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Three were the Daughters of Rashi:
Latta the Viper, who betrayed the brother she loved best;
Kimchee the Warrior, who was faithful,
and Zukini, who was innocent.
Five were the Sons of Nappa:
Trigo the Fool, who spoke when he should not;
Apio the Strong, who spoke slowly, but well;
Col the Handsome, loved by many, murdered by one;
Chishan the Quick, smart, and fiercest in battle;
and Diive the Magnificent, first-born,
stronger than Apio, smarter than Chishan,
more handsome than Col, and a greater fool than Trigo,
for he defied his king over the enemy he loved,
and so died Diive the Traitor.
* * *
"Zorn didn't tell us exactly where or when this is, just that we're both on-planet right now," mused Chishan, elite Saiyan and second son of General Nappa's large family, as he followed Apio down the narrow, crowded street. Slave creatures of many races scurried about, buying and selling and otherwise doing their masters' bidding. Proud Saiyan warriors clad in battle armor strode down the street, heedless of the slaves who scurried frantically out of their way. "Where are you going, anyway?"
Apio, a big, broad, plain-faced Saiyan with black spiky hair flowing down to his hips, glanced at his older brother. "Tracking the broo."
Chishan looked startled, and tilted his head as if listening, highlighting the short, vivid scar across his left eye. He was slimmer than his blocky younger brother, but still powerfully built; hair spilled down to just below his shoulderblades in a spray of black spikes. "Oh. Yeah. That reek is hard to miss!"
Apio snorted. "Thought you were smelling this alley?"
Chishan smiled wryly. "Yeah. Seeing and hearing all this again, I forgot I was dead for a moment."
Apio raised one eyebrow and shook his head reproachfully, then turned back to the task at hand. "Only two of them."
"Two of us, two of them. Could get nasty."
"I know where we are now," Chishan said. "We're on the edge of the Slave Quarter, and over that way is the spaceport. Welcome to Vegetasai, and all that," he commented sardonically.
"Nice neighborhood," Apio grunted as the streets narrowed and darkened. Ancient Tsufuru-built buildings towered above them, much repaired and rebuilt over the centuries. Furtive creatures ducked in and out of buildings, avoiding clusters of ragged, savage-looking Saiyans that idled near taverns, pawnshops and gambling houses.
There were more slaves in this district, and fewer Saiyans, but the Saiyans of the Slave Quarter were the weakest, poorest and most bitter of the race. They were those too weak to enlist in the off-world soldiery, or too cowardly, or too damaged by past injuries, physical and mental. Despised and unwanted--for what good is a Saiyan who cannot fight?--they lived among and preyed on those too weak to resist them, the common slaves of the Quarter.
"You know your way well enough, 'Shan," said Apio.
"Yeah, I used to come down this way for a little entertainment, to wind down after purge missions. The broo came this way, too. My guess is they're looking for someone with a weak mind and strong body--oh, crud!"
The two ghosts glanced at each other; Apio hissed wordlessly and said, "They split up."
"One stayed here in the Quarter, but the other went flying off over there... I wonder what got his attention?"
"Medical Center," Apio grunted.
"Yeah, that makes sense. Another source of strong bodies and weak minds--the wounded in the regen tanks. If there's some wounded first-class whose soul and body are held together by a thread...."
"...Broo-boy kicks that soul out and moves himself in," growled Apio. "I'll take him--you go after the bottomfeeder. Meet at the tavern--you know the one--when you're done."
* * *
In the sparring pit, Cumber looked askance at the stocky, bearded alien doctor who was supervising the two medical technicians as they carefully lifted Berge's body onto a gurney. "I don't see why you're bothering... with those bone shards driven into his brain, he's dead."
"Brain damage is unpredictable," the doctor answered calmly. "We'll see what happens after the tissue is regenerated. He may be braindead, he may be permanently impaired, or he may come out of this in perfect health."
Cumber shrugged, and let the medics carry on with their work. The elite had no particular animus against Berge--in fact, they had been friends, but he did think Berge had been a damn fool to get in a sparring match with Rhubra--and doubly a fool to fight so carelessly, preening like an adolescent before the elite woman! Well, he'd paid the price. Too bad for Berge that Rhubra was already involved and had no interest in courting displays. Doubly bad for Berge that Rhubra was involved with Cumber.
"I hope you're satisfied," he hissed down at his corpse-faced friend. "I tried to warn you that she wouldn't be admiring your physique once the fight started--she'd be trying to kill you. You just didn't listen, did you?"
* * *
No-Tail winced as he dragged himself and his maimed leg deeper into the old sewer pipe. Damn the bastards! He'd cornered the old slave in an empty alley and made the kill himself, Rateater and his cronies had no right to take his meat away! He'd been a fool to fight them, but his empty stomach maddened him, drove him out of his head with hunger. Unable to bear losing his first real meal in a week, he'd attacked Rateater himself, grabbing his tail and not letting go--until the others had beaten him nearly senseless.
Pain drove the hunger madness from his brain, and left him cowering in his usual fear--he'd broken free and run, then. Not that he could run very far; something was wrong with his knee, and his ankle was broken--it was only a matter of time before Rateater finished his feast and came after him. Then No-Tail himself would become Rateater's kill and next feast.
As he shivered fearfully in his hiding place deep in the Slave Quarter sewers, the small, tailless, cowardly, weak-willed Saiyan did not sense the foul presence that drifted toward him like an intangible poisonous mist until it was far, far too late.
* * *
The medical technician frowned at the outputs from Berge's regen tank and shook his head. "I think we can pull the plug on this one--he's a flatliner."
PIP! The encephalograph suddenly burst into activity.
"What the--? That's impossible!" The technician stared at the formerly empty graph; it was fully active--but completely wrong. Quickly, the technician pulled up Berge's charts and compared them. The restored neural activity was completely different from that previous recorded--it was the graph of a different person. Quickly, the technician made a copy of the records and went to find Dr. Quoon.
Some time later, he returned with the skeptical Dr. Quoon.
"... Are you sure? Brain tissue regeneration is very unpredictable; it could have affected his brain pattern. Perhaps it's simply been misfiled in the database."
"No, sir, I double-checked, and...." the technician's voice trailed off as he stared at the readings from Berge's regen tank. "Sir, something is wrong here! These readings are all wrong for a Saiyan warrior!"
The bearded humanoid alien doctor glanced at the displays. "Extraordinary! The tissue regeneration pattern has changed... let me see." Dr. Quoon stepped up to the tank, peering through the greenish fluid at the man within.
Two dark eyes regarded him from a face that was no longer Saiyan. A long-nailed hand reached up and pulled the mask from its face.
"What?" The doctor staggered back---
CRASH! The front of the tank exploded in a burst of power, shredding the doctor into bloody gobbets from the waist up. The technician cowered behind the console as something that was almost Saiyan, and a lot something else pulled itself from the remains of the tank. Sharp claws tipped the otherwise still-Saiyan foot that supported its owner's weight as it climbed down. It still had the spiky black hair of a Saiyan, and the muscular physique of an elite, and even a tail--though no Saiyan's tail was sheathed in sharp-ridged scales--but the face! Massive ram's horns curled back from the ex-Saiyan's temples, and far too many sharp teeth were bared in grinning, bestial jaws.
Dark eyes darted toward the cowering technician; with a single bound the naked creature landed in front of the small birdlike alien. A blow of his powerful fist slammed the helpless technician to the ground; then the naked ex-Saiyan knelt on his body and gripped the small alien's head in both hands.
The technician screamed and clawed frantically at the ground as a foul presence forced itself into his mind and rummaged through what it found there.
"Coo!" it said. "You've nothing useful to me--I've already got the language and customs and stuff from Dead-Brain here, and with my gifts, I don't need your healer's arts." It laughed, a deep growling rumble. "Besides, I like hurting healers."
The technician screamed even more as the Saiyan Broo tied crude tourniquets around both of his arms and both of his legs--and then ripped them off one by one. It ate what was left, without bothering to kill him first.
* * *
Even if he hadn't tracked the broo's foul spirit to this spot, Chishan reflected, the goat horns sprouting from the tailless Saiyan's head would have caught his attention. It was a very unusual feature even for an ex-soldier who'd had his tail cut for cowardice. Chishan didn't know the man called No-Tail, but there was no mistaking the brand of disgrace seared into the spot where his tail had been.
From the look of him, he was starving and had been badly beaten not too long ago; Chishan marvelled that he could move at all, let alone so purposefully. That had to be the broo spirit's doing; it had possessed the man, suppressing or expelling whatever weak excuse for a personality he'd had, and was using his body for its own purposes.
Chishan scowled ferociously and stalked the goat broo-Saiyan, contemplating how he might interfere with those purposes, whatever they were. Could he attack the possessing spirit directly?
As the goat-broo Saiyan-thing slunk up the back stairs of a tenement building, Chishan drew his spirit sword and slashed savagely across the thing's back.
His sword rebounded, and the creature whirled, snarling, hands curled into claws ready to strike. The broo was in complete possession of its body and could not be forced out--the former owner's soul was gone. Something shielded the possessing spirit; it was weaker than Chishan, and should have lost power to the angry ghost.
The goat-horned Saiyan looked around and stamped a hoofed foot. It waggled two fingers, holding them out, pointed approximately at Chishan. "Strong ghost, strong ghost. Ghost stay away from Gutclaw, Gutclaw's magic stronger. Later, later, Gutclaw bind you, drink your power."
Chishan recoiled. Shaman! The goat-thing was a shaman, and knew how to fight and bind spirits. He watched as the thing slipped into the ancient tenement and followed at a distance, snarling with anger. Gutclaw meant to feed his hunger-weakened body by hunting slaves inside the tenement!
