Chapter 7: Double-Talk

The next morning, Gokuu did not at first know there was a problem. As he rose and stretched however, he began to realize that there was more amiss with his stomach than just hunger; he had that strange, pit-of-the-gut feeling that he always got when there was something wrong with the ki in his surrounding area. Notwithstanding, Gokuu continued dressing himself and looked forward to breakfast; he may have been puzzled, but long ago he had learned to bow in submission to the Omnipotence of the Inevitable. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and he would wait for it to reveal itself in its own due time.

The odd thing was that whatever was wrong didn't seem to be wrong now; it felt more like a bad residue from the night before.

He was nearly dressed when his intercom chimed. It had to chime twice more before Gokuu figured out it meant someone was at his door.

"Oh," he said, comprehending. "Come in!"

The door shished open, and Chive entered.

"Ohayoo, Chive!" Gokuu chirped.

"Kakarotto-san," she said, irritated by his good-morning cheer. "Vejiita-sama requests the honor of your presence alone in his chambers."

"Oh," said Gokuu, disappointed. "You mean before breakfast?"

The look Chive shot him could probably have stopped a clock; Gokuu, however, was unaffected.

"All right," he said with a sigh. "Just tell me where Vejiita is and I'll go see him there. Hey!" he added, brightening. "Maybe he'll have breakfast in his room today!"

Chive's face registered some small disgust as she pointed Gokuu down the hallway. "Over there - no, not there, there - take a left, and then another left, and then… oi, here - let me just take you."

Gokuu had never been hounded by the same investigative urges that so possessed his eldest son, and so as he followed Chive he quickly found himself in a section of the ship he had never seen before. At the end of the hallway was a large door.

"Kakarotto to see you, Vejiita-sama," Chive said respectfully into the intercom. There was no answering voice, but the door slid silently open. Inside was a huge room, almost completely unlit; a large, bracketed window on the opposite wall provided what small visibility there was. Chive bowed respectfully toward the shadows and retreated; Gokuu blinked at the shadows and stepped blithely into the room.

It took him a moment to locate his king; Vejiita was keeping his ki very, very low. Dark and vaguely familiar shapes sat in blocky silence all around the perimeter, and there seemed to be half a dozen chairs set at intervals in front of those shapes. Gokuu thought he knew where he was.

"Why, Vejiita," he laughed with delight. "You're staying in the auxiliary bridge!"

Vejiita snorted. "I didn't know your vocabulary possessed such big words, Kakarotto."

Gokuu walked further into the room, looking around him at all the control panels and the occasionally blinking lights. "Wow. How on earth did you get put in here?"

"Because of the space and privacy provided by the auxiliary captain's quarters attached to this bridge. Come here, Kakarotto. I have something to say." Vejiita, who had been facing the window, turned to face him. Dark or no, Gokuu could see enough of Vejiita's expression to detect extreme unhappiness with something.

"Ano… you're not angry with me, are you Vejiita?"

"What? Baka. No. Now come here."

Gokuu moved closer slowly, trying to sort out what he was picking up from Vejiita's ki. No hostility towards him - that was good - but to say that Vejiita was tense would be an understatement. More like ready to blow up.

"Did you have another dream about Bulma, Vejiita?" he asked quietly.

"I… no. Yes. It doesn't matter. Kakarotto, are you going to come here or am I going to have to grab you by the hair and…"

"Iie, iie, Vejiita-san," said Gokuu affably, raising both hands in surrender. Obediently, he walked right up until his chin was inches from the top of Vejiita's forehead. "What is it, Vejiita?" he asked quietly, looking down but not daring to bend to eye-level; the last time he had done that, Vejiita had attacked him just because he thought Gokuu was making fun of his height.

Vejiita took a deep breath. "I have made a mistake," he announced.

Gokuu's jaw dropped open.

"A what?" he said. "What did you say?"

Vejiita growled. "Don't make me repeat myself, Kakarotto; I'm in a bad enough mood as it is." He sighed. "I tell you this now because I am beginning to fear that my… underestimation… of the situation is going to bring harm to the children."

Gokuu cocked his head to one side and wrinkled his brow. They're all I have left of Bulma seemed to come to him out of nowhere, and to the end of his days Gokuu could never be sure whether Vejiita had meant to communicate that to him or not.

"What do you mean, Vejiita?" Gokuu said quietly. "Is someone threatening you?"

"Not yet. Not directly. But I'm afraid that it has already brought harm to you and yours."

Gokuu looked puzzled; that sick feeling in his stomach increased. "What do you mean?" he asked again.

