Ki-Blind: Chapter Fifteen






When we last saw Gohan, Videl and co., they were about to give the spider-deactivator its first field test. The remnants of the local military are pinned down by a mass of spiders, and Gohan told Videl to dive straight into the melee.




"Look!" Videl screamed, so excited that she almost lost control of the plane. "Look at them!"

The effects of the deactivator on the spiders were stunning. As the plane containing Videl, Gohan and Chi-Chi swept over the seething mass of metal bodies, a ripple traveled behind them -- a ripple composed of deactivated spiders, toppling over and curling up their legs while the rest scrambled in confusion over their comrades.

"Dr. Briefs, are you getting this data?" Gohan asked breathlessly. He was leaning from the plane's open door with the deactivator, while Chi-Chi steadied him. They had built it with the simplest possible control: nothing more than a trigger, not unlike a child's water pistol. An assortment of knobs at the top allowed finer tuning, but it didn't seem to be necessary. The frequency they'd programmed into the machine in the lab seemed to be working -- it was really working!

"Loud and clear, Gohan," Dr. Briefs' cheerful voice said over the plane's radio. "The data from the deactivator is feeding back into the lab's computers. I've started stripping down every mechanical object I can find that has any sort of broadcasting capabilities."

Gohan laughed in spite of himself. "Bulma-san is going to kill you when she sees what you've done to all her mechanical devices!"

"If I must die, it's for a good cause," Dr. Briefs said nobly, and then he laughed, and so did Gohan. After all the stress of this impossibly long, difficult day, the feeling that they might be nearing a resolution was making them silly with relief.

"Gohan, look out!" Videl shouted, pointing over her shoulder. Spiders were launching themselves from the ground en masse, attacking the plane.

Gohan pointed the deactivator at them and those at the forefront seized up and plummeted to the ground. The spiders were massed so thickly that the bodies of the ones in front protected those behind, but as they fell, the next wave toppled, and then the next.

Chi-Chi laughed and released Gohan to clap her hands in joy, the years falling away from her; she looked like a teenage girl in her excitement. "Mom!" Gohan shrieked, almost falling out of the plane's open door.

"Gohan-chan!" She regained her grip on him. Even while he was in danger of falling, however, Gohan had not stopped squeezing the device's trigger. The ground beneath them was strewn with spider corpses. Suddenly a burst of golden light bloomed in the midst of the spiders and several burnt carcasses spiraled down to the ground, trailing smoke.

"What--?" Then Gohan saw one of the soldiers crouching with a rocket launcher. At first when the plane swooped out of the sky, the survivors of the military had just stood in astonishment, too battle-weary to figure out if they were being attacked from a new angle or not. Now, however, they'd caught on that the plane was helping them out, and they were doing their part to help defend their mysterious saviors. "Thank you!" Gohan shouted, waving.

Several more passes with the plane, combined with the efforts of the soldiers on the ground, left the battlefield nearly still. Here and there, a surviving spider struggled up over the giant mounds of dead spiders, but the soldiers picked these off easily.

"Okay, Videl, take it down," Gohan said, but she was already doing that. They landed in the middle of the thickest concentration of soldiers, and now Videl took charge, because she'd been around police and military personnel ever since she was a small girl. She leapt down from the plane's open door, a lithe dark-haired girl looking deceptively fragile in the dim, ruddy light. Most of the illumination came from the fire -- it was far too close for comfort, not more than a half-mile away. Ash drifted into Gohan's hair and sparks stung his face as he helped Chi-Chi down onto the ground.

"Who's in charge here?" Videl called across the battlefield.

A tall man in torn fatigues, his face stained dark with smoke and dirt, turned toward her and straightened up; he had been crouched beside a wounded soldier, propping the man's head on a rolled-up jacket. Recognizing her, he snapped a salute. "Miss Videl! I've never had the pleasure of meeting you, ma'am."

"Oh, don't bother with formalities," Videl said. "You're in charge--" She read the insignia on his shoulder. "--Sergeant?"

Stepping away from Chi-Chi, Gohan kicked nervously at a dead spider. Their experiments in the lab had indicated that the deactivator was a universal kill-switch and the spiders could not be reactivated from a distance, but he didn't want 4000 of them coming back to life behind his back.

"Yes, ma'am," the sergeant was saying to Videl. "We've had a lot of casualties, and almost all the officers ..." He swallowed. "They choose good men in this army, ma'am -- our officers aren't the type to stay behind while the enlisted men take all the risks."

