Chapter Thirteen: Luck and a Little Help

Goten slept like the dead, and as a result he missed out on the rather large events that were occurring around him. Everybody had forgotten about him; everybody, that is, except for his father, and Gokuu was not on the same portion of ship as Goten was, so he didn't really count.

When Goten woke up, feeling lonely and a little bit miserable for the loss of his brother, he at first went about his business as though nothing was wrong. He stood at his small mirror and washed his face, and his mind never once referred to the dream about Trunks that he'd had.

It wouldn't have made any sense to him anyway; crazy visions of Mirai no Trunks with wrong, too-dark eyes did not infringe on Goten's reality. Right now, he only knew two things: his brother was dead, and he was really hungry.

Sighing - and half-wondering when he would finally be old enough to shave (he was, after all, extremely over-developed in other areas already) - Goten left his room by the door to the left of his bed and headed toward the mess hall.

If he had left by the door to the right, he would have seen that the hallway abruptly cut off into space, but he did not. That was a shame; a little bit of warning - no matter how obscure - would have gone a long way toward preparing him for what lay ahead.

***

Goten was feeling... good. A little too good, physically, especially considering that he was not yet even a teenager and had no productive outlet to spend himself on. Truth be told, this was not an unusual thing for him these days; but even he knew the timing of this was particularly inappropriate, and it bothered him. Why on earth he should be struck by an attack of such violent horniness just as he was passing by Chive's precious Secret Laboratories...

Wait. Her Highness's Secret Laboratories were unlocked, the open door an invitation to the world.

This was strange.

Goten could see Chive moving jerkily about inside, muttering to herself, her actions hasty and upset. Curiosity overcoming his good sense (of which Goten did not have much, and so failed to note its loss), he crept into the regen room and toward her lab.

*

Chive moved angrily back and forth in her lab, annoyed beyond belief at the day's events. She was mad at herself for failing in her calculations, mad for having to admit that she could fail, mad at Vejiita for causing her to fail at all.

Chive was two thousand years old, and in all that time, she could count on one hand the number of men who had resisted her advances. Now, the ostentatious Prince Vejiita had the honor of joining those ranks.

It was so simple, normally; you seduce them, screw their brains out, and then they tell you anything you want to know. Chive herself got no particular pleasure out of the initial part of this; it was the heady sense of raw power that flowed through her when she knew she was in control of the situation, of the man, that mattered.

That sense of power was what Vejiita had denied her today.

Chive growled in a most unfeminine manner and continued mixing potions. When Ru Sa managed to find them (if he ever did, her mind evilly slung at her), she would show that Saiyan a thing or two; oh, yes. She would have her way. And if for some reason he still tried to win, then there was always torture. If that didn't work, then there was his spindly little daughter to play with, wasn't there? And once she was done with her, Vejiita would do whatever she wanted. He would sing Bluegrass if she wanted him to. Oh yes, he would.

In a way, Chive had to admit that she relished this. It was the closest thing to a challenge she'd had in a long, long time.

Chive was so busy envisioning delirious agony that she did not at first notice Goten watching her from the door.

"Ohayoo," he said cheerfully, and she jumped nearly half a foot and almost dropped her blue mixtures. It was a good thing she didn't; the raw chemicals required to make them were getting very low.

"Goten," she said, staring at him - then paused. She glanced at the vials in her hands; looked at him; at the vial again.

Goten blinked.

"Uh," he quailed. "Nice to see you," he said, somewhat unenthused. Dang if she wasn't looking at him like an entree at a buffet supper.

Picking up the gist of his thoughts, Chive inwardly grimaced; had she been that obvious? But the mixture - the new combination should work wonders with his chemistry, half-breed or no...

"Goten," she said again, a little less coldly. "Hello. Nice to see you, as well. And where have you been hiding all this time?"

Goten shrugged and leaned against the doorframe, annoyingly like his father. "Here and there," he said. "Mostly sleeping. What about you? You look pissed."

Chive resisted the urge to bear her teeth. So rude, she thought, but said nothing. "I haven't been having the best of days. Something of mine that was supposed to work didn't," she confided helplessly with the required batting of eyelashes, and was pleased to see his reaction.

He immediately straightened up (she did hate to see men slump), took a step closer, and offered his services. "Can I help?" he said.

Chive felt herself smiling and didn't bother to quell it. It was just too easy, sometimes.

"Well - perhaps you can, at that. Here, let me put these down," she said, and turned to the table behind her to do just that. "Lots of things have happened since last night. Have you been asleep this whole time, Goten?" she asked, aware of him moving closer.

