Ki-Blind: Chapter Thirteen
The armored car rumbled on through the corridors of the strange ship. Bulma had turned the driving over to Yamcha, and she had taken out a few of the car's standard sensors (such as its speedometer) and was curled up in the passenger seat, tinkering.
"What are you building?" Pikurin asked her.
Bulma glanced up. "Something to tell us if the air is breathable or not, so we can take off these helmets."
"Say, Pikurin," Gogeta said. "Are you a he, a she or an it, anyhow?"
Pikurin gave him a frosty glance. "That's for me to know and you to never find out."
"Aha!" Bulma sat upright. "Yamcha, stop the car so I can get a good reading."
Yamcha did so, and Bulma leaned out of the vehicle for a moment. "Hmm. It looks like the air is a bit thin here, but acceptable for Earth-type life. Or Namekian life. I think it's safe to take off your helmets -- but you should probably keep the suits on, just in case."
They unbuckled their helmets with sighs of relief. Yamcha put the car back in gear, but braked to a halt when they encountered another corridor meeting theirs in a four-way intersection. "Which way?"
Gogeta was the current keeper of Bulma's cobbled-together ki detector. He looked down at it. "Uh, left. No, more like ... straight ahead ... no, more like left ... Bulma, this thing's hard to read, you know. Couldn't you build it a little better, woman?"
"Oh, please. Let me see that." Bulma leaned back over the seat. "Oh, you two aren't as dense as I thought. The ki source off to our left and ahead of us, so you're both right, Vegeta, Son-kun."
"I'm goin' left," Yamcha decided, and turned the car.
In the backseat, the boys were piled onto Kaiobito's lap. Trunks twitched in his sleep and knocked Goten off onto the floor. Both boys woke with a start. "Ow," Goten whined.
"Hey!" Gogeta turned to the kids. "How are you guys?"
"Uh ... confused," Trunks said, sitting up. "Where are we? What happened?"
"You almost died," Pikurin said shortly, and then smiled at them more warmly. "Are you all right? You worried us."
"GAH!" the boys shrieked, recoiling. "What's that?" Trunks demanded, while Goten tried to hide behind him, shoving Kaiobito against the window; it was hard enough fitting that many people in the backseat without two of them being squirming young boys. "Is it an alien?"
"Oh, that's just Pikurin. He's a fusion," Gogeta explained.
"A fusion of what, a deformed freak and a cabbage? Oh ... hold on ..." Trunks leaned forward, staring at Pikurin, who glared back. "Wait ... I kinda remember this, sorta vaguely, from when me'n'Goten were fused ..."
Goten leaned out from behind his best friend, staring wide-eyed. "Hello, weird freaky green alien person."
"Hello yourself ... brat."
"AAAAH!" The cry from Yamcha came at the same time as he yanked the car's controls, pressing the crowded backseat passengers against one side of the car and almost tossing Bulma into his lap.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"Yeah, watch it up there," Kaiobito muttered, trying to extricate Goten's foot from his ear.
"Spiders," Yamcha said succinctly.
"Oh dear," Pikurin said. "I mean, crap. I mean -- WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Uh ... sorry. Didn't mean to let that slip out. There's got to be some way ... I'll distract them while the rest of you escape ..."
Everyone was staring at him/it, except for Yamcha who was fortunately concentrating on driving the car. "Wow, you're pretty schitzo, aren't ya?" Gogeta said.
Pikurin grabbed him by the collar. "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD IT IS TO BE ME? Can you even imagine the conflicting drives that are pushing me in different directions, Son? I think not," he finished, pushing Gogeta away.
"You'd be surprised," Gogeta muttered, looking out the window. "Oh, it's the big ones again!" he cried enthusiastically, seeing the spiders.
"Oh yes, it's the big ones," Yamcha grumbled, putting the car through a series of evasive maneuvers.
"Guns, guns, where are the guns ..." Bulma sorted through her capsule case.
"I'll take care of them," Gogeta said, starting to stand up in the swaying car.
Kaiobito seized his arm. "No you will not or you will die, Goku-san, Vegeta-san!"