"I can see that." Videl looked around, as Gohan and Chi-Chi joined her. A wind whipped around them -- the fire was sucking all the oxygen out of the air, producing a vacuum, and surrounding air masses rushed to fill it. "You'd better evacuate," Videl told the soldier.

"We're already doing it, ma'am. Some of the men are so badly hurt that we're having to work slow." He looked curiously at the device in Gohan's hands. "If you don't mind my asking, ma'am, I assume you folks helped us out just now?"

"That's right," Videl said.

A nearby explosion drew their attention -- one of the soldiers had just blasted another spider. "There will be more of them here soon," Gohan said. He held out the deactivator. "Here, take this. All you do is pull the trigger and it'll broadcast a signal that will shut down any spider within range. Use it to cover your men while you retreat."

The soldier took the weapon, handling it as if it was made of eggshell. "Don't you need it, sir?"

Gohan winced at the "sir." He'd never enjoyed authority. "We can make more. Now that you guys are safe for the moment, we're going to go back and do exactly that. You just get out of here and find a place to hole up and treat your wounded."

"If any of your men are in really bad shape, we can take them in our plane," Videl offered.

A quick examination of the wounded determined that no one was in serious danger, and most of them were already loaded in Jeeps and other vehicles, ready to move out. "We'd better go," Gohan said softly to Videl.

The sergeant tested the deactivator on another spider that had crawled out from under a pile of the dead ones. It worked like a charm -- the creature keeled over, and the soldier smiled at Videl. "Thank you, ma'am. It's an honor to finally meet you."

"Oh, it's an honor for me to work with brave men like yourselves," Videl said. She wasn't really any fonder of fame than Gohan, but she'd had a lot more experience at dealing with it. Her smooth facade faltered for a moment, however, as she remembered one of her reasons for coming out here tonight. "By the way ... do you happen to know where my father is?"

The soldier's eyes sparkled. "Mister Satan? Is he fighting the spiders? We're saved!"

"Yes, he's fighting the spiders." It's not really a lie, Videl thought; I'm sure wherever he is, Dad is doing ... something. He wouldn't just sit by.

"Videl ..." Gohan urged, looking up nervously at the approaching wall of flame. It was so close that they could hear explosions as trees were consumed instantaneously in showers of sparks.

They scrambled hastily into the plane, waving goodbye to the soldiers, and took to the air. Videl shuddered at the extent of the blaze. It had spread visibly since they'd been on the ground.

"The wind is pushing it right towards the city," Gohan said softly. "Even if we can manage to take care of the spiders, there's no way we can deal with that without ki. We'd better start preparing to evacuate Capsule Corp."

"How long do you think we have?" Videl asked, turning the plane towards the city. Chi-Chi stood behind her chair, watching the screens, pale-faced and silent.

Gohan looked at her, his face strained. "Depends on whether the wind changes. If it keeps coming that fast ... not more than half an hour."

"Half an hour?" Videl repeated in horror. "But that's no time to do anything, and you just gave away our only working model of that gun! What can you do without the lab equipment? How will you make more?"

"The modifications we need to make aren't that difficult. If we can just find a safe place to work on them, we should be able to turn out lots more of the deactivators."

"What about that place where we went that one time?" Chi-Chi asked.

Gohan and Videl turned to look at her. "Um ... can you be a little more specific, Mom?" Gohan asked politely.

"You know what I'm talking about," Chi-Chi said impatiently. "Don't play dumb with your mother, Gohan! That floating palace or whatever it is, where we went to escape from that pink monster."

"Oh -- Kami's Lookout! You know, that is a good idea." Gohan rubbed his hair, unconsciously reflecting his father's gesture as he pondered. "It'll be completely safe from fire, and we can rig up defenses to keep the spiders out, assuming they can fly that high."

"That's what we'll do then," Videl said, gripping the controls. "We'll load up everybody in a couple of planes, and all the equipment that we can take."

Gohan nodded, his mind still working furiously. It was going to be a tremendous struggle getting Dr. Briefs out of the lab. If the Buu situation was any indication, the scientist would probably want to stay in his lab until the end -- but they needed his expertise elsewhere.

Of all his enhanced abilities gained through his Mystic training, one that Gohan had not acquired was the ability to sense the future. And it was probably just as well that he couldn't ... for he remained in blissful ignorance, unaware that what was about to happen in a few minutes would make the question he was pondering entirely moot.

