Ki-Blind: Chapter Nine






"Thirty seconds until you have to transform," Kuririn reported, looking at #18's watch.

"Would you shut up?!" Oolong yelled.

Suddenly the transformed shapeshifter and his passengers popped to the surface of the ocean. It was still almost as dark, for the night was moonless and only the stars lit the surface of the waves, but at least they were in the air again. "Thank Kami," Oolong groaned. "Now get out!"

Kuririn and #18, with Marron tucked under her arm, scrambled out hastily into the lukewarm water, and just in time too, as Oolong popped back to his usual shape and started treading water with a massive sigh of relief.

"I hope you realize that you'll owe me for the rest of my life for that daring rescue," Oolong informed them between grateful gasps for air. "Daring rescue! ha! Let's see Son Goku and the rest of the Super Saiyajin Brigade top this one!"

"What could we owe you that you don't already get?" #18 demanded, lifting Marron onto her back so that the girl would be out of the water while she easily kept herself afloat with one arm. "You never cook, you never clean, you never pay for a single meal. You spend all your time reading that old pervert's pornography."

"... say, where is he?" Kuririn asked, looking around. "And Yamcha?"

They got their answer a few moments later, as Pu'ar popped to the surface and a door opened in her side, discharging Master Roshi and Yamcha into the water. Pu'ar transformed back to her normal shape and levitated above the two swimming humans. "Yamcha-sama, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Pu'ar. Though I'd be better if I hadn't just had to endure ten minutes of YOU moaning about losing your collection," he added to the hermit.

"My precious girls ..." Roshi moaned, treading water with one arm so that he could keep the handful of magazines that he'd managed to salvage out of the water.

"Honestly ..."

"Hey, keep it down, you guys," Kuririn warned. "There might be spiders around, and we don't know if they can hear us or not."

They all hushed and looked about. There was no sign of any ominous red lights on their own level, but they could all see the glimmers in the night sky, like a swarm of sparks.

"How many of them are there?" Yamcha breathed, staring up into the sky.

"I think that if we don't find some dry land, we won't have to worry about getting killed by spiders, because we'll drown," Oolong panted.

"Oh, you can't possibly be that out of shape," #18 snorted. "You've only been treading water for a few minutes. If you have breath to talk, you have breath to swim."

The pig glared at her.

"Should I change into a boat, Yamcha-sama?" Pu'ar asked.

Yamcha looked up at his best friend floating above his head. "Can you hold all of us without hurting yourself?"

"It's not hard to be a boat," Pu'ar said. "The water is supporting your weight, not me. We used to practice this in the swimming pool at shapeshifter school." She looked down at Oolong. "Of course that was after you--"

"--decided to choose a different career," the pig finished for her.

"That's not how I remember it." Pu'ar floated down to the water's surface and suddenly there was a small, graceful blue canoe bobbing on the waves stirred up by the humans' splashing.

"Uh ... that's good for just Yamcha, but you're going to have to make yourself wider for the rest of us," Kuririn said.

Pu'ar contemplated and then expanded into a sort of cross between a boat and a raft -- wide and flat, but with sides. "How's this?" she chirped.

"Pu'ar, as usual, you look wonderful," Yamcha said, climbing over the side.

The rest of them scrambled on with varying degrees of difficulty, and sat down. The Pu'ar-boat turned out to be oddly flexible for a boat, more akin to the shifting surface of a rubber raft, and it was slightly warm to the touch. Pu'ar floated low in the waves, and occasionally water slopped over the side; they had to scoop it out with their hands.

"Are you going to be able to maintain this?" Yamcha asked the boat.

"Don't worry about me, Yamcha-sama," said Pu'ar's voice. "Like I said, all I have to do is float; the water does the rest. It's like if you relaxed and floating with someone on your chest. As long as you are naturally buoyant enough that you don't sink under the water, it's not a problem to have someone sitting on you. And this form floats very well."

Kuririn crouched in the stern of the boat; he noticed in passing that it had a small tail, but as strange as this day had gotten, he wasn't particularly disturbed by it. He looked up at the red flickers darting about above them. "I wonder what in the world these things want from us."

"I do too," #18 agreed, and he glanced over to see her cuddling Marron, trying to comfort the wet and unhappy little girl. "They attack, but to what purpose?"

"All they would say was, Humans, exterminate them," Kuririn said. "Maybe that is their purpose."

"To destroy humankind?"

