I'm terribly, terribly sorry to just disappear on you all like I did. I was in a serious car accident that killed my best friend and almost severed both of my hands. It took me this long to rehabilitate enough to use my hands again because I suffered severe nerve damage. I've waited forever to be able to type again. It's slow, but I can do it. So I'm really sorry I just vanished. I feel horrible for leaving you all hanging for years. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I guess I don't blame anyone if they don't want to read any more of this. Finishing this may take a long time, depending on my moods and inspiration. Please be patient with me.

I hate drunk drivers.



Silent One
Chapter 20



Garlic Jr. and Onion snickered as the towered over their opponents. If Tategoto had been able to hear their bone-chilling laughter, he might have lost his nerve. The sight of the suddenly huge monsters scared him something fierce and made him want to hide behind his father, but he fought that urge.

My daddy is right here next to me. I can do anything when he is by my side. The young Namek thought as he watched the looks on Garlic and Onion's faces. Light was falling across the oversized demons, and the jewel on Onion's forehead seemed to glare like some deranged third eye.

"This is insane!" Vegeta muttered while glaring coldly up at the two beings before him.

"I know what you mean." Piccolo hissed back and tightened his fists while stealing a glance down at Tategoto. That's right...face your fears, my son.

Tategoto widened his fighting stance and struggled to slow his pounding heart. His tiny chest heaved, the breath rushing audibly through his nose. Inwardly he cringed as he awaited the oncoming attacks. Onion's fists hurt before, how much worse would they be now?

The young Namek's apprehension didn't escape Piccolo's notice. He reached down and tapped Tategoto's shoulder. It will be OK. I won't let anything happen to you.

I believe you. Tategoto signed back. Just then he felt a vibration in the floor and snapped his attention back to Garlic Jr. and Onion. He could easily tell they were gathering their power. Tategoto pulled away from his father and did the same, pulling kinetic energy up from the depths of his being. Piccolo's matching aura joined his, and a moment later, so did Vegeta's.

Combined, the swirling energies shook the entire stronghold. Bits of rock rained down from above, only to be blown away by the great wind pouring through. Standing in a hurricane would've been less intense than the raw power flowing forth.

"Onion seems inexperienced as a fighter from what I've seen. Let Tategoto take him, they're on the same level." Piccolo whispered to Vegeta, "You and I, we'll take Garlic Jr. together. It's going to take both of us to knock him back into the Dead Zone."

Vegeta cast Piccolo a sidelong glance, bristling in his eagerness to fight. To draw blood like a true warrior. "And how do you propose we get him to open this 'Dead Zone'?"

Piccolo chuckled deep in his throat as a blast of wind ruffled his clothes and blew his antennae back. "Just wait. He opens the portal every time someone pisses him off too much. Thinking he can suck us in. Just don't get sucked in, that's all." He fortified his stance, "Get ready, they're almost done powering up."

Looking up, Tategoto spotted an opening in Onion's defenses. His head was turned, that meant his gem wouldn't pick up movement. The young Namek quickly charged towards the overgrown demon creature. There was a flash, the sound of a fist hitting skin, and then Onion emitted a surprised cry as he went flying backwards. He landed hard against a pillar.

Unfortunately, Tategoto forgot to watch out for Garlic Jr. A second later he felt the impact of a large foot against his side. He shot sideways as if blasted from a canon and slammed into a nearby wall, crumbling it.

"Now!" Piccolo shouted.

He and Vegeta blurred from view and reappeared on either side of Garlic.

"WHAT?!"

A green fist and a boot-clad foot smashed into either side of his face, deforming it almost comically. Garlic's eyes bulged. He caught more movement and ducked just in time. Piccolo and Vegeta soon found themselves dodging a flurry of small bullet-like ki blasts.

"You're lucky I need you alive to use the Dragon balls, Piccolo!" Garlic Jr. snarled at the green figure hovering above him, "Just you wait, once the dragon grants Onion immortality, nothing will stop us! MWA HA HA!"

"I'd wish for a smaller mouth if I were you," Vegeta cut in from the left. Garlic pivoted just in time to avoid having his teeth kicked down his throat. He took a swing at Vegeta, but the Saiyan dodged easily.

Kami stopped listening to the story Yasmine was telling him. He turned his age-worn face towards the direction of the underground battle. Less than a second after he did so, the ground started to shake and shudder. He watched cracks snake forward towards his feet.

" - so Tategoto went over and... Kami? What is it?"

"I think - "

A huge shockwave blasted from the area of the fight. Yasmine screamed as the energy tore her right off her feet. She might've flown for miles like a kite if Kami didn't dive to anchor her. She let her breath out as her duffle back slammed into her stomach. He dragged her behind a large pile of old rocks and set her down gently. Yasmine quickly raised a brown hand to dust herself off and breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thanks...now what's going on?"

"They're fighting for their lives. And ours." Kami looked up, gripping his wooden stick tightly. He sighed worriedly. "We might have to move again soon."

