Chapter 30: B-Team Rules the World
It seemed simple enough. They'd break into groups, rush in, fight the baddies, make some cheesy one-liners, and be back in time for supper. Just a cakewalk…
Or at least that's what Videl kept telling herself. So what if Caroni and Pirowski were newbies?! They got the same training from her father as she did. More importantly, they were fellow alumni of the Martial Arts Society. If she could do it, why couldn't they? And even if they couldn't cut the mustard, she was strong enough to carry them through…
Reality however, has a nasty habit of taking expectations, bending them over a lawn chair, and giving them the ole in-out. From the outset of their three-pronged assault, Pirowski and Caroni kept bumbling into one tight spot after another, prompting Videl to play Lassie. They weren't bullet proof, they couldn't use hyper-speed, and Pirowski's bulk made ducking and dodging through waves of gunfire a no-go. To top it off, their adversaries were damn-nigh determined to kill everyone!
The downtown district was a war zone! Rocket and mortar fire rained down on the streets like hail, sending shrapnel and bodies alike flying to and fro. High up on rooftops, teams of mobile snipers took puck shots at the innocent! These death squads were bolstered by military grade hover bikes, likely reverse engineered from the ruins of Babadi's ship. These technological terrors made low altitude strafing runs over fleeing pedestrians. At street level, bands of marauders terrorized the already bludgeoned survivors, many of whom had fled the besieged commercial district to seek safety in the downtown area. All around, people were dying in droves. To make matters worse, surviving law enforcement were few and far between, and rescue workers were overwhelmed just staying alive.
Moreover, all of this was transpiring amidst environmental effects from being in such close proximity to the pressure brought to bear by Gohan's raging ki in the commercial district. Tremors shook the land! Fissures zigzagged through the paved streets as rocks, slabs of reinforced concrete, and other debris were upturned before being hoisted into the air. High winds whipping across the cityscape prompted the hasty formation of supercell thunderstorms over West District sending tendrils of azure lightning careening halfway across the world. Off in the distance, a vast mushroom cloud hovered ominously over the aforementioned district, casting a dark, blotchy veil against the night sky.
"GET THESE PEOPLE OUTTA HERE!" she screamed. In a bid to safeguard the lives of a group of imperiled civilians, the ravine-haired girl dove in to intercept a withering hail of gunfire. The physical toughness she'd acquired from her spars with Krillin may've allowed her to withstand that kind of percussive force, but she was quickly realizing that even with her powers, the laws of averages were not on her side. For every blood-thirsty fanatic she took out, five more would take their place. There were too many ankle-biters running about, too many innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, and only one of her. Silently, she prayed that the others were having better luck.
Nearby, Pirowski and Caroni crouched defensively behind a concrete divider.
"Fuck this! We gotta get outta here!" cried Caroni.
"HELP MEEEE!" came an agonized screech.
Jerking around, Videl was horrified to see a middle aged woman crumpled over in a pool of her own blood. All about the hapless lady, terrified throngs of fleeing civilians trampled and tripped over her prostrate form.
Wasting no time, the brunette fighter sprang into action. Jumping in amongst the screaming stampede, she wrapped her arms around the injured woman before raising a translucent ki force field over the embattled street. Explosive rounds detonated and bullets flattened harmlessly against the translucent wall of energy, allowing any beleaguered stragglers a chance to hightail it.
'This can't go on…' she thought to herself. The presence of so many civilians complicated everything. With so many helpless, screaming city-goers caught between herself and their attackers, bringing her full power to bear was out of the question. The collateral damage would be nothing short of horrific! Because of this, the Satan girl was sandwiched between running interference for her cohorts and fighting between throngs of fleeing masses. It was the worst possible situation!
"Pirowski! Anybody…! HELP!" She couldn't do diddly like this! She had to cut loose! Gohan was MIA, and there was too much happening at once.
Terrified, her long-time associates scrambled to comply. After some quiet prodding from his long-time compatriot, Pirowski finally found the nerve to come forward and carry the injured woman to safety. Timidly, Caroni took up the rear.
"Subway terminal is this way!" the giant Cossack bellowed, throwing his injured charge over one shoulder. Pausing, the bulky Slav beckoned to a nearby rescue team. "THIS WAY! COME!"
"This is insane…" sputtered Caroni. The blond show fighter had little time to duck and cover as a nearby air taxi was firebombed into slag by a passing hoverbike.
"The fuck…?!" the Satan alumni gritted painfully, his mouth full of grit.
"Well, well, well…" came a redneckish sounding voice, "Lookie here, fellas! We done hit pay dirt!"
Coming to a slow crouch amidst the twisted metal and broken glass strewn about, Caroni found himself facing down the lowlifes who'd nearly killed him. Dressed in coal grey robes, the men in question were armed to the teeth with makeshift billy-clubs, machetes, and flails.
"I can handle this!" rasped Mr. Satan's one-time star pupil.
"What's that, boy?!" one of the robed men taunted, brandishing a spiked club of a grizzly make. "Speak up!"
"Let's take em!" chuckled a second.
"Ya got a pretty mouth, boy!" taunted a third.
"Break a broomstick off in dat ass…" growled another. "Here Chickie! Chickie! Chickie!"
Slowly, Caroni came to a stand. "Bring it you turds!" The long-haired superstar brought his arms up in a defensive octagon stance he reserved for his fights in the pro circuit.
"Time to die on your feet, pretty boy!" jeered one of the men.
Peering at his new target with a predatory intensity, the death squad's deranged leader perversely drug his tongue along the edge of his makeshift cleaver.
