Drawing Sides




        The tall, long-legged nurse with curly blonde hair had just come on duty at the East Kong hospital when she heard the roar of air-breaks and the screaming of startled pedestrians as what could only be suspected as being an Emergency case arrived at the front entrance. Unperturbed, the nurse continued her walk up the long corridor into the main body of the hospital, and from there into the secluded staff room for the off-duty doctors, nurses and medical students. One had just been assigned to her, in fact, and she was looking forward to sharing all she knew with the fresh out of university student. Most of the other doctors and nurses were dreading their accomplices, but the children had to learn somehow.


        She hummed a merry tune to herself as she waltzed into the staff room, smiling and greeting the staff she knew by name on the way to her locker. Stowing her food, keys and bottled water beside her c.d.’s, Discman and other gadgets, and slamming the locker door closed behind her, she spun around only to come face-to-face with a young woman that she had never seen before in her life.


        "Ohayo." The young woman greeted warmly.


        The nurse stared at her. She was wearing the pale blue coat of a medical student, obviously one of the three new ones, and a nurses cap much alike the one she was wearing. At first glance she appeared pretty, but upon closer inspection her features were revealed to be rather striking. With glossy berry-pink hair twisted into a bun at the nape of her neck, large silver eyes with shots of rose running through the iris's, and clear, creamy skin, she was enough to warrant jealousy from the tall, model-built, blonde-haired nurse.


        "Hello." The nurse replied. "What is your name?"


        The young woman smiled, small lips parting to reveal even, white teeth.


        "Casalin." she answered.


        The nurse returned the smile. "Oh, then you must be my student." She said. She had recognized the name printed on the board next to hers tacked on the staff room wall.


        "You're Nurse Mari?" Casalin asked


        The nurse nodded. Surveying the brimming staff room and its coat and uniform-changing masses, she turned back to face her student. "Well, if you haven't got anything better to do, we might as well start."


        Casalin graced the nurse with another smile and followed silently as she lead the way out of the staff room and into the Waiting Room before she was stopped suddenly by almost running into the nurses back. She peered over the older woman’s shoulder to see what had caused her to halt so abruptly.


        The Waiting Room was occupied by a number of people, but it was one certain group that had commandeered the corner by the potted plant that had caught her teacher’s attention. They were an odd-looking sort, composed of the strangest and meanest looking people she had seen together at one time. There was a tall, huge bald man with three eyes that sat half on and half off one of the waiting room chairs. The patch of linoleum beneath his feet was wet and still collecting small droplets of water that fell from his saturated clothes. Beside him sat a smaller man, legs apart and hands dangling down between his knees. He had an exaggerated widow's peak and dark hair that defied gravity, thrusting up from his angular face in black, arrogant spikes. Close to them sat a man taller than the second, but shorter than the first. His hair was cut short and raggedly spiked, his otherwise smooth and handsome face marred by two scars - one slicing down over his right eye, and the other caressing the jawbone along the left side of his face. He had one arm around the shoulders of the woman next to him. She, herself, was exotically beautiful, even in grief. Large dark eyes stared off unseeingly into the distance while slender, thin-wristed hands twisted together on her lap. Pacing the area of the floor before the four others was a very short, and a very bald man the size of a twelve year old. Worry and impatience were etched deeply into his youthful features, and she noticed with a twinge of curiosity six strange circular burn scars on his forehead. Her eyebrows furrowed. She felt an inkling of familiarity while looking at these people, as if she had seen them somewhere before.


        "Oh boy." Whispered the nurse in front of her. "Here we go again." She started forward, walking directly up to the morbid group, Casalin following behind, infinitely curious, and stopping before the man with the scars.


        "What has Mr. Son Gokou gotten himself into this time?"


        The man with the scars looked up at her and a small smile tickled his lips. But his eyes remained worried and dark. "We don't know. The doctor's trying to figure it out."


        Nurse Mari smiled reassuringly. "I'm sure it can't be too bad." she said positively. "With all that man's been through, I'd seriously be surprised if there was anything Mr. Gokou couldn't jump back from."


        The scarred man frowned and his face became even more serious than she could have thought possible. "I wouldn't be so sure." he said quietly.


        The nurse’s face fell as a frown line creased the smooth skin of her forehead. She had better check in with the doctor and see what exactly was going on. She turned to face her student, who was staring at Mr. Yamcha with utter bewilderment cast upon her features and clearly troubled eyes, and had to repeat the girls name twice before the student became aware that she was being spoken to.


        "Ah, yes, Nurse Mari?" she asked, snapping out of it.


        "I said 'I'd like you to stay here for a moment and get to know these people while I go to find out what's happened.' You'll be dealing with them a great deal, no matter which hospital or medical centre you chose to work in."


        Casalin just nodded wordlessly, and as her teacher rushed off to find one of the doctors, questions ran just as rapidly through her mind as the nurses' feet through the corridors. /Just what, exactly, did she mean by that last statement? I'd be dealing with them a great deal?/ she asked herself, once again glancing over the men who had begun to appear even more familiar to her than to begin with. Now she was sure she'd seen them before, and not just once either, but on numerous occasions. On television perhaps? But she couldn't be sure. Maybe, or was it somewhere else? She vaguely recalled a large stadium, filled with cheering crowds and a pair of men below in the centre of the arena. She looked closer at the men in the Waiting Room chairs. Yes, she did know them, especially the two bald ones and the man with the scars, but even the woman appeared familiar to her upon closer inspection. She looked more closely at the other man, the one with the anti-gravity hair, and he fidgeted beneath her inquisitive gaze. She had seen him too, once before, though not in the same place as she'd first seen the others, though they were there too. But it was different. That had been the first time he had seen him, and she remembered being scared senseless at the sight of him and of another who had been with him. But she couldn't recall a face.


        As if suddenly sensing her gaze, the mans head flew up and he fixed her own scrutinizing gaze with a hard stare of his own. Casalin swallowed convulsively, but didn't look away. Images flashed into her mind and suddenly she remembered where she had seen him before. Her eyes widened as she shifted her gaze to the other men. Yes, she knew them now. They had fought those aliens when they had arrived. But... but she had seen them die, she had seen the scarred-faced one get blown to smithereens when one of those horrible green animals the aliens had grown went kamikaze on him. And that guy, the one that had stared at her so unflinchingly - he was one of the aliens! She turned her attention to the man with the short, spiky hair and looked intently at his scars. A name was coming to her. What was it? Ya... Yam... Yamcha! Yes! The lead slugger for the West Kong Taitans! But that wasn't the only place she had seen him... he was also at the... the Budokai’s! The Tenkaichi Budokai! But which one? Was it the 21st or the 22nd? Or both? She also remembered the woman being there, and the two bald men. And if she recalled right, the taller one won the 21st tournament. Tenshinhan? Was that his name? It sounded about right. And what about the other one? Ku... Kuririn? Not quite, but close enough. She concentrated on the woman who's name still eluded her, but she remembered that she was the daughter of that giant Ox-King guy.


        Rejoicing at her recollection capabilities, her little mental celebration was suddenly interrupted by a clamorous commotion at the front desk as what could only be labeled as a huge monster literally thundered down the corridor. His skin was dark green, his face angular, chin pointed, and had long, upswept ears. A large white cloak billowed out behind him as his huge strides carried him past the ranks of doctors, nurses and patients that moved aside and lined the walls to allow him room to pass. Casalin's heart stopped beating when she saw him. Despite the fact that he was larger and much stronger that the last time she had seen him in person, there was no way that she could ever mistake him for anyone other than Ma Junior. But something was different about him. Instead of the expected snarl, evil glare and blast of energy spewing from his hands she expected to see, his face was instead moulded into a troubled scowl and his eyes were dark and worried.


        Casalin took a startled step backward as the son of the Demon King strode past her into the waiting room and wordlessly took a seat beside Yamcha. The other warriors glanced up as the giant man sat down, but then they returned to their morbid contemplation’s, heads downcast.


        Casalin sighed. /What a gloomy lot. Must be something really bad./ Just then the nurse returned and motioned for her to follow. Wordlessly, she did so, trailing her teacher down the corridor, past the wards and into the Intensive Care section of the hospital. From there she was lead into a little room which was occupied by two people, one of which was connected to a number of monitors and respirators by a multitude of inter-running cables, tubes and wires. The other was hooked up to a single monitor.


        “We keep them together.” The nurse offered as an explanation as a tall, grey-haired and bearded doctor checked the monitor readouts. “Usually when they awake, the first thing they want to do is see how each other is doing. It saves a lot of hassle this way.”


        Casalin silently agreed. She looked at the still bodies stretched out on the beds and felt a slight pang of grief. “Father and son?” She asked, her voice quiet. Beneath all the wires and the mask on one of the faces she could see the resemblance between one and the other.


        The nurse nodded, her face impassive. “Look at their charts.”


        Casalin moved around to the foot of the first bed and glanced over the sheet clamped to a board hanging from the footboard. The diagnosis of the first was no surprise, it was kind of apparent by the saline drip and single heart monitor. The second was another matter, however.


        She looked up at the nurse. “That was their family out there?”


        Nurse Mari nodded, her face expressionless, her eyes telling her that she already knew. The doctor looked over at her from above the wire-smothered patient and fixed her with a knowing stare. “You wanna tell them?” He asked.


        “If that’s all right?” Casalin replied, asking the nurse, who just shrugged.


        “It doesn’t bother me.” She said. “I wasn’t looking forward to telling the Namek, anyway.”


        Casalin frowned. “Namek?” She inquired, curious about the unfamiliar word.


        The doctor shrugged. “Long story.” he replied.


        Casalin just passed it over. /Oh, boy./ She thought to herself. /This is gonna be hard. Maybe I should’ve said ‘No’ to the doctor’s question. How the hell am I going to phrase this?/ She walked slowly through the corridors and out into the waiting room where the group of warriors looked up expectantly at her as she came to a stop before them.


        “So what is it?” asked Yamcha, his arm still around the shoulder of the dark-eyed woman who stared up at her, eyes brimming. “What’s wrong with them?”


        Casalin sighed, then put on a compassionate face. “They are unconscious.” She said. “Mr. Gokou was knocked out, though we have found no abrasions indicating that it was a blow to the head that caused him to lose consciousness. He is dehydrated and slightly anaemic. His body is rather weak, but he should be up and active in a few days. Awake in an hour or so.”


        “And what of the kid?” Growled Ma Junior, the others silent, listening intensely.


        Casalin sighed. Now came the hard part. “I’m afraid he’s much worse off.” She said quietly. In the silence after the small statement she heard several hissing intakes of breath. “He’s severely anaemic and dehydrated. His haemoglobin count is in the low thirties, and due to this his body has begun to shut down. I’m afraid he’s comatose.” She said the last quietly, sorrowfully.


        “What?!” Screamed the woman before she collapsed into another storm of weeping, her face pressed to Yamcha’s chest. The cry was echoed by the short bald man, who immediately after the out-burst lapsed into deep reflection, while the other two men just sat in silence.


        “Damn!” Growled Ma Junior. “I should’ve known what was coming!”


        The short, bald man looked up. “Don’t blame yourself, Piccolo.” He said. “You couldn’t have known what was going to happen.”


        “But I did!” He burst out, lips drawn back and ivory fangs protruding. “I knew something was going to happen. I warned the kid to watch out, but I didn’t do anything! I thought I could be there in time.” he said the last quietly and angrily, blaming himself for not doing enough.


        Silence descended again. Then Piccolo growled low in his throat, rose to his feet, and stormed out of the waiting room. The other warriors watched him go wordlessly. Then Kuririn spoke up.


        “When can we see them?” He asked.


        Casalin shrugged. “You’ll have to ask the nurse, but it shouldn’t be too long, I should think.”


        Kuririn blinked. “Ah, but I thought...” He started, but Casalin just smiled.


        “Nope.” She replied. “I’m just a Medical Student. But you can ask the nurse yourself because she’s coming now.”


        True to her word, the nurse sauntered up behind them. She relayed the same information to them as Casalin had a minute before, and their reactions were just as depressive.


        “You can see them now.” She said. “And don’t be afraid to speak. The sounds of familiar voices have been known to help in some coma patients.”


        The group solemnly nodded. They quietly followed Casalin and the nurse into the room in which Gokou and Gohan were lain out.


        Their faces were unmarred, the skin fresh and clean, their expressions peaceful. Krillin realized that it was the first time that he had seen either Gokou or Gohan in a hospital bed without them actually being injured, broken and bleeding. And then he realized that it was the first time he had ever been in the hospital without being totally maxed out himself. The thought depressed him. Something was wrong with his two best friends, something had happened, and there weren’t any clues as to what that something was. Or who. Someone could be out there, undetectable even to them, wrecking havoc on the peaceful planet, and there would be nothing they could do about it. The strongest of them had been knocked down all ready, without a mark on him, so he obviously did not have a chance to fight. And Chao-tzu was missing; Tien couldn’t even pick up his ki signature, let alone the Emperor Mime’s thoughts. Krillin frowned. Yesterday was perfect. Warm, sunny, with clear blue skies and no wind, and he was happy and care free, but today... today was dark and gloomy, and it felt as though the world was crashing down around his head.


        “C’mon, Gokou.” He whispered under his breath. “C’mon and wake up so that you can help us out.” He sighed and looked out the window overlooking East Kong. The sun was just beginning to set, and off in the distance it was beginning to rain. Krillin laughed inwardly, dark and without humour. The Earth felt exactly as he did.


        “I feel like shit.” He mumbled to himself.






        It had begun to rain.


        Heavy droplets of water smashed down upon him. His cloak and gi were soaked, clinging to the backs of his thighs and calves as he shielded his eyes from the water with one streaming hand. The wind was fierce, blowing hard and cold, buffeting him from all sides and disrupting his sense of direction. The sky was unnaturally dark, the clouds thick and it was unbelievably cold. Flying didn’t help much, either. His weighted cloak was even heavier, saturated in icy cold water, pressing down into his skin. He began to shiver involuntarily. Why’d he have to be out here? /Oh, I know./ He answered himself. /Because I felt a strange ki signal and just had to come and check it out!/ He sighed dispassionately to himself. He had lost the signal a few minutes ago, but he was sure that it had been coming from around this area. Every now and then he thought he felt a twinge of something, but it was elusive, never in the same place, and growing fainter by the second. Once he thought he saw a flash of something white below him, but it was gone as quickly as it had come. /Still,/ He thought. /I better check it out anyway./ And he descended into the soppy, oozing forest.


        The drops of water were bigger down there, plopping down onto his head with amazing force. The forest reeked of mud, decomposing litter and odorous moss, but Piccolo ignored it. As soon as he had landed his senses had begun picking up the elusive ki again. He set off, using his inherited hunting instincts to track the fleeting power, listening intensely to the sounds beneath the splattering of rain upon the leaves and underbrush of the forest floor. It was sheltered amongst the dripping trees, no wind penetrating their wooden phalanx, and his hearing and vision ware uncluttered by howling winds and swaying branches. Thunder roared in the distance, and high up in the canopy above him the trees shuddered. But he didn’t lose the signature. He was gaining on it; he could feel it closer, but still growing frighteningly weak. Concentrating entirely on reaching the energy force, he was unaware when the power stopped moving until he almost stumbled over the broken and bleeding body sprawled at the base of a tree.


        It was Chao-tzu.


        The little Emperor mime was gasping for breath, tremors wracking his small body. His dark green and gold coat had been torn from him, and his once white singlet was shredded and saturated in his blood. It was apparent his chest was crushed, and blood bubbled up from between his lips and out through a gash in his side. Piccolo groaned. Tien was going to go insane when he told him - if he didn’t know already.


        Piccolo knelt beside the ravaged body and marvelled that the little guy was still alive. But he wouldn’t be for long if he didn’t do something quick. He gently gathered up the miniature Emperor, aware that by moving him he was only making his injuries worse, but by not moving him he was guaranteed to die. He held him close, careful not to injure him any further, and rapidly flew back towards the hospital.


        The storm strengthened.






        The tempest was visible from space.


        “What’s going on down there?” Peignoir asked, observing the swirling maelstrom of flashing clouds from the porthole window. The storm was giving off so much light that her face was illuminated with it’s blazing radiance, alike were the objects behind her - including the large, white-cloaked warrior, and the smaller, dark-haired fighter, who was slung over a fluffy, mushy-looking chair, appearing extremely bored as he pumped a large dumbbell with his thumb and forefinger. “Down where?” He asked, disinterested, solely for the sake of filling the silence.


        “Down on Chik-yuu, stupid.” The tall, long emerald green-haired woman bit back, irritated.


        The dark-haired man sat up and sent her an evil glare. “We excuuuuse me!” He said as if terribly insulted. “How would you expect me to know that? You could’ve been talking about the floor for all knew.”


        “Yeah, well you’re close enough to it.” She retorted, turning back towards the window and staring at the flashing Chik-yuu viciously.


        The dark-haired man stared at her for a moment, then got up off the chair, carefully walked around the meditating giant, and joined the young woman at the window.


        “Whoa!” He exclaimed, looking down at the glowing planet. “That’s one big storm!”


        “Yeah,” Peignoir replied uncertainly. “But it’s far too big for this time of year.”


        The short man looked up at her. “It’s summer in that hemisphere, isn’t it?” He asked.


        “Well, yeah.” She replied, “But this isn’t like any normal summer storm I’ve ever seen.”


        “That’s because it isn’t a summer storm.” Another voice cut in. They turned to see the large warrior standing behind them. He had thrown off his huge weighted cloak and turban that he instinctively threw on every morning, and his azure blue gi flashed purple in the light from the brewing storm.


        “What do you mean?” The dark-haired man asked.


        “I mean,” The giant growled. “That they followed us here.”


        “What?!” Both the woman and short man screamed in unison.


        “There’s no other explanation. That storm is clearly unnatural.” He pointed out, continuing. “They’re elementals, and I’m beginning to find it extremely difficult to pick up anything down there.”


        A sudden bright flash of liquid light from the planet illuminated his dark green skin and bright pink musculature.


        “Piccolo?” The dark-haired man asked. “You’re sure?” He swallowed. He hoped the Namek was wrong, but it wouldn’t be the first time that this sort of thing had happened. He seemed to have a habit of getting himself into hot water that rose up way over his head.


        “Positive.” The Namek replied.


        “Oh, man.” Krillin groaned. “I’ve gotta stop doing this.”


        “Doing what?” Peignoir demanded. “Other than being a total pain in the ass?”


        Krillin huffed, then spluttered. “Oh, yeah, like you can talk!” He yelled back. “You’re so much like your grandmother it’s scary!”


        Peignoir looked loftily up at the ceiling. “I’m not surprised.” She said sophisticatedly. “You’re a worse scaredy-cat than Oolong!”


        “Hey!” Retorted Krillin. “No one is worse than Oolong!”


        Suddenly Peignoir started to chuckle. “You’re right!” She giggled delightedly. “Grandmother’s always going on about just how annoying he is when she’s trying to work.”


        Krillin smiled. “I’ll bet.”


        “Hey!” Said Piccolo loudly. “Enough of the family chatter, okay? We have more important things to worry about right now.”


        Silence once again fell inside the Capsule ship Saiya-jin I, and it spoke volumes.


        “Oh, boy! Here we go again!” Said Krillin.






        The world was blurry. Gokou blinked rapidly but to no avail - he still couldn’t see clearly.


        “Is it raining?” He asked no one in particular.


        He heard murmuring around him before somebody answered.


        “Yep.” They said none-too-cheerily.


        “Krillin?” He asked. “Is that you?” A blurry face appeared above him.


        “It sure is, Gokou.” His best friend replied, relief in his voice.


        Gokou groaned. “I feel like I’ve just been hit by Vegeta!”


        He heard a number of chuckles. “You look like it, too, Gokou.” Tien spoke up. Gokou could detect something in his voice, something that instantly made him worry.


        “Tien, what’s wrong?” He asked, fear kicking in.


        There were more muffled whispers, then Krillin’s face was replaced by that of his wife’s.


        “Chi Chi?” He asked, really confused now. “What’s going on?”


        “Oh, Gokou!” She cried, then burst into tears, flinging herself onto his chest.


        “Ah,” He started, patting his wife sympathetically on the back. “Can someone please tell me what’s going on?” Why was everyone acting so strange? His wife was crying - that was a drastic change from her usual yelling - and something was definitely wrong. He could feel it. Why was everyone so upset? He hadn't died again, had he, and forgotten about it?


        Suddenly there was a small commotion in the room as a tiny blue and white blur forced itself through the smudged forms of his assembled friends.


        The blur leaned over him, and its face became clear.


        “Oh, Mr. Gokou!” The nurse exclaimed. “I see you’re awake! Feeling better now?”


        Gokou blinked, then smiled. “Hey!” He replied cheerfully, “What’re you doing here?”


        The nurse stepped back a little and stared at him, one blonde eyebrow cocked, unsure if he was kidding or not.


        “Ah, Mr. Gokou,” She started hesitantly. “Do you know where you are?”


        Gokou looked around. “Well, now that you mention it,” He replied. “This place doesn’t look like home.” Then he recognized the ceiling tile above his bed with all the holes in it that he had counted repeatedly over and over again when he was last stuck in hospital. “Oh-oh!” He mumbled, looking back over at the nurse. “How’d I get here?”


        “You flew, Mr. Gokou.” The nurse replied sarcastically. “No, really! You don’t remember?”


        Gokou shook his head. “No.” For a moment there he actually believed that he’d flown there. Damn nurses! They kept confusing him. “Do you think you can tell me?”


        The nurse backed off and Krillin moved forward. “We don’t know what happened.” He said. “We were hoping you could tell us. All we know is that yours and Gohan’s ki signatures suddenly disappeared a few hours ago, and when we got to your house you were both unconscious.” Krillin sighed, hesitating with the last bit of information that he knew he had to relinquish. “I’m so sorry, Gokou, but Gohan’s in a coma.”


        The warriors stared at Gokou, who stared blankly at them and said nothing.


        “Gokou?” Asked Krillin. His silence was frightening. Was he in shock? Did he even hear what he’d said?


        Finally, Gokou burst out with the question that had been bugging him since Krillin had started speaking.


        “Who’s Gohan?”


        The silence was deathly. The warriors all stared at Gokou in shock.


        “What-” Stuttered Chi Chi. “Wha-what did you say?”


        But he didn’t need to repeat it; they had all heard what he had said.


        “Gohan? Who is he? Am I supposed to know him?" Judging by the looks on his friends’ faces he was. And know him pretty well, too. Their faces were shockingly white - had drained of blood so fast when he'd asked who this Gohan was that he was afraid they would all drop to the floor in a faint. He shifted his stare to his wife, who was looking at him with such painful disbelief on her face that he felt as though he'd just punched his fist into her chest and torn her heart out.


        "Gokou..." Started Krillin, tears gathering beneath his eyes. "Gohan is your son."






        “Well, that’s just great!” Yelled Peignoir, bent over the control panels in the main bridge of the ship. The room was dark save for the green glow emanating from the c.p.


        “Are they here?” Krillin asked, sauntering up behind her. He peered around her to see what she was looking at.


        The small radar screen monitoring the planet bleeped as the sweeping green line encountered three green spots of light. Three ‘pings’ rang out in the small bridge.


        “I think that about answers your question.” She replied, turning away from the screen.


        “How many followed us?” Piccolo asked.


        “Three.” She answered.


        Piccolo was floating in the air, suspended five feet up in the corner. He grunted, his eyes still closed, his body in the lotus position. Pale lavender light flickered in and out of existence around him, and his cape swirled in a non-existent wind. “I’m losing them.” He mumbled. Then his eyes snapped open and he descended gently to the floor. Krillin handed him a glass of water. “Thanks.” He replied.


        “No problem.” Krillin answered, sipping his own orange juice.


        Piccolo sighed through his nose. “We’re going to have to go down. There isn’t any way that we can avoid it.”


        Krillin returned the sigh. “I know. But what’s got me is how’d they know to follow us?” He paused, the others silent. “I mean... even the others didn’t know about this mission until the last minute, so how could they have found out? Were they monitoring us, or something? Have they been watching home?”


        “Hmmm,” Contemplated Peignoir. “Good question, but I don’t think they know where home is yet. A leak, maybe?” She asked Piccolo.


        Piccolo scowled at her. “Do you honestly think that any of us would sell each other out? What would that accomplish? They’d kill them anyway. Vegeta, himself, would never have volunteered that sort of information, and I seriously doubt there’s anyone he’d want to talk to in Hell.”


        Peignoir cowed. “Gomen.” She replied in one of her rare apologetic moments. “But there was always that chance.”


        “I seriously doubt that.” Piccolo grumbled.


        “How long ‘till we go?” Krillin asked from across the room.


        Piccolo sighed again. “We’ll know when the time is right. For now, they’re just going to have to hold on.”


        Peignoir growled and huffed out of the room. The men looked after her.


        “She’s a little annoyed.” Piccolo told Krillin. “She hadn’t considered that they might follow.”


        “Well, neither had we.” Krillin replied.


        “I know.” Mumbled the Namek. “But still, she thinks it’s her fault.” He sighed. “Though I can’t say I blame her. I shouldn’t have relied on what Dende told me. I just was hoping that he would be right, but I guess it doesn’t happen all the time.”


        “Wow, Piccolo!” Said Krillin. “Admitting your failures! What an accomplishment!”


        Piccolo smiled down at the runt priest. “Courtesy of Gohan.” He replied. Then his face darkened.


        Krillin noticed and frowned. In this time that they’d travelled back to he would’ve smiled cheerfully and told the big lug-nut that Gohan would be okay and that everything would be back to normal in no time. But the future had changed things. He could no longer say it. And Piccolo knew exactly why.


        Shrugging off his melancholy, he channelled it through into mock-anger. “Besides,” said Piccolo, his voice gruff with forced fury. “I’m getting too old to go chasing around after that kid, even in this time!”


        Krillin rose to the occasion. He needed an outlet for all this accumulated stress that he’d gathered over the past hour, and verbal fighting with Piccolo was the best way to rid himself of it.


        “You’re one to talk!” He snorted. “You’re only four years older than him!”


        Piccolo grunted. “I don’t see why I need to explain that particular part of my life to you.” He grumbled arrogantly. “It was not pleasant and I don’t want to talk about it.”


        “Ha!” Krillin laughed disbelievingly.


        “And what about you?” Piccolo retorted. “You haven’t aged since Buu showed up!”


        “I already told you.” Krillin answered shortly. “I don’t understand any of it!”


        “Yeah,” Said Piccolo sarcastically. “I believe you.”


        Krillin snapped. He’d been holding all his frustration in too long, and all the stress had brought it up to boiling point. His face turned red, his dark eyes merciless and the muscles on his face, neck and all over his body tightened. “What?” He almost screamed.


        Piccolo unfolded his arms and stared down at Krillin with widened eyes. Maybe this was getting out of hand.


        “Did you think I used the Dragonballs?” He continued furiously. “Come on! It’s not easy watching all your friends grow old and die without you. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone!” Krillin breathed rapidly, trying to regain control of his rampant temper.


        Piccolo looked seriously at the priest, his large eyes sympathetic. He knew how he felt. He himself had a longer life span than most other races, Saiya-jin’s included, and he still had difficulty in going through a single day without thinking about Gohan. He’d never imagined what it would be like without him, when it came time for the kid to pass on to that other place, to be harassed endlessly by Kaiousamma’s bad attempts at jokes. It was bad enough when Gokou, his once archenemy, decided that it was time to leave. But Gohan? The thought of living without that child’s guiding light was always frightening.


        “Then why don’t you ask Shenlong to make you age?” He asked.


        Krillin sighed. “Don’t you think I’ve tried?” He asked imploringly. “The stupid green worm started acting all strange and said he couldn’t help me.”


        Piccolo hung his head and frowned. “That was a strange thing for him to say.”


        “Yeah.” Krillin replied, plonking himself down on the floor. “I thought so, too. Maybe it was just beyond his abilities. But he’s granted eternal life before, why can’t he take it away?”


        They were interrupted by a sudden crash from the direction of Peignoirs’ room.


        Piccolo flinched. The crash was swiftly followed by another, even louder, and a mass of thumps, bashes, smashes and brightly colored metaphors. Suddenly, with the screaming of tearing metal and the hissing of burning slag, a glowing sword thrust it’s way through the wall.


        “Peignoir!” Piccolo yelled.


        Amongst the muffled curses he managed to pick up a very soft ‘Sorry’, and then the sword was pulled free from the wall. A few moments later Peignoir appeared, fresh and unruffled.


        “Feeling better now?” Krillin asked, still sitting on the floor.


        Peignoir shot him a filthy look. “Shut-up, Chrome-Dome.” She said, using her grandmother’s nickname for him even though it no longer really applied. Krillin was about to reply when she heard something strange. Holding up a hand for silence, she listened intently to the beeps coming from the radar. Abruptly, instead of the three blips they were expecting to hear, their ears were assailed by the farrago of numberless beeps, as if someone had slammed a careless hand down on the keys of a piano.


        They got up and rushed over to the control panel where they saw that the screen was alight with a mess of green blobs, almost flooding half the screen.


        “Screw the right time!” Shouted Piccolo, the first to find his voice. “We’re going down now!”






        It was dark, it was cold, and up until now he had been alone in the lightless kingdom he was floating within. But he felt the presence of another now, being carried in the weightlessness beside him. He thanked Kami. He thought he would be alone in the smothering darkness forever. He would have called out to whomever it was that was swimming in the blackness beside him, but he was so tired. The dead quiet pulled at his senses, cloaking them in oblivion, covering him in empty surrender. He felt himself drifting away again. If drifting was what he could call it. His awareness was pulled asunder as what was left of him descended into shadowed sleep.

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