"Yeah, why not? Every alien we meet seems to have either heard of Goku, I mean 'Kakarrot', or the Earth, and none of them mean us anything but harm." He sighed heavily. "Why can't we meet some nice aliens for once. I mean, the Nameks were nice. They were very nice. Until Freeza and Vegeta killed them all ... I guess that did work out okay in the end, though."

"Here, have a magazine," Roshi said, shoving one into his hands. "Takes your mind off your troubles. Always works for me."

"Keep your hentai pictures away from my husband!" #18 thrust it back at him.

"You're right," he said, grinning at her and reaching out one hand towards her chest. "The real thing is much nicer -- OOOOFFFF!"

The boat tilted and Yamcha and Kuririn hastily started bailing out water as it slopped around their ankles. "Sweetheart ... temper ..." Kuririn mumbled.

"Ouch ..." the hermit mumbled, rubbing his bruises. "It was so worth it, though ..."

Kuririn and Yamcha looked at each other. "Gonna be a long night," they agreed.

******

After dropping off the old couple and their granddaughter at the nearest army camp, Bulma headed back to Capsule Corp. with her passengers. "How is Gohan?" she asked over her shoulder.

Videl was sitting up and tending to her boyfriend. "We really need to get him some medical attention, fast."

Bulma wondered if she should have stayed at the army post and had them treat Gohan's injuries. But she had much better facilities at her lab, as well as having become very proficient in Saiyajin physiology and health during ten years of living with a Saiyajin who was constantly injuring himself.

Speaking of Vegeta ... she wondered what he was doing right now. Now that they'd found Gohan, the other two Saiyajin ki readings had to be Goku and Vegeta, so they were still alive and healthy somewhere. Everything would still be all right ...

"Uh, Mom ..." Trunks said.

"Uh-oh," Goten mumbled.

Bulma looked at her screens, and stifled a curse. They were beginning their descent to Capsule Corp. -- and the entire building was completely covered with spiders. Spiders in the yard, spiders on the roof. The landing pad was thick with them.

"Stupid things," Bulma muttered. She'd had a long night and she was in no mood to deal with this sort of crap. "Trunks, open the door."

Trunks did, and then saw that his mother was resting the bazooka on her shoulder, aiming it over his head. "Mom, no! You'll blow up our home!"

"Oh, sh-- I mean, rats. You're right." She lowered the gun and looked down in dismay at the spiders swarming over the roof of Capsule Corp. "How are we going to land?" she cried, frustrated, looking back at Gohan. They had to get him some medical attention soon.

"We'll get rid of them for you, Mom!" Trunks cried. "Come on, Goten! Let's fuse!"

"Hey, wait --" Bulma started

"FU --"

"Wait a minute, you're forgetting you can't --"

"-- SION --"

"You don't have any ki!" Bulma yelled at them. "It won't work!"

" -- HAAAAAA!!! ... oh wait, Mom's ri--"

A flash of light -- dimmer than normal, but still startling under the circumstances -- lit up the plane. Bulma covered her eyes and then stared in shock at an equally astounded Gotenks.

"What the -- it worked," Bulma gasped.

"Woah," Gotenks said, looking down at his hands. "How'd that happen?"

Bulma's mind worked over the problem as she circled the plane above Capsule Corp. "It must be sort of like Piccolo's regeneration," she said finally. "Once you learn the technique, it takes little enough ki that you can do it even without being at your usual power level. Or maybe it's a different application of ki than usual, or ... something." She always got onto shaky mental ground when she ventured away from strict scientific facts and into those strange, pseudo-scientific gray areas where her life seemed bound to push her. Goku or Vegeta would probably know for sure.

Gotenks, meanwhile, held his hands up in front of him. "Wow, I'm so much more powerful now than I was before!" he cried in his blended voice. "Hey, Mom, look at this!"

Bulma looked, and saw a small ball of ki floating between his hands. She gasped, "You can use your energy now?"

Piccolo opened his eyes, startled out of his meditation by Gotenks's sudden surge of ki.

"ALL RIIIIIIIIGHT!" the fused boy yelled. "Look out, spiders, here I come!"

He jumped out the open door of the aircraft and promptly plummeted twenty feet to the roof of the building.

"Trunks!" Bulma shrieked. "Goten!"

"Apparently they still can't fly," Piccolo said, sticking his head out the door.

The boy was getting up, shaking his head. The spiders had been surprised by his sudden appearance, but now they were encircling him.