Pikurin stared out the window at the spiders. "I think they're more ... following us than actively chasing us. Maybe these ones aren't hostile. And maybe pigs will fly," he muttered to himself. "Oh rats ... I wonder if I just described myself ...?"
An energy beam speared past them, melting a hole in the corridor, which Yamcha veered around.
"... or not," Pikurin murmured.
"Great, just great," Bulma snapped as she hunted through her capsule case. "No wonder they're not trying to catch us -- they're just going to fry us --"
The car tore around a corner which unexpectedly ended, not in a dead end but in ... empty air. They soared over the edge into a vast shaft. The car seemed to hang suspended for a moment, then fell.
"Who designed this place, an IDIOT?" Bulma shrieked. "How can they build a spaceship and not invent warning signs?" She scrambled for her capsules, which had been knocked out of her hand and rolled into her lap and under the seat. "Dammit! I know I have a plane here somewhere!"
Gogeta kicked open one of the doors. The wind of their fall whipped his black hair around his face. "We have to fly -- there's no choice!"
"Papa, we can't," Trunks protested. "Me an' Goten, we tried when we were fused."
"There's no choice!" Gogeta yelled at the boy. In his fused voice, Goku and Vegeta sounded in perfect agreement. He held out his arms to the kids. "Come on. I'll take you."
The boys hesitated, then as one, they ran forward and jumped onto the man who represented their fused fathers, trusting him utterly.
"NO --" Kaiobito began.
Gogeta, with the boys clinging to his body, reached out and grabbed hold of Bulma. He turned and reached out his hand to Pikurin. "Here, hold onto me and we'll --"
Then the wind sucked him out of the door and he was gone.
"AAARGH!" Pikurin kicked out the other door. "Kaiobito ... Yamcha ... take my hands. Maybe if we pool our ki we can actually manage to fly."
They did so, knowing without speaking that they had only one chance to survive. They were falling so fast that if they hit along with the car, they would be killed immediately.
As one, the three warriors flung themselves from the falling vehicle -- and realized that they did not, in fact, have enough ki to fly. They were still falling. The dark wall of the shaft whipped by them.
Yamcha began to scream at the Namekian fusion, the wind tearing the words from his mouth. "Pu -- Oolon -- Pikurin, transform into something that can fly!"
Pikurin tried to gather his/its fractured thoughts, tried to gather from those parts of it that had been Pu'ar and Oolong the secret of shape-change. Suddenly Yamcha was clinging to a big green kite with antennae. Kaiobito tumbled off with a shriek, then used his (currently limited) teleportation ability to teleport back on.
Pikurin immediately discovered the problem with the shape he'd chosen. "I can't steer!"
The kite spun around, doing several accidental backflips as its unbalanced load caused it to tumble.
"Land somewhere!" Kaiobito yelled, trying to keep from falling off. First the cloud, and now this, he thought grimly. I really, really hate not being able to fly.
"That would be great if I could -- OOOMPH!" The kite had smacked into the wall of the shaft. "Ugh ..." it mumbled, knocked semiconscious.
"Uh ... what's down there?" Yamcha asked, pointing below them, where a glow was becoming evident at the bottom of the shaft. The falling car had already vanished into it. They were still falling towards it, but much more slowly, as the dazed kite looped back and forth.
"I suppose it's possible that the ship has some kind of reactor core, and we're falling into it," Kaiobito suggested helpfully.
"AAAAAUUUGH!" Yamcha grabbed a double handful of kite. "STOP FALLING DAMMIT!"
The kite smacked into another wall, nearly dislodging its passengers. This time it knocked itself out completely -- and disintegrated. Suddenly they were falling at full speed again -- this time with an unconscious Piccolo, Kuririn, Oolong and Pu'ar.
Yamcha grabbed hold of Kuririn and Pu'ar, while Kaiobito got his hands on Piccolo's cape and Oolong's ears. Not that it matters, Yamcha thought. We'll all be dead in a few seconds anyway --
Then he and his unconscious burdens all landed on something. The impact knocked the wind out of Yamcha, but whatever he'd hit wasn't hard. It was soft. And squirming.
