Chapter Seventeen: Aware

Vejiita woke up slowly and in great pain. It seemed to take forever to climb out of the noiseless dark that was his subconscious, scrambling toward the surface and toward the pain, because pain was not good but where there was pain there was awareness. The Saiyan prince gasped convulsively and jerked his entire body, as though defending from an expected blow.

There was nothing; no one waiting to greet him, no one trying to attack. Vejiita found himself standing propped against a wall with his arms pulled tightly above his head, manacled like a common prisoner.

Heh; chains. What kind of a moron...

Vejiita grit his teeth and strained, pulling and fully expecting the chains to come right out of their posts -

- and nothing happened. Nothing; the metal was as implacable as his ego, but considerably more durable. After a short time of struggling, he gave up.

Observing and dealing with obdurate bonds, Vejiita failed initially to notice his cellmate. Bra sat on a bench nearby, chained as well but with considerably more slack. She probably could have stood and walked around a bit, had she been so inclined.

She was not.

Bra sniffled once.

"Bra!" Vejiita exclaimed, wondering why on earth they would have put his daughter in such close proximity to him. His daughter who was - come to think of it - not looking so well at the moment.

"Bra?" he asked gently, realizing in passing that if he had ever taken for granted his ability to touch her, he never would again. Whatever daze she was in, she was not snapping out of it. "Bra!" he shouted, and at that point the door to the room slid open and Ru Sa came in.

"Heh," he said, crossing his arms. "I was beginning to be afraid you'd have to spend some time in the regen tank. You took quite a beating, my prince." And Ru Sa smiled far too possessively for Vejiita's comfort.

"And what, exactly, do you have in mind for me that requires my well-being?" Vejiita asked as calmly as he could; he did not at all like the way the hateful captain was glancing at his daughter.

"Oh, this and that," Ru Sa answered dismissively. "I swear, Vejiita, your daughter grows more lovely every d..."

Bra suddenly began to scream, loudly and piercingly, a high-pitched shriek of horror and fear. The awful thing was that she was not looking at Ru Sa while she did it; she was not looking at anything.

Ru Sa frowned, wincing slightly against the shrill quality of it. "Tell your daughter to shut up, Vejiita, or I'll knock her in the head."

Vejiita was no dummy; he didn't bother with verbal commands. Instead, hoping that what he had heard about the Sheinrei-Tsu being unable to communicate via telepathy had been wrong...

...Bra... he sent her way, concentrating so hard he forgot to breathe. ...Bra, listen to me... papa wants you to stop screaming now... stop it... just stop... And incredibly, amazingly, Bra stopped; oh, not all at once - her shrieks slowly degraded into terror-filled wails, then voiced snuffles, and then nothing at all. She just sat there, panting, still not focusing her eyes on anything. Vejiita turned to Ru Sa.

"What did you DO to her?" he hissed, full of bile and fury. Ru Sa shrugged innocently.

"Nothing, yet," he admitted. "I don't know what has her so up..." he stopped. His eyes suddenly went wide and his mouth pulled back in a grimace, as though he were witnessing a transformation of unbelievable rendering.

"Vejiita, look!" he cried, and clamped one iron hand on the prince's shoulder. "Look at your daughter!"

Vejiita looked and at first saw nothing - then, slowly, as through a haze, he saw what Ru Sa's eyes must see - he saw instead of a frightened little girl a young woman, one whom he did not recognize but looked startlingly familiar - startlingly like Bulma. She was tall and willowy, slim and with a floral grace that Bulma did not have; and yet it was unquestionably Bra. Her face was a study in beauty through quiet; subtlety, light and shadow made up her visage, and there was power there - oh yes, there was, but it was well hidden. Vejiita gaped at what it seemed his daughter had become.

Then Ru Sa's fist rocketed off the side of his face and brought him firmly back into reality again.

The captain growled like a trapped animal.

"She is Sheinrei-Tsu!" he spit, looking as though he wanted to maul Vejiita for fathering such a creature. "How dare you not tell me!"

