A/N: This story is being revised/edited. Chapters will change/shrink in the next weeks!
[ Against all odds ]
CHAPTER ONE: FAREWELL
Ruins, desolation, relentless despair. Death.
Once upon a time, this had been a lush, wonderful city bustling with life. A technological utopia, where many of his childhood memories had flourished. Most of his friends had lived here once upon a time.
Just as many had fallen within this forsaken place.
Now the rubble of what used to be West City only served as a constant reminder of his absolute failure to stop them in time. A monument to his unforgivable incompetence. This time there was no going back or second chances. No Dragon Balls to undo the damage. This was his reality.
In the end, he had triumphed over the despicable androids, but the price was steep and his victory had come far too late. It broke his spirit beyond measure, and even after all these years of struggles and desperate survival, he had found himself sinking into new lows. The loss of Trunks and Bulma hit him hard, and it had pushed him beyond his limits-both mental and physical.
Empowered by this newfound rage and a deep well of raw power, he had brutalized the androids swiftly-far quicker than what they deserved-and without mercy. Not even ashes remained of the sadistic machinations of Dr. Gero.
Peering into the remains of a partially broken mirror in the lab, the reflection of a tired, frazzled young man stared right back. The faded orange gi was torn in places, the shredded threads he had stitched back over and over barely holding together in some spots. One of the last pieces of his past he had refused to let go of. Onyx eyes dull, sunken and exhausted, his typically short spiky hair had grown longer and more ragged in the last few years. It was nowhere as long as his late father's wild style but it was nearly there.
If he had still been alive they could have been almost mistaken for doppelgangers. Almost.
He frowned, his eyes focusing in yet another permanent reminder of the source of this nightmare and his stacking losses. 'If you ignored all these scars, maybe we'd be more alike.'
Truly, he missed the old days when he could run wild and free in Mount Paozu with his mother and father. He was taken far too early. To think a heart virus could take out the most pure-hearted and powerful man on this planet. Even now it seemed preposterous, yet it happened.
He often wondered how everything would have turned out if his father had survived. That indomitable will of his allowed him to persevere through the darkest of days, his incredible luck and innate instincts ensuring he'd always somehow persevere against all odds. For so many years Gohan had rejected the warrior spirit dwelling within him, instead choosing to follow the pacifistic, scholarly path his mother had wanted for him. A foolish endeavor, that was.
Now it mattered little. There was no future.
Every loss made him focus further in honing his skills and raw power, only wishing to one day perhaps be even a shadow of the man his great father had been.
Pain surged through his chest again, the tightness squeezing the breath out of him. Another casualty surfaced in his mind. Piccolo. Gritting his teeth, he slammed his fist against the mirror, crushing it with absurd ease. The Namekian's visage and final moments resurfaced into his mind like a fresh wound...
– o –
"Goh-Gohan. R-run. Now!" Piccolo tried his best to warn him, but it came out as strained, gurgling sputters through his bloodied, bruised lips.
At the very last moment, the Namekian had set off yet another clever distraction for the androids, but it came at a terrible price. His sacrifice had sent the monsters into a wild and confused frenzy, the twin's rather short fuse working against them as he called upon most of his remaining ki to set off a few explosions a fair distance away from their position. Blinded by their bloodlust and child-like curiosity to seek the loudest, brightest thing around, the androids shot towards the commotion, assuming their prey had fled there. A temporary distraction at best, but it was enough.
If Gohan could make it, that was all that mattered.
Gohan tried his best to comfort Piccolo in his arms, his smaller body making it somewhat difficult to cradle his dying friend's abnormally wide frame. Guilt rocked his frazzled mind, wishing he had been able to do something-anything-to prevent this. How many times had Mr. Piccolo jumped in his defense without a second thought or regard for his well being, all because he wasn't strong enough?
Too many times.
"I'm so sorry, Piccolo." Teary eyes roamed down to his mentor's limbs to survey the damage, his weeping intensifying in the process; his left arm had been severed at the elbow joint, muscles, ragged tissue hanging limply from the brutal wound site. On his lower body, where his right leg had once been there was just a crushed, ripped nub at the kneecap. A layer of small clots and scar tissue had developed around the outer edges of the wound, but it was far too obvious the trauma was beyond his regenerative capabilities now.