Vejiita waved at one of the objects in the dark. "I have asked the computer here to give me an update every morning of the status of everyone on this ship. Just in case. I had hoped…"

…underestimation… harm to the children…

"Kakarotto, I… I didn't know…"

…harm…

Gokuu knew.

Vejiita rubbed the sore spot between his eyes. "Kakarotto, I'm so sorry…"

Just then an alarm went off, and something dark and cold seemed to explode under Gokuu's skin.

***

"Captain, I want an answer now! How could this have happened?" Vejiita was shouting. There was nothing unusual about Vejiita raising his voice per se; those who knew him well, however, knew that there was a difference between his semi-serious "fear-me-and-tremble" roar and his extremely serious "I-am-going-to-crush-your-head" roar.

This was most definitely the latter.

Behind him, Gokuu stood in silence with his one remaining son, his fists clenched and his jaw set and trembling. The earth-Saiyan's face was pale, tinged with green; he was unable to speak.

Vejiita had spoken to him intensely and briefly before they went to answer the alarm, and even in his shocked state Gokuu had grasped the urgency of Vejiita's plan. No one must know; no one must hear. Their discernment of the supposed Saiyans' lies must remain a secret, or the only advantage belonging to the good guys would be gone. Whoever or whatever had been able to take Gohan out must be immensely powerful, and they could not risk the lives of their other children.

And somehow, Gokuu had kept himself from going Super Saiyan whatever and blowing them all to Hell.

So it was that Gokuu stood, castrated, unable to say or do anything that was in his heart to do, most of which involved killing everybody on board that vessel. He watched the "Saiyans," these bastards with the wide and innocent eyes, deny as one any knowledge of Gohan's demise, and he came extremely close to attacking them anyway, possible danger be damned.

The only reason he did not was Goten. The boy must not meet the same fate as his brother.

In Gokuu's head, only one thought would solidify, over and over and over again: the dragonballs… there are no dragonballs…

He had never come so close to losing his mind.

*

Vejiita growled. His fists were clenched, and if the Saiyans did not know how much danger they were in from Gokuu, they certainly knew they were in danger from Vejiita.

"Last time, captain - and last chance. What… the HELL... happened? People do NOT drag themselves to airlocks, vomiting and bleeding all over the floor, and then shoot themselves into outer space!"

Ru Sa was down on one knee, his beads of sweat on his face.

"My lord…

"Don't you call me that! You have exactly two seconds before I blast you into oblivion!"

"My…"

"One!" counted Vejiita.

"We don't know!" Ru Sa shouted, his anxiety for his own life overcoming his natural poise. "We don't know what happened, and there is no way to find out. There is no security camera there, no record in the computer of anyone - including Gohan - logging in or out of the maintenance level. All we know for sure is he's gone and he was bleeding when he left and that he'd had a full dinner. We just don't know anything else!"

Vejiita hissed and narrowed his eyes, and a tightly formed ki ball began to glow in his hand.

Then Trunks spoke.

"Captain, I believe you have a direct responsibility to resolve this issue. The first thing you need to do is find out exactly WHEN Gohan was in the air lock; 'some time last night' will not do. Then, you need to use that time to help you figure out what section of space Gohan will be in. We can go back to that area and use the radar to search for him. If there's anything left of Gohan's body, finding it should be no problem. All we have to do is recalibrate the radar to Gohan's DNA; his blood should provide a perfect sample. Then, once we have his body, we can possibly determine something of what happened to him. For that matter," he said, thinking out loud. "We should see if there is some sign of other DNA in that airlock as well to give us an idea of who might have put him in there in the first place."

Vejiita blinked and turned, staring at his son. A strange look crossed his face, half of fury and half of pride.

"The boy's idea is solid," Vejiita pronounced, and there was an almost audible sigh of relief. "And if Gohan's body is not found within 24 hours, I will kill you all." He turned, his cape swirling, and marched up to his son. Trunks looked up at Vejiita, not flinching. He had never looked so much like his "future" counterpart before.

"And if you ever dare to supercede me like that in public again," Vejiita growled quietly. "I will kill you myself."

Trunks smiled; he spoke Vejiita-ese fluently.

"Yes, sir. And you're welcome."

Vejiita snorted and turned to Gokuu. "I need to go check on my daughter. Meet me in my quarters," Vejiita ordered Gokuu, and went away, cape billowing behind him. Gokuu needed a guiding hand from Goten to get him moving.