Vejiita blinked, trying to look ignorant. "She is Sheinrei-Tsu? How do you know?" Ru Sa hauled off and hit him again; Vejiita wondered vaguely if he could spit his loose teeth out fast enough to be used as weapons.

"You think I didn't know that you knew, baka?" Ru Sa roared. "The moment I touched you I knew! The moment I saw her, I knew! I knew! And you tried to hide it from me…" He pulled back as though to hit Vejiita, again, but instead leaned close and whispered dangerously.

"I had wondered how it had been done to Chive," he said quietly. "When I found her there was nothing left. Her soul was gone, taken, as though it had been ripped right out of her body." Ru Sa leaned closer, his eyes blazing with fury. "She did not even have anything left to give me."

Of course, Vejiita did not understand this comment, as he had never seen a person drained; but the intent was clear enough from the tone. Ru Sa suddenly chuckled and stepped back.

"At least now I think I can tell you what happened," he said, sparing Bra a side glance - Bra, whose face was pulled back in a sort of silent scream. "I am old, Vejiita," he said, his voice heavy with both pride and weariness. "Older than you can have any imagining. To live a life as long as this sometimes gives you… Other Sight that you could not have in any other case. You and I just saw your daughter as she is meant to be - as she will be, when I get through with her."

Ru Sa turned to Vejiita, one man to another, and said, "I'm taking your daughter."

Vejiita's eyes went wide; he did not mean to rape her and kill her, as he had originally; the chikusho was actually going to… raise her, as his own.

"You… bastard… you're mad!" Vejiita spit his distaste, but could do nothing in the way of opposition. Ru Sa smiled.

"Besides," he said congenially. "It's my fault she's like this," and he waved his hand in her unresponsive direction. "When a Sheinrei-Tsu latches onto someone this old - older than Chive, although how a 6-year-old was able to take her, I will never understand - it sort of works in reverse. I see, now; she was afraid to connect with me because she might lose herself in the process - but she did it anyway, to help you. Heh. She thought she actually might be able to save you when she saw me pounding out your life's breath." He actually had the gall to chuckle.

Vejiita stared at him, more convinced than ever of this man's madness.

"Oh, don't worry, she'll be all right," Ru Sa said in response to Vejiita's shocked look. "She's just had a bit of a jolt; too much information, I think the phrase goes. Heh." He rubbed his head thoughtfully and smiled. "And I didn't even know she was in there," he quipped, then leaned forward into Vejiita's pale face for one more stab.

"Just remember this, Prince, as you keep to yourself and sleep. You did this to her; if she had not been trying to defend you, this never would have happened. And now, thanks to you, she will also have new ownership - as soon as she recovers enough to make the transition safe." Ru Sa fixed him with a look of cool disgust. "You bring harm to all those you love, don't you, Vejiita-sama," and without another word, Ru Sa turned and went out of the room.

Vejiita stood against the wall, staring helplessly after him, and had nothing to say. He looked at the almost-broken wreck of a daughter at his side, and felt despondency wash like cold and icy water over his skin.

***

Interlude 17.1: Moot

Nobody was fussing any more over Dende's body, and that was good; Moot had found it extremely difficult to concentrate with everybody panicking like that.

It was very odd, what had happened to the kami; the others had come in to find Dende quite literally out cold on the floor. Barely breathing, temperature so far below normal as to make him extremely cool to the touch, Dende's body seemed to be only half there - there were times that you could actually see right through him.

Reep had only one explanation; "Dream walking," he'd said, and would say no more. Apparently, Dende - his acutal SELF - had somehow been stretched to be in more than one place at a time. At least, so was Murri's guesstimation.

Oddly, it seemed to Moot that this was hardly important; Dende was elsewhere, but the scraps of Prophecy remained, and for some reason, they were taking up all his attention. They were so…familiar, somehow, as though he'd seen them before, or maybe heard them in a dream. Moot bent with solemn concentration over the desk Dende had vacated, and so did not at first notice Reep staring at him.

"Know them well, do you," Reep said quietly, and Moot jumped.

"Um, yes," he said with a tremble, surprised that Reep had discerned that; it was another concrete yet vague feeling that Moot had been unable to word. "That's just how I feel. How did you know that?"