Yasmine leaned forward, blinking. "They're going to be OK, aren't they?"

Rubbing dirt off his wrinkled cheek, Kami faced her and bowed his head, "I hope so. But with Onion around I can't be fully sure of the outcome. We'll have to wait and see."

She faced the battle again. "Piccolo...Tategoto..."

An unceremonious pile of debris stirred. Rocks and wood fell away as two tiny green hands shoved a heavy plank aside. Tategoto dug himself free with a loud grunt. He sat down on top and panted, glad to have some fresh air. Aside from some bruises, a cut near his left eyeridge and a new hole in each knee of his purple gi, he was fine. Just a bit startled.

Had the boy been able to hear he would've noticed Onion running up from the left. Luckily, Tategoto caught sight of Onion's shadow and lunged upwards just in time to watch his enemy smash his face against a large stone.

Onion released an anguished cry of pain and was lucky the rock didn't shove his nasal bones up into his brain. New blood poured down his face like a spray of lightning between clouds.

"You little brat! Where are you?!" Onion turned his head, trying to locate Tategoto. Tategoto hovered behind Onion with his arms crossed, grinning to show his fangs. He dove forward and kicked him hard in the butt. Onion released a surprised cry and spun to face his opponent. Rage twisted his young face. His body started to glow a mix of red and purple, "Grrr! You'll pay for that!"

"Jas bing eet!" Tategoto taunted, making the appropriate gesture even though he knew Onion couldn't physically see it.

Onion bore his teeth in rage. He pressed his palms together and started to power up.

At that very moment a crash sounded at the far end of the large room. Garlic Jr. crashed hard into a stone wall, which shattered like glass with his impact. He batted Vegeta aside and watched the air for signs of Piccolo's movements. A second later, he grinned and slammed a massive fist forward.

BAM!

Piccolo's progress was instantly halted. He bent completely over Garlic's fist and vomited up a mouthful of purplish blood. Piccolo fell to his knees with the wind knocked out of him. Garlic Jr. lifted Piccolo by the head, turned sideways and flung him at a charging Vegeta.

A sickening crack sounded as two flying bodies slammed into one another. Both crumpled and fell.

Garlic Jr. rose up over the unceremonious pile of Saiyan and Namek. "I'm disappointed in you two! Where's the challenge?"

Vegeta sneered up at the overgrown demon and shoved Piccolo's large frame off his legs. He stood to his full height, hair bristling in his annoyed anguish. Piccolo rose to his hands and knees, still struggling to catch his breath. That blow really took a lot out of him. Vegeta curled his lip in contempt. "This isn't working. I should've known better than to ally myself with the likes of you. From here on out I'm fighting my own way."

Piccolo had no way to stop Vegeta. Not when he couldn't draw in enough breath to speak. He finally regained himself enough to stand, albeit clutching his sore stomach. His sides and chest heaved, veins appearing all over his bald green head. He stared coldly at Garlic Jr. with eyes holding promises of much future pain. If looks could kill...

A flash of light signified Vegeta's engaging the blue behemoth. Both quickly disappeared into a rapid hit-block routine that reverberated all over the darkened corridor.

It seemed like forever, but only a few seconds went by before Piccolo could finally draw in a deep breath. He sucked the air greedily, expanding his lungs to their limit and exhaling again. He spat coppery blood onto the ground and jerked his gaze to a sudden flash of blue-white light at the other end of the corridor.

Smoke rose from the remains of a pillar. Tategoto stood just before it, very glad he'd ducked in the nick of time. Onion's mouth-blast nearly took his head off! Suddenly this whole ordeal wasn't as fun as fun as it started out to be. Small bits of fear found their way into his thoughts. The young Namek assumed his fighting stance without taking his gaze off his enemy. His cocky smirk was missing, replaced by sharp teeth clenched tightly together, and he really wished his father would come over and stand by his side.

Tategoto saw Piccolo through the corner of his eye. He turned his head to meet his gaze and saw him pointing frantically.

Too late.

Onion's fist smashed into Tategoto's jaw. Tategoto's whole face deformed and snapped back into its correct shape, and his head twisted completely to the side. The punch also sent him flying backwards into the rubble where he landed with a loud crash. Had Garlic Jr. himself thrown that punch, Tategoto might've been dead right there. Onion's youth and underdeveloped power were the only two things that saved his life.

A surprise Masenko from the left knocked Onion away from the destroyed pillar.

"Back off, brat." Piccolo snarled. He climbed over the debris and crouched down next to Tategoto's inert frame. Piccolo sat Tategoto up and slapped each cheek. "C'mon kid, wake up."

Tategoto's eyes fluttered and rolled. Another shake brought him around. His eyes snapped open and fixed on Piccolo's dirty, bloody face. He wondered idly if he looked just as beat up.

He is stronger than I thought. The child signed.

You can take him. Piccolo signed back. Tell me how many fingers you see. He then held up two fingers and moved them around, watching Tategoto's eyes follow them.