"Hey," Trunks whispered to Goten as he passed. "It'll be okay. I'll see you in your quarters after you get your dad where he needs to go."

Goten sniffled and nodded. He had his own problems, but they could wait. Of the two of them, Trunks had always been the leader, and Goten had learned to trust his judgment when things were serious. If there were a way to save Gohan - if he were still alive, which Goten must believe - or, if the worst were true, and a means to avenge him was needed - well, either way, Trunks would know what to do. Pushing his unresponsive father in the direction of Vejiita's quarters, Goten dried his own tears and went to his room.

*

Bra was crying when Vejiita opened her door. He froze, all of his kingly composure made useless by this small, weeping girl. For just one moment, his mind cruelly replaced Gohan's lost, lifeless corpse with Bra's, and Vejiita's heart clenched.

"Damn," he muttered, entering her room and shutting the door behind him. "This family stuff is making me too soft."

Bra looked up.

"Otousaaaaaan!" and she charged at him, leaping into his arms and knocking him right over.

"Bra… what in the world is wrong with you?" Vejiita said as soon as he could catch his breath.

"S….s…. son Gohan is deaaaaaaaad!!" she sobbed, clinging to him like a life raft.

Vejiita looked at her closely.

"Bra, how did you know that? You haven't even gotten breakfast yet."

Bra looked up at him and wiped her dripping nose on her sleeve. "I just knew," and she started sobbing again. Vejiita stiffly put his arms around her, characteristically uncomfortable even as he comforted.

"Bra - Bra, look at me - I need you to tell me what you know. What happened to Son Gohan? Can you tell me?"

Chest hitching, Bra looked up at him condescendingly. "He's dead," she said as though explaining a perfectly obvious concept.

Vejiita resisted a brief urge to shake her.

"Yes, Bra, I know that. But how? How did he die?"

Bra's tiny brow knit as she frowned in concentration. "He just… leaked."

Vejiita blinked. "You mean he bled?"

"No. He… it's like somebody stuck a vacuum inside him and sucked all his guts out." She sniffed indignantly. "Can I have breakfast now?"

Vejiita did not immediately answer her. His face had gone a deathly pale, and his teeth were bared in a shocked, vicious grimace.

Bra yanked on his cape. "Otousan? I'm hungry."

Vejiita swallowed hard and stood. "I'll… I'll make sure you get something to eat. Trunks will bring it." He turned and left, much more quickly than he had come in.

And, for the fourth day in a row, Bra sat in her room and waited for someone to feed her.

*

Gokuu was hunched in one of the deck chairs, his face pinched and drawn, when Vejiita came in. Gokuu was eight years Vejiita's junior, but at this moment in time, he looked much, much older.

"Kakarotto?" asked Vejiita quietly.

Gokuu declined to answer.

Vejiita sighed and closed his eyes.

Kakarotto… he thought at Gokuu. Kakarotto, I may know what happened to your son…

Apparently, this was the wrong thing to say. Gokuu looked up at him with what could only be described as hopeless disgust, and he said, "Let me guess - you made a mistake. Right? Underestimated the situation?"

Vejiita grit his teeth and held his temper. He needed Gokuu's help, and the man was not even capable of hearing him right now.

"Kakarotto, we have a legend on my planet. Had a legend. It was concerning the Tsufuru…"

Gokuu snorted. "Those people who underestimated you Saiyans and died. Seems to be a lot of that going around."

Vejiita forgave the comment.

"Gokuu - I have something to tell you about Bra."

Gokuu waited and looked at him the way one would look at a dubious stranger.

Vejiita sighed again; it was getting to a bad habit, he thought. Then again, too much intimacy with Kakarotto would do that to anybody.

"She looks human; very human. And physically, as you know, she is weaker than my son. But she is not without her own special abilities." He snorted wryly. "I'd guess she doesn't know that I know, and that Bulma didn't know that I knew, either, although how they thought they could hide something like that from me…. You know, Kakarotto, it's funny - if there had actually still been a Vejiita-sei, she would be something more to be proud of than even my own son. She is Sheinrei-Tsu."

Gokuu frowned, translating in his head. "A spirit thief?"

Vejiita smiled; Gokuu wasn't looking quite so mad any more. "Yes, that is the literal translation. But it is a term that could only have been applied to a few hundred persons in the entire history of the Saiya-jin. It has to do with a special kind of psychic ability; it's not telekinetic, or even telepathic, exactly. In fact, they usually have - ah, had - trouble communicating from mind to mind the way you and I do. But they were invaluable, nonetheless."

