as he realized what he said.

     Lina looked at him and, as she realized what conclusions Kain had come to about the lack of monitor surveillance, flushed as well.  Xellos took pity on the two, as fun as this was, they had questions to ask.

     "I assume Lina slept well, as I don't need sleep, I took a quick trip to the astral plane to have a little look.  I think I met an old acquaintance of yours there, Canal."

     "Acquaintance of mine?" asked Canal.

     "Long blond hair, well built, bearing a blade very similar to your friend there." Xellos gave his trademark smirk. "Sound familiar?"

     "Dark Seeder," Canal growled.  "Alice would still be piloting if it wasn't for him.  That means your astral plane is the psychic realm, which means you are not what you seem."

     "Now, now. I've never said what I was, and what I was is not what I am," Xellos answered happily.

     "And just what are you?" Canal asked angrily.  "I feel old evil on you, tainting you."

     "Now that is a....Oww, Lina." Xellos looked at Lina who was returning Filia's mace to hammerspace.

     "Filia gives me such useful presents." Lina smiled.  "What is Xellos? He is a reformed monster.  He used to be much like your Dark Seeder but someone offered him more power and gave him a conscience to go with it.  I still think it was one of Melee's better practical jokes."

     Xellos gave Lina a dark look.  "Tell me about this Dark Seeder, from what I felt he would be the equivalent of a monster lord back home."

     "It's a bit complicated. There isn't really that much known about Dark Seeder, except that he was made so that Darkstar could be reborn into his body.  He was piloting Darkstar when we fought.  Alice had to give all her psychic energy to win that battle and it still wasn't enough to completely destroy him.  I had thought that Dark Seeder was dead or part of Darkstar, but if you saw him in the psychic realm, then he must be amassing power to fight us again.  This is worse than I thought, Kain," Canal babbled.

     Kain nodded.  "That brings us to another question, Milly.  This isn't her fight; should we still go get her?"

     "I don't know, Kain.  It's your decision, but I think she'd be pretty hurt if we didn't get her, she wouldn't understand why we did it," Canal responded.

     "Listen, if Darkstar isn't defeated, everyone will die anyway.  Do you think your friend wants to die quivering in a corner or doing her best to win?  From what you've said about her, I'd think she'd want to fight and the bottom line is that it's her decision to make."  Lina looked at Kain sharply.  "I made that mistake once; luckily, my friends backed me up anyway. The final result is that we all made it through instead of all dying.  Trust in your friend to be as willing as you to fight for what is right or else you're doing her a great disservice."

     "And now we've heard today's edition of `Listen to Lina' folks," Xellos quipped, jumping out of the way before Lina could land a blow with her mace.  "I'm really starting to miss Gourry," Xellos complained. "He used to get half of these hits."

     In spite of herself, Lina smiled.  Looking at Kain she asked, "Well, are we still getting your friend?"

      When Kain nodded in agreement, she turned to Canal "Now, where is the food? I'm hungry."

     After Lina polished off another huge meal, she sat down with Canal to go over the specs of the other dark ships.  After much clarification, she found herself completely confused.

     "My black magic is basically useless here," Lina told Xellos when he asked them how things were going.  "Basically, I can't use spells against those I'm trying to hurt just as I couldn't use the dragon slave against Shabrinigdo.  Canal and I think we've found a way to incorporate the chaos magic into her psy systems, though; we'll try it out later."

     "Any idea about how to incorporate monster powers in there?" Xellos asked.  

     "Not really, but they attack through the astral plane as well; they can get to Kain or Canal that way and, from what I can understand, me as well.  It's not quite the same as back home, just close enough for our assumptions to kill us," Lina answered.

     Canal suddenly straightened up.  "Kain, my sensors are picking something up in the K sector."

     A chair suddenly came out of the floor.  "Sorry Lina, you'll have to sit this one out; I don't have the ship configured for two psy sources yet and I don't have time to show you the guns."

     "Canal, prepare the Plasma Blast!" Kain shouted. "It's a lost ship."  

     "Roger! Extending Boost Chips," Canal answered briskly. "That's Nezard."
     Xellos and Lina watched with fascination as six round chips flew out and took a circular position in front of the ship.
     "Extending complete. Proceeding to connect system. Connect complete. Readings normal. All systems check normal." Lina tried to edge up to Kain to watch the rods that had extended from the chair on each side of Kain's head, but backed away as he waved her towards a seat.  The flow of magic was remarkably concentrated.

     "Boost Chips, begin activation sequence," Kain shouted.
     Lina caught her breath in wonder as lights emerged from the chips to form a pentagram.  She was able to notice that even Xellos' mouth was hanging open.

     "Attempt destruction of enemy barrier with Psy-Energy. Target locked. Begin Psy-Barrier conversion.  Psy-Barrier conversion complete. Release Boost Valve.  Prepare for Plasma Blast safety release.  Safety released. Increasing energy. Countdown 3 process to start... Process 2... Last Process. All processing complete. You may fire at will!" As Canal finished talking, a beam of gold light shot from the front of the ship, hitting the other ship.

     "Damn, some damage to the port but it won't affect their battle capability," Canal informed them.  "We're going to have to make a run for it."

     Lina looked at Xellos, then Canal, and smiled. "Do you think you're going to keep us out of the fun? I've been missing bandits lately and I've been wanting to try out my new and improved giga slave.  Do you think you can help a poor damsel out?"

     Xellos grinned back in understanding.  "For you, my dear Lina, anything. I seem to remember I still owe you one bandit hide out, will this do as a substitute until we go home?"

     Canal and Kain watched them quizzically and then gasped as Xellos grabbed Lina and disappeared, only to reappear floating in space in the middle of Canal's pentagram.

     "That's impossible," Kain gasped and watched while Lina gestured, as a glow formed between Lina's hands, he saw that she was holding a sword in her hands.  A bright light shot from the sword and he saw Nezard buckle as it took the blow.  The other ship was damaged but still able to move and move it did as it ran away from the battle and warped to another part of space.

     The two reappeared in the control room and Kain was gratified to see that Lina at least looked tired.

     "That was fun." Lina grinned. "I really wonder what we can do with that amplifier system that Canal has.  Just one thing though."

     "What is that, Lina?" Canal asked carefully, deciding that she was going to be very respectful to the sorceress.  

     "I'm hungry! Where's some food?"

Slayers - Universe