There was a reason the weakest of the Saiyans gathered in gangs on the streets, and hunted lone slaves in the alleys and byways--but never set one foot inside a slave tenement. Someone owned those tenement buildings, and the slaves within--and that someone was usually an elite noble or a powerful first-class warrior. An occasional unskilled or useless slave taken on the street was no real loss, but the slave owners took it amiss if gutter scum came into their buildings to prey on their slaves. The weakest of the weak last-class Saiyans had the courage and strength to hunt feeble, lone slaves in packs--one first-class in a bad mood could wipe the entire Quarter clean of their packs and think it no more than an hour's light exercise.
It didn't take Gutclaw long to find an occupied apartment. As he drifted insubstantially through walls after the broo shaman, Chishan was surprised at his own outrage--hadn't he done the same during every purge? The meat of the young was the tenderest eating, and as for the female... Bloodlust stimulated lesser lusts, and when the targets weren't tough enough to provide a good fight, sometimes he indulged his other lusts when the killing frenzy ran down. Chishan preferred to sate his lusts on something a bit more Saiyan-looking, but he'd never cared if his alien victims were willing beforehand or healthy afterwards. What did it matter? They'd all be purged anyway.
Would you have cared if that had been your little sister Zukini? A part of him asked sarcastically. Imagine she'd been Zarbon or Doddoria's plaything before she died--would you still think it didn't matter?
Shut up! Chishan told himself, just shut the hell up! I don't have time for this, and I don't want to think about it!
* * *
Apio had even less luck than Chishan. Oh, he'd had no trouble finding the carnage left in the medical center--it was the center of a crowd of shocked, confused technicians and warriors milling about and staring at the seared and blasted wreckage of what had been a regen tank and most of the adjoining room. The author of the carnage was nowhere to be found.
Three entities were unaccounted for: one technician, one doctor, and one brain-injured warrior. One of the living warriors speculated that something had malfunctioned badly, causing the tank to explode--a speculation that sent the alien technicians scurrying for cover, lest one of them be held responsible by the angry, uncertain warriors.
Apio thought differently; he knew what he was hunting. The missing, brain-injured warrior--he would have been perfect for the broo spirit to possess! If the broo were rational, it would also have been an obvious move to blast the whole place and destroy the evidence. Now if only he could get one of these idiots to mention who the warrior was and where he lived!
* * *
Cumber not only knew where Berge lived, he passed his quarters several times a day, on his way to meals or his duty station or the sparring pits. As he passed by, Cumber was surprised to note a light on in Berge's quarters. His eyes narrowed; could Berge have recovered that quickly--or was some jackal robbing his suite? Cumber clicked on his scouter; power level 1950. That was high, but consistant with Berge having recovered from his deadly wound.
Cumber slapped the door a few times; as soon as it slid open, he entered. No one greeted him in the anteroom, but there were sounds from the sleeping chamber. "Hey, Berge! Why didn't you tell me you were better?"
"Just a minute and I'll be out," came Berge's voice from the other room. "Get comfortable; there's some fresh meat on the table."
Cumber wandered into the common room and noted the still-warm, raw meat on a platter on the table. He hooked a low chair with his foot and pulled it under him; sitting down, he picked up a bloody chunk of liver and slurped it down. "Not bad! Where'd you get it?"
"The medical center," growled Berge's voice. Cumber looked up, slightly startled.
It was not Berge, though it was wearing Berge's armor and scouter, and had Berge's shoulder-long hair and voice. Berge didn't have horns and long jaws filled with sharp teeth, and he didn't have a scaly, ridged tail that whipped from one side to the other. Cumber started to his feet--
The thing was already moving, and slammed a fist into Cumber's unguarded gut. Cumber doubled up, groaning--only to be interrupted by a kick in the groin, followed by a heavy blow to back of the helpless Cumber's head.
* * *
The first thing Cumber was aware of as he regained consciousness was the pain--pulsing, agonizing pain near the end of his tail. With a great effort he managed to turn his head, and blinked, trying to clear the tears of pain from his eyes. As his vision cleared, Cumber realized he was tied face-down, naked and spreadeagle, to Berge's table. He couldn't fight, he couldn't get up, he could barely move his fingers--the pain was everything, weakening him, and clouding his mind.
"What?" he gasped.
A shadow moved into his sight; the Berge-thing looked at him. "You are useful to me," it informed him. "but I need to prepare you first. I wasn't sure I could restrain something as strong as you, but then I remembered your tail." The monster roughly pulled the end of Cumber's tail into view, displaying the large alligator clamp that firmly gripped Cumber's tail. It laughed harshly. "Such a simple way to bind a mighty warrior!"
Cumber shouted curses and heaved at the wires binding him, but with the clamp on his tail, he didn't have the strength to break the steel rope or the table. He sagged down, panting with exhaustion.
"You're too damn loud, Cumber," said the monster. Cumber felt a sharp prickle of ki, and a cool breeze across the back of his head as some of his hair fell away. The monster laughed at the startled look on his face. "Oh yes, I know your name; I know everything Berge knew. In a few hours, I'll know everything you know."
"You're not Berge!" Cumber snarled.
"No; Berge is dead. Call me Redjack." With that, the broo-Saiyan stuffed a handful of Cumber's own hair into his mouth and gagged him. "Well, think of me as Redjack." Redjack began to strip off his armor. "What a fine, proud, tough elite warrior you are! It should take no more than four hours to break you."
It only took two hours; two hours in which Cumber learned that the Saiyans were mere infants in the art of cruelty, two hours in which Cumber learned of every depravity that one being can inflict on another, two hours that ended with Redjack pulling himself off of Cumber's bloody, twitching body for the last time.
Redjack grinned down at his victim; Cumber's eyes stared up at him, dull and empty and hopeless. The tail had been the breaking point; it hadn't taken very long after Redjack began patiently and systematically applying his skills to the delicate limb. He hadn't really needed to abuse the Saiyan again after his victim surrendered to despair, but the broo enjoyed it so much.
Cumber didn't even blink as Redjack drew the silver wire tight between his hands and wrapped it around the Saiyan's throat. Cumber's body reacted, shuddering as the wire bit into his neck, but he had no strength left to resist--nor any desire to do so. There was something like relief in the tortured Saiyan's eyes as the garotte slashed through the big veins and arteries, cutting Cumber's throat; Redjack couldn't help laughing. As he pulled the wire tight and tensed for the final twist that would sever Cumber's spine, he whispered in the dying Saiyan's ear: "This is just the beginning!"
The final twist and jerk, a breath of diabolical black sorcery, and Redjack held up Cumber's severed head. The broo laughed, an uproarous fit that brought tears of mirth streaming from his eyes as Cumber opened his eyes and screamed soundlessly--his mind and soul now trapped in his own severed head.
Redjack, Doom Priest of Thanatar, stroked his new head fondly. It wasn't the Saiyan's knowledge he wanted--that was trivial, and differed little from the memories in Berge's brain--but the elite's raw power. The black magic that gave Cumber's head a semblance of life could not be imposed until the Saiyan's will had been completely broken and his mind as thoroughly known as his quivering body. Now, as long as his head continued in its half-life, his mind and power were Redjack's, to use as the broo desired while Cumber endured, fully conscious, unable to sleep, unable to deny Redjack utter and complete intimacy with his mind and his soul's innermost secrets.
Redjack grinned; what was this? Cumber did have some tidbit of knowledge that interested him. "Coo! Rhubra." He rolled the name around on his tongue as he secured the severed head to his waist by its own hair, savoring Cumber's own desire for the female. Berge had desired her, too. "Rhubra. Yesss... I shall make her mine."
* * *
Back in the Slave Quarter, Chishan watched the broo-Saiyan Gutclaw methodically work his way through two more slave apartments, raping, killing and eating the inhabitants in each one. The broo was cautious, sneaking furtively from one hall to the next, avoiding the sight of any other tenement dwellers. The demon holed up in the last apartment and curled up to sleep.
He's not very strong yet, Chishan realized--but a feast like that should put some meat on his scrawny bones and heal his injuries. In the ordinary course of things, he'd be doomed; once the owner of these slaves finds out how many he's lost, he'll wipe out every tailless, last-class gutter Saiyan in the Quarter. As it is--he's doomed with the rest of us. Either he knows that, or he doesn't--but either way, his actions are foolish... or is he up to something I don't know about?
Chishan pondered this for a bit while the broo slept, and finally gave up in disgust. I can't figure this out without knowing more, and I can't doing anything about it even if I knew what he was up to. The ghostly Saiyan snarled his frustration, but only another spirit could have heard. There must be some way to solve this!
"I don't know if you'll be ghosts like if you'd been sent to the living world the normal way, or manifested like you are here, or possessing your former selves, or what..." Captain Zorn had said.
Possessing his former self? Could he do that--take over his own body? Chishan wondered. Something told him it would either be extremely easy, or completely impossible. But even if he did, what would it do to have the same soul twice in one body?
First he had to find his body... but there was only one day he'd been on planet shortly before the destruction of Vegetasai--the day he'd come back from his last purge mission... the last day anyone came back from a purge mission. Ap had also gotten back a few hours after him, but right now, if it really was that day, Chishan knew where he was and what he was doing.
* * *
Chishan woke abruptly, oddly disoriented. Where was he? The two warm bodies laying against him reminded him; he grinned as he gently caressed the two naked, sleeping women. Yamra and Millette were his two favorites on the whole Street of Whores--if he'd been a low-class soldier instead of a noble elite, he'd have married both of them by now. Unfortunately for them, even though they were Saiyan, they were too low-class for any kind of permanent liason with Lord Chishan, eldest living son of the Marshal of Vegetasai.