"I don't care about the property damage!" Bulma snarled, readying the bazooka. "If those monsters try to hurt my son, I'll blow them to smithereens."

"Along with Trunks and Goten," Piccolo reminded her.

"DAAAAAAMN IT!" Bulma yelled at the ceiling. "There's got to be something I can do!"

Gotenks, however, seemed to be holding his own against the spiders. Fusing had definitely increased the boys' energy by quite a large margin. With kicks and punches, Gotenks slowly cleared the roof. He could summon small balls of ki, but wasn't able to do much more than just dazzle the spiders' sensors; he mainly had to rely on his physical strength.

When most of the spiders had been knocked off the roof, Bulma lowered the aircraft. Her passengers were ready without having to be told; Piccolo had an arm around Gohan, supporting him, and Videl crouched on Gohan's other side, ready to jump. At Bulma's shout, they all leaped out and she converted the plane back into its capsule form. The group dashed for the door, rejoining Gotenks along the way, and Bulma punched the code into the door.

They didn't dare slow down until they reached the lab, since they already knew that the spiders could get into the house. They did meet two spiders on the way, but Gotenks, with his newly improved strength and speed, knocked them away with a double jump-kick. Once they were safe inside the lab, Bulma leaned against the door for a moment, her legs sagging -- then she grabbed Gotenks and hugged the embarrassed boy while he tried to free himself.

"That was beautiful! That was wonderful! I have the smartest, bravest, most powerful son in the world! Trunks, you're amazing!"

Gotenks blushed at the praise, but he protested, "Hey, Mom, I'm Goten too."

"You're wonderful too, Goten." Bulma kissed Gotenks on the head and let him go, turning to Gohan, who had passed out completely.

Bulma's parents appeared out of the depths of the lab, and there was a quick flurry of hugs and greetings before the group hustled Gohan off to the medical room.

"How has it been going here?" Bulma asked her father as they hooked up the often-used IV setup.

"I think I'm making some progress. It would help if I had an actual spider to examine."

"I can get one!" Gotenks offered.

"No, wait, you'll get hurt --" Bulma began, but then she remembered the boy on the roof of the building, kicking off spiders left and right, and her heart swelled with maternal pride. "Well, be very careful and come back quickly," she said.

Gotenks grinned. "Thanks Mom!" He dashed out.

Dr. Briefs snapped his fingers. "Oh, I almost forget. We did have some visitors while you were gone."

"Visitors?"

"Yes. You'll never guess who was here ..."

******

A little earlier ...

Kinto'un plunged like a rock, with its three riders clinging to each other in mortal terror. About two hundred feet up from the ground, it leveled off jarringly.

There was a moment of silence.

"What ... happened?" Vegeta asked when he could breathe again.

"Uh ... I don't know. That never happened before," Goku said sheepishly.

Vegeta reminded himself that if he threw Goku off the cloud, he'd fall too. Besides, he would have had to pry his fingers free of Goku's arms first. He was gripping Goku's forearms hard enough to leave bruises.

"Probably it's just that the atmosphere up there is too thin to support all of our weight," Goku mused. "I've never flown that high with passengers." He shook himself, and grinned at the other two, the pallor fading from his face. "Well ... let's go!"

"I'm glad I'm a god," Kaiobito mumbled.

"Why's that?"

"No bladder."

Vegeta sighed and decided that ignoring him was probably the best strategy. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to do the same with Goku, since he was currently in control of their transportation, as well as face-to-face with the prince. "Where are you taking us, Kakarrot?" he asked the other Saiyajin.

"I'm not really sure ..."

Vegeta gritted his teeth.

"We both need to go home and check on our families," Goku decided. "After that ... we'll go see about this spaceship. I do have senzu beans, too."

"You do?"

Goku gestured to a brown bag tucked into his belt, as well as he could without knocking anybody off the cloud. "I asked Karin for the rest of his current crop."

"How many?"

"Four."

"That's not very many, Kakarrot."

"It's the wrong time of year."

"You'd think with you bunch around, he would have put in an entire field of senzu by now," Kaiobito said.

Kinto'un sped through the dark sky. They passed hundreds of spiders, but they were by and gone before the creatures could even react.

"One good Final Flash ..." Vegeta growled, shaking in fury.

"... or a Kamehameha ..." Goku murmured.