The sight was enough turn the blond grappler's blood to ice. If he wasn't ready to piss himself before, he sure as hell was now!
"Spread em, pretty boy! We're comin in dry…"
Soon, they were on him. There must have been a dozen of them! Moving in a coordinated wolf gang assault, the nightly garbed band of marauders quickly encircled Mr. Satan's former top student. Moving in a tightening circle, his opponents whooped and shouted wildly like a pack of rabid hyenas, all the while making obscene cat calls and mock strikes at their cornered prey.
Caroni darted every which way, desperately searching for a chance to bolt.
Finally, the first one dashed forward, swinging a long flail in wide, savage arcs. He was followed closely by two other black-clad toadies.
To his credit, Caroni managed to catch the one out front with a stomp to the gut, putting the man on his rump! Unfortunately, the two thugs following behind came forward and shoulder tackled the hapless Satan alumni to the pavement. The rest wasted no time in dog-piling on the blond celebrity.
Coughing fitfully, the cult member he'd brought down sidled up to where his new quarry lay restrained. He had murder in his eyes. This was it…
'Shit…!' Caroni cursed himself for allowing Videl to drag him into this. He could've been safe and sound back at his mansion, getting laid, getting drunk, partying, sleeping, but noooo! He was gonna die again! And all because he just had to follow Pirowski's lead and join Videl's stupid program!
"You done goofed, tight-pants!" Caroni's soon-to-be murderer chortled menacingly. The man raised his weapon high over his head, preparing to deliver the fatal blow to his latest victim.
Caroni squeezed his eyes shut. After a moment however, nothing happened!
"W-What?!" Opening his eyes, Caroni was both unprepared and relieved to discover a few of his assailants lying unconscious around him.
"Who… what…?!" he stammered.
Before Caroni could ponder any further, Videl landed between him and his remaining assailants. Pointing an outstretched palm in the direction of Caroni's remaining attackers, she let fly with a series of kiai waves that hurled her targets clear across the block, likely killing all of them.
"You OK?" asked the female fighter.
"Thanks…," he breathed in hoarse relief.
"This is getting us nowhere!" the teen commented. "Too many people are getting caught up! We need to get them out of here!"
Seeing this as his chance to get out of danger, Caroni's eyes lit up with hopeful yearning. "Us too?"
"Yes…" the girl conceded with an irritated sigh. "This is out of your league."
"And you're only now figuring this out?!" remarked the blond in disbelief.
Videl ignored the jab. "Look! We've gotta get everyone to safety, and I think I've got something the two of you can handle. I want you and Pirowski to lead everyone into the subway tunnels! It's the only place I can think of where they'll be safe. I'm count'n on you!"
Turning away, the feisty girl faced the coming storm. "If I don't get serious, there won't be a tomorrow for anyone! These bastards are gonna pay…"
Glad to get out of any actual fighting, Caroni picked up and scurried away from the thick of things as fast as his legs could carry him. Fighting in the arena was one thing, but getting thrown into a meat grinder was something else altogether.
"Good luck fellas…" Videl whispered to herself. "You'll need it."
With that issue hopefully addressed, the raven-haired teen steeled herself for the battle ahead. If her ki sensing abilities were anything to go by, the worst was yet to come. There was something horrifying… something otherworldly lying in wait.
Ending the silent standoff between herself and Caroni's assailants, the wily girl surged forward and delivered a bone-shattering roadhouse kick to the sternum of one black-robed killer. She then followed this with a sloppy nerve strike to the base of another man's skull before pivoting on a heel and landing a vicious hook kick to the knee cap of a third.
"HOLY SHIT, DUDE!" screamed one Majin.
"Where'd she go?!" asked another.
Doing an about-face, the Majins found… nothing?! With the exception of a fairly large hole in the pavement, their target had disappeared.
"Fan out and find her!" barked one cultist.
Without warning, a pair of small, dainty hands exploded from the asphalt and latched onto the ankles of one hapless marauder. The man in question didn't have time to scream before being yanked under the road.
Seeing this, the remaining Majin attackers tucked tail and ran. Before they could get too far though, they found themselves thrown violently into the air as the very street beneath them bulged upwards. The lot of them landed in an unceremonious heap in every which direction.
"What's wrong fellas?" Videl asked in a cruel mocking tone. Lifting the prone form of the cultist she'd drug through the Earth by the scruff of his dark robes, she hurled the unconscious man into a third story window of a nearby office complex. "You thought you were just gonna come here and kill my people?!"
The remaining Majins who could, ran for the hills. They'd had enough. All except for one that is…
Coming to a stand, the lone cultist saw his chance and took it. Reaching into his undershirt, the young man, he couldn't have been no older than twenty, fished out a revolver, cocked the hammer back, and took aim.
Videl could only smirk. "Go ahead and shoot! I'll give you a freebie."
"DIE YOU BITCH!" screamed the young fanatic, pulling the trigger.
There was just enough lighting on that street for the religious whacko to see everything. To his stock horror, the bullet, a high caliber round by sidearm standards, flattened impotently against the brunettes' forehead before falling to the pavement.
"W-w-what ARE YOU!" screeched the young cultist as he unloaded his remaining nuggets at his target. As with the first, each shot impacted harmlessly on Videl's bulletproof body. Save for the holes in her shirt, none scored pay-dirt.
From their place on the pavement, cultists who were too injured to run looked on in stunned terror at the ongoing spectacle.
"S-she's a monster…" uttered one.
Just as the girl was about to subdue her assailant, a loud 'Bang!' rang out over the street accompanied by the grizzly spectacle of the young fanatic's head exploding in a shower of blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and head-meat.