Chishan raised himself on one elbow to peer at the third figure sharing the bed with him. The alien girl was curled up in a tight, huddled ball, facing away from him, on the very edge of the mat--as far away as she could get without leaving the sleeping mat entirely. She shuddered as Chishan reached over Millette to lightly stroke one pastel green arm. So, the girl was still awake! Chishan smiled with amusement; she had been a rare treat!
Yamra had hinted that she had something special for him--a new slave of a very Saiyan-like race, not yet broken in. Yamra knew his tastes very well. The girl's pastel green skin, dark green hair and short, bushy, silver-furred tail had been exotic and intriguing, rather than disgustingly alien. Her screams and sobs and struggles had inflamed him until he'd lost himself in his wild passion--he'd come close to killing her before Yamra and Millette intervened. They had tackled him and twined their tails around his, demanding that Chishan share his passion with them--a very dangerous thing to do; he'd nearly killed all three of them, but it did snap him out of his battle lust.
After that, they had thoroughly enjoyed the encounter, even if the little green slave girl hadn't. So what? She was just a slave--
An image flashed through Chishan's mind unbidden:
His little sister Zukini, stripped naked and pinned to the metal deck of a starship compartment by two of Frieza's soldiers. A burly, stub-horned, half-naked soldier was on her; she screamed thinly as he raped her. Zarbon and Doddoria stood by and watched, breathing heavily.
"Listen to the little monkey squeal," Doddora said, grinning. "I don't think it's enjoying our fun!"
Zarbon chuckled. "It's just a filthy monkey--but if you don't mind, I'll go next. It'll be all used up by the time you're through."
Chishan sat all the way up, sweat beading his brow. That never happened! Zukini and all the rest died in the explosion, they were never captured, they--
We're all dead. I'm dead, this is the past, and there's a damn broo that needs killing! Chishan scrambled to his feet, pulling himself free from the sleepy embraces of the two Saiyan whores. Damn it, where was his armor?--oh, there where he'd dropped it, along with his scouter.
As he was pulling his torso armor on, Yamra sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "Hey, what's your hurry? You paid in advance," she joked. "No need to run out before breakfast..." She glanced at a chronometer, '...or lunch."
"There's a demon butchering his way through one of the slave tenements not too far away. I need to kill him," Chishan said tersely as he fitted his scouter over his ear.
Yamra's eyes widened. "Well! Talk about mood spoilers!" She scrambled out of bed, wincing as she stood up. "Just as well; you were, ah, more than I could handle last night. It's going to be a day or two before I can work again; I should charge you extra for the down time," she grumbled, but not seriously.
Something like Chisan's conscience twinged; she wouldn't have another day to rest--none of them would. He tossed her a credit plaque.
"Hey! I was just joking about the extra charge--you know my sense of humor," Yamra said, fear creeping into her voice. Had she insulted her elite patron? Chishan was easy-going as elites went, and she thought he knew her humor and she knew his or she wouldn't have dared say something so familiar, and every warrior liked to be told he was too virile for one woman to handle, and--
The scar-faced warrior seized the younger whore by one arm and pulled her close, stilling her fears with a deep, passionate kiss. In spite of her aches and fears, she found herself responding, returning the passion in his kiss. After long minutes, they pulled apart, breathing heavily.
Desultory clapping greeted them from the sleeping mat. Millette, the older of the two sisters, was awake. "Is this a private party, or can the rest of us join in?"
Chishan's lips quirked up in the barest hint of a smile as he wrapped his right hand around the credit plaque in Yamra's hand. "Millette, Yamra... take this, and enjoy yourselves. Buy a feast, go shopping, whatever--I order you to indulge yourselves totally. Spend it all, if you can. And..." He glanced at the alien girl huddled on the edge of the sleeping mat, "take good care of her. I was rough on her last night." He gave Yamra one last pat on the rump, and was out the door and gone.
Yamra blinked and stared after the departed warrior, her tail tip twitching. "What was that all about?"
Millette yawned. "I dunno, but I'm not going to complain. How many credits in that account, anyway?"
Yamra's eyebrows raised. "I'm almost afraid to find out. That was weird--have you ever known 'Shan to give a damn about a slave?"
Millette frowned. "Never... he nearly killed her last night! You know how much Dendretta cost me--Saiyan-like virgin females in good health are not cheap, damn it! I knew she'd be to 'Shan's taste, and I figured he'd be perfect to break her in, and he gets off to a good start and then goes battle-happy on me, and I nearly get killed snapping him out of it, damn it!" Millette grumbled. "Then this morning..." She shakes her head. "Damn it! He worries me, Yam; I've seen other warriors act like that." She stood up, still frowning, and opened a wall locker looking for clothes. "'Shan thinks he's going to die soon, damn it."
Yamra sat up, alarmed. "Not 'Shan! I like him! Besides, he's Nappa's son--no one is strong enough!"
Millette sighed. "Yeah, well, I remember another one of Nappa's sons who was every bit as strong, and he's every bit dead now. Every warrior I knew who thought he was going to die was right, damn it! But... maybe I'm reading him wrong--'Shan didn't actually say it himself. Damn it, he's our best customer, and he treats us well--he's more like a second- or third-class than an elite when it comes to that."
Yamra chuckled. "You like him, too, big sister--you just don't want to admit it! Well, if 'Shan really thinks he's going to die, shouldn't we respect his last request?" Yamra held up the credit plaque hesitantly.
Millette smirked and snatched the plaque from Yamra. "Yam, honey, that's one elite lord's order I'll be happy to obey."
* * *
How long had he been out of it? Chishan had possessed his own sleeping body--and had promptly fallen asleep. He'd forgotten that a soul in a body was subject to the limitations of the body--and his body and mind were asleep, so he slept. Not only that, his soul and mind and memories had gotten all tangled up, and he'd temporarily forgotten that he was here twice, and had a mission to accomplish....
Captain Zorn was a slender Saiyan with a wild shock of short black hair drooping into his eyes and every other direction as well; like the rest of the Saiyan warriors in Hell, he'd kept his form and most of his power. "I need two elite warriors to take care of a, ah, small problem that this battle has caused." The pointed sarcasm in Zorn's voice caught Chishan's ear; he stirred uneasily.
"How small a problem?" asked the scar-faced elite.
"The battle with Chaos tore holes in reality, and broo escaped through those holes. There's one in particular that has to be closed fast, but not before we kill the broo."
Chishan glanced at Apio, and asked suspiciously, "Why us? And what's so special about this hole, Zorn? You're never close-mouthed unless it's bad."
Zorn sighed. "I picked you two because you're powerful, and you're not stupid, and I can trust you to stick to the job and not get distracted. The hole is a time gate, Chishan... a gate to Vegetasai before it.... before we died."
"Oh, crud." Chishan stared at Zorn. "How can you trust even us? Any of us would do anything to change what happened!"
Apio finally spoke. "It's not that simple--we can't change anything, can we?"
Zorn lowered his voice. "You can't change anything--you're still dead, and past time is fixed. The broo can, if they possess a body. It is said that they can change the unchangeable, for that is the nature of Chaos--unlimited change."
"Would that be so bad, if it changed things so that Frieza didn't destroy Vegetasai?" Chishan wondered.
Zorn looked at him reproachfully; Chishan was usually smarter than that. "Chishan--"
Apio interrupted. "'Shan, can you imagine a broo doing something helpful... ever?"
Chishan scowled. "No. But I don't see how they can possibly make things worse." He shrugged. "We're all dead, what does it matter if the demons send a few people here early?"
Zorn frowned. "When you're done thinking up excuses for staying in Hell and not going back home, let me know."
Chishan scratched the back of his head. "Eh, that's a hard way to put it. We'll do it," He glanced quickly at Apio for confirmation.
"One more thing," Zorn lowered his voice, "at that time, there is no one alive stronger than Frieza. Those who killed Frieza were all young and vulnerable then. No one except Frieza himself could change what Frieza did to us; you can't stop Frieza, but anyone could kill Kakarott or Vegeta's mate-to-be, whoever she is. Even young Vegeta might be vulnerable, and Raditz definitely is. You know what that would mean."
...Yeah, Chishan knew what that meant: if Raditz hadn't gone to Earth and killed Kakarott, letting him be resurrected so much the stronger, or if Kakarott had never made it to Earth, Frieza would never have been defeated and the last of the Saiyans would have died a miserable death as Frieza's broken slaves. Instead, the last of the Saiyans had died fighting as warriors should, and some of them had been miraculously resurrected. There wasn't supposed to be hope in Hell, and Chishan had no hope for himself... but maybe, just maybe because of Kakarott and Vegeta there was some tiny hope for the Saiyan race.
Chishan would take on all Hell and Vegetasai both before he let some lousy, stinking demon destroy that tiny hope.
Time to find that little bastard before he got up to real mischief. He tapped the scouter on as he flew down the alley toward the tenement building, searching for anomalous power readings. Nothing high enough to even threaten a third-class. Chishan frowned; Gutclaw had seemed moderately powerful as a spirit. Where was he?
Below him, a dark shape suddenly caught his eye. Chishan looked at it, but there was no reading on his scouter. Just some stray bit of trash, or--?
It was a body. Chishan touched down and turned over the carcass with one toe--to his surprise, it was one of the gutter Saiyans. Why hadn't he realized that at first--oh. His tail had been cut off. Chishan knelt down and inspected the body more closely, noting other mutilations; the dead man had been de-tailed and sloppily tortured to death. Or maybe it hadn't been sloppy; true torture strove to keep the victim alive as long as possible--the killer seemed bent on inflicting a very painful death quickly. Chishan shuddered and wrapped his tail more tightly around his waist.
