[ Contents | XX. Bad Moon Rising | XXI. Into Darkness | XXII. The Helldarks ]
Nezumi stared at the ruins of her apartment building. Slabs of broken concrete and bent iron poked this way and that, looming out of the gloom like some alien badlands that had materialized where her home should be. Nezumi played the flashlight this way and that, looking for signs of.. she didn't know what.
No sounds or signs of anyone remaining. It had taken her hours to work her way through the shattered city to her home, and it was gone. There was nothing and no one for her here. Nezumi sighed.
"What are you going to do now, young lady?" Nezumi giggled at the sound of her own stern voice. "I'm starting to sound like Mom! Well, I can either sleep in the street--ick!--see if Lina's place is still intact, or go back to Capsule Corp HQ; I know part of the compound is still standing." She leaned the flashlight against her chin.
"Hmmm.. I know the safe route back to Capsule Corp now; wouldn't take me nearly as long to get back--or I could slog my way through this disaster for several more hours on the off chance that Lina and her apartment survived. Gods, I hope Lina is all right-- but I'm exhausted!"
She sighed again. "I hate to admit it, but Raditz was right and I was wrong--better to do this the safe way, no matter how I feel about it. Back to Capsule Corp it is."
With that, Nezumi flicked her flashlight back on, and guided herself back through the ruined city, the light in her off hand, and a large-caliber revolver in her right hand.
* * * *
In his curiously intact ancient apartment building, Sean considered the light. Not good enough; he lit another candle, another black one. Four black candles, three red ones, and one purple; he'd forgotten what the purple one was for--probably a love spell Po had wanted to try out. Sean thought candlelight itself was romantic enough.
In any case, his taste for candlelit rendezvous had left him with a large supply of slow-burning candles on a night when there was no power nor lights to be had in the city. Sean smiled to himself; gothic romance turned out to be practical! At least he had enough light to sketch by.
Between worry about Sinhika and the latest image in his head, he couldn't sleep. He might as well get some sketching done. Candlelight wouldn't do for the painting he had in mind; he'd have to wait for morning light, but he could at least sketch out a preliminary drawing.
A few sweeping lines to frame out the scene, rough circles for the body, rocks, bushes, a few dots to indicate the flowers; then he started to delineate the face and hair and form a bit more clearly. Engrossed in his drawing, Sean did not hear the slow turning of his doorknob, nor the scratching as someone slipped a jimmy behind the bolt...
* * * *
Sinhika awoke with a gasp as something utterly cold wrapped itself around her. Everything was dark and silent and cold, the cold emptiness of oblivion, something seemed to whisper to her. Fear rose in her, fear of that oblivion, fear of non-being, of eternal darkness and nothingness; terror took hold of her and her heart hammered frantically in her breast until it seemed as if her chest would explode. She could not breathe, she was so terrified.
NO! I am a Princess of Lankha, and the daugher of the immortal Rakshasa King! I am not a rabbit, to cower in fear of the unknown; I am not a peasant, to cower in fear of death! I am a warrior and the daughter of heroes! Anger coursed through her, and shame at her own fear; bit by bit, she fought the panic and terror down.
By rakshasa instinct, she wrapped herself in the illusion of invisiblity, and flew up through the seemingly endless darkness. A bright light flashed over her, nearly blinded her; the darkness was very shallow after all. She was still in the temple, or what was left of it. Below her, a pool of living darkness washed the floor, slowly receding; in the center of the ruins stood the great shadow demon Keikan-Ma, his head turning this way and that as he inspected the ruins in the wake of the receding darkness.
The cold, the silence, the unnatural fear all left her the instant Sinhika rose above the darkness. She stared at it, scraps of forgotten lore lurking at the edges of memory, teasing her. Sinhika had heard of this darkness before, in some ancient tale.. if only she could remember the details!