Looking up, Videl was surprised to find that old Bob had taken up position on a rooftop far above ground level. Armed with a bolt action rifle, the hefty old hillbilly was darting along an overhang, stopping only to get off a few shots before scurrying onto a better position. It wasn't martial arts, but at least he was doing something.
The large, middle-aged retiree jumped behind a nearby AC unit, barely avoiding a fresh round of enemy sniper fire as he did so. This was where his time in the armed forces came into play. It'd been years since Bob had done anything like this, but unlike most of the city's assailants, he was at least proficient in the use of firearms.
Crouching behind the air-conditioning block, the balding redneck took a moment to reload his baby. He swore under his breath at the acute pain in his joints. This was no time for old age to catch up with him!
It was then that, just out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement on the roof opposite his own. They were snipers.., three of them, all dressed in black. Against the dark backdrop of night, he was lucky to have seen them at all.
"Where ya think you're goin?" he asked himself jokingly. Taking aim, he let fly with a well-placed shot that sent one of the three cultists tumbling into the streets below. The other two black garbed men stopped briefly to stare down at their fallen comrade only to be met with a matching set of .45 hallow point sandwiches.
That done, Bob hightailed it to an adjacent overhang. Peering over the side, he spied Mercenary Tao casually fighting off a fresh wave of Majin grunts.
Armed with a Chinese war sword, the younger Crane brother hacked and slashed his way through throngs of robed and uniformed Majin fanatics. As was the case on Videl's end, there were civilians caught in the action, albeit far fewer. Perhaps the townsfolk got out while the getting was good? In any case, it made things very fortuitous for him as he took the fight to the enemy.
"HYAH!" Thrusting forward, the pony-tailed hitman jabbed his sword deep into the crotch of an unlucky opponent before twisting his blade and yanking it upwards along his victims' medial line. The result left his hapless target with a splitting headache no amount of aspirin could treat.
Pulling away from his handiwork, Tao swung his fist in a back-handed flurry that connected with the temple of a second grunt who had attempted to take him from behind. With a wet 'Snap!,' the attacker, a young woman, had her head spun completely around. He then followed this up with a boomerang throw of his scimitar that tore through a whole host of baddies in a straight line before embedding itself in a telephone pole some distance away.
Much to the former hitman's surprise, the peons just wouldn't let up. Determined to butcher the long-time Crane alumni, they surrounded him on all sides.
"So you want some more, huh?" dared the old Crane practitioner, dropping into his style's favored horse stance. "That's fine by me! Come get some!"
They didn't need to be told twice. Like a wave, the twisted thugs closed in on him.
The one-time killer scoffed. 'Fools…'
Just as they pressured in around him, Tao flopped onto his back and spun in place like a break-dancer just as he had at last weeks' tournament. Whipping his legs out like a set of lawnmower blades, he bowled over dozens of Majin grunts with powerful spinning kicks. Those behind them were lifted clear into the air from the sheer tera-force stirred up by the attack, sending bodies and dismembered limbs tumbling like dry leaves in a dust devil and caking the walls of the surrounding window shops with a fresh coat of red paint!
Before any of his surviving opposition could do anything, the younger Crane brother was back at it! His speed, strength, and precision, far beyond that of any normal human, allowed the aged assassin to systematically pick off anyone stupid enough to fight back. Most however, were making themselves scarce…
"FALL BACK! RUN!" screamed one Majin sub-commander.
"IT'S HOPELESS!" came a woman's baleful cry.
'Child's play…' The former World's Greatest Assassin couldn't keep himself from smiling as hedelivered a well-placed spinning heel kick to one of his few remaining opponents.
Suddenly, a loud hellish howl rose up through the bloodied streets. In its' wake, street lamps flickered and dimmed in a creepy harrowing of things to come. The air became chilled and oppressive. One didn't need to sense ki to know something foul was afoot.
"What's this?!" Tao demanded aloud. Whatever it was, he sure as hell didn't like it...
It was hard to make out against the darkness, but leering in the direction of said noise, Tao soon found himself confronted with its' source.
"What in the blazes?!"
Out of the darkness came a scene from the depths of realms unknown. Inky robed figures, perhaps a dozen, came barreling down the road like a bat out of Hell! Decked in broad pauldrons of black steel, their red glowing eyes leered from beneath worn grey cowls. Their feet nary touching the ground, they seemingly rode the wind as they bridged the gap between themselves and the Crane practitioner.
Dropping into his styles' signature horse stance, the ex-killer prepared to meet this new threat head-on. This was it! This was where the rubber met the road! He would protect the city's survivors! He would redeem himself and end the generation long cycle of travesties he'd wrought! He would regain his lost honor!
Just as the mob of twisted berserkers came within punching distance however, there was a brief series of bright, disorienting flashes accompanied by a jarring ripple effect. This grand deception however, beheld a sinister purpose. Hiding behind this smoke and mirrors act, each bloodthirsty attacker hastily drew a long, broad cleaver. It was clear that these Majins were bringing their A-game.
It was almost enough to throw off their quarry, but Toa had enough sense to act first. Craning his head back, the old killer allowed the first haphazard strike to sail clear past his chin. Lifting his leg, Tao casually stepped over a second full horizontal strike that would've maimed him. Trying to capitalize on the distraction offered by their comrade's frontal assault, the other nine or so armored marauders surrounded the old assassin before initiating a mixed series of powerful vertical and diagonal hacks.