Reep moved a bit closer; he had been faithfully guarding the un-solid body of Dende when everyone had been around, but now it was just Moot and Reep in the room and one very cold Namek. No fear of interruptions.

"Part three are you of a story half done," Reep said, and Moot looked at him with interest.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

Reep nodded toward the littered desktop. "Can you put those in order?"

Moot looked at him curiously. "Do you think I can?"

"Not what I asked you, little one," said Reep kindly, and for the first time Moot became aware of how much older than he Reep really was.

"Okay," he said mildly, and with all the enthusiasm of child puzzle-solving, went straight to work. Reep watched him, his expression unreadable.

"No stopping now," Reep said to himself, but Moot did not hear him. He was too busy concentrating.

"Hm," he said, small green brow furrowed in concentration as he talked to himself. "I think this part would go here - first, and then… this seems like a good place to start..."

He had taken "Brings light into darkness, gods' only hope; Time's end, worlds fend; death - quicksilver rope." Then he had placed, "Half is light that rages, only pure of heart be sufficient then to break apart the Beginning of End; whole, then, must move to make whole the part."

"That make sense to you?" he asked Reep enthusiastically, and Reep nodded.

"Keep going," he said, and settled down by Dende's gently breathing body to wait.

Moot kept going.

After a while, he sat back and looked with pride on his handiwork. He hadn't been able to fit everything in to his satisfaction, but it looked pretty good for right now.

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.

Ice with fire's heart, flame never still -
twice perished, thrice cherished - strong, the untapped will.
Rage rules over the night and makes day;
Anger must dry, love fade away.
First - rage made whole, the bearer of life,
Yet first to come is second in right.

That was all he'd put together just yet. It sort of made sense, but not quite, like a mathematical problem just out of his grasp; he could understand the components used, but not the principle behind them; as a result, the concept as a whole was out of his reach.

That was okay; Moot was young enough that this still took on the aspects of a game to him. If he got it wrong, so what? Dende would be back soon, and when he was - well, Moot just sort of knew it would all be all right.

Besides - it was making Reep happy.

Moot had never had a pet, but if he could have had his choice, Reep would have been it - assuming that Reep were really pet material, over which issue Moot did not wrestle much. Reep, at the moment, had started bouncing again, which he had not done since they'd found the first parts of the Prophecy on the wall outside.

"Oh, wonderful, WONDERFUL," insisted Reep, hopping madly around the room and clearing on Dende's cold form by a matter of some feet. "Joy unmeasured in the paths of spring! Time is rushing - soon Dende is back, and then everything moves so fast! Oh, oh, oh, so GOOD! Hurry! Hurry, do not rest!"

Always one to oblige, Moot turned back to the desk and continued working, and if Reep's desperate glance turned protective and slightly possessive later on, well, what of that? Moot was getting the job done, and that was what really mattered.

***

Bra stirred gently, very careful still to not focus her eyes on anything. Always let them underestimate you - that was something Trunks had taught her, and fortunately for her, she had taken it to heart. It was true - Ru Sa was too much for her to take now. Now. But she had come close - and he had never known how close.

She knew what Ru Sa believed about Sheinrei-Tsu; knew that if he had been concentrating back, he could have indeed initiated a "reverse" and taken HER soul instead. Fortunately, she had foreseen this; read it in his mind, and even glimpsed remainders of those to whom he'd successfully done it before. Ru Sa was a worthy adversary indeed.

She had known what he would expect her to do once he made the discovery that she was Sheinrei-Tsu. So, helpful as always, she obliged.

She had to admit that the screaming like that was a really good effect; and it hadn't been that difficult to pull off. The images of what Ru Sa wanted to do to her were echoing through her mind even now, and filling her with a sickly horror that made her father's own disgust seem petty; and so, she screamed.

Ru Sa had fallen for this beautifully; as far as he was concerned, her shock and terror were genuine. Bra was only sorry that she had had to fool her poor papa as well. Vejiita was in less than great shape mentally as it was, vacillating back and forth between visions of deliriously graphic revenge and periods of total depression, in which he blamed himself for getting him and his daughter into this in the first place.

