Ki-Blind: Chapter Eleven

As the ZX-72 capsule ship flew away from the roof of Capsule Corp., the nighttime panorama of the city spread out beneath them. Normally, the city would be a glittering wonderland of lights, but during this catastrophe, it was almost completely dark. Here and there, small explosions blossomed in the great blackness. Bulma's eyes were drawn to an ominous glow on the horizon ... on top of everything else, it looked as if the fighting was causing forest fires in the outlying areas.

"I hope we're not making a mistake," Bulma said softly, speaking for the first time since leaving.

She was flying the plane, with Yamcha beside her as a co-pilot. Vegeta was not very happy about this state of affairs, but he was confident enough of his mate's loyalties that he hadn't been obvious about it. He was in the back with the others. The plane lacked seats aside from the two in front; it had been designed as a creative exercise, not a consumer aircraft, so it was utterly lacking in amenities. The exterior was matte black, the interior unpainted gray metal. The group of would-be world saviors, undaunted, had all found places to stand or sit.

Vegeta was leaning against the plane's side, arms folded as usual. Goku was sitting cross-legged near his knees; Piccolo was meditating on the floor; Kaiobito leaned over Bulma's shoulder, watching the screens; Kuririn was standing at a window, looking back towards the dwindling lights of Capsule Corp and his family; Pu'ar hovered above Yamcha's head; Oolong was in a corner by himself, sulking and grumbling; and Gotenks was sitting against a wall, hands folded quietly in his lap, watching the adults and waiting for something to happen. Normally he would have been right in the middle of things, but he was sleepy ... no, not sleepy exactly, just very tired. His eyelids felt heavy, and he was also cold, the way somebody gets cold when they haven't had enough sleep in a long time. He rubbed his arms with his hands, trying to warm up. His head hurt, too.

"What do you mean?" Yamcha asked Bulma.

"It's just such a huge job." Bulma sighed, and pressed her fingers against her eyes; they ached already from doing so much close-up work in the last few hours, and she knew that the night had just begun. "I mean, we have most of the powerful people up here. I can't help wondering how they're going to do down there."

"They'll do all right. Gohan was the one who defeated Cell, remember?" Yamcha reminded her. "And keep in mind: the power structure of the world is different right now. #18 is probably a better fighter at the moment than any of the Saiyajin or half-breeds. Remember, I saw her fight the spiders. She did very well."

Bulma smiled faintly. "I guess we're in more danger than they are. It's just hard not to worry, with my parents and so many of my friends down there ..." She trailed off, and looked over her shoulder. "And I can't help worrying about Trunks, too. And Goten, of course. It can't be a good sign that the kids haven't unfused."

"What do you mean?" Yamcha asked, following her gaze to the boy sitting against the wall. Gotenks's eyes were closed; he appeared to be either asleep or meditating.

"It just worries me. I mean, I can't see how it could possibly be harmful, but there's just so many things we don't know about fusion."

"Fusion has never hurt anyone, as far as I know," Yamcha tried to reassure her.

"I know. Maybe I'm just being a worry-wart mom." Bulma sighed, and returned her eyes to the screens. Musing internally, she realized that most of her worries about the others were just a way of redirecting her real concern: that the group of them were going to get blown out of the sky as soon as they got close to the alien ship. She and Yamcha were up front because they were the two best pilots in the group; Vegeta was also good, but he was not as familiar with piloting Earth-style ships as the two of them, and also out of practice because he customarily flew under his own power. So if anyone in the group could evade enemy fire, it was Bulma and Yamcha, but Bulma knew that they really didn't have much of a chance if the enemy ship got a good lock on them. They would have to depend more on the untested shielding around the ZX-72.

"There it is," Pu'ar whispered in a serious tone she rarely used.

The great dark bulk of the ship loomed on their sensors -- a black mass against the stars. They were flying mostly blind, unable to use most of the plane's sensors because almost everything except the visuals relied upon transmitting sonic or radio pulses, and they did not dare risk being detected. As a result, they had no idea how far away the ship was, but Bulma could see from the altimeter that they were flying very high, and so she estimated, from looking at the mountains under the ship, that they still had about an hour until they would start getting close enough to have to worry about the ship's defenses.

Slowly the distance closed. As they approached, a red haze began to swim into focus around the underbelly of the ship.

Yamcha let out a low whistle when he realized what it was. "Wow, look at that."

Spiders. Hundreds, thousands, millions, all clustered around the ship's underbelly. As they flew closer and closer, they could see small red sparks flutter down from the red glow towards the planet below -- platoons of spiders heading downwards to join their companions on Earth. From this distance, the groups (each consisting of dozens or hundreds of spiders) appeared as single individuals.

