Ki-Blind: Chapter Two
"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!"
Goten sat up in the Briefs' driveway, rubbing his head. "Hey Trunks, ya' big bully, you hit me too hard. I lost my Super Saiyajin."
Trunks sat up a few feet away and touched his lavender hair. "It wasn't me, stupid. Look, I lost mine too."
"It wasn't me!" Goten protested.
The two boys stared at each other in confusion, then both tried to power up. Nothing happened.
"That's weird," Trunks said.
"Super weird," Goten agreed.
"Maybe your brother knows what's goin' on. Where is he?"
Goten made a face. "He's off somewhere with his --ick! -- girlfriend."
"Oh." Trunks stood up, brushing himself off, and jumped into the air -- only to fall flat on his bottom. "Hey, what? I can't fly. Goten, you try it."
Goten tried. "I can't either, Trunks." His bottom lip stuck out and he stared at his older friend, waiting for Trunks to explain what was going on and tell him what to do, as usual.
Instead, Trunks threw back his head and hollered, "Moooooommmm!"
After a moment, Bulma's blue head appeared at one of the windows of the Capsule Corp. building. "What's the matter now? You can't be hungry again. You just ate."
"I'm hungry," Goten said hopefully. Trunks ignored him.
"Hey Mom, where's Dad?"
"I don't know. He never tells me. Probably off with Son-kun or something." Bulma frowned. "Why? Did you break something?"
"Nuh-uh!" The boys shook their heads in unison. Then Trunks said, "Somethin' weird is going on and I wanted to ask Dad about it."
Bulma folded her arms on the windowsill and looked down at the boys. "You can ask me about it."
"You wouldn't know," Trunks said, then quickly covered his mouth with his hands.
Bulma's eyes narrowed. "Oh, I wouldn't know, huh? Don't you remember your pretty young mother is a super-genius? What would that thick-headed Saiyajin wannabe prince know that I wouldn't know? Go ahead, ask me."
Trunks took his hand away from his mouth nervously. "Well ... me and Goten, we can't fly."
"Or go Super Saiyajin," Goten put in.
"You can't? Good! You won't be getting into any trouble then."
"But Mom, it happened all of a sudden. We were just ... uh, playing ..." -- for some reason that neither boy could figure out, Bulma and Chi-Chi hated the word "fighting", even though their dads did it all the time and never got in trouble for it -- "and all of a sudden we fell down and couldn't fly any more."
"Hmmm. That does sound a bit odd. You're not running a fever, are you? Does your throat hurt?"
Trunks rolled his eyes. "Mom, I'm fine. Really. 'Sides, you don't get sick all at once anyhow."
Bulma sighed. "Well, I'll call Chi-Chi and see if either Vegeta or Son-kun is around. Maybe it's some weird Saiyajin puberty thing or something. You had better not be going through puberty yet, that's all I have to say about --" She broke off, her mouth hanging open.
"Mom? What's wrong?"
The boys twisted around, looking where she was looking, and both froze, staring.
The sky overhead was filled with brilliant streaks from horizon to horizon. As they stared in disbelief, the streaks began to fall to the ground, and delicate traceries of fire turned into searing balls of flame.
"Omigosh! Trunks! Goten! Get inside! Now!" Bulma screamed, halfway to climbing out the window in her desperation to reach the children. Balls of fire were landing in the city all around them. Screams and wailing sirens reached their ears. With a deafening boom, one of the meteors plowed into the yard no more than fifty feet from the two boys, knocking them off their feet and flinging Bulma away from her window. Shrieking in terror, Trunks and Goten tried at first to fly, then remembered that they couldn't and making a wild dash for the door.
Bulma met them just inside and gathered them into her arms. The boys clung to her, shaking almost as badly as she was.
"What's going on?" Dr. Briefs charged into the foyer from the direction of his lab. His wife appeared from the kitchen, her poufy hair covered with flour.
"Well, I say," she said calmly, trying to brush the flour out of her hair. "I was just stirring up a batch of cookies -- ginger snaps, too, and you know that's your father's favorite --"
"Not now, Mom!" Bulma shoved the children in the direction of her mother and went to the door, peering outside. Trunks and Goten immediately joined her, fear giving way to their customary cockiness now that the immediate danger was past.
The shower of meteors was over, but from the plumes of smoke rising over the city, a good deal of damage had been done. Miraculously none of the meteors had hit the Capsule Corp. buildings. Wisps of smoke rose from the small crater in the yard.