"Well, yeah," he confessed, putting one nervous hand behind his head Gokuu-style; the appreciative look he gave as he observed her from behind, however, was anything but Gokuu-esque. "I sleep like a dead person, Okaasan tells me. So what are you doing?"

Chive turned around slowly, leaning back and placing her hands on the table and thrusting her chest out suggestively as she stretched. "Ooooh," she said. "So tired. I'm sorry, what were you saying?" Then she glanced down and relished Goten's guileless response.

The boy's eyes nearly goggled out of his head.

Poor child, she thought to herself with almost genuine pity. He's playing way out of his league. She remembered the clumsy way he had tried to flirt with her on the day they left earth; and with a smile, decided to see how far she could take this thing before Goten caught on that she was going to kill him.

"So... you... had a rough day, huh?" Goten said, attempting to resume communication. Chive smiled.

"You might say fate really... had its way with me today," she purred.

Chive was going for obvious.

"Well... uh, that's too bad." Goten was aware that this conversation was not going anywhere (or at least nowhere his mother would approve of), but now that he was in it, he had no idea how to get out. Goten made the sorry realization that imagined conversations, no matter how detailed, were not sufficient preparation for the real thing when it appeared.

"Um... I... need to go. Soon. Otousan..."

Goten was having trouble thinking clearly; Chive had, for reasons unknown, decided to fix his gaze intently with her own and salaciously lick her lips, as though liking the flavor she found there.

Goten momentarily forgot how to speak.

"I don't know about you," she said suggestively, "but I'm hungry. What say we go get something to eat?"

"You mean... together?" Goten asked incredulously. This was the type of thing that didn't happen in real life, not until you were a more mature age - say, fourteen.

Chive smiled and pushed away from the table. "But of course together. I wouldn't invite you for breakfast and then just leave you, would I?"

Goten stared, his mouth open like that of a codfish.

Chive sighed; this was no challenge at all - poor substitute for what she really craved.

"Tell you what," she said condescendingly, and for some reason Goten was reminded of his comparable youth; it was not a pleasant feeling. "Why don't we get out of here - nasty old lab, anyway - and head toward the mess hall? Think you can handle that?" And suddenly her tone was challenging, not pitying, and Goten felt his forming manliness prickled.

"Sure," he said as confidently as possible, and then lost all of that confidence when she took a possessive step toward him. He took a corresponding step back, blushing dreadfully.

Well, he is kind of cute, Chive thought to herself. Maybe I'll do something stereotypical with him before I drain him dry; steal his innocence, or something, then - oh, but this was getting silly. Chive had been aboard ship too long, that was all there was to it.

"Come on," she said with a sigh, tiring of the game. She held out her hand. Goten looked at it as though it were a snake.

"I'm not going to bite you," she said gently as Goten edged toward the door. He steadfastly ignored her hand; flirting playfully was one thing, but physical contact with something as beautiful as Chive would - at least at this stage - be too much for his untried engines to handle.

"I'll... uh..."

"Meet me at the mess hall?" Chive suggested.

"Yeah! Yeah," Goten echoed himself mournfully, and following her pointed hand, headed out the door and toward the room where food was served. Chive watched him go with an interested and slightly gloating disgust. Her expression contemplative and pleased, she turned again to the table behind her and lifted up a syringe; she had filled it with the blue liquid. Bemusedly, she injected it into her upper left arm.

Serum injected successfully; now for the field test.

Swaying slightly as the serum took effect, Chive left her laboratories with every intention of seducing and killing Gokuu's youngest son, and did not even bother to close the door.

*

Vejiita peeked around the corner, feeling ridiculously unsubtle and not entirely sure of the effectiveness of this technique. Sneaking had never really been part of his make-up. He looked down as Bra tugged his arm for attention.

"This way, papa," she said, and slipped like an elf into the hallway.

Easy for you to do, brat, Vejiita thought out of habit. If I were the size of an underfed Namek, I could sneak around in hallways, too. But such griping did no good, so he shadowed into the hallway after her and obediently followed.

"It's right up ahead, papa," she whispered, and turned into Chive's now empty laboratory. Vejiita blinked.

"How did we get here?" he asked quietly.

"The other way," Bra said, and impatiently shushed him. "Hurry, someone's coming." Vejiita slid into the room after her and around the corner just as a couple of soldiers clumped by; their ship separated, their "king" gone missing, they were not even bothering to maintain their shape steadily. Their outlines wavered freakishly as they passed by the doorway, and one of them paused for just a moment to feel what he thought was a living presence inside. Vejiita tensed himself and prepared to fight.