"Get off me, you're heavy!" it gasped. "And help me catch the others!"
Yamcha realized that he was nose-to-nose with green antennae. He pulled his head back in disbelief.
Then they were all flattened again as Kaiobito, with Piccolo and Oolong, teleported on top of them. They were all on Mr. Popo's flying carpet -- or rather, doing a credible "ten clowns stuffed into a Volkswagen Beetle" impression on top of the flying carpet.
"Can this thing support our weight?" Yamcha gasped.
"The gravity's lighter here. I think it helps." They flew past several openings in the side of the shaft. Dende steered the carpet into one of the openings, and settled with an overburdened thud onto the metal floor.
"I saw you guys fall," Dende said as they spilled off onto the floor, gasping or laughing with relief. "I've been chasing you for a good minute and a half."
"Dende, what in the galaxy are you doing here?" Kaiobito asked him.
Dende blushed darker green. "When we saw the spaceship from my Lookout, we assumed that it was the source of all the problems. I took Mr. Popo's carpet to see if there was anything I could do."
"By yourself?" Yamcha asked in disbelief.
The young Namekian looked down at his hands. "Well, I am the guardian of Earth. I had to do something to help. All I ended up doing, though, was flying around in here, hiding from the machines. I have managed to explore a bit, though."
"The ki source!" Kaiobito said suddenly.
"We sensed two sources of ki on the ship. One of them must have been yours, probably the weaker of the two." He concentrated. "Because I can still feel the other one, very faintly."
"You should've come down to get help on Earth, Dende," Yamcha said. "What did you think you could do by yourself?"
"I don't know," Dende admitted. "But I stopped by Karin's Tower on my way here, to make sure everything was okay, and he told me that, like me, all the fighters on Earth have lost their ki. I didn't know how much help it would be to bring others along. All I could do was take them into danger with me, and I hardly have any healing ability right now."
"Speaking of healing ..." Kaiobito knelt beside Piccolo and laid his hands lightly on the Namekian. After a moment he said, "I don't think any of them are seriously injured, or depleted in ki like the children. They're just stunned from hitting the wall. The Potara transformation, and therefore the fusion, must have broken when they passed out. Most shapechangers change back to their natural form when they're unconscious."
"Well, at least it's not permanent," Yamcha said.
"We should try to wake them up, because it's not safe to stay here," Dende said. "Actually ... there's something I've found that you must see. I think I know what the other ki source that you mentioned is. I'll take you there, when we've got everyone awake."
"You chased them into the reactor shaft? Are you completely defective? What part of take them alive don't you understand?"
There was a sizzle of frying electrical components as the spiders' circuits were forcibly burned out. They fell to the floor, twitching.
"All right. Full sensor alert -- if there were survivors, I want them found. I don't care about the others; kill them if you like; but don't forget how impossibly fragile flesh-beings are -- you'd better make sure the Gifted One stays alive, or you'll be recycled just like that defective bunch."
"You've already put the smaller units into Phase Two, I noticed," said a different voice.
"I though it would be a good idea. This planet has too many strong fighters, even without being able to use their worthless life-energy. It's best to finish cleansing that world and move on."
When the wind sucked Gogeta, Bulma and the boys out of the car, Gogeta made a quick, desperate effort to reach down inside himself and draw out all the ki that he possibly could. It worked; he was able to manage a short, inexpert flight into one of the various tunnels opening into the shaft. He dropped Bulma and the kids gently to the floor and sank to his knees, gasping.
"Vegeta, Son-kun, are you all right?" Bulma cried worriedly, putting her hands on both sides of his face.
Gogeta nodded. "Just ... need to get my breath back."
Bulma frowned at him, then crept to the lip of the tunnel mouth. This particular tunnel was round and appeared to be some sort of outflow or ventilation shaft, though it was, fortunately, dry at the moment. Peering down the shaft, she could make out a faint glow far below. There was no sign of anyone else.
"Yamcha ... Kuririn ..." she whispered, tears welling in her eyes.
"Hey ... Mom? Where is everybody?" Trunks asked, as the boys approached on either side of her.