"Wow," Trunks murmured, approaching it with Goten right behind him.
"Get back inside!" Bulma yelled at them. "Dad! Do you have a machine gun or something handy?" Her father gave her a helpless look. "Oh, for crying out ..." She grabbed the nearest thing to hand, which happened to be a coatrack, and followed the boys outside.
The boys were crouched at the lip of the crater, peering down inside. "Oooooohhhh ...."
"Get away from there!" Bulma shouted at them. She leaned over the boys' heads, ready to snatch them back if anything came bursting towards them. Nothing happened, though. Looking down into the crater, Bulma saw a metal sphere about the side of her head, half-buried in dirt from its forcible landing and still glowing faintly from the heat of re-entry.
"What's that?" Bulma said aloud, forgetting her fear in curiosity.
"Yeah, what's that, Mom?" Trunks asked, looking up at her.
"I have no idea! It could be dangerous for all we know. Go back inside with your grandparents."
Both boys assumed their obstinate look. "We're not babies, Mom," Trunks said. "We fought Buu, remember? If that thing tries to attack, we'll just go Super Saiyajin and fuse and kick its a-- kick its butt."
"Don't say 'butt', did your father teach you to talk that way? And you can't go Super Saiyajin right now, remember?" She glanced down at the metal object. "I wonder if that could be related somehow ..."
"Oh, shoot, that's right," Trunks said, downcast, then brightened. "It can't be that tough! We can still beat it."
"Yeah!" Goten cheered, waving his fists in the air.
"EEEEEEK!" Before the shriek was out of her mouth, Bulma was shoving the boys back towards the door of Capsule Corp., where her parents were watching anxiously. "It moved! It moved! I told you it was dangerous!"
"Huh? I wanna see!" Both boys craned their necks backwards just in time to see the metal sphere erupt upwards in a shower of dirt. It landed with a soft thunk on the far side of the crater, where it remained still for a moment and then began to tremble.
"Cooool ..." the boys chorused. "What else d'you think it's going to do, Mom?" Trunks asked.
"I don't know! It could explode! It could erupt into brain-sucking aliens!" Bulma backed towards the door with a deathgrip on each boy's shoulder.
"Cooool ..." they chorused again, and Goten added with a slight whine in his voice, "Mrs. Bulma, you're hurting me ..."
The metal sphere shuddered, made some clicking noises, and then parts of it began to fold outward. It rose on spindly metal legs and stood, swaying slightly. The legs were somewhere between four and five feet long, curved and jointed like those of a spider though it only had four of them, and the round metal sphere dangled at their apex just like a spider's body. One end of it opened up to reveal an aperture that glowed dull red.
"EEEEEEK! It's a sp -- a sp -- a spider! A really big spider! I HATE spiders! Mom! Dad! Get me the biggest dictionary in the house RIGHT NOW!"
"I don't think you can squash that, Mom," Trunks said, and pushed up his sleeves. "But I betcha Goten and I can!"
"No! Absolutely not! If either of you goes near that thing I'll ground you for the rest of your life!"
The spider-like thing swiveled slowly back and forth, swinging its red light, like an eye, over the staring humans and demi-Saiyajin children. It slowly fixated on Bulma and the boys. "Life forms detected," it said in a flat metallic voice. Bulma jumped a foot in the air. "Life forms detected. Species: human. Danger level: minimal. Action: exterminate."
"Did you hear that? Are you still going to tell me that thing's not dangerous?" Bulma's voice cracked in terror and she dragged the boys backward towards the door.
The metal spider sprang suddenly into the air. Bulma saw that its metal legs were tipped with wicked serrated claws. With a final shriek, she threw the boys through the door and slammed it behind them all. A split second later, there was a tremendous clang as the spider hit the door and the indentations of all four of its legs appeared in the metal.
"Uh-oh," Bulma said, backing away. There was a scritching sound at the door and then an ominous silence.
"Come on, Mom!" Trunks begged. "Let us fight it!"
"No! If you can't go Super Saiyajin, you're just a couple of kids." Bulma turned and made a dash for the phone. "I'm calling Chi-Chi! Vegeta had better be over at her house, and he'd better get back over here on the double if he knows what's good for him!"
"It looks like a spider," Goku said.