"... and they'd be, as the humans say, stationary waterfowl. Instead, we're forced to hide and tremble like children."

"Sitting ducks, Vegeta."

"What did you call me?"

"No, the human expression. It's sitting ducks, not sta--"

"I don't care, Kakarrot. On Vegeta-sei we would have said 'like a hibernating kekkoddiku' but that's neither here nor there."

"What is a ... what you said?"

"A small burrowing animal, not unlike your rodents. Extinct of course, since the planet no longer exists. We'd hunt and eat them in the Palace gardens when I was a kid." He stopped speaking and stared off at the horizon moodily.

Goku studied the prince's sharp profile. Vegeta almost never spoke of the vanished planet. Sometimes Goku wanted desperately to know more -- to hear about his homeworld, the world he'd never had a chance to know -- and it frustrated him that the only information about Vegeta-sei that still existed in the galaxy was locked within the mind of someone who refused to share it. But there was no forcing Vegeta to talk if he didn't want to, and he didn't often want to. Goku quietly filed away one more little piece of information about his world ... and its prince.

As fast as a Saiyajin could have flown, the cloud covered the distance between the tower and the forest where the Sons lived. As they flew, Kaiobito gasped suddenly and leaned forward to shout in Goku's ear above the wind. "Look up there!"

Both Saiyajins tilted their heads back, becoming aware of the great mass floating in the night sky, a dark shape blotting out the stars. As they flew closer, slowly they could make out tiny lights on its bulk, like the lights of a distant city. Still closer, it hardly seemed to have grown at all, and they began to realize how far away the thing truly was, and therefore how huge it must be.

"So that's the ship," Goku breathed.

"It's the size of a city," Vegeta said softly, looking up at it. "The Saiyajin had many large ships, and so did Freeza, but I've still never seen one so huge."

"I don't understand why it hasn't done anything yet," Kaiobito said. "It's just sitting there ... waiting for something?"

"Perhaps they're waiting for the spiders to cause chaos on the Earth before they attack," Vegeta suggested. "Still, any race who are capable of building a ship that size must possess formidable weapons as well. The spiders, numerous as they are, hardly qualify."

Goku turned his head to look at the god. "Have you ever heard of a race of people who can create such things?"

Kaiobito shook his head. "But it's a huge universe, Goku-san. I have learned of many new things since I met you, such as the existance of the dragonballs. As hard as I try to keep track of everything, I don't monitor every world or every intelligent race."

The ship had grown noticeably larger, but still looked very far away, when they reached the part of the forest where the Sons lived. Goku brought the cloud down to land in front of his house. There were no spiders visible at the moment.

"Chi-Chi!" Goku yelled as they all stepped off the cloud. "Gohan! Goten!"

"Have you heard of stealth, Kakarrot?" Vegeta demanded.

But Goku was too worried to care. He tested the door of his house, found it locked, and promptly pulled it off its hinges and hurtled it over his shoulder -- Chi-Chi is going to kill me when she sees that, he thought -- and ran inside. The interior of the house was dark. He paused in the middle of the living room, straining his senses for any signs of either his family, or a metal nightmare crouching in the shadows.

The other two followed him with more caution. Vegeta had the presence of mind to flip on the light switch, but nothing happened; despite their isolated location, the Sons did get their power from the nearest village, and it wasn't too surprising that it was out at the moment.

"I can't sense anything in here," Kaiobito said softly.

Vegeta turned to glare at him in the dark. "Can you sense anything at all?"

"I, uh ..." The god hesitated, casting out his senses. "Now that you mention it, no."

Vegeta hmphed. Useless idiot.

Goku climbed the stairs to the second floor, calling Chi-Chi's name softly. There was no response. In a few minutes he'd searched the entire house. No one was home.

Goku ran his hand over his face. "I ... hope they're all right, wherever they are."

"You know Chi-Chi," Vegeta retorted, leaning against the doorframe with folded arms and keeping an eye on the dark forest outside. "I doubt if any spider would be insane enough to try to fight that woman, and even if it did, it wouldn't stand a chance." I'm trying to cheer up KAKARROT, he groaned mentally. "Besides," he added, struck by a thought. "Most likely they're all over at the onna's place. I know your youngest was going to be spending the night with my brat. Once all hell started breaking loose on Earth, the rest of your family may have gone there to join them."

Goku grinned, like the sun breaking through clouds. "You're probably right. We'll go there."