Bulma wiped at her eyes with her hand. "I don't know, Trunks-kun."
Gogeta leaned over her. "I can feel ki down there. I can't pinpoint it well enough to tell if everybody made it, though." He closed his eyes briefly. "I just wasn't fast enough."
"It's not your fault." Bulma drew a deep, shaky breath, and looked up at him. "Now what do we do? Try to rendezvous with them?"
Gogeta gestured at the tunnel around them. "We'd better find a way out of here first. I don't think I should fly any more unless I absolutely have to."
Bulma checked her watch. "Still about ten minutes until we should unfuse you." Then she put her hand over her mouth. "Oh no -- Kaiobito! We can't do it without him."
"I'm sure we'll find a way," Gogeta told her, but his cheerfulness was somewhat subdued due to concern for his friends (or Goku's friends, at any rate).
Bulma glared at him, then sighed, and her shoulders drooped. "It's kind of ironic. We thought fusion would solve our problems, but now all we can think about is undoing it."
They began to walk along the tunnel. Its curving sides made walking difficult, and it also sloped slightly upward. The boys were having a blast, sliding around and pushing each other, until Bulma separated them and forced them to keep one hand in contact with the walls at all times. She had nightmarish visions of them all sliding back down and shooting out of the tunnel into the shaft.
But this did not happen, and after climbing for several minutes, their tunnel joined up with a bigger one. This one had a flat bottom and curved gently out of sight in both directions.
Bulma looked at Gogeta. He shrugged. She looked down at the boys, who looked back up at her. With an annoyed sigh, Bulma turned right and led the way down the tunnel.
After walking for a time, Gogeta suddenly froze and put out a hand to stop Bulma. "Wha--" she began but he hushed her. He pointed back down the tunnel behind them, and put a finger to his lips.
"Something's coming?" Bulma whispered. He nodded. Now she heard the clinking and clanking of some kind of machine. The tunnel continued to curve, so they could not see what was coming.
"We'll fight it!" Trunks cried, his shrill young voice joined by an enthusiastic "Yeah!" from Goten.
"Shush!" Bulma hushed them frantically.
They looked around for a place to hide, but there was none. A moment later, about a dozen spiders scuttled around the corner, accompanied by a swarm of hovering robots like the ones Bulma had pointed out as monitoring devices back at the ZX-72. These spiders were yet another variety -- rather than being leggy with small bodies, like the daddy-long-legs shape of the spiders on Earth, they were squat with thick legs and wide bodies.
"Chhhh ..." Gogeta muttered and pointed at the first spider, firing a small ki-blast. It disintegrated. The others halted in shock, then scuttled briefly around in circles, not unlike real insects confused by the sudden appearance of an enemy.
"You're not supposed to be doing that!" Bulma snapped, looking around for some sort of weapon.
"Goten! Let's fuse!" Trunks yelled at the other boy, who nodded. "FU --"
Bulma stepped between them, flinging them apart. "Ow!" she yelled, receiving a jolt like a small electric shock. "Absolutely not! Trunks, if I catch you fusing with ANYBODY, I'll ground you until you're 95! Goten, I'll make sure your mother does too!"
Gogeta, meanwhile, was taking out one spider after another. A piercing headache lanced through his temples and he fell to one knee, but kept firing.
"Stop it, you fool!" Bulma yelled at him, seizing him by the shoulders.
Gogeta lowered his hands and the surviving spiders scuttled hastily out of sight, leaving the smoking remnants of six or seven of their number.
"Idiot!" Bulma snapped, shaking him.
"Ouch," Gogeta muttered, raising one hand to his forehead. "You're making my head hurt, Bulma."
"You're making your head hurt, you stupid Saiyajin. Are you in a big hurry to die?" Bulma spun on the boys. "Goten! Trunks!"
They shrank back. "Trunks, your mom is scary when she's mad," Goten whimpered.
"Yeah," Trunks mumbled. "I know. She's even scarier than Papa."
"Help me," Bulma ordered, and she hurried over to the scattered spider parts and began picking them up.
"What are you doing?" Gogeta asked, getting up with some difficulty.