******

For a long moment, Tenshinhan could only stand and stare up at the boy standing at the top of the ladder. #17 broke the contact, turning away, turning his back on them. Something moved at his side: a lean black hound, looking down over the side with a lack of expression that mirrored its owners. Juunanagou has a DOG? Tenshinhan thought, with that part of his brain still capable of feeling surprise.

"Um ... excuse me?" Lunch called. "Excuse me, please, sir? Can you help us? We have an injured man down here."

#17 turned and looked over his shoulder, down at the soaked, exhausted threesome huddled on the dock. "Is that right?" he said, cocking an eyebrow.

No, Lunch, don't call attention to us! Maybe he'll just go away and leave us alone ... But #17 had turned back and was studying them again, hands on his hips. "I remember you," he said finally.

Oh, no. "And I remember you," Tenshinhan said guardedly.

"Hmmm." #17 continued to stand inhumanly still, moving not a muscle, his head cocked on one side. Finally he said, "Tell me something, human. Do you know anything about this strangeness with the metal monsters? Have you noticed disruptions in your ki lately?"

"We can talk about that," Tenshinhan said, keeping his voice level. He glanced down at Chaotzu, who lay on the dock, unmoving and with a grayish tinge to his white face. "But first, my friend needs warmth and medical care, or he'll die."

"Whether or not he dies is no concern of mine," #17 said, crouching at the edge of the rockface. The dog put its head on his knee, and he absently rubbed its ears. "But I'm curious, you know. And I would venture to guess that you're considerably less powerful than I am right now ... so I have nothing to fear from you. Isn't that right?"

Tenshinhan didn't answer. He could feel sweat roll down his face, warm on his cold skin.

#17 straightened up in a quick, fluid gesture, and waved a hand casually as he turned his back on them again. "Well, come on up."

Tenshinhan looked at Lunch, who looked back at him, wide-eyed. She was no help at all in this form, but her blond form would be infinitely worse -- subtle negotiations were not, to put it mildly, blond Lunch's forte. Instead of speaking, he offered her a supportive smile and then bent to put Chaotzu over his shoulder.

They climbed up the metal ladder. It was about 15 feet to the top of the ledge. Tenshinhan pulled himself up one-armed and then turned to help Lunch over the edge. When he turned back around, #17 was standing about ten feet away, the dog at his side, waiting for them. The dog didn't growl at them, but neither did it wag its tail. In some ways, Tenshinhan mused, the animal was creepier than its owner. He wondered if the dog was a cyborg too.

"Well, come on," #17 said impatiently, and turned away.

Erosion, possibly helped along by dynamite (or ki) had formed quite a cozy concavity in the cliffside. The ledge was flat and broad, some forty or fifty feet across, and cut back into the cliff nearly as far. #17's little complex of buildings was tucked under the overhang. As he followed the cyborg youth, Tenshinhan marveled at the tidiness and engineering efficiency that was evident all around them. There was even a small garden in a greenhouse, though Tenshinhan wasn't sure if #17 and #18 needed to eat.

As they approached the domed buildings, they stepped across a narrow cleft in the rock. It was only about a foot wide, but looking down into it, Tenshinhan saw that it went all the way down to the water, which churned and boiled with great force as the narrowing cleft caused it to build up.

#17 noticed his hesitation. "That's where the power comes from, cyclops," he remarked, nodding towards the other end of the ledge, where a small building had been constructed over the cleft in the rock. Thick bundles of cables led from it to the other buildings. Of course ... the cleft was not an accidental crack in the ledge, but an intentional channel to force water through some kind of water wheel. So #17 even had his own power supply -- between that, the river and the garden, he was completely self-sufficient down at the bottom of the river canyon.

And we never wondered what he'd been up to, all these years, Tenshinhan thought, slightly angry with himself. #17 could have been building a second Red Ribbon lab out here in the middle of nowhere, intending to complete his programmed task of annihilating Goku -- for that matter, there was no evidence that he wasn't doing it. And none of the Z-senshi had given him a second thought.

#17 opened a door for them, and held it. He smiled slightly at Tenshinhan's hesitation. "I've just had my back turned to you ... perhaps trust extends both ways," he remarked, the faintly amused, faintly condescending smile never slipping from his handsome, boyish face.

Tenshinhan set his jaw and gestured to Lunch to go ahead of him. At least if #17 attacked them, he could protect her.

