Hazzzah and hello groovy people of the internet! Well there's been a lengthy intermission between chapters and I apologize my dear readers! I owe a huge thanks to lilpumpkingirl who is helping me beta read this story and the quality of this chapter has improved greatly if I do say so myself. This chapter was written to hopefully answer any and all questions and gaps from previous chapters. So hang on to your hats ladies and gents it's gonna be a bumpy ride!
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Long jagged cracks spread across the walls around them as they rattled and shook, scars from Vegeta's onslaught in the arena they just left behind. Beneath her the cow-creature raced to outrun them, always just a step ahead of the chunks of ceiling that were raining down around them. Vegeta's roars of rage filled Bulma's ears like a horrible nightmare come to life. The kind of nightmare where no matter how hard you try you can't even scream. Her eyes watered as clouds of dust spewed from the crumbling ceiling. Cries of agony joined Vegeta's rage in a symphony of death and despair, doors holding firm as the walls collapsing inward and thus ending their prisoners long tortured life at the arena.
Bulma clung tightly to the cow-creature's upper torso, her legs wrapped tightly around its horse-like belly. Bulma had ridden horses in her young days but this was entirely different. Perched on a meuhvache's back she encountered an upper torso where a horse's neck would have been. Like a centaur from myths, the cow-creatures – meuhvache Poeh had called them once- had the body of a horse and the upper-half of a man, only their short muscular necks held the broad head of a cow. Bulma had once thought their short fur might have been soft, but as they galloped down the hallway the fur rubbed roughly against Bulma's cheek as she pressed herself into the back of the meuhvache's shoulders. Her breath hitched as Vie tightened her grip around Bulma's waist, her small face buried in Bulma's back as her long red hair snapped at their air behind them like a fistful of angry serpents.
Bulma's muscles tightened as the meuhvache swerved abruptly, narrowly missing a large chuck of ceiling that crashed to the ground beside them. Dust billowed from the gap in the ceiling, stinging her eyes and filling her lungs. As the stone crashed into the ground the floor began to give way, cracks and crevasses shooting out in every direction as if the chuck of rock had broken through a pane of glass. The meuhvache's hand-like feet slapped against the crumbling floor, scrambling to maintain its balance. The bitter taste of dust coated Bulma's tongue as she desperately tried to fill her lungs with air while the ceiling above them continued to rain down upon their heads.
Closing her eyes she wrapped her arms around her head, her hands clinging to her hair as her wrists rested over her ears. "Listen for the lava," Poeh had once told her, a moment in time that felt like ages and lifetimes ago. Instantly the distant memory of them in that cold room, of her despair and desolation, brought fresh tears to her eyes. Poeh had helped her remain strong. He had helped her remain sane and now he was gone. Why?, she thought as she felt the tickle of a tear that slid down the side of her nose, Why did he have to die?
The rumble of the blood in her veins vanquished all other sounds, all the destruction and all the death, and instead filled her ears with the sound of her strength. "My heart hasn't given up", she whispered under her breath, "Neither can I."
Bulma could not be certain how much time had passed while she listened to the blood flow through her veins but she was awoken from her reprieve as the meuhvache slowed to a stop beneath her and she felt Vie's arms slacken around her waist. The smell of astringents and other strange chemicals made her nostrils burn and her mouth go dry, suddenly making her very dizzy. This place…
Lowering her arms to brace herself against the meuhvache, Bulma opened her eyes. At first the room was slightly blurry, it's stark whiteness washing away any details. But as her eyes adjusted the room sharpened into focus. A short metallic table occupied the center of the room. Surrounding it were several monitors, all of them powered down, as well as a few small tables piled with surgical equipment. As her eyes scanned the room a swatch of red painted her peripheral vision, drawing her attention. At the far end of the room stretched a wall of glass, separating them from the room beyond whose only occupants were a small cot and a door leading off to a wash closet.
But it was not the wall or even the room beyond that caused Bulma's stomach to sink like a stone. The glass wall was covered in blood, a gruesome painting of crimson and flesh. The very sight of it made Bulma's skin crawl, the taunt and scarred skin of her back burning. Then recognition set in. Bulma's gaze fell to the small table before her, flashes of herself writhing in pain as the heat melted away the cells of her skin as her screams of pain filled her own ears. Fresh screams echoed the screams in her memories, and suddenly Bulma found herself falling through her memories.
Before her eyes the blood seemed to pour off her arms in an endless fountain, pouring onto her legs and dripping from between her toes. Screaming Bulma frantically flung herself backwards, falling from the cow-creature as she tried to stop the blood from falling. Every attempt she made to cease its flow resulted in more blood than before, whether it was hers or not she could not tell. As she looked up, desperate for somewhere to go she could only see the walls closing in around her, trapping her, threatening to drown her in blood…
"Bulma!" a voice called, reaching out to her amidst the chaos. Bulma tried to reply back but every attempt only filled her mouth with more blood, gagging her on it's metallic taste. Like watching the monster Frieza destroy all her friends, all Bulma could feel was the panic coursing through her body. The only sounds she could make where the ones inside her head and no matter how hard she tried she couldn't even scream. But the voice called out to her again and Bulma focused on the voice, forcing every thought to coalesce until the sound of her own name was all that echoed through her mind.