The darkness receded completely, leaving only the normal shadows and night's gloom on the smouldering ruins of the temple. In its wake, six corpses lay strewn about the floor. Six cold, frost-covered corpses whose faces were contorted in expressions of ultimate terror. Above them stood Keikan-Ma, eyes intently searching the bodies and fallen rubble. After long moments, the demon growled, and plunged through the broken wall into the night.
Silent as an owl, Sinhika followed invisibly. The great shadow demon disappeared into the shadows, became invisible to any eyes but a rakshasa's. Princess Sinhika had inherited her father's eyes.
* * * *
"Goku! Raditz! Gohan! Goten! Everybody, midnight supper is ready!" Chi-chi called from the kitchen.
Goku's eyes widened. "I'm starving! After bringing you home, I went to Karin's Tower to get the senzu, and I missed dinner completely! I can't believe Chi-chi didn't yell at me about it! I can't believe I forgot to eat!" Goku rushed down the hall. Gohan waited for his little brother.
Raditz got up to follow, when Goten grabbed his arm. "N'Uncle Raditz, was that lady my grandma?"
Raditz looked startled for a moment, then his lips quirked up in a hint of a smile. "Yes, she was. Kinoko is your other grandmother--your father's mother." Gohan looked on, very startled.
Goten nodded. "Grandpa N'Ox-King is Mama's father." He looked at his uncle, wide-eyed and solemn. "Who is Daddy's father?"
Raditz hesitated. "My father, your grandfather, was named Bardock. He looked just like your father, only more tanned, and he had a scar here," Raditz drew his forefinger down his left cheek. "He.. died a long time ago."
"Oh. Uncle Raditz, I don't understand Grandma Kinoko. How can you be all right if you die?" Goten looked puzzled and worried; Gohan's jaw dropped.
Raditz didn't answer for a long moment. "I don't really know how to explain that. Tell you what, kid.. I'll explain it when I figure out how. Fair enough?"
"Okay. Fair. Hungry; let's eat!" Goten ran down the hall.
Gohan looked at Raditz and gulped. "I keep forgetting my brother can see ghosts--that's what Goten was talking about, wasn't he?"
Raditz smiled wryly. "Yeah. An ancestral ghost dropped by for a chat while I was busy nearly becoming a ghost myself. Again. Bad habit, that. Let's go eat." Raditz ducked his head to miss the doorjamb as he followed Gohan down the hall.
And Dad was with me when I fought Cell, Gohan thought. I wonder how often it happens that way..
Goku had already finished his first, second and third helping of dinner and was well into his fourth. Goten was just getting started as Raditz entered the kitchen. Chi-chi sighed, grabbed the empty rice bowl and filled it from the pot on the stove; she knew that Gohan and Raditz each ate almost as much as Goku.
"Dad, can you find Bulma and Trunks?" Gohan asked as he sat down.
"What do you mean, 'find Bulma and Trunks'?" Raditz asked slowly. He halted in the kitchen entry, a suspicious, almost angry look on his face. He was still barefoot, wearing nothing more than borrowed blue pants; his chest still partially wrapped in bandages.
"I didn't have a chance to tell Dad yet, you were dying when he got back with the senzu--Piccolo told me. Someone's kidnapped Bulma and Trunks!"
Goku looked up sharply, noting the horror on his brother's face. "Raditz--"
CRASH! A hole gaped where the back door used to be; Raditz was gone.
"Good thing that door opens in the direction of Satan City," Goku laughed nervously as Chi-chi glared at the shattered door. "I'd hate to see what he would have done to the wall.." He got up from the table, raising two fingers to his forehead...
Chi-chi transferred her glare to Goku. "And just where do you think you're going?" The chill in her voice could have frozen a lava flow on the spot.
"Chi-chi, I have to go after my brother, and help find Bulma and Trunks! Gohan and I---"
"ABSOLUTELY NOT! I forbid it!" Chi-chi yelled. "You are not taking Gohan anywhere, it's the middle of the night and way past his bedtime! And you are not just flying out of here and leaving the door wide-open and us completely unprotected from those demons! A demon tried to kidnap little Goten and me once, or have you forgotten that already??"