The room inside the domed house was clearly a product of the same tidy mind that had constructed the complex. A large picture window yielded a beautiful view of the river, with a backless couch running along the inside of that wall. The furniture was all simple, stylish and modern. The walls bore mounted trophies (mostly dangerous creatures: tiger, rhinoceros, T-rex) juxtaposed with classy and expensive-looking paintings in tasteful metal frames. A brass-and-glass coffee table held a small collection of old-looking arrowheads. All in all, it looked like the weekend home of a wealthy trophy hunter, someone either educated enough to have good taste, or rich enough to buy it.

Tenshinhan became uncomfortably aware that he was dripping on the lush cream-colored carpet. He tried not to think about where the furnishings had come from. At least there didn't seem to be any bloodstains.

#17 seemed unconcerned about the mess they were making. He waved his hand at an open doorway. "There's a bedroom in there where you can take that odd little creature. I have plenty of room."

Tenshinhan glanced at him uncertainly, wondering what to make of the offer, but Lunch was already walking in the indicated direction, oohing and ahhing over the interior decorating. Tenshinhan followed her and saw that the big-game-hunter decor continued into the bedroom, with a thick bearskin on the bed and a deep-brown pile carpet. He laid Chaotzu in the middle of the bearskin and began peeling off his friend's soaked clothing.

Lunch must have gone to ask #17 for first aid supplies; he heard her voice speaking softly, and then she was back by his side with a metal case in hand. Tenshinhan wondered what #17 used first aid supplies for, but maybe it was for the dog, or maybe the needs of the cyborgs were not too different from those of humans. #18 did seem to feel pain in the normal human fashion ... it just took a lot more damage to get a reaction out of her.

"Lunch," Tenshinhan hissed out of the corner of his mouth. "Don't trust him, okay?"

"Why not?" Lunch asked innocently as she helped him dress Chaotzu's wounds. "He seems perfectly nice to me."

"Trust me, he's ..." Tenshinhan looked over his shoulder at #17, who was leaning against the door, watching them with a slight, sardonic smile. "Not what he appears to be," he finished softly.

"But my hearing is very acute," #17 remarked.

Tenshinhan's head snapped back around. There was no sign that the cyborg had been offended by their conversation. His blue eyes were still coolly amused, and the one-sided smile didn't falter on his face.

Without saying more, #17 disappeared and reappeared a moment later with a pile of neatly folded clothing. "You needn't stand around in those wet things, dripping on the floor," he said, handing it to Tenshinhan. "I imagine this will be too small for you and too large for your female, but if it isn't to your liking, you can always wrap yourself in a bedsheet."

"I don't understand," Tenshinhan said softly, leaning forward so that he could speak without Lunch overhearing; her attention was consumed with tending Chaotzu. "She doesn't know what you are, but I do. Why are you helping us?"

"Why?" Poets sometimes call the eyes the windows to the soul, but if the cyborg had a soul, his eyes did not give onto it. They remained quietly amused, and his face reflected nothing. "I do not know, to be honest. I was curious about the world once, before I realized that everything I need is right here. Perhaps I still am." He started to turn away, then gave Tenshinhan another amused, slightly superior smile. "Oh, in case you were wondering, I do have money, and everything in this place was paid for by the usual human channels. I make a decent living, as you figure such things, by hunting and trapping in the mountains."

"I ... I didn't ..." Tenshinhan stammered.

"No, of course not." #17 summoned the dog with a small, imperious gesture, and pulled the door shut behind him. Tenshinhan stood with his arms full of clothing, staring after him, then shook himself and went over to the bed.

They made Chaotzu as comfortable as possible, and changed into #17's clothing. He'd found a pair of loose sweatpants for Tenshinhan, probably the loosest he had, but they were still very tight across the fighter's thighs and ended several inches short of his ankles. Lunch looked charming (to Tenshinhan) in a pair of jeans that stretched tight over her hips and hung loose on her legs.

When they had changed, Tenshinhan opened the door. #17 was sitting on the couch in front of the window, gazing out at the last light of sunset blazing blood-red across the churning river water. The dog lay beside him on the couch, its head resting on its paws. It pricked its ears towards the two humans and gave a cautious flop of its tail -- more of an "I'm watching you, so don't try anything" gesture than an attempt at friendliness. There were no lights on in the house, so the only light was the red glow of the sunset, outlining #17's hair with a halo of fire.

#17 flicked them a glance. "Oh, don't stand. Sit down."

Tenshinhan sat awkwardly on the couch, as far as he could get from the cyborg without being rude about it. Lunch plopped herself between them and immediately started admiring the arrowheads on the coffee table.