There were many hazards in the Slave Quarter, not least of which were other gutter Saiyans, who did not hesitate to kill and eat anyone weaker and slower than they. Nonetheless, Chishan could not ignore the synchronicity between the arrival of the broo and this strange, brutal murder. Besides, no gutter Saiyan would have left perfectly good meat behind.
Chishan extended one hand and power flared in a long plume that completely consumed the corpse, and continued his search. He paused to dispose of two more corpses, similarily mutilated and de-tailed--Gutclaw had been busy, but what did he want with the tails?
The apartment was empty. After finding the bodies along the way, Chishan had expected that it would be. Where was the little bastard now? Again he searched for anomalous readings--there! That was far too high for a gutter Saiyan, and the wrong part of the Quarter for a second-class. Second-class? If that was Gutclaw, his power had grown drastically.
Chishan blew out the wall and flashed through the air, heedless of who saw him or whose property he might have damaged. He was the son of Nappa--few Saiyans and no aliens would dare call him to account even if they had had more than a day to live.
* * *
Rateater was the strongest of the gutter Saiyans, which wasn't saying much, but he was strong enough to dominate the Slave Quarter aliens and gutter Saiyans alike. He could have been a third-class warrior and gone off-planet except for one thing: he was completely psychotic. He was too unpredictable, too apt to scream at things no one else could see, too likely to start foaming and clawing at the invisible bugs eating his brain, too fond of attacking and killing the random passers-by who were stalking him and plotting to put bugs in his brain; no team would accept him nor would any recruiter train him. With the odd cunning of madness he refrained from attacking anyone significantly more powerful than he, and, since his victims were nothing but slaves and weaklings, no warrior bothered to put Rateater out of his misery.
In his more lucid moments, he was a vicious bully and fierce hunter; that, combined with his relative strength and unusual appearance--grey complexion, dark, nearly black tail-fur--attracted fearful respect from the other gutter Saiyans. Rateater never went hungry for long, and had never starved; his small band of followers survived quite well on his leavings.
Unfortunately for Rateater's gang, No-Tail's hatred for his tormentors had been remembered by Gutclaw. Rateater came out of one of his brain-clawing fits to find that his followers had been reduced to one in the space of several hours--and then none. They had simply wandered off and disappeared, which disturbed the unstable, paranoid Saiyan.
Then the piping began, greatly disturbing Rateater. He staggered down the alleyways, shouting at the invisible musician, looking for something or someone to tear apart. He was completely surprised to round a corner and find No-Tail standing in the middle of the narrow alley, waiting for him.
Rateater blinked; something was funny about No-Tail's face. He had... horns. The little coward wasn't running, either. Rateater roared and charged--only to find his feet firmly rooted to the ground. He fell on his face.
"Cannot befuddle the fuddled," recited Gutclaw. "A madness demon... niiiice. I will have him." The broo gestured with his hands, and something intangible swept over Rateater and crawled in his head--and ate all the bugs! Rateater sat up, whimpering with his hands around his head. The bugs were all gone, they weren't crawling in his head eating his brain anymore, and he could think!
Gutclaw cocked his head, and looked at Rateater thoughtfully. Rateater started to notice other things that were not quite right about the former No-Tail--his feet were changed into hooves, and he had a tail wrapped around his waist--no, he didn't, he had a braided rope or something tied around his waist...
"Stupid, lame little bastard!" the bully Rateater growled as he got to his feet. "A fake tail! Who you fooling, coward?"
Gutclaw smirked. "Not a tail, not a fake tail. Real tails, real tails. I like your tail, too." With that, he danced forward on his hooves and suddenly snap-kicked, catching Rateater solidly in the groin. Rateater went down, groaning; Gutclaw kneed him in the face and chopped the dark-tailed Saiyan across the neck. Rateater stayed down.
When Rateater regained his senses, he found himself looking into Gutclaw's goat-horned, Saiyan face. Gutclaw smirked, and Rateater felt a sudden, sharp pain at the base of his tail, followed by sudden weakness.
"ARRRRGGHHH! What did you--?" Rateater fell suddenly silent as Gutclaw waved a severed black-furred tail in his face. "MY TAIL!" he bellowed in anguish--only to be hit by Gutclaw again, nearly knocking him out. Then the cutting began...
Gutclaw smirked in satisfaction as Rateater's tormented soul finally broke free of his tortured, dying body... only to be trapped in his own severed tail. Tail-binding was a foul ritual of pain; Rateater had been tortured to death in such a way that the pain increased as death neared; his confused soul had anticipated death as greater torment rather than the final release it should have been, and so lingered with his body--or rather, the most coveted part of his body.
Gutclaw licked his lips; for animals, it was tails, for humans, the hands, and for Saiyans, also their precious tails. His companion Redjack would probably argue that the head was a better container for a captured soul, but that was a Thanatari for you. Gutclaw had no interest in mucking about with his victim's minds; he just wanted the raw power. He carefully braided the black-furred tail in with the other stolen tails he wore around his waist, savoring the extra ki he'd captured. Maybe now he'd have enough to bind that strong ghost who'd attacked him....
Gutclaw whirled; another Saiyan had just landed--no gutter Saiyan this, but a true warrior! The warrior tapped his scouter and scowled, plainly disliking the numbers he was reading. "What the hell?"
Gutclaw's nose twitched; he didn't like the power he could sense on this armored warrior, either. Even with the boosted ki from the captured souls, he couldn't hope to challenge a strong first-class--and this was an elite! His fingers arched in a clutching gesture, and then released. "Madness demon, feast!"
Chishan staggered as invisible bugs clawed at his face, trying to burrow in through his eyes and mouth to devour his soft, juicy brain. He clawed at his face, trying to get the creatures no one could see off and away--
This is a psychic attack, you idiot! Chishan collapsed to his knees as his strength suddenly left him--and so did the crawling bugs. He sensed rather dimly that some kind of struggle he couldn't see was going on around him--and what was he doing here in the back alleys of the Slave Quarter with a corpse for company? Last he remembered, he was quite comfortably wrapped up with Yamra and Millette and that green slave-thing. How had he--?
His strength returned in a rush; Chishan stood up and brushed himself off. The damn broo was nowhere to be seen. Damn, damn, damn! He distracted me with that madness demon--I had to abandon my own body to fight it or it would have possessed me! Snarling viciously, Chishan tapped his scouter, looking for the goat-broo Saiyan's overly-strong signature. He caught the last trace of it as it vanished into those of the swarm of low-class soldiers coming and going on the edge of the port district.
Where's he going now? Chishan thought with some irritation. He's not inconspicuous with those horns and that tail belt of his--which raises his power level somehow. Oh, right. Check that last elevation, fool--he's in the sewers. But where is he going? What is he after? Chishan lifted his head up and looked toward the port district, and the tall buildings of the launch complex...
A shiver ran the length of Chishan's tail. No. He couldn't--there's no way the demon could know. Even I don't know exactly when--Bardock only said they passed in flight as he was returning to Vegetasai... That's hours from now, so he probably hasn't launched yet; he might even still be in his creche. He's here, right now, and if that demon is after him--I can't take the risk, Chishan thought as he rose into the air, his double-strength aura igniting around him. That broo has the power of a strong second-class, and at his present age, Kakarott has no chance at all.
* * *
"What I want is simple," Apio said to the newt-like alien he had pinned to the wall with his forearm. "Tell me who the missing warrior is, and where he lives. What is hard about that?"
"Y-Yes. Right away, master!" the slave clerk gabbled. Apio released him, and the creature ran to a console and typed hurriedly. "He is Berge of the Tsufurjiti, assigned to the Palace Guard, and his quarters are... in the Old Imperial Quadrangle, 5th level, 4th hall, OQ #37. Sir?" A breeze swirled the clerk's robes; Apio had already left.
It took too long to find my own body, Apio thought. I should have known what day it was--
The first place he'd looked was his home, in the house he shared with Choy. His past, still-living self wasn't there--but Choy was. Apio stopped to watch her--his wife, lost to him for three long decades of eternity. She hadn't been sent to Hell with her stubborn, proud warrior husband, but had instead been reincarnated somewhere in the vast universe. Of all the consequences of his sins, losing her had been the hardest to bear.
At first he'd watched only her, admiring her fair, soft skin, the curve of her lips, the dreamy look in her eyes, the swish of her furry tail twitching back and forth, the fall of her short, spiky hair, the glitter of the earrings he'd given her before they married... After a while, he noticed the meal she was preparing--a welcoming feast, a fine spread of all kinds of meat and fruit and breads and vegetables for a hungry warrior coming home. She's expecting me home from a mission soon!
A fine fat samlon caught his eye, dressed and stuffed--I don't remember this! Fresh samlon is hard to come by, we only had it when we caught it ourselves...
He remembered how just the two of them would fly to the highlands to a particular mountain tarn and feast on the samlon run until they could barely move, then camp overnight by the tarn. They kept each other warm through the frigid mountain night, and feasted on samlon breakfast the next morning.
She must have flown to the tarn and brought it back for my homecoming... Ah, Choy! How could I have forgotten this?
Sorrow overwhelmed his soul. He knew. I never came home. Today is the last day, and I never came home. I was at the tavern when everything ended. If I had only known...
But she, so close, could not hear him. And he, so close, had to leave to find himself.