It was a veritable storm of blades. Tao bobbed, weaved, and rolled to avoid his adversaries' sustained assault. Even he was taken back by the speed and ferocity of these dark-shrouded berserkers. They were nothing like the throngs of weaklings he'd bested earlier! Perhaps most galling of all was the oppressive pressure he felt from being in such close proximity to these freaks. It was as if the inner essence of the human spirit had been turned in on itself, as if he were being suffocated by the darkness around him. It was like a part of Hell followed him into the land of the living.
Hooping and howling like a pack of savage beasts, the armored lunatics moved around the aged assassin in concentric circles. Against the darkness, their blinding movements, far beyond that of normal men, made their glowing red eyes seem like embers dancing in the wind!
Side-stepping an otherwise well-placed hack, the cofounder of the crane school scored a heel kick that would've made Chuck Norris proud to have mainstreamed the thing, sending it's twisted recipient straight through the passenger-side door of a parked hovercar. Not stopping there, he pivoted on his other foot and delivered an equally powerful back-kick to the gut of another who tried to take him from behind all the while elbow parrying the sling-blade from the hands of a third. It was this last move that would prove costly…
Seeing an opening, one of the remaining berserkers surged forward from one of Toa's unguarded flanks. Being as augmented as they were by ancient sorcery, there was no way the younger Crane brother could keep the pressure on all of them, especially with them attacking from all sides. Worse still, their constant devilish howling made tracking their movements against the street's dark profile almost impossible. He had only enough time to bring up a cross guard before being shoulder tackled to the pavement. Several other Majins soon dogpiled on top of him.
Seizing the moment, two other cleaver wielding maniacs jumped in for the killing strike. Lifting their weapons high, they were prepared to hack through their own comrades to snuff out the former mercenary.
From under the twisted pile of limbs and torsos, Tao glared up at his soon-to-be killers.
"Shit!"The ex-hitman jerked and turned to break the hold of his suicidal opponents, but to no avail. As beefed up as they were on Babadi's ancient augmentations, he'd be lucky to fire off a…
Tao's eyes widened.With all his strength, the former killer wrenched his dominant arm free and leveled a finger square at the face of one of the armored berserkers. Even if this succeeded, he would die, but at least he would take one of them back to hell!
With a loud cry of "DODONPA!," the younger Crane brother let fly with the signature move of his school.
Unexpectedly however, the heads of both assailants burst in a shower of roasted head-meat and cerebrospinal fluid. The next thing Tao know, his other detainers went limp atop him.
Tao's eyes widened in shocked relief. "What the-?!"
A crazed, feminine cackle echoed over the embattled street. "Someone had a party and I wasn't invited…"
Standing out on a rooftop overlooking the carnage below, Barbella looked down on her teacher with a chilling twinkle in her eye. Her trademark grey top was caked with blood, likely from whoever was unfortunate enough to stand in her way, and her hands stood clawed at her sides. It was clear she came ready for the kill. Whether it was for Tao's sake, he couldn't tell.
"Somehow, I knew you'd come…" remarked the aged assassin as he shrugged himself free from the pile of dead cultists.
"Hmph!" She quirked a feral smirk in his direction. "I see you made friends! Care if I step in?"
Briefly, Tao returned a small smile of his own. "By all means…"
Casually leaping from her perch, the former street thug landed before the remainder of her sifu's combatants.
Suddenly, there was a shift in the air. It was very subtle, but Tao's heightened fighting senses could feel that the oppressive pressure of his remaining attackers had somehow been quashed. Now, a new pressure, one dwarfing that of all the remaining cultists, was bearing down in all directions. It was a feeling the lanky assassin couldn't describe, as though a whole new sixth sense had opened to him. Certainly, he could still feel the pressure before, but amidst this new pressure, it was as if a cooker lid had been clamped in place. Against this new feeling, he could barely maintain his composure.
Cackling with mad laughter, the muscled redhead swaggered up to her soon-to-be victims.
"As much as I've enjoying killing my way here…" she chuckled menacingly, "You fellas have no idea how much you fucked up when you destroyed my home!"
With a loud bellowing roar, one of the remaining six or so berserkers surged forward. Massive cleaver in hand, he raised the weapon over his head just as he was on top of his target.
"Damn it Barbella, MOVE!" Tao screamed.
Smirking nonchalantly, the fiery-haired young woman allowed the strike to connect with the base of her neck. To both her teacher and the other cultists utter amazement, the massive blade shattered on impact. As for Barbella, the crazy-eyed grappler seemed to just shrug it off as if it were nothing at all.
"R-R-Remarkable…" the younger Crane brother babbled in awe. During her time under his tutelage, both Tao and Shin had seen the girl's growing power, but to see her sheer physical toughness, her overall resistance to pain in action was something else entirely. He sincerely doubted she would feel it if a whole city were dropped on her. He'd be lying if he said she didn't scare him.
For a moment, the powerful redhead eyed her assailant with coy amusement. The now disarmed marauder seemed like a deer in the headlights.
"Is that all…?" she taunted. It was enough to snap her opponent out of his shocked reverie.
Drawing back, Barbella let loose with a merciless back-handed fist, cutting through the air just inches from her now disarmed attackers' face.
Looking on in daft confusion, the transmutated cultist stood frozen in place. His counterparts who'd been quick to join the fray seemed equally flummoxed.
"I-Is something supposed to happen…" growled one of the armored berserkers in a befuddled, guttural voice.
Barbella's face twisted in a toothy, fiendish smirk. "Wait for it…."
Suddenly, the cultist's head inexplicably popped like an over-fizzed two liter, covering anyone close to the action in a second coat of blood and brain matter.
In the face of this horrifying, esoteric, killing technique, Tao went full bug-eyed.