The child held up two fingers. Piccolo nodded and hauled him to his feet, assured he was OK. Rattled, but OK. He took the opportunity to dust Tategoto's clothes off a bit without really knowing why he bothered. Especially since Tategoto would squirm away and look all embarrassed.

Dad, stop it! Garlic Jr. might see this and then he'll laugh at me!

Nobody's going to laugh at you, kid. Piccolo signed back, then spoke, "because if they do, they'll have to answer to me."

"Are we finished yet?" Vegeta cut in, "There is a FIGHT going on, you know!"

Garlic Jr. landed nearby, grinning like a cat. "And it's a fight you'll never win! Onion, let's do Rolling Thunder!"

"On it!"

Onion and Garlic Jr. clasped hands and began to spin each other around. A power column stretched from floor to ceiling between them, illuminating their demonic faces. The ground trembled. Suddenly they flung the energy pillar straight for the three standing nearby.

Tategoto, Piccolo and Vegeta scattered. The ki column rolled past to hit the far wall. A deafening crash sounded. The entire place shook and part of the underground castle collapsed on itself. It felt like the whole planet was shaking apart!

Dust obscured everything when the shaking finally stopped. Grit rained down from pieces of the ceiling. A few larger pieces crashed to the floor, adding to the dusty mess filling the air. Piccolo cracked an eye open in time to see Garlic Jr.'s fist coming at his face. He dropped like a rock.

"Dah!" Tategoto scrambled towards Piccolo's fallen form. His eyes were only on his father, so it came as no surprise when Garlic Jr. sent him flying off into the darkness.

Two gloved hands snatched Tategoto from midair. Tategoto twisted his head around to see Vegeta looking down at him. Something in his eyes was different. It reminded Tategoto of a shark in a feeding frenzy.

We have to help my dad!

"Don't worry." Vegeta made sure the boy could see his mouth. "Watch your back!"

They separated. Onion sailed between them. Vegeta caught him with a hard kick to the gut, making him spit out blood and vomit. Tategoto followed up with an elbow to the forehead. Onion shrieked and dropped.

Vegeta searched below. "Where's Garlic?"

"Up here, fools!"

Vegeta shoved Tategoto aside and flung a massive ki blast the same time Garlic Jr. did. The dual energy beams, one red and the other blue-white, collided in a flair of sparks and shockwaves.

Tategoto used the opportunity to land beside Piccolo. He grabbed his shirt and shook him. Piccolo's head rolled and his eyes fluttered, but he didn't quite make it around. Tategoto slapped his face a few times the way he'd been slapped around earlier. "Dah! Wakkup dah!" When that didn't work, he shook him harder. No response. He started to get scared.

Kami stopped walking for the millionth time in ten minutes. He planted his wooden stick in the soil. Tiny, tiny tremors raced up the wood. He lifted it again and shook his head and glanced over his shoulder at Yasmine. "I don't like how this feels."

Yasmine, sweating slightly from all the walking in the sun, came up by his side. "What's happening now?"

"Garlic and Vegeta are having a power struggle." A few sweat droplets gathered in the creases on Kami's brow. "I can't sense Onion. Piccolo's hurt, but Tategoto is okay."

"Piccolo's hurt?" She grabbed his arm, "How badly? Can you tell?"

"He's unconscious at the moment, but he'll live. Tategoto will take good care of him until he comes around."

Yasmine brushed her hair back and stared at the ground. Her brown forehead wrinkled. But who's taking care of Tategoto? Oh I hope he and Piccolo and that other guy will be okay!

"Mmh..." Piccolo moaned, baring his teeth at the pain throbbing in his skull. What a punch!

The ground shuddered. Chunks of pillar and ceiling crashed around the two Nameks. Frightened, Tategoto looped two arms under Piccolo's armpits and dragged him under the cover of fallen debris, which was braced under a broken pillar. "Dah, wakkup!"

Piccolo moved around a little more. First his legs, then his arms. Finally his eyes slid open to fix on his son's wide-eyed face. He signed sluggishly, I'm okay.

The younger Namek clapped his hands in delight. He tugged Piccolo's shirt to make him sit up and proceeded to dust him off. As if to get him back for the same action earlier. Piccolo actually chuckled at that. "Point taken."

Another earthquake struck, forcing him to peep out from under the rocky debris. Onion was still out cold on the ground below. Dust partially shrouded his dark shape. The beam Garlic Jr. and Vegeta wrestled with grew brighter. Pretty soon it would explode and there was no way of knowing what the blast would do.

Piccolo tapped Tategoto's arm to get his attention. This could get ugly. Stay close to me.

Tategoto nodded and huddled up against Piccolo's side. He buried his face in his shirt and clung to him. I'm getting scared.

Don't worry, kid, I won't let anything happen to you. I promise. Piccolo easily remembered the last time he made such a promise - he'd kept it. And he'd keep it again. He slipped an arm around Tategoto to keep him close and fixed his dark eyes on the unstable energy beams.

To be continued...