"I refuse to let you kill yourself protecting me when I am perfectly capable of protecting myself," Bulma snapped, sorting through debris. "I may not be able to fight Cell, or Buu, but all it takes to kill these guys is a well-placed gunshot."
"You're going to build a gun?"
"I don't know what exactly I'm going to build. Whatever I have the parts for. In the meantime, the legs make good weapons."
"That they do," Gogeta murmured, wincing slightly from Goku's recollection of how much damage the sharp legs could do.
Bulma handed a leg to each of the boys. "Coooool," Trunks said, swinging it around experimentally like a sword.
"You had better only use that in self-defense, young man."
"Bulma!" Gogeta yelled as a spider appeared cautiously around the bend and ki-blasted it, causing himself to fall back to one knee.
"I said stop it!" Bulma yelled at him, but she hastily scurried back to him with an armload of electrical components.
"I guess we need to find a place where you can work on that," Gogeta said, looking over his shoulder. No more spiders came around the bend, though several of the sensor-bots hovered in the air above the smoking wreckage.
They followed the passageway, glancing backwards nervously. Bulma could hear the occasional clatter of spider feet on metal. They were being followed, but at a cautious distance.
The tunnel ended suddenly at a metal door, resembling an airlock. It had a straightforward wheel-type handle. "The layout of this ship makes no sense," Bulma grumbled as Gogeta opened the door. "It's like it wasn't designed but just sort of built itself. What was the point of that shaft? What was the point of any of the tunnels we just -- oh."
Her voice trailed off into a small squeak. The door opened onto another tunnel -- a tunnel full of spiders.
After her initial panic, Bulma realized that it wasn't actually FULL of spiders -- there had been another patrol on the other side of the door, about the size of the one Gogeta had just demolished. All the spiders lunged at the door. Gogeta hastily tried to close it, but they wedged their bodies in the way, their legs scrabbling at him.
"Vegeta!" Bulma yelled, pointing the other way. The rest of the spiders were charging around the bend en masse. And there were more of them: they appeared to have augmented their numbers.
Gogeta grinned and flexed his fists. "All right! You bugs want a fight? Let's fight!"
He leaped into the air, using his ki-augmented strength and speed to smash one after another. Bulma retreated against the wall behind the door, swinging a spider leg like a club. Gogeta defended them easily at first, but as he began to deplete his energy, the spiders started swarming over him. "All right, this is ridiculous," he muttered, and powered up with a scream of rage, frying the spiders' electrical circuits and sending them crashing into the walls. Gasping, he dropped to his knees, a light sheen of sweat on his skin.
"Vegeta! Son-kun!" Bulma started towards Gogeta, when suddenly more spiders surged through the half-open door. "Damn it!" she screamed. "There's too many of them!"
The two little boys leaped to her defense, knocking back spiders by swinging their captured spider-legs. These new spiders were a mix of the same kind they'd been fighting before, and a new kind with heavy pincers on the front, like lobsters. One of them picked up Bulma by clamping its pincers around her waist, hard enough to bruise but not hard enough to break the skin. "Hey! Hey! HEY!" Bulma shrieked, beating it repeatedly over the head.
Gogeta came out of his daze when he heard Bulma's screams and jumped into the air, ki blazing around his body. He hurtled down on top of the spider's body and smashed it into the ground. Bulma dropped to her feet, breathing hard, then cried out a warning that came too late, as another of the pincer variety clamped onto Gogeta from behind and lifted him into the air. Gogeta twisted desperately, his arms pinned at his sides, then he cried out in pain as the spider used the pincers to deliver a powerful electric shock.
"HAAAAA!!!" Trunks and Goten yelled together, jumping on top of that spider. They didn't do much damage, but they did cause it to drop Gogeta, who tumbled free only to get whacked across the back by a blow from another spider -- sending him flying straight onto the upraised legs of one of the dead spider carcasses.
Bulma froze. So did the boys. Gogeta's momentum had impaled him on the spider's sharp legs. He managed to pull himself free, then fell to the floor in a pool of blood.