* * *
Apio scowled down at the headless, mutilated, abused, and partially eaten corpse tied to the common room table in OQ #37. It could have belonged to the missing warrior, but Apio doubted it. He was increasingly confident that the missing warrior and the elusive broo were one and the same; the mess on the table certainly suggested a broo at work.
Apio sniffed the air; the familiar smells of lust, death and pain and a less familiar, rank smell as of some wild beast hung heavy in the air. Apio prodded the corpse--still somewhat warm, but starting to stiffen. Not dead long, but he'd died hard. As he inspected the body, Apio suddenly realized the bloody, ropy length lying across the corpse's legs was not a loop of intestine, but his tail--and it had been skinned.
Apio leaned against a wall until his stomach stopped lurching. Damn it, I'm a warrior and a son of Nappa! He thought, angry and embarassed at his sudden weakness; I've seen worse on a dozen worlds--all the nasty ways you can die in battle. I've seen Hell. I've done worse--
No, I haven't. This isn't killing--this is demon work. I hate demons. I hate coming across their leavings, even in Hell, where the victims deserve it and can't be killed anyway.
Why'd he take the head? No sign of it anywhere around; he took it with him. What does he want the head of an elite warrior for? And who was this guy?
It didn't take very long to search the elite's quarters and find the victim's discarded armor and scouter. The scouter's internal registry indicated that it belonged to one Cumber of the Morjiti. "And he lives where?" Apio looked up the name in the public database. "Down the next hall? I'll pay a visit while he's out." Apio glanced at the corpse with a grimace. "What a damn waste! Now, or in two hours--what's the difference?"
Cumber's quarters were, as Apio had expected, empty of life. He hadn't really expected to find the broo here, but it was the only lead he had. "And now?" Apio thought a bit, then flicked on his scouter, scanning the building. A great many of the lower-ranking palace elites lived in the Old Imperial Quadrangle, and their high power levels stood out on the scouter. After a few minutes, Apio frowned. No anomalously high or low power levels--either the broo had elite-level power to begin with, or his power was that of the elite he'd possessed.
Apio sighed and adjusted his scouter; that left the bad way to find him. From the looks of the corpse, it had taken Cumber a few hours to die; if the broo was indulging himself this way again, somewhere in the building there would be an elite with a fading power....
It took ten minutes to locate three suspect power levels, and another fifteen minutes of watching them to single out the one that was definitely fading, though in fits and starts. Apio changed the focus and located the fading power--in close proximity to a very powerful elite. Apio's eyes narrowed; the bastard's power was nearly as high as his, and twice what the missing Berge's power was supposed to be!
"What the--?" The fading power plumetted and cut off abruptly; it was gone. "Dead already!" Apio got to his feet and hurried down the hall from Cumber's quarters; as he did so, another, weaker power moved into the scouter's field of detection and close to the very powerful elite. "I don't like this!"
* * *
Redjack pulled himself out of the dead woman with a pleased sigh. Taking Rhubra's head while he violated her body again made him howl with pleasure--and the delicious horror as she realized her fate was re-doubled when Redjack forced her to feel his joy at her utter degradation. Oh yes! That was exquisite.
The exquisite pleasure of her destruction almost made up for the lost pleasure of keeping her captive and watching his larvae grow and swell her womb until it was ready to eat its way out... But no, right now he needed her elite power far more than he needed offspring. His real target would require all the heads he could get in the next hour or so--and Redjack had to move fast if he was to catch up with his target.
Redjack arose from his victim and started to pull Berge's armor back on. Whose head would be strong enough to give him that final boost of power he needed? King Vegeta was far too closely guarded and too strong in any case--perhaps the guard captain, or one of the other senior captains? If he could catch one off duty...
"Rhubra? It's me, Cressa! I'm home, training's over for the day!" a young girl's voice called as the door slid open. Redjack was just starting to reach for his two heads when a young Saiyan girl dressed in battle armor walked in.
She stopped, mouth open in shock at scene before her. "Rhubra?"
Yes! Redjack would have offspring after all! As he tackled the girl, Redjack noted with amusement that Rhubra's eyes also widened in horror and that her mouth opened in a silent scream of rage.
* * *
The door vanished in a sudden blast of energy as Apio blurred into the elite's quarters. A partially nude half-Saiyan, half-broo thing crouched over the partially stripped form of a young girl; beyond her, another headless, mutilated body dripped gore from a low table. Two severed heads lay on the corpse's abdomen. The broo's massively horned head whipped around and snarled at Apio--
--Apio's shoulder caught the thing low in the chest, slamming the beast through several walls and out the side of the building. As the creature plummetted toward the ground, Apio sent several ki-blasts after it, heedless of whoever might be in the way.
Apio hovered, watching the huge dust cloud and his scouter, and cursed. The beast had managed to avoid most of his attack, but his power was oddly low. Apio swore again; the damn thing was hiding part of its power! He dove in pursuit--
--only to find himself chasing it back to the dead elite's quarters. Apio slammed through several more walls, only to just miss the broo as it fled clutching the two severed heads--and its power was up again--above even Apio's level!
"Damn!" The chaos demon was headed for the palace! "He'll have his hands full there," Apio growled, his aura flaring as he sped after the broo.
The broo slowed, and plunged toward the Slave Gate. Apio's eyes narrowed; the beast picked the area with the weakest, most inexperienced guards, for guard cadets got their training at the Slave Gate. "Bastard!"
With a sudden burst of speed, he got ahead of the creature just as it landed at the gate. Apio dropped down between the monster and the two guard cadets at the gate.
Redjack bared sharp teeth and snarled at the elite; both severed heads now dangled at his waist by their hair. Apio stepped back; according the scouter, both severed heads held the power of an elite--and they were alive. Both heads opened their eyes and stared at him; one, the woman, opened her mouth in a silent scream. Redjack grinned at Apio.
"You, there, identify your---WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?" exclaimed the startled cadet guard. Apio recognized him as young Lord Miso; his equally startled companion was unknown to him.
"The beast is here to assassinate Prince Vegeta," snarled Apio, black fury nearly choking him. "Either kill it, or stay out of my way while I kill it--and you will address me as Commander Apio, Cadet!"
Redjack snarled as his plans were laid bare. "If you really are one of Nappa's petty brats, you have not the power!" He tapped his scouter; the broo's eyes widened as he registered Apio's power level.
Apio snarled coldly at the disconcerted broo. "Not so weak, demon! Now--DIE!" Twin ki blasts burst from his hands and streaked toward the broo--
--and struck, exploding into another cloud of dust. Apio dove into the cloud right after his blast, trusting his scouter and his instincts.
THUD! His fist caught the demon in his currently unarmored groin; the follow-up kick to its head sent the broo spinning away to crash into the gatehouse, blood and broken teeth streaming from its nose and mouth.
Thip! The demon righted itself and rebounded from the gatehouse, a huge ki-blast surging from its fingertips to narrowly miss Apio. It didn't miss the cadets; Lord Miso's companion screamed once, and was gone. Young Lord Miso sprawled on the ground, burnt and bleeding from a dozen wounds. Something thundered in the distance and streaked into the sky behind the palace.
Apio closed with the demon again; it was ready for him this time. A flurry of strikes and blocks, feints and counter-feints ensued; neither landed a signifcant blow on the other. They circled each other, panting.
Apio wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth and smirked. "You can't win, beast! See that ship heading into orbit? The Prince is on that ship; you'll never reach him. If you could, he'd snuff you out like a blown candle. Stay here--you're doomed."
The broo's eyes--yellow, predator's eyes--narrowed. "Young Vegeta will be on Frieza's ship? So..." Redjack hissed, as he searched Berge's memories and his two captive brains for knowledge of Frieza and space ships. The broo laughed suddenly. "Thank you so very much--now DIE!" Redjack's voice rose to a howl as he gestured at Apio and his eyes turned totally black: "SEVER SPIRIT!"
* * *
"DAMN IT!" Chishan swore as he checked his scouter for the hundredth time--Gutclaw was definitely in the complex and heading for the medical center, and no one seemed to notice! What the hell was wrong? A final burst of speed, and he touched down on one of the lower landing platforms, then slammed the nearest door until it opened. Two technicians stared at him as he sprinted past.
The scar-faced elite raced down the stairs toward the medical level; the readings were getting clearer--the damn thing seemed to be inside the stairshaft and a great many levels below him. Of course! Chishan cursed himself for idiocy. The little bastard was in an air shaft--no wonder no one noticed him!
No one would notice him, either, until it was much too late, Chishan thought grimly. It was up to him to stop the demon.
No, no, NO! Gutclaw was out of the shaft and on one of the levels--the creche level, where the infants were! Chishan howled, and power gathered around him, shaking the spiral stair top to bottom. Shouts above and below him went unheeded as he blasted a hole through the side of the stairshaft and plunged down the access duct, blasting away any pipes or wires that dared obstruct him.
Two, three warriors blasted through the side of the shaft and tried to tackle him--Chishan flung them away with brutal, bone-breaking blows, raging all the while: "Fools! I'm not the one to stop! GET THE ASSASSIN!"
Still, they slowed him down--
--one, two, three tiny powers on the level far below winked out. Something was killing infants.
"KAKAROTT!" Chisan screamed.
* * *
Apio shook his head woozily and staggered to his feet as several more guards rushed up. What the hell hit him? What was he doing here--oh, right. He was trying to stop an assassin! Apio wasn't too clear on how he'd stumbled on the bastard, but it didn't matter; his duty was plain.
"Commander Apio! What the--?" asked the leading guard.
Apio coughed and gestured at the guard to wait while he caught his breath. Something had hurt him badly inside.