Her poor papa.

Those last comments of Ru Sa's were really eating into him. The captain had some limited telepathic abilities of his own, and he had picked up skittering across Vejiita's brain lingering thoughts of guilt and death, stemming all the way back to his rather dramatic childhood. He had strategically commented to trigger them.

Even now, as much as Vejiita KNEW nothing that had happened was really his fault, he was able to devote only half his brain to planning revenge and mayhem upon his captors; the other half was devoted to blaming himself for bringing disaster upon those whom he had sworn himself to protect.

"…bring harm to all those you love…" Horrible thing to say, and the worst part about it was that it had just enough truth to stick. The quiet voice in his subconscious was still there, still reminding him…after all, if he had not been aboard Freeza's ship, then his father the king would not have come for him, and Freeza would not have attacked, right? Well, no, he knew that was nonsense; the Freeza/Saiya-jin alliance had been a disaster waiting to happen, and it only took the birth of one with extremely high ki level to set it off. Oh, but wait - that babe just happened to be him, so once again it was his fault…

Round and round, back and forth he went, swinging between personal guilt and satisfyingly graphic visions of revenge.

Bra shook her head. Adults were always complicated, and her father more so than anyone else she had ever met; he was very confusing. No matter what his conscious plans were, certain thoughts always remained as an undercurrent and a motivation: not to fail, never to fail, never again to be less than what he was.

Bra sighed deeply and waited it out. If her father's slowly forming plan had any merit - and his plans usually did - then sooner or later they would both have their hands free and be able to get out of here. Or wreak revenge. Either course seemed good enough to him, and Bra saw no reason to argue.

Neither of them knew that the two parts of the ship were soon due to be reunited, and that would change absolutely everything..

***

Interlude 17.2: Cumber

Well, Cumber was ready. He had completed repairs on his part of the ship - albeit not as well as Chive would have - and it was at last ready to be made whole, one with itself. He still didn't understand what had caused Ru Sa to initiate the separation anyway; something to do with the Saiyan king's older child, that much he understood, but beyond that...

Personally, Cumber suspected that Ru Sa had been trying to charge their part of the time machine and botched it up. He smiled, relishing the thought of the inglorious Ru Sa messing up on anything, and then his thoughts went back to Chive. Eh; she had treated him once, just as a thank-you for helping her out with something. But she had also made it clear that that was to be the only time she stepped out of protocol enough to do such a thing. It was dangerous, fraternizing among the ranks; even when children were no longer possible, it always resulted in inner friction.

Not that that had stopped Ru Sa; and there had been plenty of friction there, oh yes - though not of the type Chive was referring to. No, it was better just not to think about it, to shove it to the back burner and not consider it at all.

And then Gokuu had just had to go and peg it on the head.

He loved her. He did; he couldn't really help it. Cumber had never known a woman so brave, so intelligent - so cool and calm under pressure. So very, very deadly, but that had its own peculiar charm too, didn't it? Yes, it did.

Cumber sighed and pushed all such thoughts from his mind; they went as easily as crows chased from a cornfield - and would be back just as predictably, too, but that wasn't his problem now. He sighed again and picked up his tools as he stood, looking for something else to do. He couldn't think of a thing; the damage was all repaired, and every piece of machinery was running smoothly.

Cumber found something to do anyway. He didn't want to have to hurt Son Gokuu, although capturing or incapacitating that man was clearly the next duty in his list. Why he felt reluctance he had not yet been able to figure out. It seemed like a perfectly logical and wonderful thing to do; Saiya-jin were the best for boosting one's own faulty gene system, and they had been in rather scarce supply of late. But this was Gokuu - it just didn't seem right somehow, or even excusable.

Sometimes, the question of morality versus loyalty came up, and usually Cumber opted for the latter. It was, in general, a much safer choice. He was not sure which he would choose this time. Cabbage's disappearance kept playing on his mind, and Ru Sa's dismissal of the matter made it worse. Cumber thought about this, and he wondered. He wondered about Ru Sa; he wondered about their mission; he wondered about everything.

And he wondered if it would be worth it, just once, to let Gokuu go.

***

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