"How can there be so many of them?" Bulma asked in frustration.

"I don't know," Yamcha said. "But I do know one thing. We'd better not try to go through them."

Bulma nodded. "You're right. This plane may be undetectable to the ship -- at least, we're gambling on it -- but the spiders will be able to see us, and then the gig will be up. We'll have to try to go in from above. There are no spiders up there."

"Possibly meaning that there's no way in from up there, either," Kaiobito murmured.

"We don't have any choice," Bulma said. She pulled the plane into a steep climb. They were very high now, and the atmosphere was thin, but the ship was fully pressurized and designed to operate all the way up to outer space if necessary.

Bulma looked over her shoulder. "Hey, guys! We're getting close."

Goku woke from the light doze into which he'd fallen, and looked up at Vegeta. "Hey, Vegeta, we'd better try our fusion soon."

"Why?" Vegeta said, looking down.

Goku shrugged. "That way, we'll know ahead of time if something is going to go wrong. If we end up in a less powerful state, we can take the ship in a whatchamacallit, a holding pattern or something, and wait for the fusion to wear off so we won't be at a disadvantage when we attack."

"But if the fusion works, then it'll wear off as soon as we get inside if we do it now, Kakarrot," Vegeta snapped. "Give it a few more minutes."

Goku grinned. "But you still think my idea is a good one; you just want to do it your way. Okay, we can do that."

Vegeta gritted his teeth.

In a corner in the back, Oolong muttered to himself, "I can't believe I'm doing this, I can't believe I'm doing this ... even naked women are not worth this ... I can see plenty of naked women in pictures, but not if I'm dead ..."

Kaiobito came over to the group in the back of the plane. "Bulma says we have about twenty minutes left before we'll be ready to start looking for a place to land."

Piccolo opened one eye. "We appear to still be alive."

Kaiobito nodded, a smile breaking over his face. "The ship has not fired on us. The plane's shields seem to work."

Kuririn laughed aloud and punched the air. "All right! Score another one for the Briefs clan. Now if we can just get in ..."

Goku reached over to shake at Gotenks' shoulder. "Hey, Gotenks. We're almost there. Wake up."

Gotenks squinted at him. "Huh?"

"Wake up," Goku repeated, grinning at him. "You get to do your thing soon."

Gotenks grinned, opening both his eyes. "All right." He sat up, rubbing at his eyes. If only he wasn't so tired ... His headache had not been improved by his nap, and it pounded at his temples until he thought it might tear his head apart. He looked up to see Goku giving him a worried look.

"Are you all right?" Goku asked him, frowning.

If I tell them I don't feel good, they'll make me go home and I won't be able to see the inside of the ship. "Yeah, I'm still waking up, I guess," he said, yawning.

Goku smiled, accepting the explanation. "I guess it is the middle of the night." Patting the boy on the shoulder, he stood up in the trembling plane. "I wish we could fuse more of us," he mused. "If it really increases our power as much as it does for Gotenks and Kaiobito ..." Suddenly his voice faded away and his head snapped up.

Vegeta looked over at him. "Hey, Kakarrot, what's the matter with you?"

"Fusion," Goku mumbled, staring at Kaiobito, who took a step back. Then he turned to look at the shapeshifters. "Hey, Oolong, Pu'ar!"

Pu'ar rotated in the air, and Oolong raised a bleak face.

"Can you guys turn into Potara earrings?" Goku asked.

There was a long, stunned silence. Finally Vegeta spoke.

"Kakarrot," he said slowly, giving Goku a long appraising look. "Sometimes you are not nearly as much of an idiot as you appear."

"I'm not sure, Goku-san," Pu'ar said worriedly. "It's very difficult to change into something you've never seen."

"You're quite mad," Oolong said more bluntly.

"I'll describe them to you," Goku said eagerly. "And describe all their properties. When you guys change shape, you can do everything that your new shape can do, right? If you're a machine, you can drive. If you're a pair of scissors, you can cut things. Bulma, do you have a piece of paper?"

"In the glove box," Bulma said. Yamcha looked, since Bulma could not take her attention away from driving. He found a pad of graph paper and a pencil, and passed it back to Goku, who began to sketch a crude Potara earring. Pu'ar floated close, and Oolong was propelled over by a helpful shove from Piccolo.

"Keep in mind that our mass stays the same," Pu'ar said. "We will be very, very heavy earrings."

Goku shrugged. "That shouldn't matter. As long as you can do everything that a normal Potara earring can do."

"Since no one has asked the important question yet, I will obviously have to do it," Oolong snapped. "Will this hurt US?"

