Ki-Blind: Chapter One
It was spring in the vast wilderness of mountains and forests, grassland and wasteland, that lay beyond the Sons' house. The sun was warm, the trees were just beginning to unfurl their leaves, and early flowers carpeted the hillsides -- but winter had not yet released its lock on the land, as evidenced by the snow capping the mountaintops, and the chunks of ice still floating in the wild-country rivers.
From the depths of a brilliant blue sky, the figure of Son Goku appeared, tiny at first but rapidly growing in size as he plunged down, down, towards the green Earth far below, and his opponent ...
... an opponent who easily sidestepped Goku's dive, but his smirk changed to a look of annoyance when Goku changed direction, too, and the two Saiyajin collided with a ripple of energy that knocked the budding leaves off the nearby trees.
"What are you trying to do, Kakarrot? Let me see you coming a mile away?"
"I still hit you, didn't I?"
The two Saiyajin sparred back and forth in the brisk spring wind, high above one of the wilderness's numerous small, fast mountain rivers, its gray waters splashing high into the air as if to claw at the combatants. It was a light match; they were both powered up to Super Saiyajin, but not to a higher level, and they hadn't knocked each other through any mountaintops or flattened square miles of the surrounding forest.
Then without warning, the light flaring around the two of them suddenly died. Their hair flickered from blond to black, and the startled Saiyajin plummeted into the river below.
"GAAAHHH!" Goku shrieked, surfacing in a thrashing of arms and legs. "It's c-c-c-cold!"
"Shut up and save your energy for swimming, idiot," Vegeta retorted.
They clambered out onto the bank, drenched and shivering.
"What happened?" Goku asked.
"How should I know?" Vegeta automatically powered up a bit to warm himself up and to dry off the water soaking his light training clothes.
Goku had tried the same thing, with no more success. Their eyes met in mutual consternation.
"I can't control my ki," Goku said.
"Shut up, Kakarrot, and let me concentrate." Vegeta closed his eyes and sank into a meditative state. He could still sense the wellspring of life energy that lay within him, but when he tried to reach for it, he couldn't seem to grasp it; his thoughts splintered and skittered away. It was the same feeling as when he was very tired, or sick, and couldn't get control. Frustrated, he tried again and again, until he was gasping and sweating from the effort. The prince had determination in great abundance but it seemed that mere determination wasn't going to do the trick this time.
"Hey, Vegeta." Goku laid a hand on his shoulder; Vegeta flinched away and glared at him, but the younger Saiyajin continued, undaunted. "You're feeling the same thing I am, aren't you? Like we've been blocked from using our ki somehow?"
Vegeta clenched his fists. "Shit! I know I can break through ... if I just focus ..."
"I've tried and tried, but it's not working," Goku said. "Don't wear yourself out trying until we get a better strategy."
Vegeta would never admit it, but he knew Kakarrot was right. He drew a few deep breaths, calming himself.
"I have a strategy," he said. "First we get our control back and then we find the fuckers who did this and kill them."
Goku laughed, causing Vegeta to glare at him again. "Yeah, that's a good plan, but first we oughta get home, huh? Our wives are going to get mad at us if we stay out here all night."
Vegeta's eyes narrowed. "And just exactly how are we going to do that if we can't fly?"
"Teleport, silly." Goku laid a hand on his arm and touched two fingers to his forehead.
Vegeta closed his eyes and then opened them again with a slight shiver as the breeze, growing colder as the day faded towards evening, plastered his wet clothes against his body. They were still surrounded by forest and mountains.
"Kakarrot, you idiot, you need ki to teleport."
"Damn it, you're right. I forgot about that." Goku laughed. Vegeta wondered if there could possibly be a more annoying person to be stuck in the wilderness with.
"Kakarrot ... about how far from your home would you say we are now, huh?"
Goku thought briefly. "About ... forty miles or so, I guess."