The two Saiyajin stared nervously at the creature in front of them. With its long legs, it stood just a little past their waists. It looked fragile enough to crumple with one blow. The red light at the front of the thing swept back and forth across them. The forest was growing darker and the red light shed an eerie glow over the surrounding foliage, making everything look like dried blood.
"It could have hidden weapons, Kakarrot," Vegeta warned. "Lasers or ... anything. Don't take your eyes off it."
"Life forms detected," the thing spoke suddenly. "Species: Saiyajin. Species extinct? Processing ... Determined: Species highly dangerous. Proceed at Power Level 2. Action: exterminate."
With that, it launched itself towards them in a blur of speed. Goku and Vegeta sprang away in opposite directions, easily eluding it. They might lack ki, but their Saiyajin reflexes were far faster than a human's.
"Damn it, one ki blast would take that thing out!" Goku complained. The red eye oriented to track on him.
"Life form faster than anticipated. Proceed at Power Level 3."
"Kakarrot, look out!"
This time the spider moved almost too fast for Saiyajin senses to detect. It was a red and silver blur in the dusk. Goku dodged, but he felt the wind of its passing. The red light vanished, and the darkening forest went still.
After a moment Goku said, "Vegeta --"
"Shh!" Vegeta cast about, straining all his senses. Even if he had still been able to sense ki, he wouldn't have been capable of feeling its presence, for the machine had no ki. Now, with its red light doused, it might as well have sunk into the ground for all he could detect it. He spun about at a tiny rustling sound, but it was only the wind in the trees.
"Vegeta, maybe it left," Goku whispered.
"No. It's still here, hunting us. We are hunters too, Kakarrot. Don't you feel it, watching you?"
And then it was there, between them, its red light flaring to life, speeding towards Goku. One of its wickedly sharp legs lanced towards his belly. Goku rolled to one side, fast enough to avoid a gruesome death but not fast enough to avoid being speared through the arm and pinned to the tree. He screamed in pain but was already bringing his legs up to kick its round metal body. Normally his kick should have driven clear through its body and out the other side, but without ki to enhance and protect his flesh and bone, his feet merely glanced off its surface. The other three legs oriented on him: one aimed at his head and two at his midsection.
"Kakarrot!" Vegeta's hand chopped down, severing the leg pinning Goku to the tree. Vegeta jump-kicked its body and sent it spinning into a nearby clump of trees.
"You're less powerful, idiot!" Vegeta yelled, dropping to the ground in a fighting stance. "Don't rely on sheer strength, because you don't have it. Use leverage! Use surprise! In short --" He shot Goku a quick grin that was half cocky smirk and half actual smile. "Fight like I always have to when I fight you, bastard."
Goku answered Vegeta's smile with one of his own, but it turned into a grimace of pain as he tried to pull the spider's leg out of the tree and out of his arm. The barbs on the leg, which had slipped easily through his skin, now shredded his flesh as he tried to wrench it free.
The spider stood awkwardly on its three legs and then vanished into the bushes again. By now, the woods were almost fully dark, and stars glimmered in the sky overhead.
"Move, Kakarrot! Get your back against mine so it can't sneak up on us! Stay in the open where it can't pin you!"
"I'm trying ..." Goku gave up on trying not to cause damage and tore his arm free, though he was aware that by doing so, he rendered that arm almost useless for battle. At the moment, being pinned to a tree was more dangerous than trying to fight with only one good arm.
Backed up against each other, the two Saiyajin circled slowly, trying to watch every direction at once.
"Our ki must have been blocked deliberately," Vegeta growled. "It's nothing more than a machine, hardly a threat to us at our usual power levels. If we could use energy attacks, that thing'd be toast."
"That might mean the ki block affects more than just us," Goku said, holding his injured arm stiffly at his side. Blood dripped from his fingers but he hardly noticed the pain; the usual adrenaline rush that he got while fighting had seized hold of him and he was eager for the creature to reappear so that the fight could resume. "It's possible that every ki fighter on Earth is similarly paralyzed ... Gohan ... Trunks and Goten ... Piccolo ... Kuririn ..."
"Even Freeza didn't have such technology."
"Somebody must, or we wouldn't be like this," Goku pointed out.
Vegeta opened his mouth to tell Kakarrot what he thought of that pearl of wisdom, but instead he yelled, "There!"
The spider dropped towards them out of the treetops. They lashed out as one, Goku clipping it on the left side and Vegeta on the right. The spider's body was again hurtled off into the brush.