Vejiita looked slightly introspective as he told his tale; talking about Vejiita-sei, which he did not do often, always made him forget the present. And listening to it - which Gokuu did not do often either - made him forget his pain.

"She can…connect with people, Kakarotto - not to communicate, as I said, but with proper training, she would have the power to simply sit in her room and vicariously experience someone else's life without them ever knowing she was there." He looked up, coming back to the present. "They were not often used, the Sheinrei-Tsu; it was always dangerous. If the Sheinrei-Tsu concentrates too hard on a person, they actually could - in a way - insert themselves inside of their victim and… well, steal their soul. I don't know how else to explain it. Probably because of the danger involved in using them, Sheinrei-Tsu and their talents were mostly reserved for use by the Royal family. But... I'm getting off the topic. Kakarotto," he said, looking as steadily as possible into Gokuu's burning eyes. "I don't know how it happened, but Bra was connected with Gohan when he died."

Now Gokuu finally looked at him - really looked at him, and some of his characteristic concern for others finally crept back into his face.

"No! That's awful, Vejiita! Poor Bra - is she all right?"

Vejiita nodded. "Yes. But she told me something that..." he stopped.

"Frightens you?" asked Gokuu quietly. Vejiita did not answer, and he did not need to.

"It has to do with an old legend regarding the Tsufuru," Vejiita began again, and this time, Gokuu did not interrupt.

***

Interlude 7.1: Trunks

Trunks walked as nonchalantly as possible to Gohan's room. I am the crown prince, he told himself firmly. If anybody asks me what I'm doing I can tell them to bug off. Or maybe just say I'm doing investigating on my own. It won't be a problem.

He didn't sound convinced.

Gohan's room was as he had left it; the bed unslept in, the few books and papers he had brought scattered casually on the desk. Trunks wasn't quite sure what he was looking for; he merely hoped that he could find something that would help him bring justice. That was really what Trunks wanted; not revenge, but justice.

Trunks had to wonder briefly where such a noble urge came from, when a small, insistent beeping sound came from Gohan's bed. Thinking it sounded like the hailing alarm of Freeza's old scouters, Trunks threw back the pillow.

There was a small round device there, and damned if it didn't look like the old dragon radar. Throwing caution to the wind, he succumbed to a child's curiosity and started pressing buttons. He was very surprised to see Kuririn's face appear, slightly distorted, in the screen, but not nearly as surprised as Kuririn.

"Wha... Trunks! Where's Gohan?"

Trunks didn't answer right away; he had the distinct feeling that this device was one of the reasons for Gohan's death - Gohan's death at the hands of a killer who was most certainly still at large. Knowing this, opening his mouth and talking to Kuririn was one of the bravest things he ever did.

"Kuririn - Gohan's dead. Somebody killed him and put him out the airlock."

Stunned silence met this. Kuririn turned and spoke to someone off screen. There was what appeared to be a scuffle, and Piccolo's face suddenly appeared.

"Gohan? Dead? Are you sure?" Trunks' heart grew even heavier; the Namek's voice was rough with grief.

"Yes, Piccolo-san. I am sure. Although we don't have his body, so I suppose that he might… no. I won't pretend with you. I believe he is dead."

Piccolo looked grimly at him for a moment, nodded, and handed the communicator back to Kuririn.

"Trunks, that's not the only problem. Yamucha's dead, too. Some of those Saiyans - or whatever they are - stayed behind here, and they were going through Bulma's lab. They killed Yamucha."

Trunks inhaled deeply, forcing himself to stay calm. Not for the first time, he wished he could talk frankly with his father.

"All right. Here's what we're going to do," he said. "The lab…"

There was a commotion in the background, and Kuririn's head disappeared for a moment. He came back. "Trunks, Yajirobe just came back; he's got…." and the communicator went blank.

Trunks sat on Gohan's bed, no longer concerned about being caught, and waited for Kuririn to get back to him. With a patience neither of his parents had ever possessed, he waited, and in his mind, a strange hypothesis seemed to be forming.

In a few minutes, the thing beeped again and Kuririn reappeared. He was restless, breathless, frightened.

"Trunks, they're not Saiyans. They like nothing anybody's ever seen before, and they can change their shapes." Trunks nodded, mentally noting that he would have to go and see what else his sister had observed that he had chosen to ignore.

"Yajirobe followed one of them, the one who killed Yamucha, and they have a building in town. They're right in the middle of Satan City, for crying out loud… and they've got a small space ship in there, and…. Yajirobe said that they didn't speak in any language he knew; it didn't sound like Saiya-jin. But there was one word he did understand, and they said it over and over again - it was your name. It was Trunks."

