Ki-Blind: Chapter Seven
"Wouldn't you know it, just when the little pipsqueak would actually have been useful," Vegeta growled.
Kaiobito started to sink back before the prince's anger, accepting the blame in his usual meek fashion, but suddenly he bristled as Kibito decided to defend his lord. "I saved your life, you know. I'm sorry I didn't do it very well, but at least you could thank me."
Vegeta snorted and turned away. "Karin! Where is that senzu?"
"I can see you're just as obnoxious as ever," Yajirobe grunted, coming into view with a small brown bag in hand.
Vegeta refused to dignify that with a response. He folded his arms, stood back and let Yajirobe and Karin feed Goku the senzu. He'd had enough Kakarrot-nursing to last a lifetime. However, his dark eyes remained fixed on the other Saiyajin until Goku gasped and drew a deep, even breath. Then he turned, allowing himself to release the breath he'd been holdingin the current state of affairs, he did not dare to rely even on the senzuand walked to the edge of the tower, looking down into the clouds below.
What was going on down there? His fists clenched in frustration. He hated feeling this helpless, hated it more than anything in the world.
"Here, take this," said a voice at his elbow. Vegeta turned his head to see Goku holding out a senzu, with Kaiobito hovering nervously behind him. He took it, swallowed it, and felt the pain of his injuries ease, though it wasn't accompanied by the usual burst of power.
"Should you be up and walking around, Kakarrot?"
"Yeah. I'm fine now." Goku looked over the edge, and the warm smile on his face faded into a much colder expression. It was a strange thing about Kakarrotmost of the time, he looked utterly harmless despite his size, the kind of guy that you wouldn't think twice about letting your kids play with even if he was a total stranger ... but when he was angry, when his planet was threatened, you could tell just by looking in his eyes that he was, after all, a member of a race of warriors and killers.
"Is there any way down from this tower other than flying?" Vegeta asked. Looking over the side, he'd experienced the strangest feeling. It took him a moment to realize that it was mild vertigo, something he'd never felt before. What an odd feeling, to know that if he did fall over the edge, he'd tumble to his death, as unable to fly as any human.
"I guess it'd be possible to climb," Goku said uncertainly. "But it'd take a long, long time."
"We don't have a long time, Kakarrot!"
"I know that." Goku mused, staring down at the fluffy tops of the clouds below him. Suddenly he looked out to the horizon, and closed his eyes.
"What are you doing?" Vegeta asked.
"Calling an old friend," Goku said softly. "It's a long shot, but right now I'd try anything."
For a long moment, nothing happened. Then Vegeta saw a golden streak materialize out of the cloud layer beneath them, climbing rapidly towards the small group on the edge of the tower.
"What the hell?" Yajirobe said, jumping backwards.
Goku laughed. "Kinto'un! It's so good to see you, old friend!"
"How can that thing fly when we can't?" Vegeta demanded.
Goku shrugged. "I don't know. I thought it was worth a try. Maybe whatever is blocking our ki only works on living creatures, or maybe Kinto'un uses some entirely different method to fly, who knows?" He stepped onto the surface of the little cloud.
"Where do you think you're going without me?" Vegeta snapped and started to follow suit. Goku blocked him.
"Vegeta, you have to be pure of heart to ride on Kinto'un. If you aren't, you'll fall."
"Oh," Vegeta said, looking down ... and down ...
"You could hold onto me," Goku offered.
"Are you crazy?? I'd rather fall!"
"It's up to you," Goku said. "I can fight the spiders by myself. Kinto'un can --"
"Stop right there! You still think you're better than me, Kakarrot? I --" Vegeta stopped. His eyes narrowed. He'd never managed to blatantly catch Kakarrot in the act of emotional manipulation; when he tried, he always just got the same wide-eyed, innocent look that Goku was giving him now. Over the years, though, he'd come to the conclusion that Goku was not nearly as dumb as he let onespecially when it came to getting Vegeta to do what he wanted.
"Absolute minimal contact," Vegeta gritted. "Touch me anywhere I tell you not to and I'll kick you off that cloud."
"But Vegeta, if you do that, you'll fall," Goku said, grinning as he held out his hands.
Vegeta disdained the offered hands and instead gripped Goku firmly by the forearms. "It would be preferable," he muttered.
"Wait!" Kaiobito cried. "Can that cloud hold another? Take me with you!"
"I could probably hold two people ..." Goku mused.
"I imagine I can ride it without needing to be held," Kaiobito offered, and stepped onto the cloud, only to sink immediately through. Goku caught him by the scruff before he could fall ("Gotcha!") and set him back on the tower. "What the--" Kaiobito protested. "I'm a god! Who could be more incorruptible than a god? Wait a minute ..." This is all your fault, isn't it? he sent the irritated thought towards Kibito. I was perfectly pure until you fused with me!