About time. We should have gone there first. Of course Capsule Corp. would be a good base of operations, centrally located compared to this isolated place. They also needed to see if that woman and her father had come up with any useful way of combating the spiders. His desire to go to Capsule Corp. had absolutely nothing to do with checking on the woman and the brat. Naturally not.

******

Meanwhile, at sea ...

The Pu'ar-boat drifted on the waves. They'd tried having Oolong turn into an oar, once his transforming ability recharged, but there wasn't a whole lot you could do with an oar that only stayed oar-shaped for five minutes (especially when it constantly whined and refused to allow its head to be dunked in the water), and besides, they had no idea which way to go.

"That way's north," Yamcha said, looking up at the sky, and pointing across the dark water. "I used to navigate by the stars in the desert."

"It's all well and good to know where north is, but not much help when we don't know where we are relative to anything else," Kuririn said, sitting on one of Pu'ar's gunwales and trailing his hand in the water.

"We'll have better luck if we go in a straight line that if we drift randomly," Yamcha pointed out. "We're bound to encounter something eventually if we just keep going. At least, that's true on land."

"I'm hungry, Mommy," Marron whimpered, snuggling against #18's shoulder.

"Shh!" They all fell silent, even the child, as a pair of hunting spiders flew over at a height of several hundred feet. It was obvious that they had not been spotted, and the spiders flew on without changing course. They still hadn't figured out what sort of sensory apparatus the spiders had, but it didn't seem to involve ki-sensing, because the tiny boat on the great dark ocean appeared to be invisible to them.

After the spiders' red lights had vanished away to the west, there was a long, nervous silence before Yamcha spoke again "This isn't really a bad place to be stranded."

"In what universe?" Kuririn demanded.

"Compared to the desert, I mean," Yamcha said -- still in "wilderness survival" mode. "We can fish for food, and we have all the water we could want as soon as we build a rudimentary distilling apparatus. I can do it easily. All I need is a plastic jug, about a gallon or so --"

"-- which unfortunately we don't have," Kuririn pointed out.

"She's got nice jugs," Master Roshi said, oogling #18's chest.

She gave him a resigned glare. "The only reason I'm not beating you to a pulp is because my daughter has fallen asleep and I don't want to wake her up."

"Oolong can turn into a jug," Yamcha mused out loud.

"In your dreams," the pig snapped. "Look, Grizzly Adams, you may be able to get by just fine in the mountains with nothing more than a roll of duct tape and your left sneaker, but normal people require a little more for the rudiments of survival. Such as a television and a well-stocked refrigerator."

"I imagine Oolong would be perfectly happy stranded at sea as long as he had a big-screen TV and a cooler full of beer," Kuririn said, grinning at the image.

"Damn straight," the pig muttered, folding his arms and lying back against the side of the boat. "Wait, you forgot the hot chicks."

"Hey, is that a spider up there?" Yamcha said. "It looks ... different from the others."

They all fell silent and looked. This light was white, and moving rapidly in a straight line.

"No, I think it's some kind of plane," Master Roshi said.

Yamcha stood up in the boat, spreading his legs to keep his balance. "Hey, all we have to do is get their attention and we'll be saved!"

"What if they're the enemy?" #18 inquired.

"What enemy? All we've seen so far have been mechanical spiders."

"Don't you think something has to be directing them?"

"Even if whoever's flying that plane is hostile, we'd stand a better chance against them than staying down here," Kuririn said. "Once the sun comes up, every spider for miles around is going to be able to see us, and there's nowhere to hide out here. We won't last minutes."

"The boy's right," Master Roshi said, tilting his head back as the white light sped along. In a few moments it would be out of sight.

"There's no way they can see us, down here in the dark," Kuririn cried, standing up in the boat as Yamcha had done.

Yamcha turned to Oolong. "Quick. Turn into a flashlight."

"Every time you people get in trouble. It never fails," the pig grumbled, transforming and falling with a plonk onto Pu'ar's gunwale, where Yamcha grabbed him before he could teeter and fall into the sea. "Do you ever try to solve your own problems? No, it's where's the shapeshifter, let's call the shapeshifter ..."

"What do you mean, we don't solve our own problems?" Kuririn demanded, turning to glare at the flashlight, which switched itself on so that it could glare back. "Where were you when we were fighting Nappa and Vegeta? Cell? The androids? (Sorry, dear.) Majin Buu?"

