[ Contents | XXIV. At the Hill of Gold | XXV. The Reckoning | XXVI. Edge of Annihilation ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



<SCOUT! Begin the ritual--summon one of the Talons!> Enforcer commanded in the little demon-dinosaur's mind.

The yellow winged-raptor-thing scurried to obey, dropping the unconscious Goten at the foot of the altar beside Trunks and Bulma. It bowed to the great shadow-demon Enforcer, and took up position behind the altar, moving its claws in a brief series of gestures as it focussed its power. The air above the altar began to curdle and warp.

Enforcer swung his massive head this way and that, looking things over. "Sorceror, begin with the child Trunks."

Voron bowed. "As you command, Lord Keikan-Ma." The slightly singed sorceror turned to the nervous crowd. "You, and you and you! Get up here!"

"GOTEN IS MINE!" snarled Deputy, dropping out of the night on silent wings into the middle of the crowd. Vicious killers and rapists and madmen scattered in every direction--save for one who had been unfortunate enough to be directly under Deputy's hind claws. "BRING HIM TO ME!" The great demon's razor-clawed hands flexed open and closed, acid slime dripping from the claws. Deputy licked his lips with his barbed tongue.

Enforcer reached down--and the unconscious boy jumped up and ran!

"No you don't!" yelled Goten as he dodged clutching hands. Two thugs dove for him, missed, and wound up butting heads as Goten slipped between them.

Deputy howled in rage and disbelief as Goten evaded Enforcer, his followers, and even Scout in turn. The small boy darted toward the empty part of the quarry--

Deputy snapped his wings and leaped across the quarry; his supple tail lashed out and sent the small boy tumbling. Goten rolled to a stop against a huge, cracked marble slab; Deputy alighted beside him, and pinned the boy with one taloned foot. His great head lowered, and he turned to glare at his followers, looking like nothing so much as a great bird of prey, preparing to tear at some small, helpless animal caught in its talons.

Crushed under the demon's foot, Goten couldn't even scream for help; tears trickled from his eyes.

"FOOLS!" Deputy snarled, red eyes blazing. "WATCH--SEE HOW I WILL DO UNTO THOSE WHO FAIL ME!" He turned back to the helpless boy, and bared jagged teeth---

KRUNCH! A blazing comet of white fire plunged down from the heavens and slammed into Deputy's back, knocking the great demon sprawling--and off of Goten.

"GOTEN! RUN! GET OUT OF HERE, FAST!" Raditz shouted as he gathered a ball of energy in his hand and hurled it into Deputy's face. His black and white combat armor gleamed in the light of his attack.

BOOOM! Deputy was knocked over again; as the smoke cleared, he could be seen shaking his dog-like head as if to clear it. Smoke curled up from various spots on his fur.

Dazed and bruised, Goten struggled to his feet, and stumbled toward the nearest cover, the cracked marble slab. "Nunk Rats!" he said happily.

As Goten crawled under the slab, Raditz cut loose with a dozen ki balls in rapid succession, battering and staggering Deputy. Deputy roared and shook himself; gathering his powerful hindlegs under him, Deputy leaped into the air into the teeth of Raditz's attack.

"Whoa!" Raditz darted up, out of the way as Deputy's massive jaws crashed shut less than a foot from his legs had been. The demon's great wings rowed the air as he rose, pursuing Raditz.

"I should have made sure you were dead--this time I will!" snarled Deputy. "I will rip you apart and feast on your entrails; I will devour your heart and your head; I will-- ARRRGGGHHHH!"

KA-ZAAPPP! A pinpoint blast to Deputy's right eye interrupted the monster's rant; Raditz smirked as the demon roared in pain, blood running from the blasted eye.

"First," Raditz growled, "you have to kill me--" He grinned fiercely, "--and you already blew your one chance to do that!"

In reply, Deputy opened his jaws and vomited fire.

*      *      *      *

Bulma blinked, astonished. Voron and his men stood as if paralyzed, entranced by the fight, Trunks forgotten. Even the big shadow monster, Enforcer, was similarly engaged.