"Go for its legs," Vegeta hissed. "They're not hard to break, and once we have it helpless, we can deal with the body."
They circled again, waiting for the next attack.
We really do make a good team, Goku mused, casting a look over his shoulder at the back of Vegeta's head. Ever since the fusion, we've been able to move and fight almost as one person. But we can't do it when we're trying ... it's something that only works when we just let it happen. I wish Vegeta'd be willing train this ability, but he'd never admit that he's capable of working as a team with me ...
Again the spider attacked, and this time, instead of trying to hit it Vegeta seized one of its legs in each hand, while Goku snared the third. The spider writhed wildly but it was immobilized. The two Saiyajin wrenched in opposite directions and the legs parted from the body in a sizzling shower of sparks. The round body fell to the ground and bounced a couple of times.
Vegeta chuckled and dropped the legs. Once again his gloves had come in handy; his palms were uninjured, though Kakarrot's one good hand was bleeding. He kicked the body savagely and watched it roll across the ground.
"Shut up, Kakarrot. This is my show. Which of us is more suited to an interrogation, huh?" He stalked the thing. Its red light flickered on and off, on and off. "Hey you," Vegeta snarled. "Who are you? What are you? What built you?"
The light flickered weakly. "Saiyajin ... lifeforms ... more dangerous than expected. Warning ..."
"Warning, huh? Who are you warning? You're all alone or hadn't you noticed."
"Warning ..." The red light flickered and faded.
"Huh. Worthless --" Vegeta's voice faded out as his brain went into overdrive.
Stupid. Stupid. Of course it's not alone. It has a million buddies and of course they must have some way of communicating with each other ...
Vegeta stomped on the body and heard the crunch of shattering circuits.
"That was an interrogation?" Goku said.
"Shut up, Kakarrot." Vegeta spun around, searching the night sky. He almost didn't see it in time. A lone red light had appeared behind Goku, rocketing down towards them both.
They both hit the ground and the newly arrived spider sped past them, braked itself on a tree and rocketed back towards them. It was horrifyingly fast, faster even than the first -- or possibly just operating at a higher power level. Goku threw himself to one side, Vegeta to the other. The machine reoriented on them.
"Ki, my kingdom for some ki ..." Goku moaned.
"You'll have to use your brains, Kakarrot. Which means you're probably screwed. I, on the other hand ..." Vegeta scooped up a handful of cold, soggy dirt and threw it at the spider's red light. He missed on the first try, but scored on the second, covering it with mud.
The red glow of the light could still be seen dimly through the mud, but then it vanished, and, in the darkness, so did the spider.
"I thought you were supposed to be the smart one," Goku grumbled. "Now we can't see it."
"No ... but it can't see us, either," Vegeta said triumphantly.
"That's its eye?"
"I think it uses infrared or something similar. Notice how the other one would have to turn its light on in order to aim at us? It probably has other senses ... it can probably hear us ..." Realizing what he was saying, Vegeta shut up.
There was a faint scritching sound and Goku said suddenly, "Hey Vegeta, I think it's cleaning its --"
The spider came out of nowhere. As Goku had started to say, it had managed to wipe most of the mud off its optics, whether with its legs or by wiping itself on some of the surrounding vegetation, and the red light lit up balefully as it aimed itself at them. But they were ready, and as they sprang out of its way, each of them grabbed and yanked on one of its legs, tearing them off and leaving it suddenly two-legged. Unfortunately, where the shock of losing two legs would have caused any mortal creature to pause with pain, the spider was completely unaffected and, rolling with the tug on its body, seized Vegeta around the waist with its two remaining legs and flipped him up and over its head with astonishing strength. He crashed through several stands of trees and when he slammed into the rocky mountain soil, it felt like being flung into concrete. He was unable to use his ki to pad his fall and lay where he'd landed.
"Vegeta!" he heard Goku scream, unhelpfully, from some distance away.
The impact of hitting the ground momentarily stunned him. He wasn't unaware of his surroundings, just unable to move, and he watch the spider straighten out above him, gracefully, at the top of its dive, and then the red light bore down on him, the spider's two remaining legs pointing towards him like twin spears, and he thought in amazement, I survived Freeza, Cell and Buu, only to get killed by a damned pathetic robot ...
But it didn't kill him. Something dark flung itself between Vegeta and the plummeting spider. There was a thunk of metal hitting flesh, a stifled gasp, and one spearpoint burst from Goku's chest and touched Vegeta's neck lightly.