"Having enough sense to not get myself in trouble in the first place," Oolong grumbled. He blinked his beam experimentally. "What's SOS? Two long, one short, one l--"

"Three short, three long, three short," Yamcha said, pointing him at the sky.

"Oh, you would know that," Oolong grumbled, flashing on and off. "I imagine it came in handy while you were robbing people."

"Is it just me or have you been more disagreeable than usual lately?"

"I suppose getting attacked and driven from your home can have that effect on a person," Kuririn offered charitably from the other end of Pu'ar.

"No, he's always been that way," #18 said.

At first it seemed that the plane hadn't seen them, but then they saw the small white light make a wide circle over the ocean and start back towards them.

"Well, I guess this is the point where it wipes us all out with one shot from its giant laser," Oolong said, reverting to his usual shape and dropping to the bottom of the boat when Yamcha let go of him. "Or beams us up and conducts horrifying sexual experiments on us."

Master Roshi perked up. "Will buxom young women be involved?"

"We're going to have to stop letting you watch the late late movie," Kuririn snapped at Oolong, moving closer to #18, who was sitting up with the sleeping Marron in her lap and watching the light approach.

The craft settled into a hovering position above them. "It's not an alien's plane!" Kuririn said, pointing out the Capsule Corp. logo on the side.

"It could still be robbers or something like that," Yamcha said as the aircraft began to descend.

"Takes one to know one," Oolong muttered.

"Uh ... guys ..." Kuririn said, as the plane continued to descend, right on top of them. "I think ... it looks like ... it's landing ... on us ..."

Apparently the pilot had realized the same thing, because the plane made some wobbly, inexpert course corrections, one of which involved dipping its bottom half into the sea before it finally managed to come to a stationary hover near the boat. Waves stirred up by the aircraft rocked Pu'ar, and water slopped over her gunwales.

"What moron is flying that thing?" Yamcha demanded, trying to keep his footing.

The door in the side of the vehicle opened, and someone leaned out, long hair flying in the wind. "Keep it steady now, Daddy!" she yelled over her shoulder, then turned around and looked at them all.

The jaws of everyone in the boat dropped to their shoes.

"Chi-Chi?" Kuririn gasped.

"Yes, don't just stand there, get into the plane, everybody," Chi-Chi urged, climbing down onto the plane's landing gear and extending a hand to the stunned group in the boat.

#18 recovered first and leaned out to hand Marron to Chi-Chi, who placed the girl inside the door of the plane. Kuririn was next, assisted by his wife, and then Master Roshi and Oolong. #18 climbed onto the landing gear next to Chi-Chi and looked back at Yamcha. "Are you coming?"

"Yes, just a minute." He laid a hand on the boat's gunwale. "Pu'ar?" Yamcha said, shaking her gently. "You need to change back now. We can't get you into the plane in boat form. Pu'ar?"

The boat shuddered and suddenly it was a small, sodden ball of blue fur, and Yamcha was treading water. Pu'ar started to sink; he scooped her up with one hand, while Chi-Chi and #18 hauled him into the plane, then climbed in after him. #18 closed the door.

The interior of the plane was utilitarian but new-looking. Gyu-mao, at the controls, looked over his shoulder and gave them all a cheerful wave.

"Pu'ar?" Yamcha said, cradling her next to his chest. Pu'ar was shivering and limp. "Pu'ar, can you hear me? Speak to me please ... Damn it, I think she's got hypothermia. I didn't even think about what she was going through, being in the water all that time ..."

Chi-Chi took off a scarf and handed it to him. "Here, dry her off. You can put her on one of the ship's radiator vents until she gets warm. I'll make some tea. You all look like you could use it."

"You have tea stuff in here?" Kuririn asked.

"That surprises you for some reason?" Master Roshi said, oogling Chi-Chi's rear end as she bent over a small hot plate in the corner.

"What in the world are you guys doing here, anyway?" Yamcha asked as he gently dried off Pu'ar's fur. "I didn't even know you had a plane."

"It was a gift from Bulma, years ago, though Father's hardly ever used it," Chi-Chi said, pouring water for the tea. "With the children and Goku-san gone for the day, I was visiting Father when those ... those ..." Thinking about the spiders, she squeezed a teacup so hard that it exploded in her hand.

"Our castle is fairly impervious to these creatures," Gyu-mao explained. "My daughter and I have been rescuing villagers and taking them inside. When we'd made sure the surrounding towns were safe, we went looking for Son Goku and the grandkids. There was no one at Chi-Chi's house, and when we went by Capsule Corp., the only people there were Bulma's parents. They said Bulma and the boys were out looking for survivors."