"I can support two people. Just hold onto me and I'll hold onto Vegeta," Goku said.
This was looking less and less safe all the time. "Why are you coming with us anyhow?" Vegeta challenged. "You can't even fight! Without your ki or your ability to teleport, what use are you?"
The god looked as if he'd been slapped.
"Vegeta!" Goku snapped.
"No, he's right, but ..." Kaiobito faltered. "You do need me. There's a ship above the planet's surface, probably the source of the spiders. I can take you to it."
The two Saiyajin looked at him in astonishment. "A ship?"
"It's not too far from your Satan City, about as high above the ground as we are now."
"We do need to go there, then," Goku said. "But first we need to find our families and make sure they're all right." He nodded to the god. "Just hold onto me and we'll be off!"
Goku crouched down and Kaiobito nervously gripped his shoulders. "Are you sure this isn't a problem for you?"
Goku laughed. "Not at all. You're light as a couple of feathers. I can hardly feel the two of you."
"Shut up, Kakarrot," Vegeta muttered. Clearly he did not appreciate being compared to a feather.
"Thank you, Karin, Yajirobe!" Goku shouted cheerfully.
"You don't have to yell. It's not like we're a mile away," Yajirobe grumbled.
The cloud drifted somewhat sluggishly back from the edge as Goku shifted his balance to bring the weight of himself and his two passengers fully to bear on Kinto'un. For a moment, nothing happened.
Then the cloud plummeted like a stone.
Much farther down, below sea level in fact, Master Roshi's submersible speedboat drifted gently with the waves.
In the dimly lit cabin, the refugees were passing time and waiting for the spiders to stop looking for them so they could resurface. Kuririn and Eighteen were leaned against each other in one corner, an old blanket wrapped around themselves and Marron. Kuririn and the child had both fallen asleep, but Eighteen remained awake, and vigilant.
Yamcha drowsed too, in another corner with Pu'ar curled up against his neck in a soft blue ball.
Oolong and Master Roshi had found another way to pass the time. It involved the stack of girlie magazines that the old man kept in the boat's toolbox instead of tools. Delighted chortling and the occasional squeal of delight came from the direction of the boat's controls.
"Keep it down over there. My daughter is trying to sleep," Eighteen snapped when her irritation with the two of them became too much to bear.
Suddenly the speedboat shuddered and everyone sat bolt upright just as dozens of red lights blinked on all around them.
"What they snuck up on us!" Yamcha yelled, scrambling to his feet.
"They can't move around underwater, you said. Let's shut down the engines and hide, you said. They'll stop looking for us and go away, you said," Oolong babbled to Master Roshi, who dropped pornography all over the floor as he made a frantic scramble for the boat's controls.
"I knew it was a mistake to hide," Eighteen said, crouching into a battle stance hampered slightly by Marron's small, sleepy body. "As soon as you let yourself become the hunted, not the hunter, you're at a disadvantage."
"Well thank you for that, Miss Know-It-All," the pig groused.
"I can't imagine why I rescued you. I should have let them skewer you like the pig that you are."
"Well, for my part, I don't have any idea why Kuririn married such a biAAAAAHHHH!!!"
The scream was prompted by a sudden charge from a half-dozen or so of the robots, who slammed into the speedboat's canopy. They were significantly slowed down by the water and the attack lost a lot of its impact, but even so, a fine spiderweb of cracks began to spread across the heavy plastic.
"Another hit like that and we're finished!" Kuririn gasped.
"What's taking so long up there?" Yamcha demanded in Roshi's direction.
His answer came in the form of a tremendous lurch of the boat's deck, sending them all sprawling except for the old hermit, of course, who was sitting down. The boat leaped forward and the spiders scattered as it plowed through them.
"Warn a guy next time?" Oolong mumbled, rubbing his head.
Pu'ar squeaked in fright, drawing everyone's attention to what lay ahead of them: spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. The red lights winked in the gloom of the ocean depths.
"How much air do we have left?" Kuririn asked, scrambling up to the shotgun seat.
"About half an hour, give or take a little," his teacher replied.
"We don't dare come up to the surface and open the canopy with so many spiders around," Eighteen said.
"Easy for you to say. You don't breathe," Oolong snapped in her direction.
"I do," she said calmly. "Just not nearly as often as you."
The speedboat sped alongside an undersea ridge, the flank of a series of underwater mountain peaks. "I may be able to shake them off long enough to replenish our air supplies," Master Roshi said over his shoulder. "Hang on!"