They were nose-to-nose, Goku with his arms braced on either side of Vegeta's body, the spider impaled in his back. Then Goku grinned a faint, bloody shadow of his normal grin and said, "Sorry, I know you'll be mad at me for doing that ..."
He pitched forward on top of Vegeta, shoving the spider's sharp leg-tips an inch or so into Vegeta's skin. The sting of the weapons that should have killed him shocked the prince out of his momentary stunned state.
"DAMN YOU!" He wasn't sure if he was yelling at the spider or at the accursed, stupid, noble idiot who was bleeding to death on top of him. The spider was struggling to free itself, its barbed legs doing who knew what internal damage to Goku as it tried to tear loose. Vegeta reached around Goku and gripped one of its remaining legs in each hand, tearing them loose from the body with strength born of rage and hate. He smashed the body with his unaided hands and threw it away as the red light died. Then he sat up, trying to lift Goku's body without touching the spider legs and doing any more damage.
"Kakarrot, hey Kakarrot ..."
He laid Goku on his side -- couldn't lay him on his front or back without pushing the spider legs deeper in or out. Goku was still breathing. One of the legs had gone through his left shoulder, the other through the right side of his chest. Saiyajin hearts were oriented to the left, like human hearts, so it should have missed any of his internal organs, except possible the lungs. Saiyajin lungs were also resistant to puncture, compared to those of Earth mammals, and could often do a bit of self-repair without flooding with blood -- Saiyajin had not gained their reputation for being nearly impossible to kill without good reason.
"Kakarrot, can you hear me?"
For a moment, Goku lay still in the darkness; then his head moved in a slight nod, and Vegeta felt a tight knot that he had not been aware of (and would never acknowledge) relaxing in his stomach.
"Kakarrot, we have to move. There'll be more of those things on top of us any minute. We have to get out of here and just hope that they don't know how to sense ki, or if they do, that our ki is low enough right now that they won't be able to feel us."
"I ..." Goku's voice was a thick whisper. "I don't think I can walk, Vegeta. Why don't you go on."
"Why don't you shut up, Kakarrot. You never have anything useful to say anyway." Vegeta put an arm around Goku's broad chest, trying not to touch the spider legs and not entirely succeeding. Why'd the idiot have to be so damn big? He let Goku lean most of his considerable weight on him, and got him off the ground.
"Vegeta, we can't move like this," Goku said, coughing.
"Kakarrot, listen to me. I'm helping you because you know how to survive in this goddawful Earth wilderness and I do not. So tell me where to go. We need someplace to hide from the spiders. Where can we go?"
"Oh, thank you so much Mister Geography, now could you be a little bit more specific!" He started half-carrying, half-dragging Goku in a random direction, scanning the sky frantically for red glimmers of light, which so far had not appeared.
"These mountains around here ..." Goku raised his head. "They're riddled with caves and ravines. I don't know about any ... specific ones ... if we were closer to where I used to live with my grandfather I could tell you ... I knew all those hills, all those mountains, all those trees ... everything that lived near or far ..."
Great. The only thing less useful than an injured Kakarrot was an injured, raving Kakarrot.
"Caves," Vegeta reminded him. "Where do I look for caves?"
"Water," Goku said, coughing. "Look for water ... water carves caves ..."
Water. He cocked his head, using his sensitive Saiyajin hearing to focus on the sound of rushing water. There were many streams in these mountains and he walked towards the nearest, with Goku's weight dragging at his shoulder.
"I remember one time after my grandfather died, I found this little cave up in the hills," Goku mumbled, his head lolling against Vegeta's shoulder. "It had a spring at the back for clean water and I used to sleep up there sometimes when I was a kid. Green grass all around and tree branches that hung down over the moon. The moon, the full moon ... Do you know I killed my grandfather? I never realized it until I was an adult. I didn't know the oozaru form was part of me, you see. You ... you keep your senses when you transform into ape form, Vegeta, but I never have, it's the one thing you can do that I can't and probably never will ..."
"Kakarrot, if you don't shut up I'll finish the job the spider started on you ..."
Vegeta trailed off, looking up into the sky and seeing the one thing that he had hoped he wouldn't see. Among the white points of the stars were small red glimmers ... hundreds of them ... thousands of them ...
Robot spiders. Hunting. Hunting for them.