"W-w-when did she h-have time to d-do that!?" stammered the slack-jawed former hitman. Had he not seen it with his own eyes, he never would've believed it! Not only had his student managed to use his patented teraforce strike on a mere whim, she'd somehow managed to create a explosive superheated air pocket inside her opponent's brain cavity! But how did she initiate a delayed reaction…?!
With her first victim reduced to dog food, Barbella sped forward in a burst of hyperspeed that no normal human could hope to follow, stopping just short of her remaining opposition. Not missing a beat, she reached forward and placed her palms on the solar plexus of two of the remaining five men.
"Let's give the old man's move a test drive…"
Inexplicably, her palms began to vibrate at hypersonic speeds. Like a crocodile's death roll, muscles twitched and spasmed with the power of a bush hog beneath callused skin and subcutaneous tissue. All that remained was for her to pass her fighting ki into the site of contact.
Abruptly, before either black-armored grunt had time to react, the muscled redhead pulled her hands from the point of attack. The second she did, white lighting visibly passed through the gut area of her new victims.
Frozen in a mix of horror and agonizing pain, the two men stared helplessly as their abdominal cavities seemingly divorced themselves from the rest of their torso. Entrails and bodily fluids spilled out onto the pavement like a chunky salsa. Their agony was such that the two cultists lapsed into shock before their exposed lumbar vertebra, the one thing holding their lower and upper bodies together, snapped, allowing their heads, thoracic cavities, and arms to join their entrails on the ground.
Having had enough, the remaining four or five berserkers took to their heels.
"You fools…!" the former street criminal chuckled sinisterly, "I decide when it's over!"
Leveling a hand in the direction of the remaining berserkers, the redhead let loose with a devastating kiai wave. The ensuing percussion wave tore through the surrounding street like a tsunami! All around her, the sudden explosive expansion of her ki bowled over power lines, vending machines, magazine stands, and just about any other standing structure. Hovercars, trash cans, and anything else not bolted down were turned into deadly missiles that rained havoc on surrounding store fronts.
In all this madness, her one-time teacher Tao had only enough time to kiss the pavement, lest he too became another statistic.
"YOU'RE INSANE!" hollered the former killer from his huddled position on the ground.
The maelstrom ended almost as abruptly as it came. Coming to a stand, Tao shook himself like a dog, depositing a decent pile of ash and soot at his feet. It took a moment, but when the dust finally settled, he could vaguely make out the darkened outline of his student.
Standing amidst the carnage, Barbella took a brief moment to revel in her handiwork. The whole avenue was demolished! Hovercars, vendor carts, and just about everything else in the vicinity had been turned to slagged shrapnel. Bodies of both Majin cultists and pedestrians from the initial fighting had been reduced to pulverized hamburger, their flash-fried blood staining both the road and totaled store fronts with a greasy, sizzling blackish-brown film. A pressure crater spanned out in all directions from the former street thug's feet.
"Ya think ya got em?!" the younger Crane brother nagged in a berating tone. Cursing profusely, the lanky man tripped over what might've been a disembodied leg as he stumbled to his former student's side.
"These bleach-skinned fucks are gonna pay for wrecking my house!" Barbella seethed.
"Where is my brother?!" Tao all but demanded.
"He could be halfway to Mifan for all I care!" she remarked nonchalantly.
Toa let out a long, ragged breath he didn't know he was holding. "We cannot linger here! I must rendezvous with Mrs. Son and my other charges."
With that, the old assassin darted off, leaving his former charge standing dumbfounded.
"Mrs. Son…" Barbella hissed. "SATAN…!"
The name of her most hated adversary lingered on her tongue like a foul taste. She could feel every muscle fiber on her frame bunching together as barely constrained rage twisted within like some snarling black hydra. Blood vessels and veins zigzagged across tanned skin drawn tight over massive, feminine muscles, and her fiery ginger hair stood on end under the winds of her powerful inner flame. Bursts of crimson bioluminescence flashed all around her as forks of red electrical discharge grounded off the ruins of the surrounding avenue. Soon, the ground began to shake and buckle under the strain of her terrifying fighting ki as her battle aura flared out, wrenching rocks, underground cable lines, and reinforced concrete out of the hard packed ground and into the air.
Since her humiliating defeat at Videl's hands, Barbella recommitted her every waking moment to getting back what was rightfully hers. With help from a somewhat weary Crane Hermit, she spent the last week or so training diligently, fueled by her absolute loathing for Satan City's longtime heroine. She would never give up! One way or another, she would make a comeback! She'd put little Miss Satan right back where she belonged…, Six feet under!
The next street over, things were going about as well for Bridled Fury and Brinner as they were on Videl's end. Bolstered by hoverbike air support, the enemy hordes rushed forward in haphazard waves of black iron and other remorseless metal, killing all in their path and generally making a mess of things. Being the heavy hitter on their front, it fell on Goku's 'discovery' Fury, to take it to these vile heathens! Needless to say, his massive size, brute strength, and overall lack of finesse made him far less gentle than he needed to be, and what was supposed to be a rescue operation turned into a bloody battle of attrition.
It was pure pandemonium! As if he were a rampaging elephant, amidst throngs of screaming, fleeing pedestrians, the armored giant stomped, tore, and clobbered his way through dozens of faceless Majins. Being well past the wall of humanity, Goku's oversized student soldiered through hails of weapons fire as if it were a mild annoyance. It was all a blur, just background noise for this 7 ½ foot blond-locked berserker.