"I thought that monster said he killed Raditz," Bulma muttered. "Boy, was he wrong!" She wriggled, trying to loosen the ropes around her feet and wrists.

"Good thing, too. I'd hate to think of that long-haired hunk being demon-chow," the dark-skinned demon-girl said unexpectedly.. with Sinhika's voice.

Bulma turned her head; the orange-haired girl was conscious, though battered, burned and tied up like Bulma. Bulma's eyes opened wide-- "You're Sinhika! Er, what are you?"

Sinhika raised an eyebrow, then looked down at herself. "Oops. Must have lost the illusions when big ugly hit me," she muttered. "Come to think of it, I remember hitting the ground--I don't remember being tied up and dragged over here." Her face shimmered, and Bulma found herself looking at the pretty young Indian girl she'd hired.

"A nightmare. This is all a dream you're having, you know."

Bulma snarled something impolite. "Don't even try to pretend--I never had a nightmare give me this many bruises!"

Sinhika shrugged. "Well, it was worth a try. Let's just say that what you saw is 'the real me', but I wear this face in public--fewer hassles at job interviews, getting waited on at restaurants, shopping in upscale malls..." She smiled mischieviously, and wriggled closer to Bulma. "My face isn't the only real thing I hide. Here. See if you can reach the small of my back..."

Bulma rolled over and felt along Sinhika's back with her bound hands. Her fingers brushed something hard just above her waist.. Back a bit.. Yes! Bulma's hand closed on the hilt of a knife.

*      *      *      *

Raditz held out one hand, fending off Deputy's blast of fire, grinning fiercely the whole time. His renewed energy seethed through him, heightening his senses, his speed, his strength. His armor's bodysuit hugged him like a second skin; the scouter rested comfortably over his right eye like an old friend. The joy of battle sang in his blood, and the prospect of vengeance sweetened his joy.

He couldn't read Deputy's power through the scouter, but that didn't matter. Raditz could see the monster before him, and he had taken Deputy's measure before.

"HAIIIII-YA! YA!" Raditz hurled two brilliant-white ki beams at Deputy, one after the other. The demon canted his head, fending them both off with a flick of his hand.

"FOOL! You have learned nothing--did you think you could hurt me with such a feeble attack now, when you could not before?"

Raditz just grinned, and darted down to smash the root of Deputy's left wing with a double-handed blow. The monster shuddered, and whipped his tail up as he rolled to face Raditz.

Raditz dodged the supple tail--he had learned. The demon shrugged off his blow, and lashed out with his claws--

The saiyan warrior dodged with a mocking laugh, then bodyslammed Deputy's lower jaw, rocking the demon, disorienting it and leaving it flailing in mid-air.

Deputy howled with rage, and snapped his wings hard as he flew in pursuit of Raditz; the long-haired warrior rocketed high into the sky. Deputy's jaws gaped wide, and he vomited fire again.

"Don't you ever learn?" Raditz smirked as he hurled a countering beam down into the demon's mouth. The Saiyan's beam collided with Deputy's fire; the two beams contended, striving, splashing off each other in perfect balance. Raditz's smirk deepened into a grin; his beam intensified, and smashed down the length of Deputy's fire blast to explode in the demon's face.

BOOM! Once again Raditz heard Deputy's harsh yowl, a sound like metal being ripped apart. When the smoke cleared, Deputy could be seen clawing at his burnt and smoking mouth--the monster coughed, and greyish slime drooled from the injured orifice. The monster growled at Raditz, then folded its wings and dropped like a stone...

*      *      *      *

Goku frowned, then his face brightened. "There he is!" He put two fingers to his forehead-- and froze.

"What is it, Son Goku?" Piccolo asked, slightly concerned by Goku's odd behavior.

"Raditz. He keeps flickering--first he's there, then he's not. I can't use Shikan Idou if he disappears while I'm halfway there!"

"I couldn't sense the demon he fought, either," Piccolo muttered, a dark expression on his face.

"And I couldn't sense the demon that tried to kidnap Chi-chi and Goten!" Goku's brow furrowed. "I don't like this! At least I know where he was." White fire flared around him, and Goku hurtled through the sky toward distant Satan City, Piccolo close behind.