Vital fluids poured rhythmically out of the severed arteries in his extremities with each ever-slowing heartbeat, his body unable to even temporarily constrict his blood vessels to curb the massive blood loss.
Gohan had not been initially involved in this battle and had arrived in the midst of it all, by which time the fatal damage had been already dealt. Deep down, knowing the android's brutality, he was certain Android 17 had been the culprit. While 18 was ruthless, she hated the idea of blood tainting her clothes. Not so much for her male counterpart; he truly enjoyed torturing others to the point he'd rip a victim limb by limb for his own sick amusement!
Bloody spittle erupted from Piccolo's mouth with renewed vigor, his remaining clawed fingers grasping into Gohan's gi weakly as he tried to speak again. "R-un, y-you foolish boy! Go...go now!"
Staring up into the sky, the Namekian's eyes were unfocused, his breathing straining further as he began to choke on his own fluids. Wet, wheezing sounds drew Gohan's attention back to the ominous dark stain spreading through the remains of his tattered gi; a broken wail escaped the teenager as his anguish reached a new high. So much blood was pooling out of the atrocious gap in his chest. Too many internal organs were either fatally damaged or downright vaporized by 17's piercing blast as it effortlessly tore clean right through his torso.
A shot he took well aware of what it could do to either of them, meant to end Gohan's life mere seconds ago. Nothing but a Senzu bean would be able to save him now.
All young Gohan could do was wail in grief as the imminence of his mentor's passing dawned on him, the sounds of explosions growing in the distance and nearing. "Mister Piccolo...please don't go." He pleaded, holding the fading Namekian tighter against him. He only hoped he could bring some sense of comfort and solace to his final moments of life before he was forced to flee.
Catching on to the fact they had been fooled, the androids began to bombard their surroundings with reckless abandon, the overbearing ki detonations gouging deep craters wherever they impacted. They were done playing games and now they just wanted to completely annihilate the two largest threats to their carefree, genocidal adventures.
Even at this distance, Gohan could feel the approaching shockwaves. With his adrenaline spiking further, the heart-wrenching pain worsened as he struggled with his fight or flight response and his desire to stay with his dying friend. He could now hear their laughter as they made their way back to their latest murder.
Then, Piccolo let out one last breath...and he was gone.
Those were his mentor's last torturous moments in this dreadful world, and with his passing, Gohan lost what little remained of his sense of normality and family. Even with Trunks and Bulma around, Piccolo's death left a void within him that hurt as deeply as the loss of his parents at the start of this accursed android fiasco.
Running out of time, he had fled on foot to mask his energy and movements, unsure of their abilities to track or sense ki.
Hours later he had returned to recover Piccolo's body for a proper burial.
They anticipated this and had other wicked plans. Cruel as ever, they made sure nothing remained of his body, only leaving a few burnt shreds of his once white cape rammed against a metal rebar where his body once rested, billowing in the putrid winds of this dead city.
That was the last straw.
– o –
Gohan blinked away the tears flowing freely down his cheeks. Every time the memories replayed in his mind he couldn't help but think of potential scenarios where his death could have been avoided. Same with Trunk's and Bulma's. A vicious cycle of memories haunting him, throwing his failures right back at him, that's what this hell was. He had nothing left here but fading memories, most of the freshest ones purely made out of overwhelming loneliness, pain, and a sense of loss.
With every passing day, the once rare suicidal whispers nagging at him became louder and more frequent. He refused to heed the call, focusing all of his energy and pain into relentless training.
After he had given the Briefs a proper burial next to Piccolo's symbolic grave site, the demi-Saiyan lost himself in the calling deep in his blood longing for retribution and absolution. He trained non-stop in the last partially functional Gravity Chamber previously owned by Vegeta, with Bulma being kind enough to maintain it in workable conditions. Sitting in the reinforced underground labs at a depth the androids would have a hard time detecting, he pushed himself to his very limits.
A temporary solution to a permanent problem.
Once the Gravity Room had ceased to function with Bulma's untimely passing, it had all slowly gone down a slippery slope of misery and depression. Tenuous training had helped him cope with the dark thoughts, but at best it just made it all bearable; for those demons lived within his mind, patiently waiting for him to give in to the eternal calling of the void.
Sparing another downcast glance around the dim and crumbling sub-level in one of Bulma's laboratories, Gohan let out a sigh of resignation, his red eyes still wet with tears. Only a few emergency lights remained active now, the majority either dead or flickering on and off. An apt physical reflection of his own decaying psyche.