"Assassin," he gasped out, "after the Prince. He'll be after a single-shuttle, to reach Frieza's ship. Warn the launch bay!"
The lead guard spoke hurriedly into his communicator; another guard smirked. "I pity the assassin that annoys Prince Vegeta!"
"You fool!" Apio growled. "The monster has bagged three elites already! He's got weird powers--" Apio began coughing blood again.
The second guard's smirk was replaced with sudden concern. "Commander Apio, you need to get to Medical. We'll handle it from here--"
The lead guard looked up at Apio, his face pale. "It's too late. The monster killed two guards and stole a shuttle." They all glanced at the sky as the royal shuttle thundered into the sky, followed closely by a small one-man shuttle pod.
* * *
Apio's future spirit seethed with rage--the broo's spell had forced him from the body of his past self, stunning him. By the time he'd recovered, the broo and his head collection were on their way into orbit, beyond Apio's physical reach. There was no way for he and his past self to catch up with the speedy one-man shuttle before it docked with Freiza's ship.
Once aboard Frieza's ship... the beast didn't have the power to kill young Vegeta--yet. Possibly Frieza's soldiers would kill the intruder... but what if the broo asked to join Frieza? Yes... the cruel, powerful, freakish broo-Saiyan would fit in well with the cruel, powerful, freakish tyrant and his crew. And if he stole the head of one of Frieza's advisors...
NO! The monster had to be stopped, now! But--how? As a spirit, Apio was nearly powerless against the beast; it knew how to defend itself against such as he. He needed a body, but whose? Those of Frieza's soldiers who were weak enough to possess would be too weak to fight the broo, even if Apio could learn to use an alien body in so short a time. If only there was a Saiyan up there who--
Oh. The sudden realization hit him like an electric shock. There was one Saiyan in the right place...
* * *
General Nappa, Marshal of Vegetasai, scowled at the spotted green and purple thing that happened to be the shuttle's pilot. Why couldn't the wretched creature just do its job? It was bad enough that he was stuck up here in the cockpit with it, it didn't have to keep talking at him!
Prince Vegeta had forbidden Nappa to accompany him in his tiny, bare "cabin" (actually, the empty cargo hold), leaving no place else for the giant Saiyan on the tiny shuttle. Nappa folded his arms and frowned as the alien, Litchi, scuttled around the cockpit pushing buttons and waving its skinny arms around. Couldn't the ugly little creature just get on with it? They had a planet to clear!
"General Nappa? Sir?"
Damn, the stupid thing was still trying to talk to him! If the creature had been more humanoid, Nappa sourly thought, he could remove its tongue and vocal cords without impairing its piloting ability in the least.
He glowered at the creature. "What?"
"The launch officer hasn't cleared us for launch, yet. I'm going to go see what the problem is--it should only take a minute, sir." Litchi scuttled quickly over to the shuttle hatch and out.
Nappa leaned back in his seat, already bored to near-violence; why couldn't they have gone in pods? Then he could have slept through the entire journey.
"No matter what happens, protect the Prince!" Nappa started awake, with King Vegeta's last command to him ringing through his mind. What the hell? How long had he been asleep? Where was that stupid alien? What stupid alien? Perhaps he'd better find out. You should.
* * *
Power, reflected Redjack as he stood over the still-bleeding corpse of the dead launch officer, is of exactly zero use if one doesn't bother to shield one's back from a sudden thrust. Too bad he didn't have time to take this one's head, but Redjack could still bind its ghost, he thought as he hacked off the dead alien's right hand. He could use the reserve power, if all the tales of young Prince Vegeta's power were true.
The broo-Saiyan grinned to himself as he hit the big red "ABORT" button, halting the shuttle launch. He began to giggle as the hatch cycled open, anticipating the Saiyan's puzzlement at the aborted launch, soon to be followed by shock and confusion at the sight of Redjack--and then the broo would kill Vegeta. After that... steal the shuttle, go to Earth, kill the Bulma child very, very slowly and then just... enjoy himself.
He ducked out of sight, watching the form that emerged, and muttered foul imprecations to himself. It had a pilot! Redjack's lips curled back from his teeth in a snarl. Not automated like the pods then. Redjack smirked. The Saiyans were not pilots, either. Without this creature, they weren't going anywhere....
The pilot's brains looked very colorful, Redjack thought a few minutes later. Much brighter colors than the usual pink, grey and red of human and broo insides. It didn't taste as good as it looked, but then, brightly colored fruit was bitter, too.
According to his scouter, there were two Saiyans in that shuttle; one immense power that could only be young Vegeta, and another very strong Saiyan--a bodyguard? All he had to do was surprise the Saiyan and crush his tail, and the rest would be easy. He'd launch the shuttle himself, and put young Vegeta to sleep until he was ready for him by tampering with the air supply. After he took the bodyguard's head, Redjack estimated that he'd have just enough power to take young Vegeta--if he caught him asleep and could clamp his tail. Then... oh yes!
Then it would be just the two of them, alone in deep space, with no possible outside interference; Redjack began to drool, anticipating the exquisite pleasure he would get from the child's body as he broke the young prince to his will--just before taking his head.
* * *
Down on Vegetasai, Leandro, medical technician and slave, cursed quietly as he left the regen chambers. Taman would survive, but he'd be weeks getting back to his job. The other Saiyan hadn't been so lucky; he'd died of his burns before the medics could get him into a tank. Leandro hated losing a patient--even Saiyans. It was his way; he had been a talented doctor back home.
The green-skinned alien cut through the creche on his way back to his duty station; it was the short way through, and besides, Leandro liked kids. It didn't matter that they were the children of his masters, they were still babies; he was oath-bound to heal and protect them. Maybe, just maybe, if he could find Dendretta, they could try to begin a family...
Preoccupied with his thoughts, Leandro nearly ran headlong into the gutter Saiyan slinking through the creche. The Saiyan whirled, hissing at the silver tailed, green-skinned, almost-human medic; blood covered each arm to the elbow.
Stink of the streets and old death; short horns and hooves, too thick, braided tail, smashed nursery pods behind the creature--a variety of things clamored for his attention, all telling Leandro that something was very, very wrong. Beside him, a baby wailed; another was frightened and began to cry.
"WHAT THE HELL--?" Leandro dropped to a crouch just as the thing dove at him. It had been a long time since he'd had to fight for the lives of his patients--since the Saiyan invasion of his home world, in fact. The irony was not lost on him.
It was a close fight. Leandro was as strong as a strong third-class, and Gutclaw now had the power of a mediocre second-class warrior. Like all fights between near equals, it was hard and brutal; neither combatant had the power to simply blast his opponent into oblivion. Instead, they punched and kicked and gouged and tore at each other, wearing each other down until the strongest was left standing with barely the strength for the killing blow on his helpless, spent opponent.
Blood ran freely from numerous wounds on Gutclaw's body as he turned away from Leandro's broken form. The healer wasn't quite dead, but the heartbeats left to him could be measured in a double handful. Now, which one was Kakarott? If only he could read, he'd know. Best to kill them all. Gutclaw pulled his fist back to smash open the crying baby's pod--
Leandro's dying eyes opened wide as he looked past Gutclaw, and his lips slowly turned up in an almost Saiyan smirk--then his last breath rattled in his throat and his eyes fixed in an empty stare.
The hairs on the back of Gutclaw's neck prickled; power was here. He turned--just as Chishan's fist caught him in the spine, above his belt of stolen tails.
Gutclaw howled with pain, and howled again as Chishan's rush carried them clear of the infant creche and through a wall. He twisted and threw himself away from the elite warrior, landing between two occupied regen tanks.
"Y-you can't attack me in here," the broo stammered frantically, "you'll kill your own men!"
Chishan smirked cruelly. "So?"
The ki blast flared out in an immense plume from Chishan's hand, with the doubled power of the self-possessed elite behind it. In that moment, Chishan's power rivalled his father's. Nothing survived.
A moment later, Chishan dropped to his knees, gasping with sudden weakness. What had happened? What was he doing here, and where were Yamra and Millette? He had a vague memory of pursuing some alien monster that was trying to kill infant Saiyans...
The other warrior! Chishan rushed back to the creche, only to find confused warriors and terrified technicians gathering about the Leandro's corpse.
"An assassin got in among the infants, and there was only a slave to defend them. Where were you fools? Oh, yes--you were busy getting in my damn way!" Chishan growled, glancing at the shattered pods and tiny, bloody corpses in each one. "This warrior died well; give him honor."
"Yes, Lord Chishan!" The warriors saluted him; the technicians merely cowered.
"And the assassin?" one of the warriors ventured to ask.
Chishan's answer was a blow that sent him flying across the room to slam into the wall with a thud. The hapless warrior slid limply to the floor, blood trickling from his nose and mouth. He twitched for a moment, and then was still.
"The assassin is dead," Chishan snarled coldly. The other warriors cringed, amazed that the questioner hadn't been killed outright for his insolence in implying that Lord Chishan might have let the assassin escape.
The elite turned on his heel to leave, and then turned back. "And make sure whichever of these infants are due to be launched this afternoon are indeed launched on time!" Chishan finally left, secure in his authority, knowing that fear of him was enough to make sure his orders were carried out.
"So, which ones are due to be launched?" asked one shaken warrior of the scurrying technicians.
The technician stopped to look at his chart and looked back at the Saiyan with fear-filled eyes. "T-today's are all dead... except for this one."
The warrior looked at the pod indicated and grunted. "I guess you don't have much work to do, then. Get this 'Kakarott' launched and then clean the mess up!"