Amidst all this gory mayhem, there was the last unified front of law enforcement in the downtown area. They were the wild cards in this whole fiasco! Firmly dug in behind a makeshift barricade on the opposite end of the avenue, these police officers had been rallied from other precincts across the city to stage one last go at retaking the historic downtown district from the Majin hordes. From behind their hastily erected wall of capsule cars, fire trucks, and freightliners, Satan City's finest fired volleys of automatic weapons fire, tear gas, and whatever other weapons they had at the armies of darkness. They were outgunned, outmanned, and out-maneuvered, but what they lacked in resources and manpower, they made up for with experience and proficiency.
"EAT SHIT AND DIE YOU FUCKERS!" screamed one policeman as he unloaded a pump shotgun into the face of one oncoming cultist.
"I NEED AMMO!" cried another.
"We need to provide cover fire for that big fella!" an older officer instructed.
"I don't think he needs it…" remarked the one next to him.
Between the two opposing sides, Fury brought his slow, heaving might to bear. The ground shook under his foot falls. Cars and other free standing objects were thrown like missiles into the onrushing melee of dull-robed fanatics, killing dozens by way of sheer physical trauma. Those that lived, found themselves scattered like dust bunnies in an attic.
"FALL BACK!" wailed one unlucky cultist just before he was knocked to pieces with an uprooted telephone pole.
"SHOOT HIM! GOD DAMN IT, SHOOT THAT BIG FUCKER!" barked a sub-commander.
Like biplanes circling King Kong in the old movies, the Majin cult's assortment of light hovercraft made low altitude strafing runs around the hulking behemoth. With every pass, these techno-terrors would unleash holy hell on the streets below, catching both their own and civilians in the crossfire in their haphazard attempts at scoring pay dirt on the Ox King-sized brute.
Fury wasn't taking this lying down! Brandishing a powerline like a giant club, the armored Goliath took wide swings at the enemy's air support, forcing the makeshift air force to weave and dive around his vicious horizontal strikes. One hover bike came at it a little too low, and was promptly batted like a softball, sending the twisted, burning remains of both it and the unlucky pilot careening down the opposing street in a blazing crash of jet fuel and roasted flesh.
While Fury and the police took care of business, Brinner did what he did best. He hid…
"This is insane…" rasped the terrified Satan alumni. When the shit hit the fan, the young man jumped down the nearest manhole he could find. There's no way he was putting his safety on the line, rent money or no rent money. Now if only he could keep all these survivors from crowding him...
"What's goin on up there?!" asked one pedestrian who had managed to slip into the sewers with him. Behind him, a fairly large crowd of survivors hunkered down out of sight.
"Oh… I hope they don't come down here!" another fretted aloud.
"Hey shut-up! They'll hear us…!" shushed yet another.
Back on the surface, Bridled Fury's improvised game of Whack-a-Mole continued, and the bodies of the slain were quickly piling up. Still, like waves of black steel, his fanatical enemies kept on the pressure only to crash against him before they were again sent hurling back. It wasn't as fluid or refined as anything done by Videl or Tao, but the sheer savagery by which the armored giant meted out punishment was the kind of stuff one read about in history books.
Given the nature of how Fury acquired his strength, his brutish 'tactics' were to be expected. With him, there was no deeper understanding of the martial arts… no lifetime of dedication to the study of esoteric philosophy. It was all size, weight, and blunt force. Only by sheer accident did he reinvent a time-proven training method that allowed him to surpass human limitations. Well, that and a few weeks spent in his work shed. If it hadn't been for that one flash of insight and his subsequent pursuit of an idea, he wouldn't have broken the wall of humanity. He wouldn't have been drafted by that Son Goku guy! He wouldn't be fighting here and now like some throwback gladiator to the days of the Roman Colosseum.
Brandishing an uprooted powerline in one hand and holding a random Majin grunt by the throat with the other, Goku's behemoth charged forward. Holding said cultist in an outstretched grip, he indented the unfortunate minion face-first into the side of a parked moving van. The way the victim of his assault was pressed into the metal siding looked almost like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
In the face of this overwhelming display of raw power, the hordes of Majin followers stopped in their tracks.
Their hesitance didn't go amiss by Fury. Skulking up to these throngs of darkness, the armored titan began to taunt them.
"WHO ELSE WANTS SOME?!" he demanded, his steely glare flitting from one end of the mob to the other. "Anyone?! Come on! I thought you all wanted this!"
"I wouldn't pat myself on the back if I were you!" came a gruff, booming voice.
Like a curtain, the crowd of marauders parted. From them stepped a hulking giant of a man. Stamped on his forehead was the calligraphic 'M' worn by the rest of the Order, but that was where the similarities ended. Dressed in matching tight-fitting wrestling trunks and frilly, knee high purple boots, he was a balding fella whose face sported a handlebar mustache reminiscent of the iconic one showcased by Mr. Satan. Slung over one shoulder was an up-scaled pickaxe drenched in blood.
Coming face to face with the mysterious stranger, it dawned on Goku's student that this muscled giant was as big and imposing as himself. He also carried himself with an air of confidence that juxtaposed with the desperate disposition of the others he'd fought thus far.
"The real battle is only beginning…" the newcomer guffawed.
Elsewhere, Caroni and Pirowski were busy leading a batch of civilians to safety. With the Majin's attack effectively paralyzing the city, the Orange Star Subway Terminal was their only real option. Thankfully, with so many of the cult's ground-pounders kept bottled up by the heavy hitters, the longtime Satan alumni had an easy time with their one job.
"Come on folks! Just a bit further…!" Caroni called out to his wards as he led them down a broken escalator. In his arms, he carried a wounded old man who was receiving a blood transfusion on the go. Bringing up his rear was a field medic, likely from Orange Star General, who administered the procedure as they walked.