"So we came down here, hoping we'd run into Bulma with my little Goten," Chi-Chi said. "Or that Gohan or Goku-san would be with you." Tears filled her eyes. "Poor Gohan, out there all alone. I told you we didn't have time to waste, Daddy."

"And as I told you, I'm sure Son Goku and Gohan are fine. Probably out saving the world even as we speak. And Goten's safe with Bulma."

"Safe! What's that woman doing, taking my son with her? She should have left him at Capsule Corp. -- he'd be much safer there. And where is Goku, anyway?"

"That's a good question, actually," Kuririn said. "You guys haven't seen him, huh?"

"The last time I saw him, he was going out to spar with Vegeta this morning," Chi-Chi said, making the tea with sharp, choppy motions of her hands. Everyone was watching carefully to make sure that, in her agitated state, she didn't accidentally pour diesel into it or something equally dangerous.

Yamcha looked up from ministering to Pu'ar. "Well, like the Ox King said ... if I know Goku, he's probably out kicking some spider butts even as we speak."

******

Several stories in the air above Capsule Corp., Kinto'un hovered while its passengers stared down at the spiders swarming all over the building and tried to formulate a plan for getting in.

"There might not be anyone home," Goku said. This part of the city had been evacuated, which was why the spiders were freely overrunning it.

Vegeta shook his head. "If I know that Onna of mine, she'll be in her lab. I don't think an army of spiders could pry her out. And even if she's gone, her idiot parents will be there; those fools didn't even leave when Buu was destroying the planet. And they should know where everyone else went."

"So all we have to do is get in --"

Goku's musings were interrupted by a cry from below. "Hey, you dumb spiders, come and get me! Nyaaaahhhh!"

The three looked down, startled, to see a young boy running across the lawn with at least ten spiders chasing him.

"Oh, no!" Goku gasped. "Kinto'un, quick!"

"GAH!" Kaiobito yelled, almost losing his grip on Goku as the cloud plunged towards the ground. Vegeta hung on grimly in silence. Goku reached out and grabbed the boy by the collar, swooping back into the air. Kinto'un rose rather sluggishly; the cloud's abilities were being taxed to the limits with three adult passengers and one child.

"Hey!" the boy screamed, struggling in Goku's grasp. "You stupid jerk! They're getting away! What are you trying to do --" He trailed off, staring at Goku and Vegeta in wide-eyed amazement. "Dad?" he said. "Papa?"

"Gotenks?" Vegeta said in disbelief.

"You're fused!" Goku exclaimed. "How'd you do it, son?"

Gotenks shrugged. "I dunno. I just tried and it worked. Now let me go. I'm trying to catch a spider for Mom."

"Why does Chi-Chi want a spider?"

"I think he means Bulma, Kakarrot." Vegeta turned his attention on Gotenks. "Is Bulma here, boy?"

"Yep, Mom's here, but Mother's not. Big brother's here too. Now let me go!"

Goku and Vegeta both had to sort that out for a second or two. "Gohan!" Goku cried happily. "... but not Chi-Chi."

"Grandma told me that she was here for a few minutes, but she left again to find us, so I dunno where she is now."

"Tell me, son," Vegeta said, getting Gotenks's attention. "You said you were catching a spider. Can you fight them, in this form?"

"Yeah!" the boy enthused, punching the air cheerfully. "I kick 'em and they just knock right down."

"Hey, Vegeta --"

"Shut up, Kakarrot."

"Vegeta, if they can fuse, maybe --"

"I said shut up, Kakarrot."

"Come on, Dad, put me down," Gotenks whined. "I almost had one before you came along and messed everything up."

"Oh, right," Goku laughed. "Can you fly?"

"No," Gotenks said, wincing from remembered pain.

"We'll set you down, then. Kinto'un --"

Kaiobito looked down at the seething mass of spiders below them. "You're not actually going to send your son into that?"

"Why not?" Goku said. "They'll be all right, and I'll be there to pick them up if anything happens."

He descended and dropped the boy into a spider-free spot on the Briefs' front lawn. The two Saiyajins and the god watched in amazement as Gotenks waded fearlessly into the mass of spiders. A skirmish ensued, and when the dust settled, Gotenks was carrying a de-limbed spider body under his arm like a football, with several disembodied legs clutched in his other hand.