Bra concentrated for just a moment; her eyes went blank, her pupils disappearing into dreamy blue, and the soldier shook himself and passed on. Vejiita stared in amazement.

"Bra, how did you do that?" he asked, kneeling beside her, and then grew suspicious. "Who taught you to do that? That was not a skill you could have just picked up by yourself."

Bra looked up at her father and smiled, all innocence. "Son Gohan did, papa," she said. "Although I mostly figured it out on my own."

Vejiita momentarily stiffened; of course he'd known that Gohan had had some sort of contact with his daughter - how else could she have been connected with him when he died? But the thought of that young man - no matter how trustworthy - going in there and visiting his daughter alone...

"Don't worry, papa," Bra said reassuringly. "He didn't do anything."

Vejiita stared at her. She's only six... "What do you mean, didn't do anything?"

"You know," she said, and looked uncomfortable. "The bad thing. The one you didn't want Ru Sa doing to me. Although it wasn't bad when you and Okaachan did it. At least, you didn't seem to think so."

Vejiita was getting a headache; he put a hand to his forehead. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation," he muttered, and Bra had to pull on his elbow again to get his attention.

"Come on," she ordered, face scrunching into a miniature version of one of Bulma's more severe expressions. "The formula's in this way. If we get it all, then they'll melt. All of them. Ru Sa's even seen it happen, once or twice, and I think it really hurts."

Vejiita rose to his feet and once again followed his ambitious and overly gifted daughter, looking for what she wanted him to see.

There was the cabinet; he opened it.

Vejiita gaped as he beheld the contents; there were chemicals galore in here - chemicals which, Bra said, were necessary to maintain the genetic stability of their inimical hosts. Suddenly the stress of this bizarre ordeal, coupled with the fury of having his own flesh and blood attacked by these fools, crowded in on him all at once.

...and I think it really hurts, she'd said.

Vejiita smiled in a way that only Vejiita could. "Stand back, Bra," he ordered, and focusing ki around his hands, began artistically cooking everything within reach.

*

Goten had gone three steps from Chive's laboratory when an emotion of fear so strong it was stifling took hold of him and shook as hard as it could. Goten froze, his heart in his throat.

Goten, get out of there! came Trunks' voice from nowhere, and before Goten could think about responding, his body obeyed. He found himself hiding in a small lavatory without any clear memory of how he'd gotten there.

In the hallway, Chive moved slowly past him, the look of pleasant, vampiric conquest on her face enough to scare anybody away.

Goten watched her go, confused.

Trunks' disembodied voice did not reappear, so Goten made as if to leave the bathroom - when yet another thing happened. A door just to the left of him opened with a slight shish and Bra stepped out. Vejiita followed close behind. Whispering and dodging, the two apparent fugitives made their way into Chive's lab where, after a moment (and after the two Saiyans with bizarrely blurring outlines had passed), Goten could detect the slight buzz of a tightly controlled ki. A moment later, Bra and Vejiita left - she tucked protectively under his arm and he looking very pleased with himself.

Goten waited until they were gone before he started talking.

"What the hell is going on?" he wondered aloud, disturbed, and then abruptly decided - for reasons unknown - that he was going to stay in the bathroom until he found out. At least, he wasn't going out into that main hallway again - except, perhaps, to investigate into the mystery of weird, shape-shifting Saiyans. Curiosity killed the cat, and all that.

But before he could act out his natural inquisitiveness, another voice came floating to him out of nowhere. The floor plates, it said, and Goten accepted the advice without question. He knelt down and was surprised to find that right under his feet was a large conduit for something - probably a left-over from the days when actual plumbing had been used - just chancing to be wide enough for him to move through.

For the first time in his life grateful for his small stature, Goten snuggled into the space where numerous different water pipes used to be and began worming his way into the bowels of the ship.

*

Kaiou-sama relaxed and finally breathed again, taking great big puffs of air; he was quite exhausted from his concentration.

It didn't help that the universe around him was winking out of existence meter by meter.

"Did you get to him in time?" asked Bulma semi-casually, a clean rice bowl in her hands; she was doing dishes.

"Yes," said the Kaiou.

Bulma contemplatively dried the bowl, eyes focused on nothing. "So that's all right, then," she said quietly, and turned back into the house to finish her chore.

Kaiou-sama watched her go without comment, not bothering to tell her that Goten's first warning had come from someone other than himself; from someone that sounded amazingly like Trunks, but couldn't be - because Trunks was alive and that voice had come from beyond Heaven. Way beyond. Bulma was worried enough without having to learn that her son was no longer in this plane of existence.