*      *      *      *

Deputy's wings flared at the last instant, just before the great demon hit the quarry floor. His powerful hindlegs bent, absorbing the shock of landing. A heartbeat's pause, and Deputy's tail lashed out, hooking the cracked marble slab concealing Goten and hurling it end-for-end across the quarry.

Goten trembled, paralyzed by the sudden disappearance of his hiding place. Deputy grinned, and reached down to pluck up the hapless child--

--Only to snatch at empty air as Goten vanished, whisked away faster than Deputy could see. The chaos demon screeched with rage, and leaped into the sky again, wings flapping madly as he searched for the elusive Raditz.

"Looking for me?" A streaking comet stopped and became Raditz; and Raditz grinned as power smouldered in both hands.

"DIE!" The infuriated demon dove, and then climbed to pursue the rising Saiyan; poisoned teeth clashed shut inches from his boots. Raditz just kept grinning, and flying ever higher...

*      *      *      *

"Well, let's see what we've got here," Nezumi said to herself as she kicked in the door of the small shed. Raditz had literally dropped her at the edge of the quarry pit just before he plunged into the fight; after picking herself up, brushing off the dirt and feeling some new bruises, Nezumi decided to scout around.

It hadn't taken her long to notice that all the vehicles were down in the pit, where the bonfire-lit festivities seemed to be taking place. Up on the rim of the quarry was an assortment of buildings and sheds; Nezumi picked the nearest one to investigate.

Her flashlight had somehow survived the night's adventures; she shined it around the dusty building. Boxes, lots of crates--none of them the least bit dusty.

"Very interesting!" Nezumi looked around and found a prybar, and started doing some serious investigation. As the top came off of the first crate, she looked in. What she saw caused her to catch her breath for a long moment, then she whistled.

"My, my, my; someone is up to something naughty." Nezumi very gently lifted out one of twenty disposable anti-tank rockets in the crate. "This could come in handy."

*      *      *      *

"Quick! Scootch up under the altar with me, and see if you can cut my ropes," Sinhika instructed Bulma.

"Okaaay, but won't they stop us?" Bulma queried as she wriggled up to Sinhika's back again. She bit her lip to stifle a cry as she bumped her head on the altar.

As if in answer, something growled above; shouts were heard; Voron and the remaining broo ran past where they were laying--

"Find them, you fools! They can't have gone very far, they're all tied up!" Voron's voice cracked, hoarse with fear.

Sinhika chuckled. "They can't stop what they don't see!" She smiled wickedly. "Hurry up, though--one of them could stumble over the boy by accident."

Bulma nodded, though still confused, and worked carefully with her bound hands to cut Sinhika's ropes and not the girl's wrists. "Does this have something to do with the way your face changes when you're unconscious?"

"Something like that. People see what I want them to see."

*      *      *      *

In Hell, in the Pit of Worms, a huge form crouched atop a narrow spindle of rock, watching the murk above the canyon's floor. Bestial eyes narrowed; clawed fingers twitched eagerly as the murk curdled and twisted.

Another rift was opening, and the Captain of Ragnaglar was ready.

*      *      *      *

Raditz rose, energy seething in both hands. He grinned hellishly as Deputy pursued him, half mad with rage.

"MAN--" Raditz brought his hands forward-- "KI--" and together-- "BATSU!" The two seething balls of energy fused with a blinding white flash, and a huge white beam, tinged with incandescent violet slammed down toward the angry demon.

Deputy jerked to one side, dodging frantically; Raditz laughed cruelly as his beam curved to follow, blasting into the demon's side and out the other side. Blackened ribs jutted upward as Deputy fell from the sky, half of his midsection blown away, the rest of it a seared ruin. Raditz dove after him, hurling blast after blast at the horribly wounded demon, burning away chunks of chaotic flesh.

Deputy crashed into the quarry, falling on the wide ledge of one of the upper levels of the excavation. It did not move.

Raditz hovered above, waiting and gasping for breath, too tired to hurl another blast. Was it enough? Had he damaged the creature beyond healing? And what were the other demons doing?