* * *
While Chishan's still-living past self dealt with the fallen, Chishan's future ghost pursued the fleeing broo spirit across the city. Chishan had stopped Gutclaw just in time from possessing the unconscious warrior--the only way to permanently stop the demonic shaman was to attack him in the borderlands of the spirit realm.
One swipe of his spirit blade had torn the stolen souls from the shaman's grasp; a second swipe had robbed the broo of half his remaining power and sent him fleeing. But where did the bastard think he was going?
Chishan had to look only once at the dark maelstrom twisting the spirit realm of Vegetasai to grasp the answer. Of course! He's running for the Hell Gate before I can break his power! Ghostly teeth bared in an invisible snarl. My will is the stronger--I will meet him there!
Chishan appeared at the gaping maw of the maelstrom just as the broo tried to pass it. A single stroke of Chishan's blade severed the beast's head from its spirit body, and the broo's power was no more. A shattered wisp of spirit swept through the Hell Gate, bereft of memory and power.
The maelstrom collapsed in on itself suddenly, leaving Chishan staring at a rapidly dissipating eddy in the borderlands of Vegetasai.
* * *
Redjack was just reaching for the shuttle's hatch when it opened abruptly, catching the broo in the face and sending him tumbling backwards. Nappa stepped out of the hatch with power crackling around him, his mouth set in a very un-Nappa-like line of barely restrained anger. "Now we finish this, demon!"
Redjack's scouter exploded--then so did what was left of Cumber and Rhubra. The broo screamed as his mindlink to the two severed heads was brutally torn away, and then howled in rage at the loss of the captive souls he'd broken to his will.
It wasn't a bodyguard Redjack faced--it was the Marshal of Vegetasai... and something more.
Redjack did not escape.
* * *
Back on Vegetasai, here-and-now Apio cursed and surged into the air, backtracking the assassin. The king and his Guard would have to deal with the assassin now, but Commander Apio half-remembered his fight with the assassin and he didn't like what he remembered.
It took him only moments to find the holed building; angry, confused Saiyans were beginning to spill out of the doors and balconies, looking for the author of the destruction. Apio dove past them into Rhubra's quarters--
--and dodged a ki-ball flung at his head. A young girl crouched behind the table that still held Rhubra's headless corpse, teeth bared in a snarl and her tail curled tightly around her waist. Both hands were up, ready to block any return attack--one dropped quickly down to clutch at her torn armor before the entire front fell off.
"Good technique, decent reflexes," Apio said. "You were trained well--but check your target first."
The girl lowered her arms. "I thought you were that monster again!" Her eyes widened as she took in Apio's marks of rank, and she knelt before him. "Forgive me, noble Commander; I would not have attacked if I had known."
Apio's eyes narrowed. Her voice was steady, but she trembled almost imperceptibly, no doubt fearing that her apology might not be enough for the deadly insult she had inadvertantly offered.
"Get up," he growled. "Are you her brat?" Apio waved a hand at the corpse.
The girl shook her head as she rose to her feet. "No, sir; my parents are off-world. I am--I was--fostered with Rhubra until they return. She was my aunt..." Her voice trailed off.
Apio's thoughts raced. Normally, he'd leave the brat to her own devices--she was old enough to survive on her own until her fosterage was sorted out--but he had the odd feeling that time was running out.
"Name?" Apio asked abruptly. Choy would like her; the girl was spunky and bright and Choy had been hinting strongly about children lately...
"Cressa, sir." She saluted him, "Cressa of the Hsurajiti."
Apio returned the salute, "Commander Apio of the Surseijiti."
Cressa's eyes widened, recognizing the name of his ancient, noble tribe. "Yes, s--Commander!"
"You can fly?" At her nod, he continued, "Then follow. Until your fosterage is straightened out, you'll stay with my wife."
The young girl nodded. "Yes, sir!" As Apio turned to go, Cressa gave her aunt's corpse a troubled glance; her lip trembled slightly.
Apio noticed. "Are you hurt?"
Apio frowned. "That's no way to leave a warrior. There's no time for the rites..." He stretched out one hand and concentrated; a brilliant flash lit the room as the blast of power consumed the mortal remnants of Rhubra of the Hsurajiti.
A short while later they both touched down in front of a low, domed house far from the crowded, irritable city. Apio the Strong, Son of Nappa, cared little for the intrigues and temptations of city life; when home from missions or other work, all he wanted was a quiet, comfortable place with plenty of food and his wife. He pushed open the door.
"Choy," he said to his startled, but pleased wife, "we have a guest tonight."
* * *
Chishan finally caught up with himself back in the Slave Quarter. Something was bothering his former self, and he was going to his favorite relaxation--again.
Yes, I do have things to do, Chishan thought as he became himself and and entered a familiar apartment on the Street of Whores. A timid slave girl answered his knock, and stammered as she told the noble warrior that Yamra and Millette were out.
Chishan looked at the lovely orange girl and smirked; his tail uncurled and lashed behind him. Her exotic face and badly-hidden fear aroused and distracted him... It wouldn't take long to drag her to a bedchamber and take his pleasure with her, then he could--No, damn it! I'm not here to rape another slave girl! Don't I have enough to answer for?
"Where's the green girl?" He asked harshly. "The one I had last night."
"Dendretta?" The white-haired orange girl put a finger to her lips. "She's resting in her chambers, my lord. Mistress Yamra has set her aside to heal." She licked her lips and smiled up at the fierce warrior; her hands rose to stroke her breasts, emphasizing their curves. "I am available and ready to serve as it pleases you, my lord."
Chishan smirked again; the slave's fear had abated as she noted the signs of lust rather than anger in the powerful Saiyan. He grabbed her by the throat and pressed her up against the wall.
"And if it pleases me to kill you?" He snarled softly; the fear lept back into her eyes. "Take me to Dendretta, now!"
"Yes, my lord," the orange girl said as she scurried down a hallway, Chishan close behind. The slave girl opened a door and let him in. Eyes downcast, with the slightest hint of bitterness in her voice, she asked, "Shall I kill myself now, wait for Yamra to do so, or do you wish the pleasure, my lord?"
Chishan looked at her and smiled wryly. Of course, Yamra would kill her for disobeying orders; no Saiyan tolerated a disobedient slave--even if the slave was merely following the orders of a higher-ranking Saiyan. In any case, he should kill her right now for insolence.
This day, none of that mattered. He laughed coldly.
"Don't worry; it won't be Yamra or I who kills you. Go back to your duties and be content." He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, shutting her out.
The green girl sat up on her sleeping mat, holding a blanket close to her. Tears still streaked her face, and she stared at Chishan with terror written across her face.
"I have a question for you," Chishan asked, tilting his head to one side. "Why is a brothel-slave so terrified of sex? That makes no sense to me--you surely knew what your duties would be, and that you are valuable enough to be taken care of."
Terror was replaced by puzzlement, and she clutched the blanket closer. "It does not matter... my lord. It is only a foolish slave girl's concerns."
"Ordinarily, I would agree with you--nor would I be talking to you," Chishan purred in a soft, dangerous voice, stepping closer to the girl. "I would simply take what I wanted and leave you to your concerns--but this is not an ordinary day for me, and I would have an answer!"
"My lord... you would not understand," she said in a small voice. Chishan crossed the room to her and knelt on the mat; she trembled as he took her in his arms.
He held her, nothing more, until the trembling died away; then he released the sad green girl and looked at her, idly twining her dark green hair about his fingers. "You didn't scream when I touched you this time, so it is hardly the touch of a Saiyan that terrifies you," Chishan noted. "Tell me."
Dendretta regarded the somber Saiyan with confusion. "You are... not like before. Why?"
Ancient pain flashed across Chishan's face. "I know my fate, and it is not good. Even a warrior can have regrets."
The pale green slave girl looked at the fey Saiyan. "What you did... On my world, I was betrothed, to a very fine man, and he still lives--he is a doctor, and valuable, so your soldiers captured him to sell as they did me--but y-you..." Tears ran down her face as she fought to hold back sobs. "Leandro will never have me now; he will spit upon me. I am sullied, tainted. I permitted a man not my betrothed to lay with me; I am a whore, unchaste and fit only for stoning!" Dendretta could no longer hold back her sobs.
Chishan's eyes narrowed. "Permitted? You had no choice; I am the stronger!" He gripped her arm, "I have not heard this much foolishness since--" Zukini was a child, he'd been about to say. Crud! Was that it?
"How old are you among your kind?" he asked abruptly. "Are you of age to marry? Is that why you were still only betrothed?"
She nodded slowly. "In two more years, I would have been permitted to marry him--but now, all is lost--" Her incipient wail was cut off by Chishan's big hand across her mouth.
His voice was harsh with self-directed anger. "Shut up. You've got worse problems than that--and your misplaced virginity is very far from the top of the list. A regen tank could fix that damage, if it mattered--and it doesn't. There's nothing wrong with whores, girl--you insult your mistresses as well as yourself! The real problem is that you're too young; you don't know what's worth breaking your heart over and what isn't--and you have about 30 minutes to grow up," he growled angrily. "Now, tell me about this Leandro."
I've raped a child, he thought, a sheltered, innocent child. I nearly broke her body and mind, and I did break her heart. Damn! Aren't the purges enough to be damned for, without adding this, too?
"Well, he's a doctor, and the Medical Center owns him, I think. He's very handsome, with a dimple on his chin when he smiles..." As she described her true love, her silver-furred tail fluffed up--and Chishan knew, knew with utter certainity who Leandro was.
"You'll be seeing him soon, I think" Chishan said, his voice ragged and harsh. "And don't worry--I don't think he'll reject you."
"How can you know?" She asked, then gasped as she beheld his somber face and pained eyes.