Kaiou-sama was taking a big risk - huge - by interfering in this way, but if what he could remember from Rou Kaioushin's message was accurate, then his simple action of preserving Goten's life now might be the key that saved them all.

But would cost Goten his life later on.

Kaiou-sama sadly hunched forward, his cheerful face puckered as though he were going to cry. Gokuu would hate him for what he had done; there was no way around it.

Sometimes, the Kaiou reflected as Bubbles danced before him, life was just not fair.

***

Away in space, in the center of the four clusters of galaxies, the planet hung and shone a deep light. On this planet was mostly open space, rocks, a few plants; an arid and beautiful land. There was one dwelling, one structure, situated in the midst of it all - the home of the Kaioushins.

When the man woke up, he was filled with a white, dreamy, light-filled peace, and was so initially comfortable that it didn't bother him that he didn't know who he was. The back of his mind, however, was a very noisy place, and something there seemed intent on reminding him that everything was not as it should be. Not really wanting to remember whatever the problem was, he took a deep, luxurious breath, and sat up.

Opening his eyes, he found himself confronted with an airy, softly lighted room, hung with white gauzy material and large enough that he could not see the walls.

"Where am I?" he asked quietly, still filled with that overriding sense of peace. He looked down at his arms, bringing his hands in front of him and staring at them intently; it seemed for some reason to him that they shouldn't have been there. He flexed his fingers curiously.

Relaxing his arms again, he resumed looking around the room; it seemed empty except for him, furnished with him, his bed, and nothing else at all. Just sitting here, breathing the air, was good. He decided he would like to do it for a while longer.

Then to the left, a door creaked open - he could hear it, but not see it. Someone walked forward until he was in the mysterious ceiling-sourced light.

"You're finally awake!" the old man said, and the young man in the four-poster bed merely nodded, content to agree.

"And how are we feeling today, young Gohan?" asked Rou Kaioushin, and Gohan looked at him, puzzled.

"Who?" asked Gohan, and Rou Kaioushin inhaled softly.

"So I didn't get to you in time after all," he said with some trace of sadness, and the Gohan-relic smiled. He really was quite handsome when he smiled.

"I feel okay, old man," he said respectfully. "More than okay - better than I should, I think, although I don't know why. Do you mind if I ask who you are? This place - it's so beautiful."

"And so doomed," Rou Kaioushin said as if to himself. "Well, I could do this the long way and follow the rules, but we're running out of time and I don't think rules count for much anymore," the Kaioushin said, and shuffled forward to Gohan's side.

"What did you call me before?" asked Gohan pleasantly.

Rou Kaioushin did not respond; instead, he did an odd thing. He reached into his waist-pack and pulled out what looked to be Polaroid pictures. Gohan shook his head slightly; he hadn't remembered the word "Polaroid" until he saw those small plastic strips, but the weird thing was, he didn't remember not remembering. It was a very disconcerting feeling.

Rou Kaioushin solemnly studied the snapshots, contemplating whatever mystery they held. A purplish light began to shimmer around them.

"Ah, my dear," he said the photos. "If anyone had any idea how many times the universe owed its salvation to your beauty, you'd be crowned an honorary Kaioushin and I'd be hung by my toes." Reminiscence past, Rou Kaioushin stored the pictures away and walked toward Gohan with out-stretched hands. Gohan, for one moment, felt afraid; he pulled away.

"Now, Gohan, don't do that," said Rou Kaioushin, worried that Gohan would try to fight him; if he did, things could get dangerous and his healing would not be complete. "This is going to hurt - I'm sorry about that - but it has to be done. I think you know you can trust me. Don't you know that, Son Gohan?"

Gohan, so child-like in his regained innocence, studied the face of Rou Kaioushin like the cover of a past beloved but forgotten book, and nodded. "I trust you," he said quietly, and Rou Kaioushin placed his hands on Gohan's head.

The young man screamed.

Ki - a reaction to the pain tearing through his soul - flared up around his body, and if Rou Kaioushin had not been a Kaioushin in the first place, he would have been burned to a crisp. As it was, he still came pretty close.

"Gohan, maintain control," he said with strained voice. "Don't go Super Saiyan; you'll destroy us both." Gohan, with renewed memory of what a Super Saiyan was, did his best to obey. He still wasn't sure what he was doing here or why Rou Kaioushin was putting him through so much pain, but he was sure he would know soon enough. And he was right.