With that, he turned the boat into a near-vertical climb, sped over the top of the ridge and down a twisting canyon on the other side, whipping around rock formations at a terrifying speed, narrowly missing some of the razor-sharp outcroppings. All the passengers, aside from Eighteen, were looking rather green.
"Master, look out!" Kuririn screamed.
The boat's movement had disturbed the surrounding slopes and suddenly they found themselves in the middle of an underwater mud plume. They were still rocketing forward, but now they couldn't see where they were going, and the speedboat, like any boat, was not equipped with brakes. One side of the boat clipped something unseen and the entire craft flipped end-over-end. The passengers were flung into a tangled heap at one end of the boat.
"I think I'm gonna" Oolong began.
"Throw up on me and die!" Eighteen shouted at him. The pig had ended up on her head.
"I'm starting to see a flaw in this plan," Master Roshi muttered, just before they crunched into the side of the canyon with a horrible sound of screeching metal. The hapless passengers were hurled into the other end of the boat, landing on top of the turtle hermit and Kuririn, who had managed to escape the general mayhem until that moment.
The boat was no longer moving, and after a few minutes, everyone started to stir and talk at once.
"Is everyone okay?"
"Are you guys all right?"
"Hey, whose foot is in my ear?"
"Ouch, that's my head ..."
"Whose hand is THAT?"
The last was from Eighteen, who had discovered Master Roshi trying to take advantage of the confusion. She hit him hard enough to knock him to the other end of the boat.
The rest of them untangled themselves. Aside from a few bumps and bruises, they all seemed to be unhurt.
The same could not be said for the boat. The engines had died and they were in near-total darkness. The deck appeared to be listing at about a 30-degree angle.
"There should be a flashlight in the toolbox," Roshi said.
"No there isn't," Yamcha retorted. "Maybe there would beif someone hadn't taken everything out of the toolbox and replaced it with pornography!"
"Hey boy, that's fine art you're talking aboutand I happen to know you've spent almost as much time with my collection as I have --"
"Does that mean we don't have any tools?" Kuririn asked.
"And we're about to have no air," Oolong mumbled.
Marron began to sniffle, and snuggled against her mother's neck as the rest of them contemplated their situation in silence. Suddenly all heads snapped up at an ominous creaking sound. Pu'ar clung to Yamcha's arm.
"What was that?" Kuririn asked.
"I believe that was the boat's damaged canopy," Master Roshi said in an unusually subdued tone. "It must be having difficulty standing up to the water pressure."
"Well, that's good to hear," Oolong said, on the verge of hysteria. "At least we'll drown before we suffocate."
"Go on, tell me I'm a genius," Bulma said. "You know you want to."
The others looked at the object in her hands.
"Looks like the dragonball radar," Trunks said.
It did look like the radar, though it was somewhat larger, with more controls on it.
"It works on a similar principle," Bulma said. "But this isn't a dragonball detector; it's a ki detector. Even without being able to use their ki, assuming that the problem is affecting everybodyand it must, or else Vegeta and Son-kun would be out fighting those creatures right now, and we'd see them on the newstheir ki levels should be unaffected. So all we have to do is scan for the highest ki on the planet. Trunks, let me calibrate it on you."
Trunks stood still while his mother twiddled with the knobs, then ran a similar calibration on her parents.
"Good!" she said. "It looks like your ki is lower than usual, but still easily detectable. Saiyajin ki also reads differently from human ki, so I should be able to tell which of the readings are Vegeta, Son-kun and Gohan. And Piccolo will probably show up differently, too."
She began to scan.
"Okay ... it looks like the two highest ki readings are both together ... that way." She pointed. "If this is calibrated correctly, they're both Saiyajin, so must be Son-kun and Vegeta. Hmmm ... odd ... there's another high ki reading with them, and it's not human or Saiyajin. Piccolo maybe? Let's see ... I've got a cluster of high readings ... over there ... that's toward that old pervert's island, so that must be Yamcha, Kuririn and the others. Thank goodness, it looks like they're all right." She continued to scan. "This reading is so far awayit must be Tienshinhan and Chaotzu. Here's another high readingoh!"
"Mom? What's wrong?"
"I just had a high Saiyajin ki but I've lost it. It's either dropped so low that the scanner can't pick it up, or ..." She covered her mouth with one hand.
"Dad?" Trunks whispered in concern.
"I ... I doubt it. Your father is strong enough to take care of himself." But privately she was fearful. That high ki had to be Vegeta, Goku, or Gohan, and it was at least as likely that Gohan and Goku were together as it was for Vegeta to be with either of them. The scanner was not sensitive enough to tell a full Saiyajin signature from a half-Saiyajin one.
"I'm getting another high ki not too far from where that one wasit's not a human or Saiyajin one, either. If the other anomalous reading is Piccolo, then who is this?"