"Fusion doesn't have any effect on the earrings themselves at all," Goku said.

"Unless I crush them, of course," Vegeta said, grinning at Oolong.

Oolong made a tiny, stifled squeak of terror.

Goku glared at Vegeta. "Stop that." He added to Oolong, "There should be no danger at all, right Bulma?"

"Why are you asking me?!" Bulma demanded.

"You're a genius," Goku said, wide-eyed.

Bulma heaved a sigh. "Not that I can see, though I think this is sort of a stupid idea."

"There's absolutely no way I --" Oolong began.

"Remember the bargain," Bulma said to him.

Oolong's eyes widened lustfully. Vegeta growled.

Pu'ar turned to Yamcha. "Yamcha-sama, what should I do?"

"Don't do anything if you don't feel right about it," Yamcha told her. "Your welfare is important too. You know more about your abilities than we do. If you think it might work ... then do what you think is best."

Pu'ar drew a deep breath, and then she transformed.

An apparently perfect Potara earring hovered in the air.

"Yes!" Goku cried happily. He looked at Oolong.

"Oh, leave me alone," the pig grumbled. He concentrated. There was a small flash, and then a very dense Potara earring thudded to the floor.

Goku picked up Oolong. "Wonderful! I can't believe it worked."

"Half of it worked," said the hovering Pu'ar earring. "We still haven't tried to see if we actually can fuse people. And we'd better hurry, or Oolong will change back."

"This just leaves one ... rather obvious question," Vegeta said, looking around the interior of the ship. "Who's going to wear them?"

"We need the people with the highest ki," Goku said. "That's what's important in fusion. Physical strength doesn't matter than much, though it helps. Keep in mind, the people who first demonstrated the fusion technique to me were just little weak guys, but fused together, they became very strong."

Everyone on the plane glanced around at each other. Kaiobito and Gotenks were already fused, and Goku and Vegeta were capable of non-assisted fusion, which caused everyone's eyes to slowly settle on two people.

Piccolo and Kuririn cast sideways glances at each other, and their expressions changed to an identical look of horror. They backed away from each other.

"Not possible."

"No way!"

"The only other option is to fuse with Bulma," Goku said.

"HEY!" Bulma yelled. "Forget it!"

"... and that's pointless, since the whole idea here is to enhance your ability to use ki ..."

"Yeah, what he said -- hey, wait a minute!" Bulma snapped.

"... or Yamcha."

"He's still not a good option," Vegeta said shortly. "Not strong enough in ki."

"We could turn around, go back and get Gohan," Kuririn babbled nervously. "He and Piccolo would be a great match, heh heh, right Piccolo?"

"We'd never find Gohan without the ki detector," Bulma said. "We can't afford to waste what time we have looking around for him. If Daddy's machine doesn't work, the Earth will be a wasteland soon."

"Well ..." Kuririn said slowly, eyeing Piccolo. "I guess I could deal with it."

"Potara fusion is PERMANENT," Piccolo reminded him.

"... oh, I forgot about that ..."

"We don't know how this kind of fusion will work," Goku said. "It could only last a few minutes. All we can do is try."

Kuririn took a deep breath and, closing his eyes, he held out his hand towards Pu'ar, who floated towards his fingers. "I'll do it."

"I don't think this is a good idea," Piccolo said through clenched fangs.

Kuririn opened his eyes. "Oh, come on," he snapped. "You've already got an army in your head. You'd hardly notice me."

"Yeah, you're small enough," Oolong snickered. "Heh heh heh ... *ow*" as Goku reproachfully tapped him with a fingertip.

"Look who's talking," Yamcha said.

"Kami, Nail and I hardly qualify as an 'army'," Piccolo retorted to Kuririn. His eyes widened. "That's right ... I am already a fusion. I've become so accustomed to it that I hardly think about it anymore." He narrowed his eyes and glanced at Goku. "Why hasn't it enhanced my power?"

"It probably has," Goku said. "Just not very much. Remember what I told you when I demonstrated the fusion dance for you? Namekian fusion is different from the other kinds. It's much less powerful. However, it means that you probably do have more ki than anyone else here, besides Gotenks and Kaiobito. You won't do the earring fusion, huh?" He thought a moment, and then looked at Yamcha. "I guess it'll be you and Kuririn, then--"

Piccolo held out a hand, stopping him. He took a long, deep, slow breath, and shut his eyes. "I'll ... do it. As you said, Son ... the more ki, the better it'll work."

Yamcha winced. Bulma patted his leg comfortingly. He looked over at her. "I don't even know why I'm here," he said softly to her. "Everyone else is more powerful than me. Well, besides you. Ouch!" The pat had turned into a pinch.