"Dad!" "Papa!" The boys ran to him. So did Bulma. The spiders closed around them, but didn't attack. Bulma was far too agitated at the moment to notice or wonder about it. She dropped to her knees beside Gogeta.
"Senzu beans! Do you still have senzu beans?" she demanded.
Gogeta opened and closed his mouth, trying to talk, but his lungs had been pierced and he couldn't form sounds. Blood bubbled from his mouth and nose. He's dying ... Bulma thought in terror. She found the familiar brown pouch tied at his waist and shook out the two remaining senzu beans with hands that trembled so much she almost dropped them.
Gogeta's body arced in a shuddering spasm. Suddenly, blue light flared around him, and he separated in a flash into Goku and Vegeta. Bulma didn't have time to wonder about that, either -- both of them were still as badly injured as Gogeta had been, and drowning in their own blood.
"Help me hold them!" she shouted at the boys, who had been cowering with the terror that all young children experience when their parents, supposedly the invincible pillars of their world, are rendered sick and helpless. Urged on by Bulma's voice, they fearfully approached Goku (the nearest of the two) and gripped his shoulders, holding him while Bulma forced his clenched jaws apart and thrust a senzu bean onto his tongue; then the three of them did the same to Vegeta. The trembling convulsions ceased almost immediately. Bulma kept Vegeta's head in her lap, smoothing his sweat-damp hair back from his forehead. The boys clung to her anxiously.
"I wonder why they separated?" Bulma said aloud.
"Ki ..." Goku murmured.
Bulma looked over at him, a smile breaking across her face. "Son-kun!"
Goku rolled over, trying to raise his head, wiping the blood from his mouth with a shaking hand. "Ki ... surges when a person is near death. It's the body's last effort to keep from dying. That's why ... that's why sacrifices are so common in magical rituals. It ... it's also wh-why Saiyajin become stronger after they've been near death. It forces the body to break through its own barriers."
"How do you know all that?" Bulma asked, laughing in relief.
"I know a lot about ki." He grinned at her and laid his head down on his arm.
"Daddy!" Goten cried, running to fling his arms around his father's neck.
"Ouch ... hi there, Goten. It's okay."
Vegeta was stirring in Bulma's lap. She leaned over her husband, her blue hair falling in his face. "Vegeta?"
"Quit clinging to me, woman," the prince mumbled. "What?" His eyes flew open. "Fusion ... the fusion ended."
"Thanks for stating the obvious." Bulma laughed and hugged him, then went to check on Goku.
" 'mokay," Goku mumbled, trying to get up and falling back down.
"No you're not," Bulma said, then felt something clamp onto her waist. "Gah!"
She had completely forgotten about the spiders. Now one of them held her up in its pincers. No matter how she tried to struggle, her feet were too high to touch the ground, and she couldn't reach its body with her fists. She tried to pry off the pincers, but she might as well have beaten her hands against stone.
Looking around, Bulma saw that other spiders were holding Trunks and Goten, both of them struggling so violently that they were like a couple of little blurs. Goku and Vegeta, who were too weak to struggle, had also been picked up.
The pressure of the pincers on her waist was uncomfortable, but not painful. Now she realized something that should have been obvious from the beginning. They haven't been trying to kill us this time. Bulma thought back on the fight. Gogeta had only been injured because he'd accidentally become impaled on a dead spider. The rest of the time, the spiders just seemed to be trying to corner them or pick them up.
"Trunks? Goten?" she called, her voice shaking slightly. "Are you kids okay?"
Goten had stopped trying to escape and dangled in the spider's grasp, looking very frightened and young. "Uh-huh," he nodded.
Trunks was still trying to punch and kick the spider holding him.
"I don't think they mean us any harm," Bulma said. "I think they're just trying to capture us."
The spiders had started to move, trundling along, carrying their prisoners. Bulma swallowed hard, trying to quell the panic rising inside her. They were completely out of senzu beans, and the only two strong fighters in their group were too weak to fight. She had no idea where her other friends were, or even if they had all survived the fall down the shaft. All in all, she thought, it looks like we can forget about saving the world; all we can hope for at this point is to save ourselves.