"But Chi-chi, Raditz--"
"Raditz is a grown man and can take care of himself for a few minutes! You aren't going anywhere until there's a door in front of that hole, and Gohan is going TO BED!" Chi-chi switched her glare to Gohan. "As soon as you and Goten are done eating, get ready for bed, young man!"
"Okay, you're right! Gohan should stay home--he can protect you and Goten. Can I just nail some boards over the hole until morning? I can't really do a good job of hanging a door in the dark, anyway." Goku pleaded with Chi-chi.
"All right. Fine. But first thing in the morning, you will be HERE, and fixing that door--if you want to eat. I refuse to cook breakfast looking at a boarded-up eyesore. Better yet, get Raditz to fix it--he broke it!" Chi-chi folded her arms and frowned at her husband.
A short time later, Goku finished boarding up the hole in the wall, and Chi-chi put the boys to bed. Chi-chi escorted Goku to the front door, kerosene lamp held high. "Goku..."
"Don't worry, Chi-chi--I can handle whatever has Bulma and Trunks; I'll be back for breakfast!" Goku said cheerily. He put two fingers to his forehead, and vanished in a flicker of light.
"I hope so," Chi-chi said wistfully. "I really hope so." She tumbled into bed, alone; in spite of her loneliness, she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion within minutes. Everyone in the house slept the sleep of the just.
* * * *
The lights of Capsule Corp's gate lit the end of the street; Nezumi sighed with relief. Not only had she made it back without being attacked or falling into a hole, someone--probably Dr. Briefs--had gotten the Capsule Corp generators on-line. There was something incredibly reassuring about the warm glow of electric lights in the midst of the blacked-out, broken city.
She stumbled up to the main gate, exhausted, and stared blankly at the closed gate for a moment. Right, whoever's got security detail would hardly leave it standing wide open on a night like this, would they? She fumbled in her wallet for a keycard, and swiped it through the electronic lock. The light stayed red.
Huh? It should have turned green and unlocked. She swiped the card again, and swore under her breath as it stayed red. Okay, she'd do this the hard way; she walked around to the small personnel gate and unlocked the padlock with her key.
"Hold it right there!" The sound of a shotgun slide being pumped convinced Nezumi to obey instantly.
"Hey! What's going on? I work here!" Nezumi complained, holding very still while someone shined a flashlight in her eyes.
"Nezumi! It's really you!" exclaimed a familiar voice, and the light was quickly turned away. "You're all right! Come on in!"
Nezumi blinked. "Lina! Is that you? You're okay!" Nezumi ran up and hugged her friend, shotgun and all. "I thought you were at home, and caught in the earthquake!"
Lina set down the shotgun and hugged her back. "I was on my way home, but the street fell in in front of me, so I came back to work, and they really needed one of us from Security to take charge with the disaster and all, so.." The dark-haired woman shrugged.
"That bum Kidoru still hasn't shown up?" Nezumi frowned.
"Nor is he likely to," Lina said grimly. "There's been some weird things happening around here--someone's been using Kidoru's card to disable the alarms and security computer, so I turned off the main gate's card reader--I don't know what else has been compromised and I don't have enough people to search the grounds. Sorry for the inconvenience," she shrugged.
"I understand; it's been an inconvenient night all around." Nezumi sighed.
"That's one way to put it! Believe me, I am glad to see you! Did you bring your gun?" Lina picked the shotgun back up.
"Of course--do you think I'd have walked through this city without it?"
"You WALKED from your apartment?? In this--my god!"
"Well, the buses weren't running..." Nezumi smiled weakly.
Thip! Someone dropped out of the sky to land in behind Nezumi and Lina; both whirled. Lina leveled her shotgun, and Nezumi's gun was out and pointed at the-- at Raditz! It was Raditz!
Nezumi was the first to lower her gun. "What the hell happened to you?" she asked, staring at his bandage-taped chest and bare feet. Lina stared; at a glare from Raditz, she started and pointed the shotgun away from him.
"Where's Bulma and Trunks?" the long-haired warrior asked abruptly, ignoring Nezumi's question.
"You don't know? I just got back here--what's going on?" Nezumi asked, suddenly worried.
"Last I heard, they were in their house--how come you weren't here?" Lina asked, also looking worried. "I thought you were still here, with them."
"So did I," Nezumi added, more worried.
Raditz frowned, and surged into the air in a high arc that brought him down in front of Bulma's small house. Nezumi turned to Lina and shouted, "You keep watching the gate!" and ran across the compound toward him.
Wait! A power nearby, suppressed... there! Hovering high above the compound! Raditz snarled to himself, and clenched his fists. The veins stood out on the backs of his hands, and power seethed around him. Raditz darted into the air, his power a corona of white fire around him.
Tall, broad-shoulders, swirling cape--he knew that figure! Raditz halted abruptly in front of him with a flash of shed energy. Piccolo regarded with cold, haughty eyes. The corner of his mouth slowly curved up in a smirk.
"Oh. It's you." Raditz sneered, and dropped back down to the house. The door was open--that was not right, not right at all. He plunged into the dark house, ready for a fight.
No one there. "Where are they?" Raditz growled to himself, still crouched in fighting stance. Still nothing appeared, either to attack him or give him answers. He slowly straightened up, and ran through the darkened house, lit only by his own power. He found only what Piccolo had found before him.
Bulma and Trunks were gone. Deputy had made good his threats. Raditz began to tremble with rage. A noise behind him--
Raditz whirled, one hand raised to strike, energy already glowing in the palm of his hand. Nezumi threw up both arms, one still holding her drawn gun, shielding her face from the fierce light.
"Stop! It's only me--Nezumi!" she squeaked.
"Fool woman!" Raditz growled as he lowered his arm, energy fading away. "I nearly killed you. What are you doing here?"
Nezumi holstered her gun. "Doing my job as Acting Deputy Chief of Security for Capsule Corp. Where's Bulma and Trunks?" Nezumi's voice was still shaky.
"Missing." Raditz regarded her thoughtfully, eyes narrowing. "Are you trained for this?"
"Huh? What kind of question is that? If you mean, am I trained to look for missing people, yes! I used to be a cop, you know. If you mean, am I trained to get into the kind of fight you obviously are, hell no! I don't play quite that rough."
Raditz picked up a small object from the floor and handed it to her. "Someone got in here unnoticed, and used tranquilizer darts to make sure of Trunks, possibly Bulma as well. They're both gone."
Nezumi looked at the small object Raditz had given her. "Yep, it's a tranq dart. It's pretty large, looks like the size they use for bringing down big game at zoos and game parks." Her brows furrowed with concern. "Unless it was nearly empty, that's way too high a dose for a human being!"
"Fortunately, Trunks isn't human." At Nezumi's startled look Raditz added, "He's half-Saiyan." Raditz frowned. "I can't sense their ki, but they'd be too weak to for me to sense if they were tranquilized. I'm not sure I could sense Bulma no matter what her condition. If she's outside this compound, only Vegeta--or maybe my brother--could sense her; her ki is too weak."
"Why do I feel like I'm missing about ten chapters out of the middle of the story?" She shook her head. "Fine, you work on that end of it--I don't follow this 'ki' stuff anyway," Nezumi said. She turned on the lights, saying "Let me take a look around..."
"Whoever did it left some nice footprints in the hall and in Bulma's room." Nezumi noted a few minutes later, her nose close to the floor. After a brief examination, she straightened up. "Two things: one, I need to get my kit from the security building, and two, Raditz, you still haven't told me what happened and why you weren't here."
"That's not important," growled Raditz, looking uncomfortable and angry.
Nezumi straightened up, put her hands on her hips and glared at Raditz. "The hell it isn't! You're Bulma's bodyguard, you vanish, she vanishes, you turn up looking like a building fell on you--and I'm Deputy Chief of Security in case you've forgotten! It's my JOB to know!"
Raditz flushed. "Bulma.. dismissed me for the night. A demon attacked me on the way to my brother's house--a demon that threatened Bulma, Trunks and my nephew. Now Bulma and Trunks have been kidnapped."
"What do you mean, 'a demon threatened Bulma and Trunks'? Whoever made these footprints wore size ten human shoes," Nezumi said skeptically.
"I meant exactly what I said," Raditz growled. "You don't need to know the details--they were.. unpleasant." He looked away. "The demon has human followers," Raditz added unexpectedly. "I've run into them before, when they tried to kidnap my nephew."
"Oh, great! So there's some cult of demon-worshipping weirdos, and their pet demon, after the Boss? Is that what you're telling me?" Nezumi expostulated.
"Yes, exactly." Raditz confirmed. He stared at Nezumi, not quite sure what to make of her. She reminded him of someone...
"Okay, then. For goodness sake's get dressed, and drop me off at the security building on your way. I'll meet you back here in a few minutes."
"That will do." He followed her outside. "Hang on!" Raditz grabbed Nezumi around the waist and half-jumped, half-flew to the security building in a single high bound. He set her down, and paused for a moment.
"Since when are you 'Deputy Chief of Security'?" he asked.
"Acting Deputy Chief of Security," Nezumi corrected. "Hiregumi-San is dead, you were missing, Kidoru is still missing, and Lina got back first, so she's Acting Chief of Security. I got here second, that makes me Acting Deputy Chief. Clear?"
Raditz rose into the air, and smirked, looking down at Nezumi, arms folded. "Indeed."
* * * *
King Vibishana stood by a clear stream that flowed over a bed of white marble pebble, through a forest of white-leaved trees with pale ivory bark. His red velvet cloak stood out like a bloodstain in that pale wood; beside him stood another colorful form in silver armor, listening attentively.
"Uncle, in anger you once told me, 'War is all you ever knew, and all your skill!'" Prince Indrajit bowed his head. "You were right; I thought to seek Truth, yet in the end I sided with deceit; I thought to do Right, yet I used all my powers to aid my father in doing Wrong." The dead rakshasa sighed; his ancient silver armor glittered with even that slight movement.
"That was long ago, and the price is long since paid," Vibishana answered. "Why revisit it?"
"I sought the Truth, and believed that I had found it, presumed to know Truth from the World's illusions. I presumed myself superior to those who fought and killed for mere material things. I, who snared a god in illusion, deceived myself. You saw the truth about me, long ago." Indrajit grinned, revealing a demon's hideous tusks and teeth. "I delight in doing that in which I excel, and I excel at war!"
King Vibishana smiled. "Prepare to delight yourself; war comes!"
* * * *
By the time Vegeta returned with a suitable mast timber, the black boat was afloat, though stoutly moored to the shore.
"Good," the Ferryman grunted as he secured the timber on deck. "Ready to go now."
Kadru voiced the question first. "We're really going to just sail down that waterfall? That may be fine for Vegeta and Modgudh, but I'm not dead yet, and am not in that much of a hurry to be dead!"
The Ferryman chuckled. "Fee paid, you ride my boat, I get you there just as good as when you got on. Guaranteed!"
Vegeta asked the next question, "What did you mean by the 'barrier of Time's Beginning'? What lies below?" He gestured at the yawning abyss.
The dark man rumbled, "Before Time, there was another Time, the Time Before. That world is gone, but its hell, the Helldarks, still is Before Time. Before the Time Before, is Chaos."
"So we have to go back in Time, to before the beginning of this universe!" Vegeta bowed his head, awed by the enormity of the quest he'd committed himself to. What am I doing? If I make a mistake... No! I cannot hesitate now; it's far too late.