Kaiobito spoke up. "If it's better with more ki, then perhaps Piccolo and I should be the ones to do it?"

"Maybe ..." Goku said. He was somewhat out of his depth -- he was excellent at spot strategy, but having to weigh all these options made his head hurt. He was grateful, then, when Vegeta spoke up from his spot leaned against the wall.

"You're already a Potara fusion -- what happens when you do more than one?"

"Hm." Kaiobito looked at him, thinking. "I have no idea. My ancestor would know, but I didn't even know about Potara fusion until he demonstrated it ... on me."

Vegeta glanced over, appearing slightly bored by the whole thing. "Well, I can think of three possibilities. It might break the fusion you'd already have, so you wouldn't be much better off. It might add onto it ... which I suppose is what you're hoping for. Or, it might simply not work at all."

"Break the fusion ... I hadn't thought of that," the god said.

"We know that it can happen," Vegeta said, not looking at Goku. "We don't know exactly what causes it to happen, though."

"Would that be a possibility with Piccolo?" Kaiobito asked, and looked at the Namekian. "You said that you were fused. Do you think it might separate you?"

Piccolo snorted. "I don't know too much about Potara fusion, but I do know that what you suggest doesn't apply to me. Our fusion is an inherent property of the Namek-sei-jin race. It's a physical merging -- akin to our ability to regenerate our limbs. We could undo it voluntarily, if we so chose, but I cannot see the possibility of any external force managing to break it. Especially with Kami and myself, as we are one being, reunited."

"That might be what makes it different from the other kinds of fusion we know about," Goku offered.

"Hey ... have we decided anything yet?" Kuririn asked plaintively.

"Better decide quick, because I'm going to be changing back any minute now," Oolong muttered.

"And we're getting close to the ship," Bulma put in. "Now would be the time to try any experimental fusions, while we can still turn around if something goes drastically wrong."

Kuririn glared at her. "Thanks. That makes me feel very safe, Bulma-san."

"It seems obvious that, given all the possibilities, Kuririn and I are the best candidates," Piccolo said, his eyes fixed on the opposite wall. "Assuming we attempt this insanity at all."

"Thank you, Piccolo." Goku smiled and handed him the Oolong earring. Piccolo fastened it to his ear, wincing as Oolong's weight dragged downwards.

"This is so humiliating," the former pig whined.

"Shut up!" Piccolo snapped at him. "Do you think this is easy for me?"

Kuririn hesitated, the Pu'ar earring in his hand. "Do you really think this is going to work, Goku?"

"I don't know," Goku admitted. "The more powerful fighters we have, the better our chances, though."

"Well ... if something does go wrong ... take care of Marron for me, will you?" Kuririn smiled at his friend, who didn't know what to say, and then fastened Pu'ar to his ear.

For a moment, nothing happened; then the bodies of the two, one human and one Namekian, were flung together as if by a hurricane. Goku, Vegeta and Kaiobito (the only ones of those watching who had seen or experienced Potara fusion) looked on in interest while the others stared in shock.

Slowly the blaze of blue light faded. A new being stood before them. It was green-skinned and medium height, and it sported green antennae rising above a shock of black hair. It also had furry blue ears and a small pig tail. And was not wearing earrings.

While the Potara fusion had worked, and much better than anyone had expected, it was all too obvious just exactly HOW it had worked.

"PU'AR!" Yamcha cried in horror.

"Heh." Goku rubbed his head. "I wasn't expecting that."

The new fused being (which Goku had immediately dubbed Pikurin-Pulong in his head) looked down curiously at its hands, which had blue fur on the backs of them. "This ... actually isn't bad," Pikurin said in surpise in a mingled voice.

Vegeta chuckled grimly. "Yeah ... so you say NOW. Wait until you split up again. You'll want to scrub your brain out with soap." He looked pleased to finally have someone to commiserate with.

Goku gave him a slightly hurt look. "Being fused with me isn't that bad, is it?"

"Words are not adequate, Kakarrot ..."

Bulma was staring at Pikurin in mingled amazement and disbelief. "Can you transform into other shapes, I wonder?" she asked.

"I ... don't know." Pikurin concentrated and suddenly became a very large sword with green antennae. It changed back almost immediately.

"You can!" Goku exclaimed in delight.

Pikurin was breathing hard. "That's difficult, but I think I could get the hang of it."

"I want Pu'ar back," Yamcha mumbled.

"I'm sure we can find a way to reverse it, once we need to," Kaiobito offered reassuringly, though not entirely convincingly.

Pikurin held out a hand, palm up, and summoned a small ball of ki. "The fusion does appear to have worked as we wanted. I'm definitely much stronger now than I was before."

