Chapter Ten: Confusion

Pilaf looked around him despondently at the wreckage the monkey-brat had caused. His castle... his beautiful castle... all in ruins.

This was the fault of that boy. The boy named Gokuu who was, at present, waking up to find himself dazed and more than a little bit wobbly - he did not know how to balance without his tail. Emperor Pilaf turned to Gokuu and opened his mouth to pronounce judgment, saying in Ru Sa's voice: "I'm going to eat you Gokuu, and your little boy, too..."

Gokuu woke up screaming. He sat straight up in his bed, covered with sweat, panting with a physical exertion that he had not felt since his heart had nearly pooped out on him some twelve years ago. Feeling like an old, old man, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and used the sheet to wipe the sweat from his face. He checked the clock on his nightstand and was surprised to find it was morning now on Earth.

Gokuu could not put it off any longer; he had to tell Chi-Chi that their eldest son was dead.

Gokuu hid his head in his hands, and did not even know he was crying until he reached for the intercom to call Vejiita and found he could not speak.

***

"Good evening, Vejiita-sama," said Chive as respectfully. "You're up late."

Vejiita was in the main control room, bent pensively over the navigational star charts.

"So are you," he replied without looking up, and continued pressing buttons. They were the only two in the room. Chive smiled.

"I am always up late," she said. "It is the best time of the day to accomplish anything since no one else is usually around. My lord," she said and stepped forward curiously. "What are you doing? Is there something Cumber or I could..."

"No." Vejiita interrupted her casually, no malice in his tone. But there was a certain wariness there that had not been before. Must accelerate the use of those chemicals, Chive thought clinically, and mentally calculated the amount she would need to advance the adjustment of her hormonal structure.

"Is there anything else you need right now, my lord?" she asked, hesitating to walk past him to her customary captain's seat on the bridge. There seemed to be something broodingly dangerous about Vejiita tonight.

"Yes," Vejiita said, straightening slowly and rubbing his tired eyes. "I need to get an earth-frequency transmitter for Kakarotto. He needs to contact his mate."

"Of course, my lord," Chive said, and relayed the order through the wall-based intercom.

Vejiita walked past her and out, not dignifying her presence with so much as a glance. Chive caught herself admiring the smoothness of his muscles outlined under his black jumpsuit and shook herself sharply. Heh; had to be careful; these "Bulma" chemicals might start to work both ways, and then where would she be?

***

Gokuu looked with some consternation on the multi-buttoned gadget in his hand.

"Um," he said.

"You're supposed to talk into it," Cumber hinted.

"Um," repeated Gokuu, and Cumber sighed and retrieved the communicator. He punched in a few buttons and handed it back to Gokuu.

"Now try it," he said. Following Cumber's pantomimed movements, Gokuu held it up to his ear and was surprised to hear it ringing.

"This is ringing in my house?" he asked, wide-eyed, almost hoping the answer would be "no."

"Yes," said Cumber. "It's been configured to tap into your telephone line. It wasn't that difficult."

Gokuu blinked at him and swallowed hard, not sure if he wanted company when he gave his Beloved the bad news. Cumber, however, showed now sign of going away, and Gokuu didn't ask him.

He needn't have worried; no one answered his call.

*

While the phone rang unanswered in the Son house, Chi-Chi was in stable condition at the Saint Satan Hospital.

Yesterday afternoon, the older woman had suddenly clutched her heart, made a pained, keening sound, and sat down hard at her kitchen table. She would not answer her daughter-in-law and father's concerned questions, and no one knew what was wrong until Kuririn called.

"I've got some bad news, Videl," Kuririn said apologetically, and when Videl turned with haunted eyes, Chi-Chi collapsed. She had had a heart attack.

And in the Son house, the phone rang and rang, and no one answered.

*

Kakarotto was looking perplexed; of course, it was Cumber's opinion that Kakarotto always looked perplexed, but this time at least he seemed to have a good reason.

"She's not answering," Gokuu said unhappily.

"Maybe she's not in the house," Cumber replied somewhat irritatedly; he had better things to do than baby-sit Vejiita's half-witted friend.