*      *      *      *

<PICCOLO!> Gohan's thoughts shrieked in the Namek's head as he flew in fast pursuit of Goku.

<What is it, kid?> The overtone of fear in Gohan's thought worried Piccolo.

<Tell Dad--Goten's disappeared! I'm coming up to join you, we've got to find him, too!>


Goku slowed, and turned to face Piccolo. "What is it?" he asked cheerily. His face turned to concern as Piccolo told Goku what Gohan had passed to him.

"Chi-chi is probably crazy with worry," the world's most powerful hero said. "I should stop and tell her I'm looking for Goten, too."

"Gohan already did," Piccolo said.

Another streak of fire rose from the ground as Gohan darted up to join his father and his sensei in their journey to the gates of Hell.

*      *      *      *

Scout looked up, his task complete; the void was ready for a sacrifice. What was all the fuss? Oh. The special victims and the sacrifice had all vanished. The raptor-demon flared its nostrils; too many smells, but the woman Bulma and the boy Trunks were still nearby, he was sure of that. Didn't the Defender-of-Temples who had plagued Enforcer have the power of invisibility? Hmm...

<Lord Enforcer!>

<What?> growled the larger demon through their mental link.

<The sacrifice is invisible--but doubtless still bound. She must be nearby, great one.>

A wordless growl of acknowledgement echoed in Scout's head. Enforcer swung his head this way and that, baring his shark-teeth; yes, he could smell the spicy tang of the Defender-of-Temples, and the rich sweetness of the others. They were here.

"Sorceror! They are invisible! Feel on your hands and knees if you can do no better, but FIND THEM!" Enforcer snarled.

*      *      *      *

Sinhika's bonds parted, and she rolled around, taking the knife from Bulma. With two deft slashes, she freed her feet and Bulma's hands, only to be interrupted by the antelope-horned broo groping about under the altar.

"Don't move!" Sinhika hissed at Bulma. "Don't scream, don't do anything. They won't see, feel or hear anything I don't want them to, but you've got to keep still and not do anything surprising to me--even an idiot like Voron will figure something's up if the ground gets up and runs screaming away!"

Bulma nodded, and froze as the broo crawled over her. His hands roamed over her body, and she couldn't help shuddering as the beastman patted her breasts and face before crawling on. She bit back a cry as the broo planted a knee in her stomach as it moved off of her and onto Sinhika.

Sinhika wrinkled her nose in disgust, but did not move as the bestial demon crawled blindly over her, fondling her thighs and nearly poking a finger in her left eye in passing.

"Yecch!" she muttered. It was nearly their undoing. Distracted by the broo, Sinhika did not see Enforcer's massive foot come down on Trunks' leg--

"AAAAAHHHH!" Trunks' scream got everyone's attention; Enforcer growled something, and a sickly green corona sprang from the altar, the ground and other unmoving objects nearby. Sinhika went white, biting her lip hard as something battered her will, breaking the illusion--

Only for a moment, but long enough for Enforcer to see Trunks and pluck him up, as a child casually plucks up a dandelion. Enforcer growled with anticipation--

WHAAM! Something slammed into the great shadow demon's left knee, shattering it, and it stumbled, dropping Trunks as it collapsed to one knee. Raditz hovered above the monster, snarling; then he dove, driving a double-handed blow into the top of Enforcer's skull.

"Oh, crap!" Voron dove out of the way as Enforcer crashed headlong, stumbled, picked himself up and kept running.

"Here! That bastard's mine!" Sinhika shoved knife hilt-first into Bulma's hands, and sped after Voron, flying barely chest-high across the ground. Bulma tumbled over the altar, throwing herself across Trunks semi-conscious body--

Only to strike the ground hard, knocking the breath out of her. Someone had snatched Trunks out from under her as she fell; Bulma looked up--

The dinosaur-demon Scout tittered at her, and flew away with fast beats of its narrow wings, Trunks cradled in its skinny arms. Something grabbed Bulma around the waist and lifted her up--

"EEEEEEEE!" Bulma screamed in pure terror as the ground receded--

"Damn it, woman! Stop trying to burst my eardrums!" Raditz's familiar voice growled. "Here," he dropped Bulma on an upper-level ramp next to a puzzled Goten, "sit there and stay out of trouble! I've got some demons to kill!" With a flash of light and rush of air, he was gone again.