Every now and then he could almost see a ghostly afterimage of his friends, and with those came the countless happy memories of days past that would never return. Those beautiful flashbacks were often a curse, for they contrasted deeply against the absolute and eerie silence that permeated the devastated city with unrelenting dread, even after the androids were long gone.
He loathed venturing outside. At one point he had buried as many of the fallen as he could, but even that became an overwhelming task, especially when it came to the children. It was just too much, and without someone to talk to he felt as if he was losing his sanity little by little. The world was pure, living negativity and death incarnate. He could not tolerate it any longer.
It was better this way. The world would flourish, the earth would heal and the survivors would rebuild. Perhaps one day in the far future, this world would return to its former glory.
"No more." Grim resolve marred his features as he set his sights on the beeping equipment nearby. With that, the last Saiyan in the world set his plan into motion.
Carefully stepping through fallen debris and damaged equipment, he collected the iridescent canister that contained the only reserves of the rare resource. Opening the access panel by the side of the Capsule ship, he carefully slid it into the receiving end of the ship's innards. A twisting motion locked it into place, internal motors shifting and transporting it into the very core of the Chronal Accelerator. Fluorescent tendrils of aquamarine light flowed upwards into the widening hull of the ship upon making contact with the powerful source of energy.
The anxiety surging within him urged him to move faster. He wasted little time jumping into the cockpit, snapping the body harness across his torso.
Yet again he noted that one of the yellow engines had a fading model number with the Capsule Corp. logo right below it marking it as a prototype in progress. Bulma had scribbled the word 'HOPE!' above it, and seeing her handwriting made his heart hurt again. She had often discussed the possibility of altering the events that lead to this apocalyptic future, their conversations often wandering long into the night. She had never disclosed the fact she had been so close to a successful test flight, and it was a fateful coincidence he had stumbled upon it further down in the labs as he scavenged for supplies before the level had fully collapsed.
Gohan shook his head, anger simmering with the recurring hesitation. This unintentional dawdling and reminiscing had gone for long enough! Before proceeding, he instinctively double checked his handiwork. It held an assortment of hardware he put together to finish the ship's interface. Grasping the wiring running into the guts of the ship, he nodded in satisfaction once the locking clamps clicked loudly. The patchwork wasn't the best, but then again his resources were awfully limited.
'Relax. Everything should work fine. Reassuring thoughts, Gohan!' At the very worst, it should be marginally functional. One thing was certain—if his calculations were correct and this was a success, it would be a very risky one-way trip unless he found another power source. A concern for later and if he survived this ordeal.
Two hissing sounds ensued from the engaging motors that sealed the cockpit's dome into place. Bursts of air escaped the vents surrounding the cabin as it was pressurized. A myriad of lights came to life throughout the whole cockpit, a pre-flight warm-up well underway.
Strings of information lit up the larger screens after diagnostic self-tests ran successfully.
Life support-active. Secondary energy core-online. Propulsion-active. Shield Generator-active.
Warning! Chronal Energy supply is limited. Recharge recommended before attempting travel. Potential coordinates may be beyond energy supply range.
An expected concern, but it didn't matter now.
WARNING! Current vessel condition poses an extreme hazard for travel. Initialize jump anyway?
He could feel the heat building in the ship's guts beneath him as it reached its optimal output. His hand hovered over the haptic monitor displaying the jump command in flashing bold letters, his heartbeat accelerating with a sudden burst of adrenaline.
Unconsciously, his eyes went up to face the somber surroundings again. Yet another set of lights flickered off permanently.
There was a significant likeliness the machine would not work. This kind of travel was uncharted territory. Even with Bulma's genius, this facet of technology had never been previously experimented on or attempted successfully.
He'd take the risk.
Anything of potential value he gathered had been thrown in a tough brown backpack, sitting by his feet. Capsulized tools, diagnostic equipment, a few boxes worths of unmarked capsules, and even the dead Gravity Chamber. The coordinates were stuck as randomized, the system unable to accurately accept input or properly calibrate without Capsule Corp's former large processing power and satellites.
Fingers trembling, he still found the conviction he needed to push the button. "I'm sorry, everyone...I must do this." He whispered to himself with solemn finality, lips set into a tight line.