"But this isn't market day," Gokuu protested. "It's laundry. She's never out of the house today." Cumber sighed and relented a bit; Kakarotto may be a Saiyan, but that didn't mean he was incapable of loving his mate.

"Perhaps she found something urgent elsewhere to take care of," he said more kindly. "Perhaps something to do with your granddaughter."

Gokuu shook his head, the communicator still against his ear. "Let me call Kuririn. Can you set this thing up for his number, too?"

Inwardly resigning himself to moron-duty for the rest of the day, Cumber put out his hand.

"Give me the communicator, Kakarotto," he said. "I've already worked out how to configure it to your Earthling phone systems. Just tell me the digits." Gokuu rattled them off, and Cumber began punching in codes.

"Gokuu," Gokuu said, and Cumber looked up at him, puzzled.

"What?" he said.

"Gokuu," repeated Gokuu. "My name is Gokuu. I was born Kakarotto, and Vejiita still calls me that - but my real name is Gokuu." And he smiled.

For one moment Cumber was unsure if this idiot Saiyan was being genuine or condescending, and wavered on the edge of anger. But Gokuu was genuine; everything that Cumber could pick up from Gokuu's expression and unusually thick mind was as true and honest as it seemed. Cumber blinked.

"Um... Gokuu," he said.

"Yes, that's right!" said Gokuu, childishly thrilled and apparently past his emotional crisis for the time being.

In Cumber's hand the phone began to ring. "Here," he said, and thrust the thing unceremonially back at him.

"Hello?" said Gokuu automatically. His timing was perfect.

"Moshi-Moshi, Kuririn-Juuhachi house," came Marron's tiny, well-mannered voice.

"Marron!" said Gokuu, obviously surprised. "Where is your dad?"

"Otousan's in battle right now," Marron said. "And Okaachan is with him. Can I take a message, Son Gokuu?"

Gokuu was flushed; he hesitated to answer. "Um... Marron," he said carefully, all too aware of Cumber's wary eyes on him. "Just tell him I called, okay? And that... that I need to talk to Chi-Chi. I'll try later on, okay?"

He could almost see Marron nodding. "Hai, Gokuu-san. I'll tell him that. And Gokuu-san..."

"Yes, Marron?" asked Gokuu quietly, thinking painfully that when Pan reached Marron's age she would have no memory of her father at all.

"Please come home s...safe," she said, and her fear was all but tangible.

Gokuu knew.

"I will, Marron-chan," he said softly. "You're going to be all right. I promise."

The firmness with which he said this startled Cumber. It was not a simpleton's statement; it was a true hero's belief.

For one moment and for reasons he could not understand, Cumber was afraid.

"All right, Marron. Goodbye." Gokuu handed the device back to Cumber. "I need to see Vejiita. Right now," he said.

Cumber looked curiously at Gokuu, who was standing with his arms crossed and nothing even close to perplexity about him.

"Yes sir," he said, and went to the wall intercom to see if the king were in his quarters.

***

Vejiita was perplexed. He looked perplexed too, but if anyone had suggested to him at that moment that he resembled his "Earth-Saiyan" counterpart in any way, he probably would have popped that person in the nose.

Vejiita had been getting ready for bed when he had been struck with the odd urge to go to the bridge outside his room and look at the stars. It was a sourceless thing, spontaneous and uncharacteristc, and so for the hell of it he had gone to do it. He had been looking for only moments when he realized what was bothering him: he knew these constellations.

Puzzled, he checked the computer's star charts and was somewhat disturbed to see he was right: these stars, going in this direction, could only mean they were going back toward Earth.

Vejiita was slightly confused; they shouldn't have been heading toward earth; from what Ru Sa had explained of their exploratory plans, they should still be heading away from it. Wondering if maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him or perhaps the day's stress had been too much, Vejiita left his quarters and went to the main bridge, hoping to check the programmed coordinates. He was not disappointed; the route was programmed into the computer, available for all to see. And yes, it DID go to that particular planet - but in a totally circuitous way. Why, for the life of him Vejiita could not figure out. He would have to think of a way to ask the noxious captain Ru Sa in the morning.