Goten blinked at her. "Nan Bulma okay?" As she sat there in silent shock, the little boy ran up and hugged her.

"I think," she said a bit shakily, "I'm okay." Bulma hugged the little boy back, and sighed, patting her nightshirt down. Somehow the short dress-like garment had survived the night's ordeals reasonably intact, if filthy. "Am I glad I wasn't wearing one of my negligees!"

*      *      *      *

Raditz hurtled across the quarry toward Scout; the demon dinosaur looked behind, turning his head on his long supple neck. It screeched, and flung its wings wide as Raditz closed; in a sudden move, it flung Trunks down into the pit, and flitted away in another direction.

"DAMN YOU!" Raditz dove, catching the half-conscious boy just before he hit the quarry floor. Back again, and Trunks was deposited gently at his mother's feet. Raditz flashed away before Bulma could do more than open her mouth.

"Now," growled Raditz, "there's no one I want alive in the way." He grinned, watching Enforcer crawl to one knee--

"WHAT THE--?" A bolt of fire streaked from the rim of the quarry, striking the great shadow demon full in the chest--

BOOOOM! The demon exploded; when the smoke cleared, Enforcer was sprawled across the altar, a huge hole blasted through his torso--much like his parent demon Deputy. What was left of the shadow demon twitched feebly.

Raditz's head snapped around. That bolt came from where he'd left Nezumi! In a streak of white fire he was there, hovering above the rim of the quarry--it was Nezumi!

The Capsule Corp security guard grinned jauntily up at him as she hoisted a second rocket launcher. "I know you said to leave the fighting to you, but I couldn't resist the fun! Especially when someone left all these naughty toys lying around!"

Raditz tossed his hair back, and grinned. Gods! He was definitely beginning to appreciate these Earth women! "Just stay out of reach of the big guys--I don't need to be rescuing you, too." he growled.

Nezumi smirked as she flipped up the sight on the new launcher and lined it up on her target. "Mrs. O'Neill didn't raise any stupid kids, Raditz! Think the big guy will go down as easy as the shadow oni did?"

"The big guy?" Raditz paled and whirled, looking back into the quarry.

Deputy arose like a phoenix, wings spread, newly healed flesh glistening with slime. He giggled as the mighty legs tensed, then pushed off, rising into the air with slow flaps of his great wings, flying with deliberate leisure toward the ledge where Bulma, Trunks and Goten waited.

"Oh, crap!" the long-haired Saiyan glanced back at Nezumi. "Don't try it, he's too tough, and you do NOT want to draw his attention! Keep the other bastard down--he heals fast."

Raditz zoomed down, slamming hard into Deputy's right wing joint. The bone buckled, forcing Deputy to land awkwardly on the nearest ledge. The demon hissed at Raditz.

"Fool! You cannot kill me--wound me, and I will heal, my strength ever-renewed by Chaos! You," it snarled as it stalked back and forth on the ledge, watching Raditz while its wing unbuckled, the bones setting themselves and knitting as the warrior watched, "you are weak from fighting me. How long before you tire? How long before I taste your blood?"

Two more streaks of fire slashed down from the rim of the quarry into the pit.

"Let's see you heal from dust and ashes!" Raditz growled.

Brave talk, but not likely to happen, he worried to himself. My options are pretty limited. I can't go Ouzaru here--it's too confined; I'm as likely to kill Bulma, Nezumi or Sinhika in my rampage as the demons. If I could have destroyed him with my normal strength, I would have already--I dumped most of my power I had into finishing him off. After last time, I knew he could regenerate--that's why I hung onto enough energy to fly and fight a bit. But now what? There's only one real possiblity left...

*      *      *      *

Voron screamed as Sinhika descended on him, claws extended. For the first and last time in his life, he saw her as she really was.

A minute later, Sinhika retrieved the rest of her blades from Voron's bloody corpse, and wiped them off on the liner of his trench coat. Two blanks of spring steel, forged into a pair of short swords with wire-wrapped hilts--Sinhika was proud of her handiwork--Industrial Age swords.