"Someone from the ship?" Dr. Briefs suggested.
They all looked at each other. "I'm going," Bulma said.
"We need you here."
"They need me there. Either my husband or my friend is badly injured"or dead"and we still don't know where Chi-Chi is. I'll take one of the bigger capsule aircraft and gather together as many of our friends as we can --"
A small hand tugged on her leg. "Where's Daddy?"
Bulma jumped and looked down. "Goten! What are you doing out of bed?"
"Goten!" Trunks cried happily.
"I'm sorry, dear," her mother apologized. "I thought he was asleep."
"My arm feels better," Goten said, holding it out.
"Let Trunks's grandma take a look at it, sweetheart. I'm busy right now."
Trunks ran over to his friend. "Hey, Goten, we're going to go rescue my dad and your dad!"
"Neato," Goten mumbled, rubbing his eyes, still groggy from the painkillers.
"'We'?" Bulma echoed. "No 'we' here, young man. You're staying here with your grandparents ..."
She trailed off. She saw the stubborn look in Trunks's eyesa very Vegeta-like lookand she knew exactly what her son would do if she left him behind. Her well-meaning but absent-minded parents would never be able to watch the two boys adequately. As soon as anyone's back was turned, the little boys would be out the door and straight into danger.
At least if she kept them with her, she'd know where they were.
"All right," Bulma muttered, closing her eyes. "You can come."
"You hear that, Goten?" Trunks bounced in excitement. "We're gonna fight some spiders!"
"No, you're not going to fight spiders. We're on a rescue mission right now, and you will stay in the vehicle. Also, I never said Goten could come. He's hurt."
"No I'm not," Goten said, hiding his injured arm behind his body and wincing in pain.
"Here, let me see," Bulma sighed, and unwrapped the bandages. The wound was not that deep to begin with, and the little boy's Saiyajin healing abilities had been hard at work while he slept. The injury was well on its way to being healed; in a few hours, he should be able to use his arm normally again.
"All right. Goten can come too. But stay in the vehicle, do you understand? If you try to go anywhere on your own, I'm bringing you straight back here."
She turned to her parents, while the boys made enthusiastic plans to kill all the spiders and save the world. "Dad, I'm going to try to be back in an hour or so. We can use the emergency communicators to stay in touch."
Dr. Briefs nodded. "I'll keep working on ways to ... eliminate these creatures." It was hard enough for him to acknowledge that his current work would be used for destructive purposes, but harder yet to use the word "kill", even referring to such inhuman creatures.
"If I stop checking in, I guess ... Well, I left the plans for the ki detector, so you can build another one. Keep trying to get in touch with our friends."
Bulma hugged her parents and then turned away. "Come on, kids."
The lab had a direct exit to Capsule Corp.'s rooftop landing pad. Bulma filled up a capsule case with what she hoped would be a useful assortment and then cracked the door open and peered out. She'd slapped together a rudimentary bazooka from a few odds and ends that she had lying around the lab. It wasn't pretty and it wouldn't win any design awards, but it should be capable of knocking down spiders.
The rooftops were dark and apparently devoid of glinting red lights. Distant explosions, and a baleful glow over the city, indicated that the fighting was going on elsewhere.
Bulma tossed a capsule and it puffed into a medium-sized personal aircraft. She'd had to strike a balance between size and speed, choosing a vehicle that could carry all the people she wanted to try to stuff into it (though it would not be a comfortable ride) while still being capable of outrunning the spiders.
"Quick! Get in!"
The boys scrambled into the craft and Bulma brought up the rear, slamming the door and locking them in. Sealed into the vehicle's cabin, she felt much saferdeceptively safe, she suspected, for the safety-glass windows might prove no more useful against the spiders than windows and doors had proven to be. But they could move quickly, and that gave them the advantage, for now.
She powered up the engines and lifted off from the roof. "Here," she said, tossing the ki scanner to Trunks. "You'll be my navigator."
"Cool!" Trunks enthused.
Goten stood up in his seat, looking over his friend's shoulder. "I wanna be a navengator too!"
"You can be co-navigators," Bulma said, punching in the coordinates where she'd detected the Saiyajin ki spike and then fall. "But good navigators wear seatbelts."
The boys obediently strapped themselves in. Bulma looked at her instrument panel as the vehicle's computer detected several small objects approaching them in the air. Spiders ...? Yes, their takeoff had drawn some attention; she could see the red lights out the window, small but growing closer. Bulma pressed forward on the throttle, and was rewarded with a burst of speed. The instruments told her that they were easily outrunning the spiders.
So far, so good.
She set a course that would steer them around the battle zone, and then sat back to wait. And pray.