Kadru looked puzzled, then comprehending, then puzzled again. "It is the previous Cycle of Brahma, that is obvious, but how could Shiva have failed to destroy the previous Lower World when the time came for destruction and re-Creation? I don't understand," she muttered.
Prince Vegeta raised his head to stare coldly at the Ferryman. "Cacodemon comes from this Time Before Time, does he not?"
"Yes," the Ferryman snarled. "He is the weakest of the Chaos gods."
"The WEAKEST??" Vegeta's eyes widened. "That.. abomination.. is weak?"
"Cacodemon is a broken piece of Wakboth the Devil. In the Time Before Time, the Devil was broken; his pieces are weaker than the whole gods. Is the Devil broken in your Time? If evil is strong in Time, Cacodemon will be stronger, too."
Prince Vegeta's eyes narrowed; so the demon might be weaker at its origin? Yet.. No! He dared not fight it here, where time and causality could get hopelessly tangled up. Fighting the monster before it came forward in Time to attack him would unravel the whole chain of events that led him here--create a paradox at the beginning of Time. That could be.. bad.
One paradox was more than enough. "One more thing, though it seems obvious enough.. to attack me, Cacodemon had to come from this Time Before Time to my Time. He travelled forward in Time, like a man with a time machine, didn't he?"
The Ferryman cocked his head to one side and the other, looking at Vegeta and making that odd chirping sound only Vegeta seemed to hear. "Of course. How else could he do it?"
Vegeta threw back his head and laughed. "Idiot demon! He fell short of the mark! Cacodemon stopped his little time-trip a few months too early, and killed me before his pet sorceror spat out his dying curse! The fool--Bulma would never have gone looking for that wish and found the Opawang if I hadn't died! CACODEMON AND HIS DAMNED SORCEROR CAUSED THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION!" Vegeta smiled very evilly. "For I will destroy Cacodemon, I promise you that!"
The Ferryman's opalescent eyes opened a bit, and he grinned terribly, showing tusks and sharp teeth. "So be it!"
Prince Vegeta smirked every so slightly. "Go, Ferryman! Take us to the Time Before, and show me the way to Chaos!" Prince Vegeta clenched one fist, and smiled grimly.
"Hang on, rough ride!" said the Ferryman, as he loosened the mooring cable and sculled the boat into the current. The current grabbed the boat and shook it like a hungry crocodile shakes its prey, and then flung the boat forward, shooting toward the waterfall's edge. Kadru fled to the hold, to coil tightly about whatever beams she could find; Modgudh grabbed the sternpost; Vegeta rode the bow, half-standing, half-flying, laughing exultantly. The Ferryman merely braced the oar against the current, forcing the boat on the course he desired, his feet steady on the deck.
The black boat shot over the edge, seeming to hang in mid-air for an instant, and dropped down, down, down into rushing darkness. They fell with the water, and the water fell with them and on them, into an infinity of darkness...
* * * *
Something woke Goten. What was it? The little boy clutched his covers close; he wished Mama hadn't moved Gohan out of his room. It made him nervous, sometimes, to be alone. Goten listened intently; he heard something--a voice. A familiar voice, calling him from outside. He crept over to the window and opened it.
"Daddy? Is that you?" Goten answered softly.
"Yes, Goten; come quickly! Come outside right now, I need your help--but don't tell Mama or she won't let you come!" answered Goku's voice.
Goten thought a moment. "Okay" he answered, and started to climb out the window. He dropped to the ground outside and looked around.
"Where are you, Daddy? I can't see you."
"Right over here, behind the big tree. Come on, that's it.."
Goten thought he saw Daddy waving a hand at him and ran excitedly into the woods. He ran around the big tree and stopped short.
"You're not my daddy!"
"No, I'm not," answered the demon-dinosaur Scout, in Goku's voice.
* * * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER XXII. THE HELLDARKS
[ Contents | XX. Bad Moon Rising | XXI. Into Darkness | XXII. The Helldarks ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009