"Now, where'd that little demon go? And Bulma, for that matter?"

*      *      *      *

Later, back in Satan City, Sean had his own questions...

"What do you want?" Sean asked, scared and angry. His hand crept toward the axe handle leaning against the wall.

"I want the artist who painted that," the white-cloaked demon indicated.

"I don't know who you're talking about," Sean said defiantly, his black hair drooping into his eyes again. "Why do want this guy, anyway?"

The demon snarled. "Idiot! Do I look like a fool to you?" He waved his hand, and Sean's paints and brushes lept from the floor to crash against the wall. "Is the artist you, or your companion?"

"My companion?" Sean stared blankly at the spiky-haired demon, then he noticed Sinhika's jacket still tossed over the back of his couch, behind the demon. Oh crud, Sean thought to himself, he thinks Sinhika lives here and might be the artist!

Sean's muscles tensed, "I'm the artist. What do you want?"

The demon smirked. "You."

Before Sean could move, he found himself slammed against the wall and held there in a grip of iron, the demon's hand against his throat. The demon brought his face close to Sean's.

"You made quite a nuisance of yourself, opening this gate into Hell--a gate that should not exist! Such things are forbidden! I'm here to make sure this gate gets closed, and never re-opened--too bad there's only one way to do that," he sneered.

"Urk!" was all Sean could say with the hand around his throat. He grabbed at the being's wrists, intending to pry them loose-- to his horror, all he grabbed was thin air. The goth artist brought his knee up, aiming for the primary target--and hit nothing at all.

The demonic warrior scowled, and Sean found himself crashing into the opposite wall after being thrown across the room.

"Uhhhhnnn." He picked himself up painfully. "You're not real!"

"Real enough for you. We're spirits from Hell, what did you expect? Flesh and blood is the prerogative of the living." An odd bitterness twisted the hell-warrior's voice.

Sean wiped his mouth, and stared at the blood on his hand for a moment. "Wonderful." His voice was flat. "I'm about to be murdered by a poltergeist from Hell who doesn't like my art."

"No," said the demon commander. "You're about to be executed; you'd already be dead if this were just a killing." He picked up Sean and held him at arm's length, casually. "As such, there are certain formalities--that's why I bothered to tell you all this, instead of just snapping your neck."

"Can't you just take my word that I'll never paint again?" To his horror and shame, Sean realized he was pleading for his life.

The demon commander smirked again. "Haven't you painted pictures like this before?"

The look on Sean's face was all the answer the demon commander needed.

"As long as you live, you could open a gate like this one again--a forbidden doorway! I'm solving that problem right now!"

Kale's hand closed around Sean's throat..

*      *      *      *

Sometime earlier, at the quarry, Deputy stretched his wings and yawned lazily. He pushed off from the ledge, and with a snap of his wings was airborne once again.

"Enough of this!" Deputy yawned again, and belched fire--not at Raditz, but across the quarry toward Bulma and the kids! Raditz's eyes widened, and he dove in front of the blast, deflecting it away with one swift blow. The long-maned Saiyan warrior gasped for breath afterwards.

Only one possibility left--little brother, I hoped I learned well what you tried to teach me, or this will kill me faster than that monster! Focus...


Red flame enveloped Raditz as his power exploded around him, doubled and restored. The whole quarry shook as the red power seethed around him; marble dust filled the air; marble splintered and fell from the quarry walls.

"WHAT?" Deputy's blazing scarlet eyes widened; the demon drove at Raditz, teeth bared and claws outstretched.

Raditz disappeared; the next thing Deputy felt was a massive blow to the back of his skull, breaking his spine and crushing his brainstem. Paralyzed, the great demon fell, crashing into the middle of the pit atop his panicking followers.

"MAN-KI-BATSU!" Once again, the fearsome violet-edged beam smashed down, obliterating Deputy's head and chest, exploding in a shower of fire and shrapnel-like marble shards. As the smoke cleared, Raditz hurled blast after blast into the shredded remnants of the great demon's body.

