Disclaimer: Don't own these guys so don't sue as I barely even own the pc!

Warnings: Angst, Seventeen's POV

Rating: PG 13

Summary:We all know that 18 was regurgitated by Cell, but what of 17? Just how did he manage to return? And when he did, what did he do?

Android arc #3

'THE RETURN'

Debs-dragon Jan 2002

Chapter 3

I watched the fire crackle and burn, the warmth spreading through the cave as the wood was steadily consumed by the living heat. Idly I let my mind wander to Juuhachigou, my sister.

Most of my memory banks were now on line and suprisingly there was only a few blank spaces so I was able to recall most of what had happened. A shiver ran down my spine that was not due to the temperature. My instincts told me that somehow I had managed to survive Cell's attack with most of myself in one piece. But what of Eighteen? That was a vital part of the puzzle that I needed to piece together. Was Juuhachigou still operational? How much damage had been done, if any, to her?

I ran my hands through my hair, pushing it idly from my face as I thought of my sister. My brow furrowed. Somehow I would find her. I would track her down and re unite us. I snuggled closer to the fire. Tired... so tired... I lay on my side and hugged my knees closer to my chest. Power still at 48%. I began to shut down my systems one by one leaving only those vital to my survival running. I closed my eyes and switched to scan mode then drifted off to sleep, safe in the knowledge that should anything come within 50 meters of me my sensors would pick it up and awaken me.

Beeping... non stop beeping...

Sluggishly I roused myself from slumber. Something had triggerd the warning system. I felt pain as electricity seared through my body, reawakening circuits and blowing a few more fuses in my haste to become fully functional again. I cursed softly as I felt a fuse in my temple blow, temporarily blinding me. I had to be more careful. I rubbed the spot gingerly as the scent of burnt wires greeted my nostrils.

Core power; 46%. Damn! I looked around in an attempt to find whatever it was that had caused my sensors to react. I couldn't detect anything. I stood. By the looks of the fire's embers I had been asleep for a few hours. I moved through the dark curtain towards the cave's mouth and peered outside. The moonlight bathed the forest in her silvery light, casting a somewhat eerie glow on the trees. It was cold. I wrapped my arms around myself and mechanically stomped my feet in an attempt to stave off the cool air - and then I heard it.

A low, menacing growl. I turned my head and scanned the undergrowth. A pair of yellow eyes glared back at me. I froze and locked gazes with the creature. Those yellow orbs held me mesmerised. The long snout parted into a panting mouth and I could see the row of white teeth as the moonlight glinted off them. I swallowed. Great! this was just what I didn't need.

The wolf moved closer. I began to back away. Looked like I had three choices.

I could run and try to get away, which meant using up power, not as much as if I tried to fly but enough to render me vulnerable to further attack.

I could stand my ground and fight, but this again would take up precious energy... energy that I really could not afford to lose. Using my Ki attacks would most certainly destroy my enemy; but would also seal my own death warrant.

Or I could simply stand here and let the wolf have me.

Errr... scrap that. Number three is definately NOT an option, not after having come this far.

"Well Juunanagou, what a pickle you are in and just how do you propose to get out of it?" I thought to myself. The wolf continued its slow stalking of me. Its lips were drawn back in a feral leer. Teeth gleamed as saliva drooled from the tip of the tongue. I shudderd with disgust. Not at the creature but at myself for letting myself get into this predicament to start with.

Of the remaining options, I elected to run and hide. It would take less of my core energy so I might still have a chance to make it to the township. With one last glance at the advancing wolf I flexed my muscles, turned and ran. I ran blindly through the undergrowth, my limbs screamed in protest at being forced to work so hard. I had no idea of which direction I was going in.

"Shit!" I cursed out loud. So much for a plan. 'Seventeen you really are losing it.' I chided myself. I could hear the wolf behind me... he was gaining. I began to dodge and weave through the trees. My speed, although fast by human standards was extremely slow due to my core energy drain. I lunged forward again jumping over a fallen log, the fear of being caught spurring me on.

Core power; 40%

The wolf was still hot on my trail. I forget how long I dodged and weaved and ran, but the wolf never stopped... he was determined.

Core power; 30% and fading.

It was no good. I would have to make a stand. No sooner had the thought passed along my wires than I stumbled. The wolf was on me in an instant, snapping and snarling. I felt the saliva drip onto my neck, burning like acid, the smell of the animal's fetid breath as it fanned my cheek made me want to retch right there, and the weight of its body as it pushed me to the ground made me realize just how big the creature really was.

I thrashed around. "NO!" I screamed. I hadn't come this far to let some overgrown dog stop me now. I managed to twist myself and before I knew what it was I was going to do I gathered my energy and fired. The wolf was taken completely by suprise as the ki blast peirced through its chest cavity and exploded out the other side. There was a sharp yelp and then the body fell to the ground beside me, smoking and twitching slightly. Disgusted, I pushed away from it and sat panting. Damage report... minor abrasions to lower limbs, slight structural damage at neck where wolf's teeth and jaws had connected. All things considered I was lucky.

Core power; 20%.

Wearily I dragged my body upright and stumbled once more on my way. Putting one foot infront of the other took tremendous effort, the cold of the night air had worked its way right through my system causing minor malfunctions. My movements were becomming more sluggish by the minute, my brain was foggy and losing focus.

Core power 10%.

It was no good. I had to rest. Dawn would be here soon. I scanned around the clearing that I had stumbled into and then moved towards a large tree. I pushed through the undergrowth and sank wearily to my knees. Twisting, I sat and leaned up against the gnarled trunk. Rest. That's all I need ... rest. The cold continued to work its way into my body and slowly system after system began to shut down as I could no longer function against the elements. My head became muzzy as coherent thought left me...

Tired... so tired... My eyes wavered shut and my head slumped forward to rest my chin on my chest.

#

The dawn's rays broke across the landscape, penetrating the thick canopy of trees and lighting the floor below, driving away the last of the evenings chilly fingers and spreading her own warmth around. A squirrel stopped suddenly in its hunt for food as it spotted an unusual creature propped against a tree. His whiskers twitched but he could detect no danger. Abandoning his search for food, the sqirrel inched forward. Still detecting no threat the squirrel threw caution to the winds and scampered up the jean clad leg, over the chest and perched upon a shoulder. The boy showed no sign of movement. The squirrel did a quick investigation but found no food and so giving a chirrup, ran back down over the still form and scampered off to continue his search of the forest floor.

A small, blue glow that had appeared behind the closed eyes as the squirrel had brushed against the boy's ear, flickered once and then faded until it was completely extinguished.

Fin