To his left, Pirowski led a blond-haired little girl by the hand. The hefty former pupil of Mr. Satan wore a pale, grave look on his face that spoke volumes of what he'd seen on the streets above. He may not have done much in the way of fighting, but it was hard not being affected by the sight of so much death.
"Eh…, Comrade Caroni…" began the hulking martial artist, breaking the silence.
"Maybe we get medal for this, eh?" joked the hulking grappler, his heavily accented voice carrying a hint of forced optimism. Though it was meant to lighten the mood, his sloppy attempt at brevity earned him incredulous looks from both his companion and their charges.
"Pfft! Speak for yourself!" Caroni responded. The blond show fighter paused in his step as the tunnel lights briefly flickered. There then came a shallow tremor followed by a dull booming sound, the tell-tale sign of a mortar round or some other powerful ordinance detonating on the surface. "As soon as we get these people underground, I'm gonna let Videl have this mess. I didn't sign on to get killed!"
Right there, Pirowski came to a stop, prompting their entire rescue party to do the same.
"What's wrong?" Caroni asked in a puzzled tone.
A long pregnant silence ensued as the massive pro fighter dwelled on the horrors he'd seen. He thought of all the people dying on the surface. He thought of his promise to help fight when the time came. More importantly, he thought of his cowardice, his own ineptitude in the face of adversity. First, it was at the Cell Games, and now, like his former master, he too ran like a yellow-bellied rat.
"This makes us no better than 'He who shall not be named,' don't you think?"
Caroni couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Are you listening to yourself? We can't go back there!"
"But we agree to help!" his friend protested. "People are dying...!"
"We've done enough!" returned the blond. Missing a step, the former #1 student of the Satan Dojo had to steady himself lest both he and the old man took a trip down the stairs. "After this, I'm getting the hell out of here…"
Upon reaching their destination, the two show fighters were taken off guard by a flurry of bright flashes.
"Vuat the…?!" Pirowski sputtered, shielding his eyes against the sudden illumination.
All around them journalists swarmed like locusts. And why wouldn't they? With the whole city in the grip of upheaval, it only made sense that their adoring paparazzi would be clamoring for the scoop of the century, albeit from a place of relative safety.
Caroni snorted derisively. "Figures…"
"Caroni!" screamed one reporter trying to be heard over her colleagues, "Can you shed some light on who's attacking the city?! The people have a right to know!"
"Where's the Great Saiyaman?" came a second.
"Pirowski! Pirowski! Where is Mr. Satan?!" another all but demanded as he practically shoved his mic into the hefty circuit fighter's face. The journalist in question was affiliated with ZTV, likely a coworker of Jimmy Firecracker.
"Who are these terrorists?! What do they want?!"
"I-I-I don't…" Caroni nervously stammered. At most of their press conferences, Mrs. Pizza handled the bottom feeders. It wasn't that he was out of his element, as the occasional press ambush was a given for a celebrity of his stature. He was just too overwhelmed by everything that was happening.
"Why aren't you out there fighting?!"
His mind going blank, Caroni visibly paled. That was the one question he wasn't prepared to answer. Here is where the pros and cons of having his career so closely tied to Mark Satan's came into play. What was he supposed to say? That he, the great and beautiful Caroni, pussed out like a bitch?! He'd be a laughing stock to the entire professional fighting circuit! His career and all the awesome perks that came with it would be gone. Videl's discrediting following her defeat at the last World Tournament would be nothing compared to what the press corps would do to him and Piro. At least her fall from grace wasn't televised! He had to think up a convincing lie, and he had to be quick.
"I-I-I…well… err…ya see…" he fumbled miserably.
Eying the blond fighter expectantly, the gaggle of reporters closed in inch by inch. The pressure in the air was palpable. Before the former top student of Mr. Satan could say anything however, his long-time partner piped up.
"We were just on way back out," Pirowski answered without hesitation.
'Pirowski, you idiot!' Inwardly,Caroni was horrified. This was their last chance to get out of this mess without becoming a statistic, and what does Pirowski do?! He has a change of heart at the worst possible time! Or perhaps the big guy was trying to put some distance between themselves and their hangers-on?
'This could work!' A small smile quirked its' way onto the blonde's pretty face. With any luck, the two of them could slip off and hide somewhere else without anyone noticing. Oh, he could kiss Pirowski!
"Y-Yeah! We're gonna head right back out there, and show those murderous thugs what-for!" he boasted in a way that sounded all too similar to a certain former master of his. Maybe he should've went into public speaking? "I, the fabulous Caroni, vow to never rest until this city is back in the hands of the people!"
The ensuing cheers that erupted from both the reporters and whoever they'd managed to rescue from the fighting aboveground sent almost as many shockwaves through their subterranean sanctuary as the carnage outside. Cheers of "SATAN! SATAN!" filled the subway terminal.
Pirowski rolled his eyes at his longtime partner's antics. Had he himself not fallen for Mr. Satan's act, Pirowski would've been surprised at just how easily the paparazzi were buying Caroni's brave front. Seriously! How could they not see Caroni was playing them? Weak journalism at it's finest…
"Come!" he urged, yanking Caroni by the arm.
"WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! What about my close-up!?" whined the blond fighter, his friend dragging him away kicking and screeching.
It wasn't until they were back on street level that Pirowski finally released his long-time associate, albeit not as gently as Caroni would like.
Stumbling forward from his hefty friend's powerful grip, Caroni took a moment to regain his dignity.
"That was some slick shit you pulled back there!" he remarked in a shushed, congratulatory tone. "Now let's get out of here while the getting's good!"