"I found them all in these mountains," #17 said. "I suppose most museums would pay handsomely for them, but something about them appeals to me, crude though they are. I suppose I am fascinated that humans once possessed the ability to go naked into the mountains, chip a few pieces of rocks into clumsy knives ... and then, with nothing but those pathetic knives, to kill large animals, defend themselves from predators, build shelters, make fire ..." He shrugged, a slight roll of the shoulders beneath his orange scarf. "Whatever happened to all the humans like that, do you suppose?"

"I guess they found other outlets," Tenshinhan said.

"I wonder," #17 said. The light outside had almost faded from the sky. He reached over to snap on a lamp, and suddenly the dim shapes outside the window were gone, replaced with reflections from inside the room, a dark mirror-world. It was disconcerting to have been fighting for their lives only moments before, and now to be enfolded in the normalcy of a living room and a pool of lamplight. The outer world might not have existed; they were closed in their own little world, two humans and one creature that was not quite human and not quite not human ... once a killer and now ... what?

"You know, I thought about entering the last World Tournament," #17 said thoughtfully, scratching the dog's ears. "I actually did attend, in disguise of course, and sat through one round before I was so disgusted that I flew back to the mountains. What passes for fighting prowess among these humans ... I can certainly see why my other timeline-self destroyed them, and I don't fault him for it." His ever-present smile quirked a little wider. "But of course, in this timeline, there are plenty of powerful people who would stop me ... don't you agree?"

Tenshinhan wondered if #17 was merely trying to get a reaction out of him. "Yes," he said.

#17 shrugged again. "See. And it works out for the best, I imagine ... my other timeline self tended to end up badly, either killed by Cell or killed by that pink-haired brat, so I shouldn't complain. It's a funny thing ... if you bother no one, no one bothers you, either."

"Not always," Tenshinhan said, thinking of the many fights that he'd become involved in, against his will.

#17 merely smiled.

"You left the tournament too soon, in any case," Tenshinhan said. "I wasn't there, but from what I understand, your sister was in it."

#17's eyes widened slightly, and he smiled again. "I know. I had no particular desire to watch her fight. I've seen her fight. Lost to that posturing idiot who supposedly defeated Cell, didn't she?"

"The general consensus, among us at least, is that she threw the match," Tenshinhan said. "She won't admit to it, though."

"Hmph. Sounds a lot more likely. If she'd actually lost to that moron ..." #17 trailed off, cocking his head to one side. At the same time, the dog's ears both pricked upright and it raised its head, looking out at its own reflection in the window.

"What is it?" Lunch asked.

"Hmmm." #17 rose from the couch and touched a button on the wall. White panels slid across the window, blocking out the reflections.

"Is something --" Tenshinhan began, tensing, and then he became aware of a sound: the whine of a hoverplane.

"Who's that?" Lunch asked.

"How very odd ... it never rains but it pours, as the humans say," #17 mused, picking up a rifle from beside the door. "I haven't had a single person come through here in the entire time I've been here, and now more than one visitor within the hour. Interesting."

He shut off the lamp, plunging them into total darkness. Lunch squeaked and reached for Tenshinhan's arm as he stood up slowly and steadied her in the darkness.

The door's well-oiled hinges whispered and #17 was framed against the slightly-less-dark outdoors, where the sunset's light was still fading away. Or ... was that sunset? Unless he'd gotten entirely turned around in the water, the ruddy glow in the sky seemed to be coming from the wrong direction.

A light stabbed through the darkness, silhouetting #17 in the doorway. The dog stood beside him, legs stiff and head lowered. #17 rested the rifle on his shoulder, then lowered it slowly. "It never rains but it pours," he remarked again, and stepped out into the yard with the rifle slung over his shoulder.

Well, #17 didn't seem to be afraid, but, Tenshinhan thought, that didn't mean that they shouldn't be afraid. He approached the doorway cautiously, keeping Lunch behind him, and peered out. A plane had touched down in the yard. He could see in the glow of its running lights that the plane bore the Capsule Corp. logo on the side, but with Capsule products being so ubiquitous in the world, that hardly made it safe. However, when the door opened in the side, he recognized the blond hair being whipped about in the canyon wind.

"Imagine meeting you out here," he heard #18's voice say. She didn't sound surprised, which of course meant nothing. What did it take to get an emotional reaction out of these beings?

"The same," #17 said, shifting the rifle to a more comfortable position. "This is a bit far from the sunny beaches and creature comforts you prefer."

Her only response was a frosty glare. "Is Tenshinhan here?"