"That's good, I guess," Bulma mumbled, eyeing the fused being out of the corner of her eyes.

Goku pushed away from the wall. "Well, Vegeta, we shouldn't wait any longer. Let's fuse."

Vegeta gritted his teeth. "Do we have to do it in front of everyone?"

"There's nowhere else to go," Goku said, waving his hand at the open cargo area of the plane.

"You'd better do it soon," Bulma called. "We're very close."

"Look away, woman," Vegeta gritted.

Bulma smirked. "Hey, I've never seen anybody but the kids do the fusion dance before. This'll be interesting." She looked down at Gotenks, who had leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes again. "Hey, Trunks, Goten, don't you want to watch your fathers fuse?"

"Sure," the boy mumbled, yawning. To be honest, he didn't really care. He was very, very cold, and his fingers and toes felt weird -- numb and tingly.

"Come on, Vegeta." Goku took up the starting fusion stance. Vegeta sighed and crossed to the other side of the plane.

"I'll get you for this, Kakarrot. Somehow."

"FU --"


The fusion dance did manage to temporarily distract Yamcha from staring at Pikurin in continued shock and horror. Bulma was trying to stifle her laughter and keep an eye on the plane's screens at the same time.


The familiar flash came, and when it cleared, Gogeta stood in the open space in the middle of the plane's cabin, grinning at them.

"Fascinating ..." Pikurin murmured.

Bulma's laughter died and she found that she could only stare, searching the face of the stranger for the features of her husband and her closest friend, finding them both. Gogeta's grin grew wider, almost a smirk. "Do you like what you see?" he asked.

"I ... I, uh ..." Actually she didn't. The problem was that she was very attracted to Vegeta (obviously) but not at all to Son Goku -- she loved him dearly, but she'd known him since he was a small child; it would be like getting the hots for Goten. Now her hormones were very, very confused. "I think I need a cold shower."

"Bulma! The controls!" Yamcha yelled suddenly, reaching for the joystick in front of him.

"Oh, crap!" Between the two of them, they straightened out the plane. They had almost flown directly into the ship.

Everyone except Gotenks crowded around behind Bulma's chair, looking at her screens. The scarred metal surface of the ship unfolded beneath them. It did not look planned, but more like something that had grown piece by piece, with new additions being constructed onto the old ones until the original design of the ship was completely lost beneath spires and domes, tubes and boxlike structures. It looked very, very old. In places, it appeared to have been seared and blackened by laser fire or the heat of passing stars or comets. In other places, it looked as if it had been damaged and crumpled by collisions.

"Now the big question is ... where should we land?" Bulma murmured.

Yamcha looked over his shoulder at the boy dozing against the wall, trying very hard to avoid looking at Pikurin in the process. "Hey, Gotenks! Don't you want to come up here and see the ship?"

There was no response.

"Out like a light again," Gogeta said, and went to wake up the boy.

"Maybe we should have let him take a nap before coming up here," Bulma said. "He is just a little boy, after all."

Gogeta was kneeling by Gotenks now, and an expression of worry crossed his face. "Gotenks?" He shook the boy, very gently at first, and then harder.

"What's wrong? Can't you wake him up?" Pikurin asked.

"No." Gogeta's shaking became almost frantic. "And ... my ki-sense has improved a lot since I fused, but ... I can't feel his ki at all!"

Dislodged by Gogeta's efforts, Gotenks toppled slowly sideways and fell onto the floor.

"Yamcha, take the controls!" Bulma gasped, abandoning her seat to run into the back of the plane. "Trunks -- Trunks!"

Gogeta picked up Gotenks in his arms and laid his head down against the boy's chest. When he looked up at the others, he looked almost frightened. "I can barely hear a heartbeat. They're so cold ... I don't understand it at all."

"Trunks ..." Bulma gasped, gripping Gotenks's shoulder. "Trunks, it's Mommy. Please ... Trunks ..."

Kaiobito had been staring at the comatose fused boy. Suddenly he shouted, "We have to unfuse them! We have to unfuse them now!"

Everyone looked up at him in shock. "What? Why?" Gogeta asked.

"There's only one explanation I can think of," Kaiobito said, breathing rapidly in his agitation. "Under normal circumstances, it's nearly impossible to deplete your own ki to the point where it becomes life-threatening. It's like trying to kill yourself by holding your breath. Your body's self-defense mechanisms kick in; you pass out, or become so weak you can't draw on your ki anymore. But in our current low-energy condition, the fusion must allow us to tap into ki reserves that we wouldn't normally be able to touch." He looked at Gogeta, saw the dawning horror in the man's eyes. "You know what I'm talking about. You did it ... I mean, a part of you did, Vegeta did, during the fight with Buu. You burned up your life energy and turned yourself into a fireball. That's similar to what the boys are doing now. Normally as soon as they got too weak, the ki drain would stop, unless they made a monumental effort of will to keep it going. But the fusion requires a small amount of energy to continue. Like water trickling through a hole in a dam, it will keep drawing that energy, even after everything else is used up. Normally it wouldn't be a problem; they'd have energy to spare. But now ..."