Vegeta rapidly converted that figure that into the measuring units of his homeworld. He tried to estimate how long it would take to walk it, and realized that it had been so long since he'd travelled anywhere except by flying or in some kind of vehicle that he had no realistic idea of how long it took to walk anywhere. Damned if he was going to ask Kakarrot, though.
"So we walk," he said.
"I guess we do," Goku said, and added, "Hey Vegeta, can you sense anybody else's ki?"
Struck by sudden fear, Vegeta concentrated, sending out his sense questing for those most familiar to him -- Bulma and Trunks. It was something he did dozens of times a day, ever since nearly losing them to Buu, in the same manner that a more physical person might reach out and touch a loved one to feel the warmth of their skin and the reassurance that they were still alive.
He couldn't feel them.
For an instant he nearly lost himself in panic. Then he realized that he couldn't feel anything. He could sense Goku, dimly, but Goku was standing right next to him and he could barely feel him. Normally he could have picked out Goku's brilliant ki a world away. Of the forest's many small animals, he could very faintly sense the nearest of them, and beyond that, only the most frustrating hints. It was like trying to see through a layer of thick wool.
"We can't sense ki any more than we can use it," he snarled.
"I can feel you a little bit," Goku offered.
"Of course you can feel me, Kakarrot, you're standing right beside me. You'd probably lose the sense of me if I went across this meadow we're standing in. That's how weak it is."
"It's stronger than that," Goku said thoughtfully. "I can feel a little ways out from us ... a half-mile or so, I suppose. But not very well."
That's right ... sensing ki was something Goku was better at, too. Vegeta did not need that little blow to his ego right now. He spun away, muttering, and strode off in the direction that he assumed (based on the angle of the sun) would take them back to Kakarrot's home.
"Hey ... hey, Vegeta, wait up!"
"What are you going to do, Kakarrot -- stand there until whatever cut off our ki attacks the Earth?" Vegeta snapped over his shoulder.
With his longer legs, Goku caught up easily. "We don't know it's anything dangerous."
"Okay Kakarrot, let's look at the evidence. We've both been put out of commission by some sort of mysterious, unexplainable phenomenon. When, in your experience, does that ever mean anything but a direct threat to the Earth? When have strange things ever happened to us that weren't dangerous?"
"Well ..." Goku paused to think, then noticed that Vegeta was outdistancing him and hurried to catch up. "I can't think of anything, really."
"Face it Kakarrot, we're trouble magnets. Every dangerous thing within 200 parsecs goes out of its way to come by the Earth and try to destroy it."
Goku laughed. "Oh come on, Vegeta; not everything that comes to Earth is hostile. We've met friendly aliens and creatures too. Like #18, or the Nameks ... or you."
"Oh, good examples, Kakarrot. There's #18, who wiped out most of the population of this planet in Trunks's future timeline ... and the Nameks, such as Piccolo for example, the would-be ruler of the Earth ... oh yes, and me. Make a note to have Chi-Chi enroll you in a debating course, Kakarrot, because it's painful listening to you try to construct an argument."
The pine trees closed over their heads. The air was already getting uncomfortably chilly as the sun sank behind the mountains, and in the dimness under the trees, there were still occasional patches of snow. The two Saiyajin were jogging now and the exercise kept them warm enough, but Vegeta was aware that they were both still soaked to the skin, and it would probably be below freezing at night in the higher elevations.
"Maybe we should find a cave and dry out before we go much farther," Goku said, seeming to read the prince's mind -- another of his irritating characteristics.
"Getting home is a higher priority right now."
"Not if we get hypotherm--"
Goku broke off, and stopped running too. He tilted his head back and stared up at the sky.
Vegeta realized that Goku was no longer beside him. He paused and looked back, opened his mouth to speak, then shut it and looked up, following Goku's gaze.
The sun had vanished behind the mountains and the sky was tinged with the red and purple of early evening. High-altitude clouds still blazed golden in the sun's last rays. And among the clouds were thin red and gold streaks, contrails like jetstreams set on fire by the sun.
"What the hell ...?" Vegeta murmured.