"No." came Pirowski's gruff, clipped reply.
Caroni thought he'd heard wrong. "Beggin your pardon?"
"I will stay and fight…" the hulking Cossack answered resolutely.
The smaller of Mark's former students simply couldn't believe what his buddy was saying. "Are you fuckin mental?! I don't wanna be a martyr!"
"We promised Videl."
"Promises nothing!" griped the golden-locked grappler, "She didn't say anything about a war zone!"
Pirowski glowered down at his old tag-team partner with a reproving leer, one that Caroni was quick to match. Had it not been for the sound of bombs and automatic fire ringing out over the surrounding town, their standoff would've been marked with a profound silence. Finally, it was Pirowski who spoke…
"Why did you become fighter?"
"Piro, this isn't the ti-" Caroni started.
"WHY?!" the massive Slav demanded hotly, cutting him off.
Getting up in Pirowski's face, Caroni in turn unloaded on his old friend. "Because I wanted to follow in Mark Satan's footsteps! That's why! I wanted to be as great as him!"
Stunned into silence, Pirowski stepped back from his exasperated compadre.
"HE FUCKIN LIED TO US!" Caroni screamed, his face flush with rage. Crossing his arms, the Fabioesque fighter turned away from his fellow Satan alumni. "We wasted so many years chasing a lie! He was my hero! He was like a father to us!"
"Why did we even agree to this…?" Caroni hissed between clenched teeth. "Why the hell are we even here?!"
It was then that Caroni felt a heavy hand settle on his shoulder.
Turning, the smaller celebrity was met with an unsettling sight. Fixing him with a stare that could melt through lead, his old partner's demeanor was one of stone.
"Instead of crying, why not be better than him?" asked the Cossack in a calm tone that juxtaposed with his all-too-serious expression.
"Look around, Piro!" Caroni screamed, motioning to the surrounding devastation left by the Majin cult, "Do you wanna end up like them?! Don't go noble on me, man!"
Through the darkness, the larger fighter gazed at the aftermath of the cult's attack. It was like a scene straight out of the action movies he and Caroni had starred in.
Only… this was no movie. There were no directors. No make-up artists. No stage props... Right there, for the first time, the massive show fighter came to understand what Videl and Gohan were fighting for. Amidst the blast craters, totaled hover cars, and bombed out store fronts lay the twisted and burned remains of unlucky souls, some of whom he probably knew, who had been unable to flee the carnage. The area was ripe with the putrid stench of scorched flesh. Off in the distance, he could even see the telltale flashes of Videl's own battle against the city's attackers.
There could be no doubt. There was no turning back. All he had to do was take this final step and his inner chains would be broken. The hefty man didn't understand it so much as he felt it. Here he stood at the crossroads to something that would change everything… forever. This was his Rubicon!
Swallowing hard, Pirowski turned back to his old friend. "I go to fight!"
Caroni massaged his temples in agitation. "Oh my God! This can't be happening…"
"Join me or no Mistro Caroni, I go now!" the massive Cossack declared.
And without another word, the hefty Satan alumni trudged off, leaving his long-time associate utterly gob-smacked.
"Am I the only sane person left?!" the blond fighter asked himself aloud. The man was so stunned by his old buddy's complete U-turn that he failed to notice he was no longer alone.
"Aren't you gonna go after him?"
Jerking around, the blond grappler was shocked to find that some of the papparazi from the subway terminal had snuck up on him.
All Caroni could do was snarl a quick "SHIT!" before trailing off after his friend.
Guest#1: Do tell! How is Videl a scumbag in this story? She's only doing what she already has a history of doing in the anime. She's not above using blackmail. She was raised getting everything she wanted from her father, so of course she's gonna act more than a little spoiled and self-centered. Hell, a lot of the female characters from Dragonball share this trait. Bulma was raised with a silver spoon in her mouth, and Chi Chi is a princess who didn't know how to take no for an answer. I'm trying to portray characters in a more realistic light based on how they were presented in the franchise, so they're gonna have very real flaws. It's a given.
Adam: Yeah, I still update this story. I have no intention of abandoning my favorite side project or the folks like you who give me the moral support I need to keep writing. You guys are awesome!
Guest #2: Thanks! I really appreciate it.
Guest #3: Oh, I intend to write some pretty intense lemons in future chapters. I'm just having issues trying to crank out the rest of the current arc. It's definitely slowed down my updates to the point where I'm lucky if I can find the enthusiasm to write a new chapter every three months.
The Professor: Actually, I was going by what Tien stated back in the original Dragonball during his fight with Mercenary Toa in the 23rd World Tournament preliminaries. During this match, Tien flatly stated that he never really joined the Turtle School, and I'm assuming that Choatzu simply followed him. For this reason, Videl and Mr. Satan would be Roshi's sixth and seventh students. That's right! I remember the little stuff.
Author's notes: Well, I'm back… I hope. I'm deeply sorry for the long hiatus, but between moving, getting hospitalized with a bad shoulder injury, and going on meds for my mental issues, there was a lot of adjusting I had to do over the past year. This chapter was also a real mess to write. For a long while, I struggled with trying to make this chapter work. I really wanted to showcase the struggles of the other lesser characters, particularly the dynamics that exist between Caroni and Pirowski. Seeing how these tertiary characters were the closest students of Mr. Satan, at least after Videl, I wanted to give them a little spotlight. Truthfully, I'm surprised these two goofballs aren't used more often in ViHan fictions if for no other reason than their proximity to Mark. The two have a lot of potential for added drama and comic relief, so their lack of use is a real head-scratcher.