"Dad! Papa!" he yelled up at the observers, dodging a striking spider. "Pick me up and drop me on the roof, couldja?"

"That's my boy!" Goku said proudly, descending with the cloud.

"... not JUST yours," Vegeta snapped.

They airlifted Gotenks to the landing pad on the roof, where he cleared off the spiders so they could land. "Hey, Dad, Papa, why aren't you fighting?"

"Because we ca--" Goku began.

"Stuff a sock in it, Kakarrot. Because you were doing well enough on your own, so we thought we'd give you the pleasure of finishing."

"Oh!" Gotenks said happily. He opened the door for them.

"Vegeta, that's ... " Goku said.

"Lying through his teeth," Kaiobito mumbled.

They entered Capsule Corp., and Gotenks led them to the lab. "Hey, Mom! I got your spider! And I found Papa and Dad, too!"

"You did what?" Bulma turned around from her worktable, and her face lit up like a ray of sunshine when she saw the two Saiyajins. "Vegeta! Son-kun!"

"Onna," Vegeta said by way of greeting.

"What happened? Are you hurt?" Bulma hurried over to them, looking at their ragged, bloodstained clothes.

"We were. We've been to see Karin, and we got senzu." Goku touched the small brown bag at his belt.

"Oh, that's wonderful! Gohan can use those."

"Gohan? Is he hurt?"

"Yes, he is ... but he'll be all right now. He'll be so glad to see you; he's been very worried about you. He's back there with Videl and Piccolo. Trun -- Gotenks, please show Son-kun where Gohan is."

As Goku hurried past her, Bulma strode up to Vegeta. "And as for you ... where have you been and why didn't you call to let me know you were all right?"

"I've been a bit busy, woman."

She looked down at his destroyed clothes. "I can see that. You need a shower, too. Say, Son-kun said you'd been to Karin's; does that mean you two can still fly?"

Vegeta shook his head, his mouth set in a hard line. "We have no ability to use our ki. I assume it's the same elsewhere."

Bulma nodded. "Gohan, Videl, and Piccolo all have the same problem. Trunks and Goten can use it a little bit when they're fused, but not much. So how did you get to Karin's Tower?"

Vegeta angled his head at the person standing behind him. Bulma looked curiously around him. "Say, you're ... I remember seeing you at the tournament. Son-kun and Vegeta have told me about you. You're God, right?"

Kaiobito grinned sheepishly. "Most people are a little more intimidated."

"I've already met the Kami-sama of Earth years ago -- and Lord Enma, and several others whose names I forget, while I was dead." Bulma smiled and held out her hand. "Would you like to come in and sit down? I can't really offer you anything ... I don't even know if you eat."

"Hey, what about me?" Vegeta demanded. "Your mate?"

"Keep your pants on, your highness. No, on second thought, go take them off and take a shower. Kaio-sama, if you could please excuse me for just a minute?"

She ran quickly to Vegeta and put her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I'm very glad you're all right," she whispered.

"Let go, woman. You're embarrassing me." Vegeta touched his forehead lightly against hers -- aware that physical gestures of affection pleased her, despite how mortally humiliating he found them, he'd been making an effort ever since losing her to Majin Buu -- and then headed off to the lab's bathroom.

"I'll have Gotenks go get you some clean clothes!" Bulma called after him.

Before stopping into the bathroom, Vegeta took a quick look into the medical room. Gohan was sitting on the edge of his bed, flexing his newly healed body, while Goku tried to convince a ragged, bandaged Videl to take a senzu.

Videl shook her head. "No, save it, please. You may need it while you're fighting, and there's little I can do to help even when I'm healthy."

Goku smiled at her and firmly shoved the seed into her hand. "Take it. I can see that you're hurt. Your pain isn't any less important than ours."

"I shouldn't ..." Videl protested, wavering.

"Go ahead."

She smiled back at him and swallowed it.

"You shouldn't have done that, Kakarrot. We may need that," Vegeta growled, but so softly that neither of them could hear him. He had seen that the girl was in pain, too. Stupid Kakarrot and his stupid softness, infecting me.

But now they had only two senzu beans, and a spaceship the size of a city floating overhead, biding its time until some unknown signal -- and they were all still powerless against whatever might come out of it.





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Dragonball and Dragonball Z, all characters and situations are (c) Akira Toriyama.