"It looks like a meteor shower or something," Goku said.
"I knew it," Vegeta mumbled under his breath. "I knew it. This damned planet is in damned trouble again ... shit ... I told you, Kakarrot ..."
He trailed off into silence and the two Saiyajin watched the contrails creep across the sky.
"Ships?" Goku said.
Vegeta squinted at the sky. He might not have his ki abilities, but he still had his sharp Saiyajin senses, and just as importantly, the memories of hundreds of military missions on alien worlds. "They're too disorganized," he said. "More like a meteor shower, like you said at first -- shit!"
A blazing streak shot over their heads, close enough that they could feel the heat from it. The meteor, or whatever it was, blasted through the rock of a mountaintop behind them, sending up a great cloud of steam from vaporized snow, and crashed into the valley beyond.
Other meteors were falling around them, but none landed so close. Vegeta estimated that there were hundreds or thousands of the things, but they were landing so widely scattered that none were within more than a few miles of each other. All the way out to the darkening horizon, the streaks of fire continued to fall for a few minutes more, and then the strange rain had ended, its passage marked only by lingering trails of smoke in the sky, and occasional wisps rising from spots where the heat of the meteors had set isolated bits of the forest ablaze.
"What ... was ... that?" Goku said at last.
"Nothing good," Vegeta retorted. "Let's go take a look."
Just in the few minutes they had been standing still, the air had grown much colder and both were shivering as they started jogging again in the direction that the nearest meteor had fallen.
"Those can't be rocks. Rocks that small would have broken up in the upper atmosphere," Vegeta mused aloud as they ran. "There shouldn't be anything large enough left to hit the ground. Maybe those are chunks of a big rock that did break up ... but we would have seen a flash or heard the noise."
"Maybe it happened while we were sparring," Goku offered.
Vegeta leaped over a fallen log without breaking stride. Goku matched him step for step. "No. We would have noticed something, I'm sure. The flare of energy if nothing else."
They crested a rise and paused, looking down into a great bowl-shaped valley beneath them. Once, long ago, glaciers had come through this part of the world and taken huge bites out of the underlying rock. Now the forest softened the sharp edges, but the scars could still be seen in the mountainsides, like the bones of an emaciated beast covered in fuzzy green fur.
Fire flickered in the valley, but weakly, and it was dying out. The spring vegetation was simply too wet to burn, and only a few trees were blackened.
The two Saiyajin started down into the valley, casting occasional glances upward. No signs of the rain of meteors remained. The entire western sky was now ablaze with sunset's crimson fire, and in the east, a few stars had begun to emerge.
"Gonna be dark soon," Goku remarked, shoving his way through waist-high brush.
"Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Kakarrot."
The forest closed over their heads again. Down away from the lip of the valley, they could no longer see the smoke and had to use their sense of smell to close in on it. Vegeta kept his ki-sense extended to its utmost, but he could hardly even feel Goku, let alone anything else.
Suddenly Goku tensed and Vegeta heard a soft rustling in the undergrowth ahead of them. "Animal?" he said softly.
Goku shrugged, then slowly shook his head. "Have you noticed how quiet it's been since the meteor shower? They're all hiding."
Vegeta had noticed nothing of the sort. Not being very much in tune with the rhythms of his adopted world, he would have assumed that the silence in the forest was the normal hush of evening. But now that Kakarrot mentioned it, there was something a little ominous in this silence. It was too thick. Too complete.
The rustling came again. It sounded like something scuttling through the bushes, not very large ... maybe the size of a big cat or a dog.
The two Saiyajin tensed into battle stances as the noise approached them.
Vegeta squinted at the brush. Were his eyes playing tricks on him, or ...?
"Hey, Vegeta," Goku whispered. "Is the fire spreading, do you think?"
So Kakarrot saw it too ... a dim red glow from the dark undergrowth.
"The smell of smoke is no stronger than before," Vegeta whispered back.
They tensed and prepared to meet whatever was about to come out of the brush.