Too late to turn back now. The shield generator spooled up first, shimmering technicolor particles enveloping the hull of the small vessel with a nigh-impenetrable defense. Gohan tightened the harness across his body further, his grim, resolute expression fading as it mixed with a degree of anxiety...and the faintest glimmer of hope.
With the exotic Chronal energy pulsating below the cockpit much louder now, the timeship began to produce a roaring hum that started to shake its brittle surroundings apart. The six landing prongs receded into a slimmer position by the chassis as the ship gently lifted off and levitated a good five feet from the lab's damaged flooring, the antigravity engines on each nacelle maintaining it aloft.
White sparks erupted from its metallic frame, the tooth-like protrusions surrounding the cockpit base starting to spin rapidly until they became a mere blur. Takeoff caution alarms sounded within the cockpit, the vibrations caused by the energy buildup making it feel as if the ship was going to shake itself apart. The lab grew fuzzy through the cockpit window, glowing erratically with bright flashes as the surge in power intensified until it reached its absolute peak.
"Come on, come on!" He urged, growing worried as the energy barrier began to spark as it got battered by falling debris.
The emergency lighting in the lab flickered in unison multiple times, struggling against the harsh effects of Chronal decay. Pushed beyond its limits, the strained electrical grid blew out in a shower of sparks, plunging everything into permanent, total darkness.
A painfully high pitched electronic shriek made itself known, followed by what sounded like deeply sonorous, bone-jarring thunder. Both sounds intertwined and amplified even further, the sharp pain rattling through Gohan's skull and spine, eliciting a miserable hiss from him. It felt as if both androids had smashed a fist right against the back of his neck. Even covering his ears did little to dull the ache, the noise literally conducting itself through his flesh and bones, drilling right into his every sense and nerve ending mercilessly.
Grabbing onto his chest harness tight enough to turn his knuckles white, he closed his eyes, trying his best to block the pain out with meditative breathing. It reached a crescendo, and his breathing technique did little as the deafening cacophony threatened to rob him of his consciousness through sheer sensory over-stimulation.
Then, he felt an unnerving chill run down his spine as his body began to experience the discombobulating effects of forces beyond his understanding pulling and tugging at his very being. He let out a pained howl, teeth sinking into his lips hard enough to draw blood as he fought with every fiber of his being to remain conscious.
Timed with the climaxing bundle of dreadful sounds, a vantablack event horizon forcefully tore a gash through reality itself as a tiny but quickly developing speck. Its rim crackled in a myriad of alluring colors, widening alarmingly fast to form and shape itself around the craft for a brief moment. A tenth of a second passed before lightning as bright as the sun itself surged forth from every inch of the timeship, its outline stretching upwards as the onset of time dilation took place, zapping the vessel into non-existence with an ear-splitting sonic boom powerful enough to pulverize a small mountain.
Unable to resist the abnormal tear in space-time and the subsequent expansive wave of energy, what remained of the weakened Capsule Corporation building exploded into a small brilliant ball of fire as its superstructure flash-melted away.
Around the space-time aberration, spider web-like cracks shot outwards, its edges flickering dangerously around the void as it spaghettified and de-atomized its surroundings, fighting to spread further as most black holes inevitably tried to do. Unfortunately for it and all of its unnaturally created brethren, the indomitable forces behind the universe itself denied it of this opportunity with all of their might. Becoming unstable now that its creator had also departed, the void let out a hissing cry of defeat, finally dispersing and folding into itself with the same amount of force that was originally needed for its creation.
In the blink of an eye, the explosion twisted itself into a crushing implosion, its sudden departure unleashing an extreme vacuum in its place as real-time resumed. The once imposing building and all of its burning sub-levels collapsed into themselves, the minuscule singularity crushing everything in a five-block radius with a blooming mushroom cloud. Once the rubble settled, it became one with the desolate, burning cityscape and ruins surrounding it, leaving only a large crater where it once stood.
An unremarkable crater that could be easily mistaken for the many others left in the wake of the android wars in this dying, desolate world.
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, buried deep in a mountain range no living being knew about, a secret underground laboratory came to life.
A large supercomputer beeped madly for the first time in many years, working furiously upon detecting this surge of exotic particles. It was the chance of a lifetime now that all other options had failed with secondary power sources for its precious project's completion nearly depleted. The second model would suffice as a resource for its advancement. Any further development would be beyond the system's reach or influence.