Panting and trembling slightly, Rou Kaioushin took his hands away from Gohan and moved back, feeling very old and very tired. Gohan sat on the bed, no longer the picture of innocence nor peace, his expression so filled with horror as to make null and void the serenity of his surroundings.

"How... how can..."

"Shh," Rou Kaioushin hushed. "You've got a lot to think about - there's more information than was there before. But right now, we've got to leave. The Black is here, and it's coming very quickly for you." His voice was calm, calming - and very sad.

Gohan sat where he was for a moment more, eyes fixed on inner atrocities best unsaid, and then nodded dumbly and moved off the somewhat charred bed. He had trouble at first; his balance seemed... off.

That was when he noticed he had a tail.

"I have a tail," he said, not even realizing that he had flung an arm around Rou Kaioushin for support.

"Yes," said the Kaioushin. "It regenerated when I healed you. Come with me now - come along. We're going to see the Northern Kaiou - your very own Kaiou-sama." With that, Rou Kaioushin closed his eyes and concentrated; he silently commanded the performance of the Kai Kai, an advanced form of teleportation, and they were gone.

The palace - for that's what it was - stood beautiful and empty, mournful for its past glory. All the Kaioushins had lived there at one time, before Buu, before tragedy struck; and now, after eons of lonely inhabitance, it was empty for the last time.

The Black arrived. No fanfare or growling clouds announced its presence; things just stopped being as it passed, dark and filmy and moving like smoke under water. Within as little time as it took for Rou Kaioushin to complete Gohan's healing, the planet of the Kaioushins - and all it held - was gone.

***

Intermission 13.1: The Trials Part One: Dende Goes A-Traveling

Dende muttered and fussed at the sheets of paper for some time before he realized Reep was staring at him.

"Reep, what is it?" Dende demanded perhaps a bit more sharply than necessary.

"Doing it the wrong way," Reep said quietly, and looked at the floor.

Dende paused, sighed, leaned back from the table, and stared hopelessly at the mess. "There are too many scraps," he said disconsolately, and Reep did not seem inclined to contradict him. "I don't know how to do this," he moped, and Reep smiled.

"Mmmm," said Reep. "Knowing and doing are two things the same - just as singing and rhyming means knowing the name. Fathom is deep, and blue leads to black - soft are the lips but strong is the back."

Dende sighed. "Yeah, I think that's in here too," he said with less than marked enthusiasm. Reep looked miffed.

"Part is for you, Dende," he chided gently, still sing-songy in his tone. "Some bits do not fit the whole; taken for you, for me, and the ball."

"That wasn't one of your better ones," commented Dende, but now he felt slightly more awake. All the pieces didn't fit together? It wasn't MEANT to be one huge prophecy? Then that meant...

"NOW what am I supposed to do?" Dende said, exasperated. "How do I know what fits together and what doesn't? How can I tell what it's saying to me if I don't know what it's saying at all?" He slumped forward and slammed his elbows onto the table, resting his bewildered head in his hands.

Reep looked on silently. He waited until Dende had calmed enough to listen to him again before speaking.

"Dende must pass through the Trials," he said quietly, and Dende looked up at him.

"What?" he said, eyes wide and weary.

"Trials," repeated Reep, inclining his head slightly. "You are the bearer of the eighth dragonball; the learner of Prophecy. The Instructor who tells the One to Come of the White Dragon. You must pass your Trials - or you will never learn."

The what? White Dragon? One to Come? What...

Dende looked carefully at Reep, scraps of paper forgotten. His earlier thought returned to haunt him - this was big. Bigger than he was. Bigger than he'd had any idea.

He sighed very deeply, feeling far too young and not at all worthy of the tasks ahead of him.

"All right, Reep," he said softly, standing. "I'm ready."

Reep smiled, and for a moment Dende could see the frightening intelligence behind those eyes. "Then lie down," Reep ordered, and Dende, puzzled, did as he was told. Unfortunately, there really was no place to lie down in this room; Dende knew there were bedrooms back there, nestled safely in the halls of Junsei Aion, but he did not - could not - entertain the thought of creeping back into those lightless places to sleep in the beds of dead men. So he crashed out on the floor.

"Now go to sleep," said Reep - his voice, for some reason, seeming farther away now - and Dende fought a sigh of protest.

"But Reep," he said. "I'm not that tired..."

... and was disturbed to find he was already asleep. But conscious - oh heavens, how could he be asleep and still conscious at the same time...

"Sleep," said Reep from so far away he could barely make out the words. "Sleep and walk well. Walk this world, Dende-sama, and be brave."

And Dende opened his eyes to find himself outside the glass Canopy.

***

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