He trailed off as tears began to fill Bulma's eyes.

"Trunks!" she screamed, shaking him. "Why -- why don't they unfuse? If it's killing them, why don't they unfuse?"

"They must not be able to," Gogeta breathed. "It takes a certain amount of energy to break the fusion. They must have gone below that threshold." His hands, holding the boy's small, fragile body, had begun to tremble slightly.

"We have to separate them, now!" Kaiobito cried. "Or the fusion will keep draining the small amount of energy they have left."

"But how?" Pikurin protested. "The fusion separates normally when the thirty minutes is up. How else could we do it?"

"They should have already separated," Gogeta said, talking rapidly, thinking out loud. "Maybe if we just raise their energy level to the point where it's possible, it'll happen naturally."

"Senzu beans!" Pikurin said.

Gogeta frowned. "No, the senzu beans still can heal injuries, but with the ki-suppressing effect, they don't seem to have their usual energy-boosting properties. I don't think they'll work."

"At least try!" Bulma cried, tears spilling from her eyes. Gotenks's face was very pale, and his breathing had become labored.

Gogeta reached for the pouch at his waist. "You're right. We don't have a choice."

"Wait!" Kaiobito held up a hand. "I used to be able to heal, and most of healing is just transfering and directing energy. Maybe I can use the same ability to transfer some of my energy to them."

He took the small body from Gogeta's arms and knelt on the floor, holding the boy gently. The others watched anxiously as Kaiobito bent his white head over the child, eyes closed, face tranquil in concentration. A soft blue glow began to form around him.

"Don't kill yourself too," Gogeta said.

Kaiobito smiled slightly, but did not open his eyes. The blue glow that suffused him flowed down his arms, like water, and pooled on the child's chest and face.

"Wait!" Bulma exclaimed, her eyes widening in sudden fear. "If they're going to unfuse when their energy reaches the level where they can do it, won't that use up all the energy they have left? Won't it kill them?"

"Shh," Kaiobito murmured. "Let me concentrate. I'm going to try to keep that from happening."

"I can help you, give you some of my energy too," Gogeta began, reaching towards Kaiobito's shoulder.

"No!" Kaiobito still did not open his eyes, but the urgency in his voice stopped Gogeta in mid-movement. "You're going to be in enough trouble soon yourself."

Bulma turned her wide-eyed, horrified look on her husband and friend. "Vegeta, Goku ... oh, no ..."

They had no more time to ponder this, for suddenly the plane tilted and flung them all off their feet. Gogeta caught Kaiobito, breaking his fall; the god still held Gotenks's body firmly, and the blue glow still surrounded him as he fought to save the child's life, not even allowing his own danger to break his concentration.

"Yamcha, what's going on?" Bulma demanded.

Yamcha looked over his shoulder, his hands white-knuckled on the controls. "Sorry, guys! We're being attacked by a spider patrol. There are too many places for them to hide with all the damn towers and junk on the outside of this ship. I didn't even see them until they flew up right in front of us."

The ship tilted again, and they all felt the THUNK! as something struck the hull.

"What -- are they just throwing themselves at our plane? That's nuts!" Bulma cried.

"Yeah, they are, but these ... they're different from the ones on the ground," Yamcha gasped, pulling the plane into a sudden steep climb.

"Different how?" Bulma demanded, clinging to the side of the plane to keep from being thrown off her feet.

"Bigger," Yamcha said grimly.

"How much bigger?"

He cast a quick, frightened glance at her. "Each of them is as big as this plane. And there are six of th--"

THUNK! This time the bulkhead behind Bulma bowed inward. She shrieked and stumbled forward.

"If any of them pierces the hull, we're going to die!" Yamcha yelled. "We'll decompress! We're not so high that there's NO atmosphere, but the pressure will still --"

"Well, don't let that happen!" Bulma screamed, fumbling around in the back. "I know I have space suits in here somewhere! Avoid them, Yamcha! Veg -- I mean, Gogeta, how's Trunks?"