On his way out and back to bed, he passed by the regen room where Chive kept her secret labs; even he had been given warnings about barging in there - dangerous experiments, and what-not. Well, Vejiita had lived with Bulma for many years; off-limits laboratories were not a new thing to him.

Funny, though - when he passed by the room with the regen tanks - the door to which was open for some reason - there came a whiff of something strange that did not have an odor, exactly, but still struck Vejiita as familiar. For some odd reason it made him think of Bulma.

***

Intermission 10.1: Prophecy

Reep watched with something like detachment as the Nameks eagerly scoured the rest of the Canopy for more snippets of prophecy; they had already figured out that it had been scrawled, child-like, all over the place, with no visible pattern to its placement. This, of course, made putting the whole thing together very difficult, but that was not important at the moment. The Nameks had found something to do, some purpose and sign of intelligence in the midst of this meaninglessness, and they were grasping onto it with all the joyous desperation of a drowning man to a log.

Reep, with a sigh, knew better and consigned them all to failure.

Reep knew that even if they managed to gather all the pieces of the puzzle - of the Great Prophecy, which even he did not understand completely - and even if they managed to put it all together into one coherent thing, and if the Black simply disobeyed its own nature and never came back, it didn't matter.

It meant nothing. It all meant nothing.

There was simply no one here who was pure enough - brave enough - beautiful enough - to do what had to be done. In his limited mind, Reep knew that here, now, such a person did not exist.

So, he stood back, not jumping, not singing, and watched with as the Nameks put their puzzle pieces together and joyfully shouted to one another in the dead air.

It was all so very useless.

***

Dende was very glad he did not have hair; if he had, he surely would have been pulling it out by now. He actually caught himself wincing as a well-meaning Namek brought yet another scrap of "Prophecy," as Reep called it - with no context, no interpretation, and no beginning or end, as far as Dende could tell.

There actually wasn't that much of it yet; but Dende remembered how often Reep had sung during the time they were alone, and he feared that this "prophecy" would turn out to be much bigger than he was - much bigger than all of them, and in more ways than one. Part of the problem, of course, was that he had no idea how to order it all; he had bits and pieces, but often as not they made no sense by themselves, much less in tandem with the others.

Let's see, there was: "Pluck a-plick a-sing a song, love is grand as night is long; moon is dim and stars are bright oh, frick a-frack a-tuck a-tight." And then there was "Pure of heart, and pure of will; making sleep and slumbers still. Slumber not, to 'venge, to die; rage is pure as love is high."

Some of them were too short to be complete "verses" in themselves: "Grand the gain and gague the loss - emptied soul must last chance toss." Then there were some which didn't fit into the rhythmic scheme at all: "Rage rules over the night and makes day. Anger must dry, love fade away."

Dende did not know what to do with himself. He didn't even know where to begin.

Then there was the question of how these words had gotten into the Canopy to begin with. The letters were in white, flowing, as if they had been poured like diluted wax into the mold when the Canopy was being blown; they were actually inside the glass.

Bulma's record made it clear that no one had been here since she had passed this way, and no one would have had the time or skill to make these words before the Black descended the final time. So then who made the words? Who knew that Dende and the Nameks were all coming here, and that the only way these somewhat absurd messages could be seen was by the light of the eighth dragonball - which light only shone brightly enough to see when Moot alone was holding it?

There were so many questions and so few answers that Dende's head was fairly spinning with implications. The scariest thing of all to Dende was the "coincidences;" he had learned in his stint as Kami that there was no such thing. That everything, no matter how haphazard it seemed, worked into a pattern. Even the Kaious lived in fear of the Mind behind that pattern, of the deity who worked above the Kaiou's and Rou Kaioushin and Dai Kaioushin and who knew what all else.

Sometimes, when Dende thought of the Mind behind those plans, he was afraid. And now, looking at these pathetic and hastily written scraps of paper with pieces of dissected clue on them and weighing all that was in the balance if he failed...

Dende was very afraid. Very afraid indeed.

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