Rife with advanced technology, the servo machines within it set to work, re-activating two green pods and placing them within a thickly shielded stasis field transport. Looming above the pod was a massive device easily dwarfing the contents of the room, inactive energy coils running down its length, parts of it hollow or incomplete.
Desperate with purpose, the system cannibalized itself, nanobots hastily installing and soldering a variety of parts into the tool to repurpose it as fast as it could; the window of opportunity was dwindling, the scar was closing too quickly. Ready with seconds to spare and thrumming with the collective power of the base's damaged energy reserves, the device's pronged end shot a needle-thick string of light into a nanoscopic point just beyond the transport.
Typically, this would have produced undesirable if somewhat impressive results, ending only with a magnificent blast capable of drilling through a few hundred meters of steel or rock. On an average day, the forces holding together the fabric of reality itself were highly resilient to external stimuli and would have shrugged this puny attempt at an intrusion.
However, at this very moment, the shrinking remains of a large fissure were stitching themselves together, with the small inner portions resembling scar tissue still relatively unstable, paper thin and pliable. This exploitable vulnerability was unlikely to happen ever again. If the machine had an emotional matrix, it would have thanked the deities and the other unknown, much larger force generating the anomaly for providing it with the opening to do what it was built to do.
Striking against the strained, weakened fabric of the universe, the piercing beam of energy hit the healing tear with unrelenting ferocity. First, it wavered, buckling inwards until it split wide open. Lightning and obsidian death surged outwards, the very foundations of the cave shuddering as they began to lose their structural integrity.
It had to finish its mission quickly. The opening wouldn't last more than a few seconds, for the energy required to maintain it was nearly exerted. Seconds from now, the facility would plunge into total power failure. Two pneumatic arms moved the vessel towards the rupture, bringing its outermost edge to touch the event horizon's maw.
In a flash, it was gone.
As it had happened to the previous but much larger breach, the resulting feedback upon its collapse ravaged the secret base. The large mountain coughed up a copious amount of crust and dirt from the destroyed cave's once-secret, sealed opening, followed by the vacuum-like implosion that crushed it all beneath millions upon millions of tons of rocks. The artificial intelligence within faded away instantly, but in its final milliseconds of digital life, it was able to finally come to peace after completing its master's dreams...
Time and space.
The intricacies and wonders behind both concepts have always been a subject of great debate and speculation among all sentient beings throughout the ages. Truly, the two were convoluted affairs most mortals couldn't even begin to comprehend beyond their most basic facets; their primordial, far-reaching roots intertwined as one, spreading deep into the very foundations of reality itself. Just as those forces were all-powerful and unyielding, in some cases, they needed to be malleable, for they had the need to accommodate and adapt to the inherent, incessant evolving chaos that existed within the infinite universes it harbored.
Being at the epicenter of the entirety of creation, they were and would always remain some of the biggest sources of inspiration for many great works of literary and filmographic fiction. Their infinite breadth and virtually endless potential begged to be transcribed into the blank pages of an interminable book; every single story awaiting restlessly for a creative soul to breathe life into them.
Even if a million writers filled a billion libraries' worth of space with said stories, it would still never be enough to tell them all. Not by a large margin. Some said that for every riveting tale told, hundreds more would remain unsung and forgotten, eventually becoming mere whispers and faded memories that would inevitably end lost to the cruel, unstoppable winds of time.
It was due to the intrinsic nature of it all that in the end, with so many great minds at work, that you'd likely find some of these tales were partially or fully based on stories and events that had truly taken place. Truthfully, it was a near certainty that at least half of them were based on true events that transpired once upon a time, with some of them even unfolding now.
Somewhere out there in the vast cosmos, one of the many untold and forgotten stories was coming to life. . .
It was a temporary stalemate, only lasting the briefest of moments. Even with all of the energy already thrown against it, the ship continued to struggle in its attempts to pierce the pliable and very resilient final barrier standing between itself and the developing, wormhole. Those defiant forces were subjected to a final burst of Chronal particles that tore it apart, the few distended threads still holding it all together snapping apart like a frail twig.
A deep wound exploded out and into the singularity, and with the obstruction out of the way, the pull of the void surged forth to grasp everything around it with unrivaled fury, especially focusing on that which had forcefully roused it into being.