"I don't know --" Gogeta began, when suddenly there was a flash of light and Kaiobito was holding not one boy, but two. The god gritted his teeth, concentrating on keeping the energy flowing into the boys' bodies. The plane twisted and jolted and turned onto its side as Yamcha rolled it to avoid another spider strike, and Gogeta lost his grip on Kaiobito as Kaiobito lost his grip on the unconscious boys. Along with Pikurin, they all tumbled against the side of the plane.

"Trunks! Goten!" Gogeta gathered them up in his arms.

Kaiobito was picking himself up, dazed. "How are they?" he asked, rubbing his head.

A grin broke across Gogeta's face. "Their ki is still very low, but they're warm, and breathing. Thank you."

Kaiobito answered the smile with one of his own. "At least I could help."

"Are you in danger?" Gogeta asked him.

Kaiobito shook his head. "No, I don't think so. Potara fusion must work differently. Since it's permanent, it doesn't require a constant energy drain, so even if I did deplete myself too far, I'd just pass out." He frowned. "You, on the other hand, are going to be in the same state as the boys soon."

"He's right," Bulma gasped, struggling towards them with a handful of capsules as the plane bucked and tossed. "You have to unfuse now!"

"I can't," Gogeta protested. "Not until the thirty minutes is up. It's simply not possible until then. Even under normal circumstances, you just have to wait it out."

"Guys!" Yamcha yelled over his shoulder. "We can't keep this up -- these guys are as fast as the plane! I'm going to take us down! Hang on!"

Bulma handed a capsule to Pikurin and Kaiobito, and three to Gogeta. "Space suits! Put them on!"

She opened her own capsule, which popped into a space suit, and struggled into it.

"Bulma, hurry it up back there!" There was a trace of panic in Yamcha's voice. "These guys are gonna destroy us!" The plane rolled again, hampering Gogeta's efforts (aided by Pikurin) to get the boys into their space suits.

There was a horrendous screech of metal, and suddenly the plane went into a spin. "Shit! SHIT!" Yamcha yelled. "They got one of our wings! I can't control this thing -- we're going to have to land now. We --"

Whatever else he was going to say was cut off as the plane slammed into the hull of the spaceship. It was a Capsule product, and that meant well-made and built to last; also, its considerable momentum turned it into a steel bullet penetrating the skin of the much larger craft. They slammed through layers of bulkheads and burst out into a wide corridor, still hurtling at a tremendous speed. Yamcha tried to fire the retro-rockets to slow them down, but none of the controls responded. They tore through or bounced off a few more walls, losing speed each time, and finally skidded to a stop.

There was a short silence and then Kaiobito said, "Is everyone all right?"

Murmurs of assent followed. Pikurin had shielded Bulma, while Gogeta protected the boys, and Yamcha was strapped into his seat harness -- which he was now frantically unbuckling.

"We have to get out of here now!" he shouted to the others, drawing his sword. "Those spiders will be right behind us, and I'm not kidding when I tell you they're huge!"

"Put a spacesuit on," Bulma said, throwing him a capsule. He hastily complied, buckling his sword belt on over the suit.

The door of the ship would not open, but Gogeta braced himself and forced it back, peeling the metal like the skin of a fruit. He jumped down and turned to help Bulma, who was carrying Trunks, and then Kaiobito with Goten. Pikurin and Yamcha followed.

The small group stood looking around them. They were in a huge utility corridor of some kind, at least 50 feet from floor to ceiling, with bundles of wires and cables strung along the inside of it. A path of devastation marked the way their plane had come in.

"I can't believe we survived that," Bulma breathed. "You did good work, Daddy. I hope I get a chance to tell you ..."

The sudden clang of metal-on-metal echoed down the corridor.

"They're comin'," Yamcha said, gripping his sword.

Through one of the holes that their ship had punched in the corridor, the first spider appeared. Of them all, only Yamcha had had a chance so far to see the big variety, and he was as frozen as the rest of them, for it was one thing to see them on the plane's sensor screens but quite another to have one standing not 200 yards away. Then a second appeared behind the first, and a third. They were built on the same plan as the little spiders, but more heavily constructed, with what appeared to be armor shielding their bodies and their much thicker legs. Each spider's body, with its single glowing red eye, hung about 15 feet off the ground, supported by its four massive legs.

Gogeta crouched and held his hands to the side of his body. "Big Bang Ka ... me ..."

"Don't!" Kaiobito protested. "That's your life you're using up! The more energy you burn, the quicker you'll die!"

Gogeta ignored him. ".. ha ... me ... HAAAAA!!!"

The beam of light speared from his gloved hands, much weaker than either a usual Big Bang or Kamehameha, but still powerful, and exploded against the spiders. When the smoke cleared, all that was left was bits and pieces of spider legs and bodies.