"Because such things don't matter when you're dead, girl." She should have been terrified, but she saw no sign of the cruel Saiyan smirk on his face, only despair and deeply-buried anger.
"Leandro died well; he saved a child." At the stark dismay on her face, he continued. "Make what preparations are important to you, girl; don't waste your time with grief--within an hour, you and everyone else still on this world will die. Only the child Leandro saved will survive."
"Everyone else? Even you?" Dendretta chose to lean against the despairing Saiyan for the first time. She brushed his face with one delicate, pale green hand; how strange it was that her ravisher was the first one of them to see her as something other than a useful animal! One does not offer words of comfort, even cold, harsh ones, to animals...
"Especially me." Chishan swallowed hard, finally finding the courage to say what he'd come here to say. "Forgive me, girl, if you can. I... I'm sorry."
* * *
Chishan sat alone, brooding over a beer when Apio's ghost finally drifted into the tavern. Apio regarded his brother thoughtfully, then tapped him on the shoulder.
Chishan blinked and looked around, puzzled, then his eyes widened. "I can see you! I didn't expect that--actually I expected you to show up in the flesh." He frowned. "What happened?"
Apio snorted, a sound only Chishan could hear. "Things changed, and I didn't care to interrupt myself."
A brief grin flashed across Chishan's face. "You went home to Choy, didn't you? You dog!" The smirk on Apio's face was answer enough. Chishan turned serious, and slowly drained his mug to the half-way mark. "Ap, the gate's gone--I saw it collapse."
Apio frowned. "You got the last broo?"
Chishan nodded. "And you?"
Apio smirked, remembering the awesome power he'd used against the broo headhunter--his own not-inconsiderable power combined with his father's near-legendary strength. It had been a very short fight.
"Job's done," he answered.
"We'll die again with Vegetasai," brooded Chishan
"We're already dead, 'Shan."
"But these bodies we borrowed aren't... not yet. It won't be very long now." Chishan set his mug down deliberately.
"No, it won't." Apio looked past him at the crowd in the tavern. Sarada and his hangers-on weren't there yet, but Til and his girl had already grabbed their customary seats at the bar.
Chishan regarded his ghostly brother thoughtfully. "We've changed the past a bit, mostly for ourselves--"
"Not just for ourselves, 'Shan" Apio told him, thinking of how this last day had changed for Choy, Cressa, Rhubra and Cumber. Would he have new memories of his own last hours when they returned to Hell?
"I said 'mostly', Ap. Yeah, I changed a few pasts, too." He sighed. "What were you doing for the last few hours, originally?"
Apio snorted. "Exactly nothing--just nursing my beer. Always did that after a mission." He looked at his brother, eyes slowly widening in his broad face. "I never went straight home to Choy after a mission; I always wound down here. Going straight from killing bugs to pleasuring Choy just didn't work."
"I... Some guys got off on purges," Chishan observed. "It's exciting."
Apio scowled and asked pointedly, "You mean the assholes who couldn't wait to jump out of their pods, go down to the Slave Quarter and rape a few whores?"
Chishan winced. "You know, Ap, you wouldn't have said something like that back then." Chishan drank his beer slowly.
"I saw what the broo did when he 'got excited'. He wasn't picky about gender or age. Any warrior who acts like that...." he trailed off in a wordless growl, a vicious sound that raised the hairs on the back of Chishan's neck.
"Even your own brother?" Chishan studied the bottom of his mug. "I wasn't exactly innocent of that, you know. And after chasing that broo into the Slave Quarter..." He shuddered and drained his mug. "I guess my sins as a mass murderer outweighed the occasional slave rape, or I'd have been in a different Hell. Funny, I don't feel the same enthusiasm for purges anymore, either." He set his empty mug down and glanced around at the others in the spaceport tavern.
"It's hard to remember why we enjoyed it so much. Ap, why did we like killing things that weren't strong enough to put up a decent fight? On my last purge some desperate furred thing threw himself on me armed with nothing but a knife--he was trying to protect his nest. I broke his back and left him lying there to watch while my partner tore open the nest; we dragged out his mate and children one by one and slaughtered them. With each one, we pretended we couldn't find any more--and just as the poor bastard got his hopes up, we dragged the next one out and killed it, laughing the whole time at his pleas and his screams. Why did we think that was funny?"
Apio stared quizzically at the floor, as if wondering what it was doing there. "It was a whole lot funnier before Frieza did it to us. A lot of things are more amusing when you're not on the receiving end. I stopped finding those particular games amusing after Diive's execution."
He sighed, and looked away, not meeting Chishan's eyes. "I held the woman and child while Father killed them. I hated them almost as much as he did, for what they'd done to Diive--and I saw what the killing did to Diive."
Still not meeting Chishan's eyes, he said, "I was so proud of my own strength, and so damn angry at Diive for the shame he'd brought on us--on me. I mocked him for a weakling--he cared about those pathetic creatures! Not 'til I met Choy did I figure out that I was a bigger fool than Trigo that day. I thought I hated Diive as I helped you and Col hold him down while Father staked him out and did the rest.... Then I stood with the others and watched Diive die, all those long hours. By the end I knew I'd never hated him, and I knew he wasn't the real weakling there."
Knuckles whitened as Chishan's hands tightened around the beer mug; the other patrons of the tavern carefully stayed clear of the brooding elite who muttered angrily to himself. "I haven't spoken of Diive since that day--while we were alive it was forbidden, and afterwards..."
"Losing him that way was bad enough, but losing him again.... I'm glad he's where he is, though; facing him would be hard, real hard."
"Who would have expected it? Father lost Mother the same way," Chishan brooded. "I didn't have anyone to lose that way, but you and Choy...."
"It wasn't the same. I know I'll never go where Diive went, but there's always a chance I can follow Choy someday, and see her again..."
"But you won't know her, and she won't know you, and neither of you will remember what it is to be Saiyan, Ap." Chishan's hands trembled as he held the beer mug tight.
"Might be worth it, 'Shan. Maybe my head won't know her, but my heart will."
Chishan sighed deeply. "Sometimes I think it might be worth it, just to lose all the regrets. It would be... good to do things right the next time around."
Apio gave his brother a slow smile. "Like you did these last few hours?"
Chishan looked sharply at his ghostly brother and then smiled. "You dog! Yeah. And I always thought you were the slow one--after Trigo, of course."
Apio chuckled. "Why? 'Cause I don't talk much, and think things through first?"
Chishan smirked. "Yeah. And you've got dad's build and, uh, blunt face--"
"'Blunt'?" Apio snorted. "You mean 'homely'. You forgot to say, 'you've got dad's brains, too.'. I knew that's what people thought. Didn't much care." He stared at Chishan's nearly empty mug, and then back at his brother. "You need to return what you've borrowed."
"Yeah. Just give me a few more minutes.... I miss the little things, like the taste of beer. Just a few more minutes."
* * *
Once again, Bardock stumbled into the tavern, battered and bloody. He crashed into what would have been Apio's table, but was now Chishan's, knocking it over and startling the normally reserved warrior. Once again, he made his desperate plea for help, and once again, was mocked for a drunken fool. Once again, he cursed them truly, and staggered out, determined to carry out his desperate mission alone if need be.
Chishan's ghost watched from across the room, and winced; knowing the truth made these moments more painful than ever. Chishan had finally abandoned the borrowed body of his past self, fearing to interfere with his own soul's passage.
"How long now, 'Shan?" dead Apio wondered.
"Not long; fifteen minutes, half an hour, maybe," answered his ghostly brother.
"We know what happens here; I've always wondered what Bardock's last fight looked like."
"So have I, Ap. Let's go."
* * *
"Damn! He just took them all on--and he's winning, 'Shan."
"Half dead at that. Hell, even Nappa wasn't that good! Now we know where Kakarott got his strength from!"
"Crud." Apio spat out one pithy curse as Frieza rose from the upper hatch.
"Ap, Bardock is attacking Frieza! Will you look at that ki ball! Hell, the king wasn't that powerful!"
"Oh, crud." Frieza's death ball expanding into a huge lurid orange sphere and sailed inexorably toward Bardock and the planet below.
The deadly energy sphere enveloped and passed harmlessly through the disembodied spirits and continued its plummet to the planet below. Apio and Chishan watched as the ball struck and burrowed into the planet's crust, creating massive spreading fissures filled with seething energies that melted and shattered the adjacent crust.
One such upheaval of ki-laced lava burst through the floor of the spaceport tavern, killing everyone inside almost instantly, though not painlessly. The inhabitants of the Slave Quarter were far weaker; few of them even felt their fiery deaths. Cressa, Choy and the then-living Apio perished as the fissure spread, swallowed in molten lava for a brief, supremely agonizing moment before death took them all.
Finally the destroying energy reached the core of the planet, flooding the heavy metal core of Vegetasai with vast energies, energies that triggered the catastrophic fission of those heavy elements.... Vegetasai exploded in a brilliant blaze of nuclear fire, and everything went white--
* * *
Chishan brooded alone under the non-sky of Hell, wrapped in the cloak of a Saiyan commander. "Apio..." he whispered to the shadow in his heart--but Apio himself was gone where Chishan could not follow.
No, not could not--would not. "I'm not ready yet, Ap. You chose to follow Choy, and I hope you find her... but I'm Saiyan, Ap, and I can't be other than what I am, even when I regret what I am so much." He'd said those words to Apio when they both stood before Lord Enma for the second time; he said them now, in his heart, as he'd said them so many times when the loneliness became a hell all its own.
"Not yet..." he finally added.
CONCLUDED IN THE The End
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000-2005 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 9, 2009