"I'm here," Tenshinhan said, stepping outside into the light.

"Hi, Juuhachigou," Lunch said cheerfully.

"Hmph," was #18's only response. "Is that mime with you?"

"Chaotzu's inside," Tenshinhan said, slightly irritated. "He's injured."

"Well, leave him here or get him," #18 said. "We don't have time to waste and we need every fighter we can get."

"I'll get him," Lunch said quietly and vanished back inside.

"What are you doing, rounding up an army?" #17 inquired.

"Something like that." #18 jumped down to the ground, brushing back her windblown blond hair in a familiar gesture of annoyance.

"How did you know we were here?" Tenshinhan asked.

The female cyborg held up a device that resembed, to Tenshinhan, Bulma's dragon radar. "Bulma built this. Something like those scouter-machines the Saiyajin race used, I understand. As low as your ki is, it still enabled me to pick you out."

#17 turned to look back at Tenshinhan. "Interesting. You never did finish telling me about this odd ki incident."

Tenshinhan shrugged. "I don't really know much."

"Good, I can tell you both at once and not waste time," #18 said shortly. "It appears that every fighter on the planet has lost their ability to control ki. The source is a ship in orbit around the Earth. Most of the Saiyajins are up there now, along with Kuririn --" Did her voice falter slightly there, or was he imagining things? "-- and the Namek and a few others. Meanwhile, the Earth is being overrun with obnoxious metal creatures."

"We met them," Tenshinhan said.

#18 nodded brusquely. "So I don't have to describe them. Bulma's father and Gohan are developing a system to deactivate them, but we need hands. Lots of hands." She turned to #17. "You can ride beside me. The others in the back."

#17 raised his free hand. "Hmm, I'll bow out. This doesn't sound like it concerns me."

#18's eyes narrowed. "It concerns the entire planet. We need all the help we can get."

The sardonic smile quirked. "I don't 'help.' It's part of my non-interference strategy these days. I'm happy here, so I'll stay here. It was nice to see you again, though. Be sure and let me know how it goes."

He strolled back into the house, accompanied by the dog, passing Lunch on her way out with Chaotzu. As he went by Tenshinhan, he remarked out of the corner of his mouth, "Human, do make sure that she doesn't clip the antennas on the generator housing on the way out of the canyon. The wind can toss a small craft around."

"Uh ... sure." Tenshinhan looked down at his unfamiliar shirt and pants. "Uh, what should we do with --"

"The clothing? Keep it. I have plenty. It would be less irritating that having you wander about here trying to find your way back."

"Uh ... thanks," Tenshinhan said, and added, more sincerely, "Thank you." Half an hour ago, he reflected, they'd been wet and tired and Chaotzu was on the verge of death; now they were warm and dry, and the cyborg had been a decent host, for all his lack of people skills.

"Hmph," was all #17 said, and he closed the door of the house. It was impossible to tell if he turned on the lights or not, since the shutters stayed closed.

"Well, get in," #18 snapped at Tenshinhan and Lunch. "Unless you're going to wait around for the next New Year?"

They scrambled into the plane and #18 lifted off with steady, skillful hands. Obviously she wasn't going to be crashing into any antennas. Tenshinhan had the shotgun seat, while Lunch was in the back with the unconscious Chaotzu.

"There's no ladder up to the top," Lunch said suddenly, craning her neck to see out the window as they rose above the canyon walls. "How do you suppose he gets in and out?"

#18 was the one who answered. "Normally, he can fly," she said shortly.

"Oh." Lunch subsided. Of course, she wouldn't think of that, since she couldn't fly.

Tenshinhan only half-heard the exchange. Now that they were out of the canyon, he could see more clearly the glow on the horizon. Like the lights of a distant city, but more ominous, it stretched from horizon to horizon.

"What's going on out here?" he said softly.

#18 looked over at him, her eyes hooded. "The world is on fire," she answered simply. "We assume the spiders started it; either that, or careless humans with explosive weapons they don't know how to control. In either case, the fires are burning uncontrollably on almost every continent. All the Earth's defense forces are fighting the spiders. They can't spare people to fight the fires."

Tenshinhan drew a deep breath, let it out. "You said the Saiyajins were up on that ship you mentioned? I assume you mean Goku and Vegeta."

"And the children," #18 said.

"Well, I hope they hurry." Tenshinhan gazed moodily out the window, towards the distant glow lighting up the nighttime sky. "Because without ki, that fire is more of a threat to us, to the world, than the spiders ever were. It'll be unstoppable."



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