One moment the ship was there, and the next, it simply ceased to be. Wisps of elongated, disassembled matter faded into nothing, as everything in the area—including light—was swallowed by the eternal penumbra within the ravenous wormhole. Erupting out of the other side shaped like a stringy, pinhead-sized, developing glimmer of light, the timeship's unraveled form then twinkled back into existence. The forceful reassembly made its forward momentum soar to sub-light speeds, impelling it into a wild, uncontrollable, spiraling tumble through the vortex.
Arcing lines of ghastly lightning lashed out of the tunnel-like structure, occasionally impacting the ship's shield with a spectacular blaze of sparks. Going against the laws of nature by remaining active, the corridor shifted in size erratically, threatening to collapse upon itself at a moment's notice. Every so often, when the vortex's intermittent shrinking and twisting occurred at a rate faster than the engines could adapt to, the ship's hull and struts would skirt and bounce against it. Glitter-like strings of fiery energy trailed behind it as the protective outer layer was shed. If it were to waver at these critical moments, there was a very real possibility the trip would end abruptly.
It was during one of these struggles with a significant collision that Gohan's body was jolted hard to the left, the sudden movement stirring him awake. His heavy eyes fluttered open, feeling irrationally flustered by his lapse of awareness. After the timeship had discharged a bone-jarring boom right out of its innards, everything had gone straight to hell.
He let out a pathetic, pained groan, partially coming to his senses. Thoughts scrambled and eyes still fighting him to remain open, he merely managed to right himself into a more comfortable position against the cockpit seat before his body slackened again, passing out with the effort.
Waking minutes later, a throbbing migraine welcomed him. He winced hard, tears involuntarily welling up in his eyes as he felt his heartbeat pounding in his temples. Brief but lengthening lapses of consciousness allowed him to retain enough cognizance of the fact that he was still okay; the vessel was still active, in-transit and shielding him from deadly harm. His muscles were stiff, and it felt as if all of his nerves were firing at once with painful spasms that froze him in place.
After another obscure gap in time, the rattling dwindled to bearable levels, easing some of his constant achings. Distancing itself from the crude, explosive rupture it created, the timeship eventually found itself shifting into a less volatile, stable sector of the spiraling vortex. The electronic sounds of internal systems restarting brought forth a full stop to the shaking, stabilizers re-activating with a faint, pleasant hum.
With all of the erratic bursts of light dimming to manageable levels, his pupils were then able to adapt to the point that he could see properly again. Still rather disoriented and exhausted, he breathed out a worn out sigh, settling for lazily watching the enigmatic and entrancing wisps of hyper-extended light and lightning that flew past the ship, the tone of his skin flickering with the respective array of colors as they shot by. Deadly, but so beautiful.
He let out a barely repressed yawn. How was something so breathtaking and lethal lulling him to sleep? Frazzled and with his drowsiness worsening, Gohan couldn't help it but embrace the urge to doze off, dropping his head back against the headrest on the seat, the lightly padded surface soothing his headache. It didn't take him much longer to succumb to the temporary reprieve in the form of uneasy, shaky sleep.
Something was wrong.
He nearly jumped out of his seat in a panic when a set of very concerning klaxons screeched into being on the console, growing louder by the second. As if on cue the ship-wide tremors resumed.
Peering into the path ahead did not ease his worries. Now the corridor itself appeared to have shrunken in diameter, the deformities which spewed out turbulence and lightning increasing in quantity, inward prominence, and intensity. Below him, he could hear the timeship's own propulsion kicking into overdrive for the first time as it was forced to actively evade and lurch whichever way to avoid the largest, most dangerous abnormalities.
Mental haze fading by a clarifying surge of fear, Gohan leaned forward, his fingers dancing across the controls as he sifted through sensor suites and diagnostic windows in an urgent search for answers.
Warning! Chronal reserves low. Warning! Shielding integrity decaying.
WARNING! Unable to maintain Chronal Corridor!
- BRACE FOR UNSCHEDULED TRANSITION -
The ship suddenly lurched, heading right into a collision course with the swirling, stormy walls of the corridor itself.
Gohan didn't get a chance to process the severity of the dire warnings he had just read. His body did not even get an opportunity to react to the deep, instinctual sense of impending doom that tried to crawl up his gut the moment he noticed the sudden change of direction into certain death. Every bodily function slowed down until it completely ceased. There he stood rigid, unblinking, and not breathing as if he was frozen in time. A barely visible translucent sphere had sprung around his body and cockpit seat; the ship's safety contingencies deploying a one-time emergency stasis field.