Raditz descended to hover just above the fallen demon. Behind him, a pickup truck sped up the quarry ramps, taking corners on two wheels as someone tried desperately to escape the carnage below. Another streak of fire darted from the rim of the quarry, and the truck exploded in a ball of gasoline-fueled fire.

Grinning fiercely, Raditz held one hand out, palm flat. "BURNING ATTACK!" A great plume of fire flared out to envelope what was left of Deputy.

*      *      *      *

Sinhika hovered over the rim of the quarry. Where was that other demon? He had a talent for hiding--there!

Scout flitted and hopped from level to level, his gleaming white hide blending in with the marble walls, his path aiming him steadily at Bulma and the children.

"Oh no you don't!" snarled Sinhika as she darted down toward the speedy demon. It was nearly on them when she caught up with the winged raptor and slashed across its back--

--and missed. Scout dodged with the preternatural speed that was his trademark, whipping his tail back and across Sinhika's face. She reeled back for a moment, blood running from her broken nose--time enough for Scout to dive and grab a child in each arm.

Bulma shrieked and grabbed for the demon's leg as it flew off--too slow; she missed and fell screaming into the pit below. Sinhika hurtled downward, grabbing Bulma's arm with her left hand. For a moment, they hung there in mid-air, Bulma shaking uncontrollably, Sinhika breathing hard.

"You can fly, too," Bulma said, amazed.

"All my kind can," Sinhika answered. She gently set Bulma down on the nearest ledge. "Wait here, I've got to stop that thing!"

"Hey!" Bulma yelped in surprise as the orange-haired demon girl vanished from sight. Then she saw the dinosaur-demon--it headed unerringly for the churning void over the altar, Trunks and Goten clutched in its arms. "Oh, no!" Bulma moaned, terror nearly freezing her tongue.

"RADITZ! Stop him!" she finally screamed.

*      *      *      *

Raditz smirked as the greasy remnants of Deputy smoked and burned--then Bulma's frantic scream reached his ears. His eyes widened in horror, and he hurtled toward the demon Scout with all his speed. As he flew, Raditz flung a single blast ahead of him, aiming at the churning void.

Deflected by the twisted reality around the void, his beam struck the blood-stained altar, shattering it into a thousand shards of marble rubble. The void still churned, hovering over the smoking crater.

*      *      *      *

"Piccolo! Gohan!" Goku yelped, "I can sense Raditz now! See you there!" He put two fingers to his forehead, and vanished in a streak of light.

"Dad!" Gohan yelled with dismay, "Where is he?"

"Don't worry, Gohan!" Piccolo yelled back, "I can sense him, too. It's not far!"

*      *      *      *

Blazing steel slashed out of thin air, biting deep into Scout's left wing. Scout screeched and rolled over on his back, lashing up with the great gutting claw that was the heritage of his demon-raptor form. There was a brief cry, and Sinhika appeared, plummeting toward the ground, She hit with a thud, and lay with both arms wrapped around her stomach. Blood poured over her fingers.

The wounded demon windmilled awkwardly to the ground near the shrieking void, one wing dangling useless. Trunks hung limply from under one arm, still only half-conscious; Goten wiggled and yelled, but could not free himself from the demon's grip. Scout hopped closer to the void.

"KAIO-KEN TIMES TWO!" Red fire cloaked Raditz as he shot across the quarry-- one hand grabbed the dinosaur-demon's tail--

--A sudden flicker as Goku appeared above the battlefield--

--With a sudden effort, Scout threw Trunks and Goten toward the void, even as Raditz's other hand came slashing down, shattering Scout's spine and tearing into the dinosaur-demon's heart.

"NOOOOOOO!" Raditz wrenched his gory hand loose from Scout's back and lunged for Goten and Trunks as they plunged into the shrieking void--

--and vanished with the void. Raditz plunged through the empty air where the void had been, and crashed hard into the back wall of the quarry pit. Silence fell like darkness at the flick of a switch, like a knife into Raditz's heart. The void was gone. Trunks was gone. Goten was gone.

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | XXIV. At the Hill of Gold | XXV. The Reckoning | XXVI. Edge of Annihilation ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic