A Little Chaos is Good For You




          Goten awoke at the sound of something in his room.


          He rolled over in the bed, throwing his arm out to grasp Pei-ju and pull her in towards him only to find the sheets beside him empty but still warm from her body.


          He sat up, the single sheet falling away from his body, and glanced about the room, locating her shadow at the end of the bed.


          “Pei-ju,” He asked, worry in his voice. “What’s wrong?” It was almost time for the child to be born, and Goten wasn’t going to take any chances with a false labour. He heard Pei-ju stifle a sob, then felt her shift on the bed to turn to him.


          “Nothing.” She replied, her voice soft and sweet in the darkness, but thick with tears.


          Goten pushed away the sheet and slid to the end of the bed. “Don’t give me that, Juicey-chan.” He said, sliding one arm around her bare shoulders. “Why are you crying?”


          She sniffed Goten pulled her in close. She let her head fall onto his shoulder. “I’m-I’m just scared.”


          Goten looked down at her. “Scared of what?”


          She sniffed again. “Scared of what we’re doing.” She replied. “Scared of the life our child will have.” She turned her head towards him, staring up into the shadows of his face. “Scared of where we’re heading.”


          Goten reached up and brushed a strand of her hair away from her eyes, then let his fingers stroke the contours of her face.


          “I love you.” He said, his voice deep and thick. Pei-ju listened, and beneath the words she heard him whisper in her mind; /I’m scared too./


          “I love you, too.” She whispered, wrapping her slender fingers around his wrist.


          Goten bent his head and kissed her softly, tongues touching and sliding against each other with the gentlest of caresses. Pei-ju sighed into his mouth, her lips responding to the teasing of his own with blissful patience.


          Suddenly, she tore her mouth away as a shuddering momentary pain ripped through her belly. She turned away, one hand on her distended abdomen, the other grasping the startled Goten’s shoulder.


          “What’s wrong?” He demanded. He turned his head. “Lights!” He shouted. They flashed on with brilliant luminescence.


          She gasped as the pain was repeated, ripping through her side and down her leg. Her fingers dug deeply into the flesh of Goten’s shoulder as she hunched over, staring dumbly at the liquid soaking the bed sheets beneath her.


          “The water broke.” She said at last, her voice numb. “And it’s red.”


          Goten stared disbelievingly down at the widening water-red stain beneath her, then lifted his wide dark eyes to her whitened face. “But, it’s not-” He started.


          “No.” She replied, her eyes not leaving the sheet beneath her. “Get help. Now!”


          Goten hesitated before leaving her. He wrapped a sheet around her body and lifted her further onto the bed, piling pillows behind her head. He then quickly pulled on a heavy pair of black track-pants. Running for the door, he turned back to her before passing through it.


          “I’m all right.” She answered before he could ask. “Just go. Jade’ll know what to do.”


          Goten swallowed and nodded, then spun around and sprinted out of the room.


          Pei-ju released a painful breath, then gasped.


          “Kami.” She moaned. “Oh, Kami...”






          Goten had no time to waste.


          So frantic were his thoughts that he was halfway to Trunks and Jade’s room before he remembered Shunkanido. Raising two fingers to his forehead, he concentrated on Trunks’ ki and blinked out of space mid-stride.


          He appeared almost instantaneously in Trunks’ and Jade’s bedroom.


          “Lights!” He shouted.


          Trunks rolled over and sat up instantly. “What is it?” He asked, blinking owlishly up at Goten standing at the foot of his bed. Jade awoke a moment later.


          “It’s Pei-ju.” He replied frantically, his words emerging in a rapid jumble. “She’s bleeding.”


          Trunks stared at him, confused. “Bleeding?” He repeated. Goten had woken him up for that?


          “What?” Demanded Jade from beside him.


          “Her water’s broken!” Goten shouted. “And she’s haemorrhaging!” His face was stark white in the harsh cast of the artificial lighting.


          It took Trunks and Jade a moment for this to sink in.


          “She needs help!” Goten shouted. “There’s no time!” He grasped the sheets covering Trunks and his wife and yanked them off the bed. Then he blinked out of sight.


          “Shit.” Whispered Jade. “I’ll get my things.”






          The ripping pain was not repeated. With pillows under her head and the mattress beneath her, Pei-ju was quite comfortable. She desperately wished for something to drink, but she decided she’d better not get off the bed. If the pain came back she’d more than likely fall and cause even more damage to her insides, not to mention to her baby. As if to prove her thoughts true, a sudden pain shot through her belly and she felt the blood gush out from between her legs to saturate the mattress beneath her.


          Something’s wrong.


          /Where’s Goten?/ She asked herself. /He’s been gone a few minutes but it feels like a week. Kami - there’s the blood again. This is… I don’t... Why isn’t Goten back with Jade - she’s a doctor, and at least I could have a drink of water, for Kami’s sake, my throat feels like sandpaper./


          Another pain slashed through her and she bit her lip as the answering flow of blood gushed out.


          /Stop that kicking, my love, you don’t have to act like a horse just because your father’s one. Stop it! You’re just making me bleed. Wait until Jade comes, then you can get out. Oh, Kami, oh, Kami - there’s so much blood, so much.../


          “It sure was easier staring you than it is finishing you...” She gritted out, staring up at the ceiling for what felt like ageless minutes. She lifted her head and looked down at the sheets beneath her where a wide patch of red was spreading across the mattress. /Why is it red?/ She asked herself, her head spinning as if she were drunk. /Am I going to bleed to death here? Alone? Oh, Kami, more blood. At least it doesn’t hurt quite as much anymore. But why does so much blood gush out? Kami! If this keeps up there’ll be a river of blood, all over the floor, Goten and the others will have to wash their feet. Where the hell is he? As soon as this is over I am going to leave him. Running off and leaving me here dying of thirst all by myself. What kind of lover is that?/


          She felt her abdomen contract again.


          /Oh, Kami, the blood... I’m not going to lose hold of myself, I’m not, and I won’t. I don’t do that kind of thing. But.../


          “Kami!!!” She screamed as a larger pain than any of the others tore through her.


          /What was that?/ She asked herself suddenly. /Was that Goten?/ She lifted her head to see Goten standing at the foot of the bed, staring down at the widening red stain beneath her legs. His eyes met her face with stark fear. He rushed to her side and grasped one of her sweaty hands in his. Pushing her suddenly damp hair back from her shockingly white face, he smiled lovingly down at her.


          “It’s going to be all right.” He murmured to her. “The others are coming.”


          Pei-ju swallowed her dry throat and nodded. Now that Goten was back with her she could keep her sanity in a stronger grip. Her abdomen contracted and more blood gushed out.


          Suddenly Trunks and Jade popped into the room.


          Jade took one look at Pei-ju and her doctoring instincts took over immediately. She clambered onto the bed, spreading Pei-ju’s legs and kneeling between them. While Jade quickly examined her, Trunks stood there indecisive. “Mother.” He said simply.


          Jade looked over her shoulder at him and nodded.


          Trunks blinked out of existence.


          The green-haired doctor laid her hands on Pei-ju’s belly just as another contraction had her arching up off the bed. Goten’s face drained of all colour as his eyes remained fixed on his lovers face, her frighteningly weak hand gripped in his.


          Jade closed her eyes. She could feel the baby beneath her hands, struggling weakly. The placenta had already detached and the child was suffocating, deprived of oxygen. She had to get it out now. Damnitt, where were those senzu beans?


          Pan suddenly appeared beside her. “Goten woke me. What can I do?” She asked breathlessly.


          Jade looked at her quickly, then turned back to Pei-ju. “Get me some surgical gloves, a sharp knife from the kitchen, and Dende’s senzu beans - if there’re any left.”


          Pan nodded, then disappeared.


          A minute later Trunks reappeared. “She’s gone!” He exclaimed.


          “Who?” Replied Jade non-committingly, stroking the sides of Pei-ju’s stomach, trying to relieve some of the pain.


          “Kassan.” He answered.


          Jade’s reply was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Pan and the items she had requested.


          “Good.” She said. “Now, Goten, I want you to hold her still. Pan, you get on the other side and do the same.” They both nodded. “Trunks.” She said over her shoulder to her husband. “I want you over here to hold down her legs. She’s not to move an inch!” she stressed. She moved up higher over Pei-ju’s body to sit on her thighs, lending some of her weight to her knees so as not to put too much pressure on the woman’s legs. Trunks moved up behind her to hold down her lower legs.


          Jade picked up a small brown-cloth bag beside the knife. “These the beans?” She asked Pan.


          Pan nodded. “There’s only three left.” She replied as Jade pulled on the gloves.


          “Dende can spare one.” She shot back. She looked at Goten. “Goten!” She shouted. “Heat this for me!”


          Goten turned towards her and shot a beam of ki at the knife that she held in her hand. A moment later the wooden handle began to singe.


          “That’s enough.” She told him. “Now hold her tight - this will not be painless.”


          /Damnitt!/ She thought to herself as she pulled the sheet away from Pei-ju’s body. /If only we had time to administer a sedative!/ She swallowed and lowered the searing hot knife to Pei-ju’s distended belly, stroking it along her flesh.


          The scream that tore from Pei-ju’s throat was lost, tortured. Goten’s echoing cry choked in his throat, emerging as a strangled howl.


          Before the sound was gone, Jade was holding a blood-covered baby in her hands. She blew into the baby’s mouth, once, twice, three times. The baby’s arms jerked, then its legs. Swiftly, Jade cut the umbilical cord with the still hot knife.


          “Thank Kami.” Whispered Trunks from behind her as she cauterised the cord with her ki.


          “Pan,” Said Jade to the young woman. “Take the boy and wrap him in a warm blanket.”


          Pan stared wide-eyed as Jade handed her the small blood-covered boy and shot her a relieved smile. “Just in time.” The green-haired woman sighed.


          Pan nodded and smiled, then turned away to find something warm to wrap the baby in.


          Jade pulled off the gloves, then pulled out a senzu bean from the bag. She gave it to Goten to give to Pei-ju.


          Goten smiled grimly, then gently pushed the bean into Pei-ju’s mouth. “Eat it, love.” He whispered to her. “It will heal you.”


          Pei-ju stared up at him with feverish green eyes, then bit down hard on the candy-like bean. Immediately, before their eyes, the wounds Jade had made to free the baby began to heal, the skin sealing itself together. The flow of blood between her legs stopped as the flesh and skin of Pei-ju’s stomach knitted itself into a shiny silver scar, then disappeared altogether, her abdomen once again becoming wash-board flat and toned, not one sign of stretch-marks visible. The whiteness of her skin and her feverish features abated, and a few seconds later Pei-ju was staring up at them as if she had just awoken from a long and peaceful nap.


          Goten stared down at her, tears streaming from his eyes as he gathered her into his arms. “Damnitt,” He said into her hair. “We could so easily have lost you.”


          Pei-ju hummed into his throat, then pulled back.


          “Did I hear right?” She asked. “Did I hear ‘A boy’?”


          “You sure did!” Replied Pan, re-entering the room with a fluffy blanket-wrapped bundle. “He’s still a little bloodied,” She said. “But, man - is he cute!” She gently passed the bundle into Pei-ju’s arms.


          She stared down at her son, taking in for the first time the tuft of black hair that shot up from his head in black, sticky spikes, and the large dark brown eyes that stared up at her in wonder.


          “Gokou.” She said automatically. “We’ll call him Gokou.” Then she looked up at Goten. “If that’s all right?”


          Goten smiled down at her. “It’s perfect.” He replied.


          Jade leaned back into Trunks’ arms and sighed wearily. “You might as well go back to sleep.” She told him quietly. “Pan and I’ll clean up here.”


          “You sure?” He murmured into her ear.


          She nodded. “You go ahead.”


          Trunks smiled against her and kissed her neck. “I’ll wait up.” He told her, giving her one last hug.


          “Don’t bother.” She replied.


          Trunks left and Pan and Jade set to work cleaning up the birthing mess. Pan wrapped up the placenta in the bloodied sheets and incinerated them with a concentrated blast of ki, while Jade cleaned the mattress with one of Bulma’s strange cleaning devices, and made the bed with new sheets around the huddled forms of Goten, Pei-ju and Gokou.


          Then, with Gokou finally washed and swaddled in a warm nightgown and nappy, Pan and Jade left, leaving the new family to enjoy the aftermath of their very close call.


          Above ground, the storm raged.






          The darkness in which they floated swum as if a huge boulder had been dropped into its water-like existence. A giant, high-pitched crying screamed loudly in their ears, paining them, even though they knew in this place that they didn’t really have any.


          “What was that?” Cried Gohan, His fingers tightening around the Emperor’s arm.


          He could hear the fear in the small mime’s voice as he replied. “I don’t know.”


          Abruptly, the screaming stopped and they were once again left in the endless quiet.


          “That-that was scary.” Mumbled Gohan.


          “Tell me about it.” Replied Chao-tzu. “This place is the most frightening I’ve ever been in - and I’ve been in a few.”


          Gohan sighed, and sent them bobbing again. “I wonder if there’s anything else in this blackness other than us.”


          “Judging by that scream,” Replied Chao-tzu in his high-pitched voice. “I’d say that there is.”


          Gohan fell silent. “I miss Kassan.” He said a moment later.


          Chao-tzu sighed. “I wish I knew mine.” He replied.


          He felt Gohan’s hair brush against his cheek as the Demi-Saiya-jin turned his head to face him. “You never knew your kassan?” He asked disbelievingly.


          Chao-tzu shook his head. “No. Tien’s been the only parent I’ve ever known.”


          Gohan sighed and frowned. “That’s so sad.” He replied. “My kassan’s always been there, but my tousan’s died on my twice. I don’t know how many times he’s planning on leaving or dying on us again, but he hurts my mum each time he does it.” Gohan’s voice was thick, either with pain or anger.


          The darkness swum as Chao-tzu shook his head. “Gokou had good reasons for both of the times he was gone.”


          “I know.” Replied Gohan. “But he was still gone. The first time Piccolo killed him. Piccolo! And I didn’t know for a long time afterwards. I thought he was just sick or something. And the second... We didn’t know. Even though it turned out that he wasn’t really dead he might as well’ve been!”


          Chao-tzu felt more than heard the grief and pain in the young boy’s voice. Reaching out with his mind he soothed the child’s turmoil of thoughts with images of love and feelings of warmth, security, and above all - friendship.


          /He loves you./ The mime whispered soothingly into his mind. /And that’s all that matters./


          Gohan sniffed beside him, then Chao-tzu felt him smile. “Thanks.” He said. “I know he loves me, but, still... you know?”


          Chao-tzu smiled, though he doubted that Gohan could tell - not even Saiya-jin eyes would be able to penetrate the darkness that they were within. “I know.” He replied.


          Another ripple was carried through the dark ocean they were swimming within, and they bobbed off again, drifting off into the sleep that took them away from the emptiness that surrounded them, and into the dreamland built upon their histories and their imaginations.






          “So what you’re saying,” Said Yamcha. “Is that you came back from the future to absorb Gohan’s ki into some strange ball and then transfer it into someone else back home?”


          Future Krillin nodded. “That’s just about how it goes.”


          Everyone suddenly became aware of a fuming Chi Chi standing by the unconscious Gokou’s bed. “Then you,” she ground out from between tightly clenched teeth, staring out at them with dark eyes that burned with anger. “Are responsible for what happened to my son!”


          Future Krillin, Piccolo and Peignoir took startled steps back, as did all the others. They knew what Chi Chi was like when she was annoyed, but when she was angry she was just plain frightening.


          “Something went wrong.” Said Future Piccolo. “Instead of Gohan’s ki going into the ball, something came out of it. We don’t know what it is, yet, but we’ve got to find a way to bring him out of the coma, and fast. A battle’s heading our way and it’s not going to be such an easy one to win.”


          “About these elementals,” Started Tien. “Just how strong are they?”


          Peignoir sighed. “Not very strong on their own.” She replied. “But as a group they are extremely difficult. Being elementals they can make battling conditions very unfavourable.” She looked out the window into the shuddering sky. “Try fighting blind in a blizzard when your senses don’t work.”


          Tien whistled between his teeth. “Damn.” He murmured.


          Future Piccolo glanced unemotionally around the room. Bulma was still cowering behind Vegeta; the Saiya-jin Prince appearing relatively calm compared to what would have been his usual attitude at the time. Chi Chi had once again turned towards her unconscious son, oblivious to nearly everything around her - including the wind howling into the room through the broken window. Gokou was still unconscious, snoring away merrily in the hospital bed, and the others were gathered around, faces relaying their confusion and hesitation to accept them for who they said they were.


          Future Krillin couldn’t hold himself back any longer. All restraints forgotten in his excitement and pleasure at seeing his friends again, he rushed forwards and flung himself at Yamcha, giving the perplexed young man a giant bear hug.


          Future Piccolo smiled to himself as he watched Yamcha scuttle back from the over-bearing little man and move in close to Tien. He couldn’t blame him. It was exhilaratingly awesome to see them all together again, healthy, young, alive. It had been so long. Even Kamesennin Mutenroushi was here. Back home he had disappeared years ago. Strangely enough, he felt like hugging them himself, but he suppressed that typically human urge, and contented himself with just watching them and smiling.


          Then his eyes fell on the other hospital bed. The one containing the youngest of them all.


          Future Piccolo swallowed.




          Whenever he thought of the boy his mind was assailed by a multitude of images and memories - primarily those of him when he was a kid. Pictures flashed through his mind now, glimpses of past events as clear and fresh as if yesterday. Gohan, five years old, his face swollen and bruised, his body thrashed, inviting him to his birthday party. A few months later, facing his fears and standing up to Nappa, despite the fact that the aliens were a lot stronger than they thought they could ever be. Then, later, shoving himself in Frieza’s face, afraid but knowing that it was what he had to do. The first expression of insane fury to cross his face as he destroyed his Saiya-jin uncles’ space-pod; the fear in his eyes as he gazed up into his face for the first time; and the pleasure with which he greeting him when he arrived on Namek-sei. The anger that burned within him as he faced Cell; the confidence with which he stood up to Buu; and the caring and consideration he showed to everyone.


          It was disturbing to see him lain so low.


          It had been twenty-five years since he’d last heard his laugh, seen his smile, challenged him to a fight. He pretended it no longer hurt, but there was no use denying it. His Gohan was a shell in a tank. There was nothing about it that wasn’t painful.


          He tore his eyes from the boy’s face before he found it impossible to look away. His eyes fell almost instantly on Chi Chi.


          Inwardly, he smiled. She was the strongest woman he had ever known. Inwardly as well as physically, although as yet she had not yet discovered her potential. Then he frowned. Unfortunately, her connections with people were just as strong, especially with Gohan, and when his mind went... there was no way to pull her back. They tried, Gokou tried so hard, but she was gone. Future Piccolo sighed, watching as she silently lamented over her husband and only child.


          /Come on, Gohan. She’s lost you once, don’t let her lose you again./


          He knew how much she cared for him. Enough that it took her years to trust him. /Fifteen years./ He smirked slightly, remembering the various instruments, cooking utensils and threats she had used to keep him away from Gohan, and vice versa.


          “Didn’t work for very long.” he mumbled.


          The kid had always found some way to come visit him. Sneaking out late at night, lying to his mother. The kid had potential.


          His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the pink-haired nurse that entered the room carrying a tray of mugs filled with what looked and smelled like coffee. She put the tray down on the stool at the foot of Gokou’s cot, straightened, then smiled.


          “Sorted everything out now?” She asked.


          Peignoir looked away from where she and Vegeta were staring at each other with identical frowns on their lips and fixed her with a hard stare.


          “Who are you?” She demanded, not one for courtesy.


          The nurse’s eyes narrowed momentarily, before a smile replaced her frown and she crossed the room, stopping before her. She held out her hand. “My name’s Casalin.”


          Peignoir frowned slightly, shrugged, then took the woman’s hand in hers.


          Future Piccolo frowned. Peignoir was never usually this nice on first acquaintance unless she had something up her sleeve. “Pen.” He warned.


          She shot him an annoyed look before turning back to the nurse. “Peignoir.” She replied politely, a smile curving her lips. Suddenly, she tightened her grip on the other woman’s fingers and smirked, expecting her to yell in pain and struggle to get her hand free.


          Casalin’s smile broadened. “Nice to meet you.” She answered genuinely.


          Peignoir frowned, then grimaced as her hand was squeezed in return.


          Casalin released Peignoir’s hand, then moved back over to the drinks. The green-haired woman held her hand by the wrist and squeezed it into a fist experimentally a few times. “Ow!” She mouthed to Future Piccolo, who smiled in her direction.


          “Coffee?” Someone asked.


          Peignoir looked back to see Casalin holding out a Styrofoam cup filled with sweet-smelling coffee.


          “Thanks.” She replied, taking the cup and holding it in her other hand.


          “Anyone else?” She asked.


          The others all nodded, and she handed the cups out around the room. When she finally stood before the Future Piccolo, she shrugged. “Sorry. No coffee for you. The last thing I want is for your digestive system to conk out.” She smiled at the Namek’s confused expression. “The Doctor briefed me.” She handed him one of the cups of water from the tray, then walked over to the other Piccolo and did the same.


          “Thanks.” They both replied simultaneously. Piccolo scowled at his cup.


          Casalin smiled then turned away. She moved over to Gohan’s bed and began checking the cables and the respirator, making sure that his skin was not becoming irritated and infected where the drips and probes had been inserted. She hummed while she was doing this, a familiar but nameless tune to a song that her mother used to sing to her when she was a child, and eventually all voices in the room quieted to listen to the softly murmured melody.


          Casalin was unaware of their observations of her as she cleaned the skin around the I.V insert needle, swabbing the raised flesh with alcohol, and rubbing the slightly red skin with a white antiseptic cream. She checked the monitors readouts, his heartbeat, blood pressure, respiratory functions, and looked sadly down into his expressionless face as she reaffixed the sensors to his temples to stabilize the brain functions monitor that was fluctuating slightly, and immediately the machine calmed down. She hummed a long sad note as she moved around Chi Chi to check that the saline drip plug inserted into the base of the half-filled bag was behaving correctly and releasing the right amount of saline every two seconds, and broke off suddenly when she saw them looking at her in the reflection on the bag. She turned around.


          “What?” She asked, perplexed.


          They were silent.


          “You’re glowing.” Said the bald Krillin suddenly.


          “Oh. What?” She asked, creasing her eyebrows.


          “You’re glowing.” He repeated. “It happened while you were humming. It’s rather quite pretty.”


          Master Roshi abruptly smacked Krillin on the back of the head.


          “Ow!” He yelled. “What was that for?”


          “I give the complements - not you!”


          Krillin shrugged, then turned his attention back to Casalin.


          She lifted one arm, her eyebrows still creased, and looked at her softly glowing fingers with a faint sheen of amusement. “Wow.” She said breathlessly. “I wondered why I hadn’t been glowing when I sang. Now I realize it was because I haven’t been singing to anyone, just to myself.” She laughed lightly. “Typical.” She cast a glance back over her shoulder at the comatose boy. “Anyway... Gohan needs a bath, rub-down, and position change, and the physiologist will be in to exercise him later in the morning.” She shrugged. “Right now there are more important things than wondering why I’m glowing now when I sing.”


          “Like what?” Asked Peignoir, curious about this nurse that didn’t act quite like a nurse should.


          Casalin fixed her rose-colored eyes on the sharp piercing blue of Peignoirs. “Like destroying these elementals you’re worried about. I should think that that would be top priority, wouldn’t it?”


          “Who are you?” Asked Peignoir, her sharp voice demanding.


          Casalin’s tail flicked out from beneath the skirt of her uniform, glowing with a waning yellow light.


          “A Saiya-jin?” She asked, her eyes wide.


          Casalin smiled and nodded, then looked back at Son Gohan.


          “I’ll best get the nurse.” She said. “Gohan needs his position changed every three hours.” She turned away and the two Krillin’s shared a disbelieving glance behind her back.


          When she left the room the silence ended.


          Peignoir expelled a heavy breath. “How can she be a Saiya-jin?” She demanded. “Aren’t we the last?”


          “We?” Yamcha asked perplexed.


          Future Piccolo shook his head. “How did we miss her back home?”


          Future Krillin frowned. “What if she’s still alive?”


          The bald Krillin nudged Tien. “What’s with all this ‘we’ stuff?”


          “I don’t know.” He replied. “Maybe she’s a Saiya-jin too.”


          Krillin shook his head. “She has no tail.”


          “They can be cut off, you know.” Reminded Tien. “She could be only partly Saiya-jin, too.”


          “Her hair’s the wrong colour!” Peignoir almost shouted.


          “Pen!” Yelled Future Piccolo.


          All noise suddenly stopped.


          “Remember what your grandfather told you?”


          Peignoir frowned. “About Yamcha?”


          Piccolo almost smacked his head.


          “What about me?”


          “No, about Vegeta-sei.”


          Peignoir suddenly nodded. “Yeah. The Tsufuru-jin and Naichi-jin?” She looked at Piccolo with a disbelieving expression when he nodded. “You mean she could be...?” She ran a hand down the length of her plait, squeezing the water from it. “Wow.”


          Future Krillin, also suddenly understanding, repeated her exclamation.


          Their awe was interrupted by the return of the Naichi-jin, followed by the well-known blonde nurse, bearing a bowl of steaming water and a few towels draped over one arm.


          Nurse Mari stopped when she saw everyone within the room, the broken cupboard, and that one very large window was missing. “What are you doing in here?” She demanded, momentarily angry. “And what have you done to the room? - You’ve broken it!” She suddenly shook her head. “No. Never mind. Forget I asked.” She walked over to Gohan’s bed. “I don’t want to know.”  Motioning for Casalin to put the bowl down on the bedside table, the medical student smiled and shrugged then did as was asked.


          “Let’s roll him.” Nurse Mari said. She took hold of the I.V stand and moved it around to the other side of the bed while Casalin dragged around the brain monitor. They each stood on opposite sides of the bed.


          “Ready?” Asked Nurse Mari.


          Casalin nodded, adjusting his left arm and leg, pulling the arm up and bending it.


          “On three. One... two... three.”


          On three, Mari lifted the right side of Gohan’s body while her student pulled on his shoulder and hip, rolling him onto his side, his bent left arm preventing him from rolling onto his front, and Mari bent his right leg to prevent his lower half from rolling forward. Once he was satisfactorily in the recovery position, they began to wash him, cleaning his body with the warm water, then rubbing the flesh on his shoulder-blades, elbows, buttocks, heels and upper thighs with a lanolin-based moisturizer to prevent pressure-boils. Rubbing the last of the cream into the boy’s shoulders, Casalin rolled him back over while Mari moved the drip and brain monitor around again.


          “That was good.” The nurse commented to the student.


          Suddenly, there was a sound like popping corn as the door to the ward flew open and a short pig-like man ran into the room and skidded into the pile of shattered glass in the centre of the room.


          “Whoooaaah!” He screamed, flying through the air and crashing into the wall beneath the window.








          Gohan sighed and closed his eyes. Somehow, the darkness beneath his lids seemed less ominous.


          “Do you hear that?” He asked the Emperor floating beside him.


          “Hear what?” He asked, confused. “I hear nothing.”


          Gohan opened his eyes and looked in the direction of where he thought Chao-tzu was.


          “You don’t hear that humming?” He asked incredulously. “It’s beautiful.”


          The nothingness that they were within swum as he shook his head. “No.”


          Gohan sighed. “Maybe I’m just imagining it. It feels like we’ve been in here for so long.”


          “I know.” Chao-tzu agreed. “I’m no longer afraid, but... now I feel nothing.”


          “Yeah.” Gohan replied, understanding. “It’s like in here emotions don’t exist. I’m finding it hard to feel anything now, and I know it should scare me, and I know I should be worried, but all I can really feel now is confusion.”


          Chao-tzu sighed. “At least that’s something.” he said.


          Gohan once again felt that mental tugging that took him deep into his dreams and almost smiled in relief - if that slight twinge of something was what he was feeling. “I’m going again, Chao-tzu.” He said. “These journey’s never last long.” And before he could hear the Emperor’s reply, he fell into his memories, anxious to relive the moments of his life if only just to feel something.


          “I wish they would...” He whispered.






          He found himself in another strange place.


          It was warm here, and despite the fact that he could not open his eyes, it was light. His eyes drank of the stuff as if it were the sweetest honey. Light. His body felt stiff, as if he was tied down, and there was something forcing air into his lungs, expanding them painfully. There was also something shoved down his throat through his nose. There were murmurs around him. Strange voices that he knew he should recognize, babbling in a forgotten language he knew he should understand. There were other sounds, too. Beeps and buzzing assailing him from all sides; strange pulsating hums from unidentifiable sources. He knew he was lying down, gravity proving its point with the pressure against his back, and whatever was beneath him felt warm and soft against his skin. He felt fingers on his arm; a hand, pressing so gently and lightly in such a familiar way that his confusion deepened as he tried to remember whom it was that touched him that way. A voice was suddenly recalled within his mind, a voice that he knew, that he loved.








          There was a break in the storm.


          The silence was eerie, disquieting. Piccolo could sense a disturbance, and every so often felt the presence of a flickering ki darting just out of his reach. These feelings disturbed him and he was finding it even harder to meditate than before when the future versions of himself, Krillin, and some young woman named Peignoir turned up. They were gone now. They, Master Roshi, Bulma and Vegeta had gone to Capsule Corporation over an hour ago. The window was mended, well, sort of. Krillin, Yamcha and Tien had found a huge sheet of packing plastic and had melted it into the walls on all four sides of the destroyed window to create a make-shift wind and rain screen.


          Piccolo sighed out through his nose.


          A new torch had been brought in while one of the hospital orderlies went on the hunt for a spare strobe light, and it’s pale blue light illuminated the sleeping figures within the room. Chi Chi was now on the bed beside Gokou, one of her arms flung over his chest and the other beneath her neck supporting her head. Gokou himself, was still dead to the world. Whatever that nurse had given him had knocked him flat. He’d been out without a sound for hours - not even a snore had escaped him since then. Yamcha had abandoned his sleeping post on the cupboard, more than likely fearing that it would collapse further beneath his weight, and had dragged in a chair from the Waiting Room. He was currently sprawled in it, dozing, but Piccolo could tell he wasn’t really asleep. Tienshinhan had left the room hours ago, along with Krillin - probably to check up on Chao-tzu, whom he hoped was stronger than when he found him - they had obviously decided to stay in the little Emperor’s ward.


          Piccolo sighed again.


          And Gohan. In the surging light of the waning torch the boy looked frail and insubstantial. If it wasn’t for the minute beeping of the monitors each time the small boy’s heart palpitated, he would scarcely believe that he was there. The child looked smaller lain out on the hospital bed than he did the first time he had met him. And he was only four then, not eight like he was now. He had grown up so much, so fast, and even during those two and a half months of his being deceased, the boy had changed. In some ways he was almost like a son to him, despite the fact that there was little more than four years between them.


          He silently pushed himself up off his sitting position on the couch, and moved over to the bed containing the subject of his thoughts. With an unidentified tightening in his chest that he had never felt before, he gazed down at the face of the boy that had changed his life irreversibly.


          “Gohan.” He whispered on an exhaled sigh.


          It was wrong to see the kid like this, smothered by wires, tubes and plastic so that barely a glimpse of him could be seen beneath. It felt unrealistic somehow, and unmistakably wrong.


          “Gohan.” He repeated, lifting one hand and running its fingers through the boy’s silky black hair. “What happened, huh? Did you get yourself into even more trouble?” He shook his head slowly. “You’re so much like your father in that respect, he never knows when to call it quits, either.” He paused, listening to the beeping and the buzzing of the monitors beside the bed. He started to speak again, then choked. After swallowing he started again. “I wish I knew what it is that’s wrong with you, kid. Then perhaps I would be able to find a way to help. But... like this - there’s no knowing, and what if what we believe could help you only makes it worse? I know it must be dark in there, Gohan, and I know you must be afraid...” He leaned over and brushed a stray strand of hair away from the boy’s face. “Damnitt, Gohan. For the strongest of us all you make an amazing habit of getting hurt.” He paused again as he felt a tingling sensation on his cheek. He reached up and when he brought his hand back down he was amazed to find his fingers damp. Then there was nothing he could do to stop the single crystal droplet from cascading down the contours of his face and falling onto the bed, darkening a spot of the pale blue blanket. Piccolo scowled through the fogginess of his emotional pain.


          “Waste of water.” He growled, staring at the small splotch of darker blue material.


          Then it happened.


          Piccolo was so used to hearing the monotonous even beeping of one of the stupid monitors, that when the stray beep sounded out of pace it was like an explosion going off in his head. His eyes widened and he shot his head around to stare at the machine beside him. Sure enough, the pattern was disturbed. Although it had once again settled back down into its solemn rhythm, there was one spike on the print out that was definitely out of place. Piccolo quickly dropped the sheet and bent over the bed.


          “Gohan?” He asked, looking down into the boy’s shadowed face. “Gohan, can you hear me?” The boy was silent.


          He waited, and a few moments later was rewarded by a stray beep.


          Piccolo felt joy surge through him.


          “Gohan!” He called louder. “It’s me, Piccolo. Do you know who I am?”


          The machine beside him beeped erratically again. “Damnitt, Gohan!” He yelled quietly, gently touching his face. “Damnitt! Now don’t you dare go away!”


          Another frustrated tear leaked out from beneath one eye, and as Piccolo leaned over him, the one tear fell free from the Namek’s skin and landed gently on the centre of Gohan’s forehead.


          The boy’s eyelashes fluttered.


          Piccolo frowned and looked down intently into his face as small muscles in the boy’s eyelids began to twitch.


          “Gohan?” He asked again.


          The mask covering the seven year olds nose and mouth suddenly clouded in a huge burst of white as the boy exhaled sharply. From beneath the plastic emerged a strangled groan.


          “Gohan!” Piccolo cried.


          The boy’s eyelashes fluttered again as his eyebrows lifted slightly from their frown. Slowly, the skin of his eyelids tightened, and as he sighed from out beneath the mask a hollow, frightened whisper, his eyes opened.


          /Mr. Piccolo?/


          The Demon King found himself looking down into those familiar deep chocolate brown eyes that always looked up at him with such adoration in their depths, and he smiled as a great wave of relief washed over him.


          “Yes,” He replied softly. “It’s me, Gohan.”


          The boy opened his mouth to speak but Piccolo cut him off. “No. Don’t speak. I’ll call Casalin.” Piccolo suddenly moved out of his field of vision. Gohan’s eyebrows creased at the unfamiliar name. He tried to follow the movements of Piccolo, but his head was held stiff and he felt too weak to even lift an arm. Fear suddenly surged up within him. He was about to call out when Piccolo appeared above him again. His teacher was smiling at him, his face bearing an expression he’d never seen on it before.


          “It’s good to have you back, kid.”


          Gohan struggled against the machine forcing him to breathe, but to no avail - he was just too weak. It took all his strength just to lift his eyelids.


          Piccolo could sense this, and ran his fingers through the boy’s hair again to calm him. “I know, kid. The nurse is coming to get you out of these contraptions.”


          Gohan frowned beneath the mask. /Chao-tzu./ He whispered into Piccolo’s mind.


          “What, kid?”


          /Chao-tzu./ He repeated. /He’s still... in there./


          The Demon King leaned back, confused. Then Casalin finally arrived, responding to the buzz from the button beside Gohan’s bed.


          “What’s going on?” She asked breathlessly, sliding into the room.


          It only took her a moment to glance over the monitors and assess the situation.


          “I’ll be back in a minute.” She said hurriedly, leaving the room, returning a moment later with Nurse Mari and a doctor in tow.


          The doctor checked the instrument readouts, then gave Gohan a quick check-up. He cleared his throat to the Nurse, her student, and Piccolo.


          “We can take him off the ventilators, but the drips and gastric tube need to stay in.”


          Casalin and Mari nodded, then moved to opposite sides of the bed. Gohan stared up at them, his dark eyes wide, unsure of exactly what they were going to do.


          Casalin reached up and unclipped the mask from the sides of Gohan’s face while nurse Mari lifted it off his mouth and nose, wrapping the huge clear plastic tube that was feeding the oxygen to him from the ventilator machine around her arm to hang on the hooks on the side of the machine, turning it off.


          Gohan gasped, suddenly breathing on his own, then screamed at the pain he was unable to express as his lungs filled with air at his own free will.


          The room abruptly awoke. Chi Chi flew up instantly off Gokou’s cot and flung herself down beside her son’s bed.


          “Gohan!.” She cried, “Gohan, honey - you’re awake! Don’t ever scare me like that again!” She scolded in mock fury, then she leaned forward and hugged him.


          Gohan grit his teeth at the pain this caused, but relished the comfort of being in her arms. “I’m all right, mum.” He husked, “Just a little bit sore.”


          Chi Chi pulled back, allowing the others in the room to see that he was awake. She chuckled sadly and brushed a strand of his dark hair back away from his eyes.


          The doctor cleared his throat again. “He appears to be recovering rather quickly, most likely due to his Saiya-jin DNA, but he will have to remain here for a few more days for further monitoring before we can allow him to be released. He is still too dehydrated and anaemic to take off the I.V’s.”


          Chi Chi ignored the doctor, entirely too engrossed in her son’s consciousness to even notice that he was talking. She was running her fingers through his hair, her other hand holding his smaller fingers and running her thumb over his knuckles while smiling down at him with tears glistening on her cheeks. Yamcha nodded to the doctor, indicating that he understood, while Piccolo moved over to Gokou’s bedside and attempted to wake him.


          He had to shout three times before the drug-induced stupification that the Saiya-jin was wallowing within lifted enough to allow him to even stir in his sleep.


          “Gokou!” He shouted. “Gokou, wake up!”


          The dark-haired, pale-skinned Saiya-jin rolled over, opened his eyes, and stared blearily up at Piccolo.


          “Wha?” He mumbled, his eyes unfocused and his vision blurred.


          “Gohan’s awake.”


          Piccolo’s words sounded muffled and thick through his ears and it took a while for his drugged mind to tick-over the two word sentence and comprehend its meaning.


          “What?” He asked, sitting up and throwing off his artificially induced stupor like a dirty shirt.


          “I said,” Repeated Piccolo, moving back a little. “Your son is awake.”


          Gokou blinked. “Gohan?” He turned his head and looked over to where the doctor was leaning over the bed his son was in, obscuring his view of him. His wife was sobbing quietly. “Is he...?” He trailed off, fear clutching at him.


          “He’s all right.” Piccolo replied. “He’s just a little confused.”


          He smiled. “That’s my boy.”


          The doctor shifted and moved away, and Gokou could finally see an unobstructed view of his now awake son. A fist of sobriety slammed into his gut.


          He looked pale. Really pale, and from his bed Gokou could make out a faint sheen of perspiration on his forehead. He pushed himself up off the bed and stumbled across the floor over to Chi Chi’s side. “Gohan!” He said.


          His son shifted his eyes from where he was looking at Yamcha and turned them to his tired father’s pale face.


          “Dad?” He whispered.


          Gokou smiled. “Yeah, it’s me, son.”


          The corner of Gohan’s lips twinged slightly as he attempted to smile. “Dad!” He repeated. “Wha-what happened?”


          His father frowned. “We don’t know yet, son.” He replied, then ruffled his son’s hair.


          “Yeah, we do.” Interrupted Yamcha.


          Gokou turned to face the scarred-faced warrior. “Nani?”


          “I said,” Restated Yamcha, “That we know what happened. Well, kinda.” He added, shrugging.


          “We had visitors while you were unconscious, Gokou.” His wife said from beside him.




          “Ahhh,” Started Yamcha. “Well... Krillin and Piccolo.”


          Gokou looked confused. “But they were here before, and I can see that Piccolo is here.”


          “No.” Yamcha shook his head. “The future versions of them. And a woman named Peignoir.”


          “But I thought they were dead.”


          “No, Gokou.” Replied Piccolo. “They’re not from Trunks’ future, but from ours.”


          “But I thought Trunks was from our future.”


          “Our future as it was.” The Demon King corrected. “My future self and his companions are from our future as it is.”


          Gokou took a moment to absorb it, then nodded his understanding. “So tell me what happened.”


          Quickly, Yamcha and Piccolo relayed to Gokou what parts of what they were told that they understood, with Chi Chi adding small details that they had forgotten.


          Gokou stared at them for a moment after they had finished, then his eyes fell once again on his son. “The strongest?” He asked, awed.


          Piccolo nodded, smiling a little. “Apparently.”


          Gohan looked up at his father, then at Piccolo, and then finally at Yamcha. “What? What are you saying?”


          Gokou brushed a hand through his hair again. “Never mind, son. It doesn’t matter.”


          Gohan looked up at him for a moment longer, then his eyes widened and he started struggling to sit up.


          “No, Gohan, honey! Lie down!” Cried Chi Chi, attempting to push him flat.


          “What’s wrong?” Demanded Gokou. “Gohan?”


          “Chao-tzu!” The child cried. “Chao-tzu! We have to find him! He’s still in there!”


          “In where?” Asked Piccolo.


          “In there!” He repeated. “He’s all alone, and we’ve got to get him out!”


          Gokou and Piccolo shared a confused glance across the bed.


          “Gohan,” Said Piccolo calmly. “Gohan - listen to me. Chao-tzu’s here. He’s in the room next to this one!”


          Gohan stopped struggling almost instantly. “Is - is he all right?”


          Piccolo looked down. “No, not really, kid. When I found him he was almost dead.”


          “Well, then get some senzu beans!” The kid shouted suddenly with amazing renewed force.


          “We can’t.” spoke Gokou calmly. “Korin says there won’t be some ready for months.”


          Gohan sighed and ceased his struggling against their hands. Then, abruptly, he lapsed into unconsciousness.


          “Gohan!” Cried Gokou.


          The doctor suddenly moved past him from out of nowhere, quickly checked Gohan’s pulse and breathing, then stood back. “He’s all right.” He told them. “Just sleeping.”


          Gokou, Chi Chi, Piccolo and Yamcha released heavy breaths.


          “As I said before,” Continued the doctor. “He will need to remain here for the next few days - a week at the most - for further monitoring.” He inclined his head towards them. “Until then good - uhhhh, well morning, I suppose.” With a final nod the doctor and nurse Mari left, but Casalin remained behind.


          “Well,” She said in the sudden awkward silence. “Ahh, now that I’ve found you, what are we going to do about it?”


          Gokou placed a hand behind his head in a familiar comic gesture and scratched at an imaginary itch somewhere at the base of his neck. “Well, actually, I’m not too sure on that one. This is the first time I’ve met a Saiya-jin that hasn’t tried to kill me straight away.”


          Chi Chi sighed and sent her husband an exasperated look. “Well, for starters, you can come and visit us whenever you get the chance.”


          Casalin smiled at her. “I’d love to.”


          Chi Chi returned the smile. “Well, that’s one thing.”


          “In fact,” Started Casalin, glancing at the watch on her left wrist. “I’m off duty in about another ten minutes. It’s almost three in the morning.”


          “Good.” Said Gokou, standing up but still holding the unconscious Gohan’s smaller hand within his own. “Then we can all go over to Capsule Corp. and begin training for the coming battle.” He looked over at Yamcha. “I take it that’s where they all went?”


          As Yamcha nodded, Chi Chi stood up furiously. “Oh, no you don’t, Gokou-san!” She yelled at him. “There’s no way I’m going to let you go galloping off in your condition to get battered even more than you all ready are by those hard-headed friends of yours. And there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to let you corrupt this young woman,” She pointed at a wide-eyed Casalin. “Into going with you! So you better just sit down on that bed right this instant Mr. Throw A Mountain At Me And I’ll See How Far I Can Fling The Bits!” She pointed savagely at the empty hospital cot beside Gohan’s. “You’re staying right here by your injured son’s side and that’s final!” With that Chi Chi sat back down and once again turned her attentions towards Gohan.


          “But Chi Chi!” Gokou implored, sounding much like a petulant child.


          Chi Chi kept her back to him. “No ‘But’s, Mister! I all ready told you what you’re going to do. Now - DO IT!”


          Gokou dejectedly sat back down on the bed. “Yes, dear.” He mumbled to her back.


          “That’s better.” She said to him, using the tone she usually reserved for Gohan when he was being good.


          Casalin shot an amazed look at Yamcha, who shrugged, a pained expression on his face, and smiled slightly - but somehow the smile ended up looking more like a grimace.


          Piccolo, on the other side of Gohan’s bed and closer to the makeshift window, was struggling to suppress a grin as Gokou sat on the edge of the hospital cot, head down, pushing his fingers against each other in helplessness.


          Chi Chi’s head shot up and she fixed Piccolo with a hard stare. For some reason he no longer found it hard to suppress his smile - now, it was impossible. “Uhhh,” He growled suddenly. “Excuse me for a moment.” He brushed past them on his way to the door, and once through he closed it behind him. Abruptly, the faint sound of laughter reached their ears, and Chi Chi spun her head around to face the door, giving it a filthy look. Then she turned back around with a loud ‘Humph’, and pointedly ignored Piccolo as the door opened and he re-entered the room, a satisfied smirk on his lips.


          “Fun?” Asked Yamcha, grinning.


          “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Replied Piccolo, sitting down on the couch.


          Casalin glanced at her watch one more time, then sighed. “Time’s up, guys. I’m beat and I’m outta here. I’m gonna go home, have a shower, then sleep.” She shrugged and turned away from them towards the door. “Nurse Mari’ll be on for another hour or so. She’s been called for an extra shift seeming they’re short on nurses tonight. If not her, it’ll be someone else that will be in to check on you every hour or so.” She went over and poked a startled Gokou in the chest with her forefinger. “And if I hear anything about you caught trying to sneak out of the hospital again like you did in West Kong, I’m gonna come after you with the largest needle you’ve ever seen!”


          Gokou shrunk back from her finger, his eyes wide. “H-hai, kangofu-san.”


          Casalin smiled at him, then pinched his cheek as if he were a little boy. “Good.”


          Chi Chi stared up at her. “How did you know?”


          Casalin smiled and put a finger to the side of her nose, then whispered. “I was briefed on that, too.”


          Chi Chi chuckled as Casalin smiled again and headed for the door. And there she paused with her hand on the door handle, her head half turned towards them. “Capsule Corporation, you say?” She asked.


          Yamcha and Gokou nodded.


          “Perhaps I’ll go there later.” She told them. “Is it a good place to train?”


          Gokou nodded again. “If you’re lucky, Vegeta might let you use the gravity chamber. He’s a little stingy about sharing it, though.” He mused over it for a moment. “I don’t know how you’ll handle it, either, there’s never been a female warrior in our midst before.”


          Casalin grinned at him. “By any estimation,” She told him. “I’d say you now have three.”


          Gokou blinked at her while Piccolo and Yamcha watched her silently, waiting for her to explain.


          “Three?” He asked.


          “Mmhm.” Replied Casalin nodding. She indicated herself. “Me, Peignoir, and...” She flicked her hand over in Chi Chi’s direction.


          “Chi Chi?” Asked Gokou, casting a disbelieving glance at his wife.


          Casalin frowned at him. “You mean you didn’t know? She did fight you in the Budokai, you know.” She moved back over to them and looked long and hard at the Princess. “Well, it may be rather undeveloped, but it’s definitely there.” She shook her head at Gokou. “You Saiya-jin men sure are unobservant.” With that last statement she turned and left.


          “But... Chi Chi?” He started.


          His wife stood up, her dark eyes flashing with anger. “What are you implying, Gokou-san?”


          As Casalin walked down the corridor she heard Gokou saying; “N-nothing, dear. I wasn’t implying anything!”


          She chuckled as she strolled down the corridor, the emergency generators humming loudly in the sleepy silence, then headed for home.






          In the ward next to the one occupied by Son Gokou, Son Gohan, Son Chi Chi, Piccolo and Yamcha, the lights were fortunately still working.


          Tienshinhan sat solemnly beside the only bed occupied in the room, holding the tiny white hand of the Tibetan Emperor in his much larger and stronger grip. Unconsciously he was rubbing Chao-tzu’s index finger with his thumb. His attention was drawn elsewhere, deep into himself, where he struggled to find the consciousness of his closest friend.


          Krillin was asleep, sprawled out on one of the other beds, snoring gently, the fingers of his left hand twitching impulsively in his dreamy stupor.


          Tien’s three eyes were closed, his mind far from his body, searching, delving deep into the recesses of the world’s consciousness. He hadn’t told anyone yet, of this strange phenomenon of the world’s collective consciousness - they weren’t ready for it yet. They weren’t ready to learn that some thing, in some way, on an unconscious level, was influencing them all.


          He didn’t want to be here, mixed in fully amongst the small parts of the unconsciousness of everyone else in the world. Here he felt insignificant, inferior and open to anything. Years of being stronger than nearly most everyone else meant nothing here. It was as if layers of himself were being stripped away so that all that was exposed was what he started with. He felt like an infant.


          But he had no other choice. He had searched the whole world for the mind of his best friend when searching inside the tiny Emperor’s body became futile. The only other place to look, the only other place left, was here. Here where minds were unaware of each other, but strangely linked together. It was along these invisible links that Tien’s consciousness travelled, touching gently upon the minds he passed through, moving on when again and again they were not the one he was looking for. It seemed as if he had been searching for years, when in truth barely a minute had passed. Growing frustrated, he called out Chao-tzu’s name.


          His voice echoed loudly in the darkness that the unconsciousness floated within, and the chains suddenly convulsed and wavered madly, swimming as if water. Tien suddenly became afraid. He didn’t want to damage anything in this place, Kami knew what would happen.


          He was about to start looking again when a ripple shuddered through the darkness, carrying with it a voice that passed beyond his ears and faded.




          “Chao-tzu?” He called. “Was that you?”


          “Tien!” Came back the voice.


          “Chao-tzu, where are you?”


          “Over here, Tien!” The ripples passed by whispering.


          “Where?” In the blackness he couldn’t see anything.


          “Here!” The little mime called back.


          Suddenly, within the darkness, a tiny pinprick of space began to glow.


          “I see you!” He called out, then his consciousness shot forwards, speeding through the dark like a glass mote towards that one minutely glowing spec of light in the black infinitude. Then abruptly he was within the golden light, it’s milky haze surrounding him on all sides. “Chao-tzu?” He called hesitantly.


          “I’m here, Tien.” Came his voice, not from one particular place but from all directions. “How do we get out of here?”


          “I have an idea.” He replied. He compulsively held out his arm. “Grab hold of my hand.”


          He felt a warmth against his hand, what he presumed to be Chao-tzu’s smaller palm and fingers. Then something exploded in his mind.


          His eyes shot open and he was once again in the hospital ward. He saw Krillin sitting up, staring at him, then a jolt passed through his arm, starting at the shoulder and tingling down through his fingers and into Chao-tzu’s hand.


          Tien’s three eyes were wide as he stared down at the small child-like Emperor. He heard Krillin calling to him, but all his concentration was on the face of his best friend. Suddenly, a small moan issued out from between his white lips.


          Krillin started while Tien leaned further over to Chao-tzu.


          The moan was repeated. “Tien?” The mime whispered.


          Tien’s face broke into a smile while Krillin ran for the wall, pressing the large red button that sounded at the matron’s desk.


          “I’m here, Chao-tzu.” He said.


          The mime’s eyelids tightened, then opened. “I feel broken.” He whispered to him.


          “I’d say you are.” Said Krillin from the other side of the bed.


          Chao-tzu inhaled, then cringed. “It hurts to breathe. And what have they stuck up my nose?”


          Tien laughed. “That’s a tube to help you breathe, little guy.” He sighed. “You were badly beaten, Chao-tzu. We weren’t sure you would make it.”


          Krillin moved in closer to the bedside. “Do you remember who did this to you?”


          Chao-tzu closed his eyes and shook his head slightly. “Sorry. I don’t remember anything. Anything except you, Tien. How long were you planning on leaving me in there?”


          Tien smiled down at the mime. He was about to say something when the door opened and two nurses rushed in, a doctor on their heels, and all conversations were suddenly ended.


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