Trunks narrowed his eyes, looking as much like his father as Bra did her mother. "My name? Or my counterpart's name?"

Kuririn paused. "I don't know. I don't think there was a way to distinguish… what are you saying? That they were talking about mirai no Trunks? Why would they be doing that? It makes no sense."

Trunks' lips compressed into a thin line. "I don't know, Kuririn, but it makes just as much sense for them to be talking about me. Listen; you know that Okaasan kept all her files color coded."

"Trunks, this place is a mess right now, I don't think we can find…"

"Just listen to me, Kuririn," Trunks ordered, the tone of cool authority in his voice immediately checking any further discussion. "She didn't keep this in her cabinets. Go to where she kept her computer."

The view on the little screen bounced up and down as Kuririn did what he was told. "I'm there," he said. "What now?"

Trunks closed his eyes, envisioning the room. "The computer console - is it still there?"

"No," said Kuririn.

"Good. That much easier. Can you see where it was?"

Kuririn looked. "Um… yes. The floor where it was is a little discolored."

"Look under the floor board that is in the exact center of where the console used to be."

"Um… okay," Kuririn said, swallowing any discussion. Trunks' face brooked no argument.

Kuririn's reaction was energetic.

"Hey… whoah! Guys, come here and look at this!" Other voices came from off-screen; "Whoa - Kuririn's found something!" "Do you think that's what they were looking for?" "What is it, let me see!"

Trunks tuned them all out, pressed his forefinger and thumb to the place between his eyes, and tried to think. Something… something someone had said… no, that wasn't right, something he had seen… no….

Kuririn came on again. "Hey Trunks? We found it. It seems to be a file with all the information Mirai no Trunks would give her about the future. I don't know why she didn't just keep it with the rest of her stuff."

"Because it's got scientific information that doesn't exist in our time," Trunks said. "She knew it was important to keep it hidden until it was time for the world to know about it, or else she would alter the time-line again." Trunks closed his eyes, relying on his near-photographic memory. "Kuririn, there should be a small blue-ish purple tab, like the color of my hair. I want you to open the folder to that section. Got it?"

"Yeah. I've got it."

"Read it to me, please."

Kuririn cleared his throat and began to read. "Extracted and Observed Properties of Junsei-Aion under the conditions of…"

But Trunks wasn't listening. "Kuririn!" he interrupted excitedly. "Read that again!"

Kuririn blinked, but did as he was told. "Extracted and Observed Properties of Junsei-Aion under the conditions of…"

Trunks never even heard the rest of the sentence. His mind, although pleased at landing on the correct hypothesis, was completely thrown into shock at its own acumen. "They're in the wrong place!" he said, amazed, and Kuririn stopped reading.

"What?" he asked.

Trunks looked at him, eyes wide. "I said they're in the wrong place. Or should I say… the wrong time?"

The view on the communicator jostled and Piccolo's face appeared once more. "What do you mean, Trunks?"

"The junsei-aion - perfect iron - that was one of my mother's inventions in the future. It doesn't come from outer space. But the Saiyan ship I'm on right now is made of perfect iron!"

"Trunks," said Piccolo reasonably. "That doesn't mean anything. They've probably have had some version of perfect iron - or whatever you call it - in Freeza's empire for decades."

"But not by that name," insisted Trunks, knowing he was right and sure the others would see it too. "He specifically called it 'junsei-aion' - and that was my mother's own name for it, no other. Trunks said she would have made the time machine out of it but was afraid that its energy-absorption qualities would make such a small vessel impractical to charge. But on a bigger vessel, like this one…"

Piccolo nodded. "I see where you're going. So they're possibly from Mirai no Trunks' future - but what are they doing here?"

Trunks shook his head. "That, I don’t know. And I don't know how to find out, either." He suddenly felt tired, more tired than he ever had in his life.

Piccolo nodded again. "You have made a good start, Trunks. We know where they are hiding in Satan City, and we will proceed there right away to see what we can find. You work on your end, but be careful. Don't push; we are in no position to help you if you get into trouble, and would not see you end up like Gohan."

"Okay, Piccolo-san," Trunks agreed respectfully, and he turned off the communicator.

Taking the communicator with him, Trunks went to Goten's room - comfort from a friend was definitely needed. And Bra… oh, hell, Bra hadn't eaten yet. Feeling a million years old, he went to his meeting with Goten, wondering what, if anything, he could do that would be of any good at all.

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