"Yes!" Bulma cheered, then looked worriedly at Gogeta, but he seemed fine.

Kaiobito turned on Gogeta. "Don't do that again! Don't you understand? You'll kill yourself."

Gogeta looked down at the god. "What good will it do me to save my life energy if we all get killed by something else first?"

"Don't argue. We don't have time," Bulma protested, cradling Trunks's small, spacesuit-clad body.

"You're right. I --" Gogeta broke off, and cocked his head to one side.

"What is it?"

"I don't know. I just felt ... a ki source on the ship."

"What? Where?" Bulma spun around.

"Do any of you feel anything?" Gogeta asked Kaiobito and Pikurin.

The god shook his head, then hesitated. "Wait, I ... did feel something just then, I think."

"You're right," Pikurin said. "There's something alive on the ship. But our ki sense is still so weak ... I can't pinpoint it, or pin it down."

Gogeta concentrated, then shook his head in frustration. "Damn it. I just lost it again."

"I should have brought the ki radar," Bulma said, then her eyes widened. "Oh, I'm being stupid! I'll just make another one. Yamcha, take Trunks."

"Hey, wait," Yamcha protested as she shoved the unconscious boy into his arms. "Do we have time?"

"It'll hardly take a minute, if I can find something to work with." She vanished into the crippled Capsule ship, while the others waited nervously in the corridor, looking around them.

"Something's gonna show up to investigate that crash site," Gogeta said. "We oughta get out of here."

"Say ... what's that?" Kaiobito pointed towards the ceiling with his free hand.

Everyone crouched at his words, and looked up.

"I don't see anything," Pikurin said.

"I saw something move up there."

"Wait ... he's right!" Yamcha cried. "I just saw something fly across the opening in the wall. It's small. No, wait, there's more than one!"

Now that they were looking intently, they all could see what he was talking about. A dozen or so ovoid shapes, each about a foot long, were darting around above them. None appeared to have any appendages of any sort, and they didn't come close to the Z-fighters, but merely hovered and zipped about in the air.

"You know what those look like ..." Kaiobito murmured.

"Monitoring devices of some kind," Bulma said behind them.

She was kneeling in the doorway of the ZX-72 with her hands full of electrical components. After glancing up to see what they were talking about, she'd gone back to her work.

"You think something's watching us?" Gogeta said.

"Something or someone." Bulma continued working as she spoke. "Those are definitely monitors; I can't think what else they could possibly be, since they don't have any visible weapons."

"Then they know we're here, and we'd better get out of here," Pikurin said.

"C'mon, just a minute. Okay, here." Bulma held up a scanner from the ship, with loops of wire dangling from it. "It's not pretty and we'll have to use these wires to tune it, but it's definitely picking up some sort of ki."

"Can you tell what kind of ki?" Gogeta asked her.

Bulma shook her head. "No. It's not that sensitive. All I can tell is that there's one ... no, wait. Two separate ki's in different parts of the ship. One is very strong. That must be the one you felt. The other is so weak I can hardly pick it up."

"How far away?"

"I can't tell exactly. I can only tell what direction they're in. The weak ki might only be reading that way because it's very far away or behind a lot of shielding."

"Come on, guys, let's move it," Yamcha said, staring up at the circling monitors overhead, or whatever they were. More had joined the first bunch, and it was impossible to count them now.

Bulma pulled out another capsule and tossed it as it expanded into a large armored car. When the others looked at her, she said, "What? Did you think we were going to explore a twenty-mile-long spaceship on foot? You don't have to be a genius to see what a bad idea that would be."

Gogeta tried capsulizing the ZX-72, but that mechanism, along with almost everything else, had been broken in the crash. "I guess we have to leave it here. We'll have to find another way to get out of this ship."

Yamcha and Kaiobito laid the sleeping boys down carefully in the back of the car, and Bulma took the driver's seat and turned to Gogeta. "Well, you're the expert, I suppose. Which way do we go?"

He didn't hesitate, but pointed. "That way."

"What's that way?" Bulma put the car in gear.

"It just feels right." He gave her a goofy, Son Goku grin. Bulma winced.

"Two Saiyajin egos, but only one brain," she sighed. "Well, my radar says that the weaker ki source is more-or-less in that direction, so we may as well go that way. At least we can find out who or what it is."

The car drove off.

Overhead, the cloud of machines split up, with several following the car while the rest hovered around the ZX-72, scanning it up and down and transmitting information. Bulma had been correct about their function. And in a different part of the ship, the information was sifted and catalogued, and a voice began to laugh softly.

"Well, well. What an amazing thing, that one with the Gift should chance to come here, and at this particular time too. This is very interesting. We will have to be careful."

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