Neon green fissures along the outer hull roared to life, thrumming with unbridled power as they flared up brighter than ever before. Deep within the heart of the ship, its artificial intelligence bypassed all built-in safeties in an attempt to push the Chronal Accelerator core's output several magnitudes beyond its set parameters for an immediate emergency breach out of the vortex. Any delays would lead to imminent death.
Ready as it would be, the ship's final large caliber burst of Chronal particles exploded out of its domed nose, tearing a new temporospatial puncture as the swirling wall of death grew closer and closer. The rumbling tremors started anew, with the earlier mild shudders of turbulence returning with renewed vigor, their intensity now shaking everything apart. The final inertial dampener then failed, burning up in a blaze of glory midway through the escalation. Conduit harnesses snapped, their spilled wires hanging loosely out of the consoles and side paneling, small fires blazing upon their exposure and ensuing short-circuiting.
Through it all, Gohan remained motionless, with every single piece of airborne material harmlessly bouncing off and away from the impervious bubble surrounding him. The AI disregarded the warnings screaming at it of ever stacking system failures. It increased forward speed, diverting energy to strengthen its forward shield to act as a battering ram, bracing for impact.
With only tens of meters between itself and its target, a pinprick of light roared to life, the unnatural event twitching and bubbling as it was forced to form a bridge into the unknown, the void within it positively palpitating with restrained fury as it formed on the vortex just in time for the ship's nose to contact it. The external coating of glimmering energy twisted into angry orange and red hues, straining against the feedback radiating from the nearby vortex wall and the event horizon's terrible power as it tried to disassemble the vessel before it even completed its odyssey through it.
Intangible electromagnetic pulses surged forth, splashing against the wavering energy barrier. With their deflective capabilities being severely impaired in an effort to shield the vessel from the most dangerous effects of raw, untempered physics currently ramming into them, they buried themselves deep into every vulnerable chip, board, and screen within reach. Flames shot up from beneath the cockpit as a secondary generator went out, spewing up and out into a side of the center console. The affected consoles and screens flickered until they went offline as their power supplies and internals melted.
Drifting out of control as it exited the unstable event horizon at speeds beyond its structural limits, the sheer ferocity of the turbulence doubled, the still intact panels and hardware within the cockpit now snapping and falling off their hinges and enclosures, sending bursts of arcing electricity everywhere.
Just like that, the stasis field around him quivered away until it collapsed. Affected by the passage of time and vulnerable to all external forces once more, Gohan let out a chortled gasp for air, only to find his lungs resisting any attempts to draw in precious air. His panicked eyes darted around the ship in bewilderment at the chaotic commotion, the brief lapse in time and awareness from the moment he had read the warnings to this mess sending his mind reeling.
He had little time ponder on this any longer, for his eyes could only focus on the chaos of fire, sparks and ship parts exploding around him and onto him. Cursing in pain, he raised his arms to protect himself in his restricted position from the massive assortment of debris pummeling him from all angles.
Everything froze once more. This time, it was him and the ship. Those wickedly unpleasant, scream-inducing sensations of pulling, twisting and crushing poured into his body for the second time that day—even as he could not move or think—until another blinding flash of light signaled the end of his trek.
Local time resumed its pace around and within the timeship, which let out a final, thunderous jolt of strain from its guts. The sudden deceleration and force behind it tore apart the last two intact console screens, ripping Gohan's left safety harness off its metal frame as the bolts securing it were torn like wet tissue paper. A few hundred pounds worth of equipment then crashed around and upon him.
He couldn't feel it this time. Body limp and unresponsive, his head and shoulder smashed right against the failing but still unyielding enough energy shield. Draining the last drops of energy out of the whole ship with that impact, it too fizzled away.
– – – – – –
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
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Please be aware I am working hard on editing/revising this story. I've trimmed a good 12k+ words out of it to improve the pace and flow of it. Chapters will be merged as well-I apologize in advance for any confusion for any sudden loss of chapters/reviews.
Please be aware English is not my first language(I'm a Spanish speaker); you might notice a few odd/unusual/rare choice words used. I'm working on this on my own, proof-reading and checking for any grammar/spelling issues to the best of my capabilities.
I hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I am already!