Bulma, she heard her own voice whisper in her mind, Bulma Briefs. Somehow hearing her own name gave her strength. If there was one thing in the world that she was, it was Bulma Briefs.
As her mind acclimated itself back to reality Bulma become increasingly aware of a pressure underneath her knees and behind her shoulders, her head propped up against all laws of gravity. Opening her eyes, she was lifted into the air as she saw the kindred face of mama moo looking down at her, her large eyes glistening.
"Mama moo," Bulma whispered, a smile pulling at her cheeks.
"Her name is Voel, and she is friend to Anevi" Vie announced, sliding gracefully down from Anevi's back. Her small white dress fluttered behind her, catching momentarily against the cow-creature's rough hide before being tugged along by Vie's momentum. For the first time since meeting her Bulma truly saw her for the first time. Her flame red hair was more tamed than the creature that tormented Bulma's conscious, flowing around her face to frame it with a look of childish innocence. Despite Vie's short stature and childish appearance Bulma could see that many of her features were carved from hardship. She had deep bags under her crimson red eyes and Bulma found herself wondering if the girl ever slept. Her lips were cherry red, scared with deep gauges as if her lips had gone a very long time without water. Her cheekbones pressed against her skin, nearly forming hollows on either side of her face, When was the last time she ate?
"Voel," Bulma repeated as mama moo bowed her head slightly, her broad face softening. Turning away from the blood stained wall Voel gently placed Bulma on her feet, careful to avoid touching Bulma's back. As Bulma's feet found the floor cold shivers raced up her legs, even through her saiyan boots the cold of the floor bit at her. Goosebumps spread across her back as she shuddered, the memory of the chill gnawing at her back.
Restraining the urge to support herself Bulma allowed her body to drift downward, using the wall to slow her decent. Pulling her knees to her chest she wrapped her arms around them and placed her forehead between them. With a moan Bulma began to cry without constraint. She cried for herself, she cried for Poeh, and she cried for all those that had died in this horrible place.
As Bulma took several trembling breaths to stem the tide of tears she felt a gentle pressure on her side. Raising her head and looking over she found Vie at her side, sitting with her legs stretched out before her. Vie was staring at her hands, as if she was uncertain, then with deliberate slowness she raised her wrists to her ears and held them there. With a sob Vie shivered as tears fell from her eyes, running down her nose and over her lips before dangling precariously beneath her chin. As her tears began to stain her little white dress Bulma felt an overwhelming sense of sadness radiating from Vie.
Bulma's mind was flooded with emotions and memories; faces flashed before her eyes as the taste of bitter ashes filled her mouth, her body filled with foreign emotions as the world before her eyes danced. Colors began to blend, swirling in a chaotic vortex, forming shapes and shadows that didn't truly exist.
The white wash of the room filled with color, a deep red hue blossomed above her as dark mahogany formed a crib around her mind's eye. The small pale white hands of a baby were reaching out in front her. A similar face gazed lovingly down at her bearing a toothy grin, the sight made her heart swell with joy. Then a flash of lightning, blindly bright. The room grew dark and grim. Around her the wooden crib crumbled as hard stone took its place. A harsh wail filled the memory, one of confusion and pain. Above her the familiar face was twisted, filled with anger and malice. Shouts permeated through the wails, fighting to be heard.
When fear threatened to consume her mind the color swirled again, the twisted face dissolving, her fear receding as it left her heart racing.
The warm glow of torches illuminated a different memory. Stone pillars rose high around her, a vaulted ceiling loomed so far above it was nearly entirely consumed by shadow. The stone pillars were inlaid with ornate gold decorations, figures of warriors in fight atop of winged beasts' midflight. The flickering torchlight licked the golden murals, giving life to the stories they told. Raised voice drifted through the vast room, venom seeping from their words. "We must obey. We cannot win!" The familiar face looked down at her, worry shone in his eyes. The word around the vision swayed as the familiar faced rocked her gently and she felt herself grow calm. "We cannot be ruled by fear" the familiar face above her said quietly, "We must fight for our freedom or die trying." The vision jerked suddenly as foreign hands yanked her small form away from the familiar face and the memory was filled with the terrified wail of a crying baby. "Foolish boy! The icejin will kill us all!"
As the voices rose they became muffled, the memory swirling once more as a new vision formed.
The mahogany crib surrounded her once again, the room cloaked in the darkness of night. Confusion swirled in her mind, sleep dulling her senses, as the terrified wail once again pierced the air. Summoned by her cries the familiar face appeared above her, his face bruised and bloodied. The face made a shushing noise and it raised a finger to its lips. But in the distance screams filled the air, rushing through the door and falling upon her infant ears. Fear struck her feeble heart and the wails intensified. With a look of desperation the familiar face clamped a hand down over her mouth. Panic flung her head from side to side, the salty taste of sweat gagged her sensitive taste buds and she felt her small face flush red from the struggle. Removing his hand her screams filled the air once more, the thundering of footsteps growing near. Without warning pain erupted from her chest, the hand of the familiar holding a strange device that he had plunged into her. The memory flickered and the familiar face was gone, yet over her loomed a horrifying monster. Killer. Destroyer. Demon.
The darkness of the room fell over her eyes as the memory came to a swift end. Vegeta? Bulma heard herself wonder. But before she could contemplate what she had seen the colors before her swirled once more and a new vision came to life.
The twisted familiar face glared down at her, red eyes flashing in the industrial light. "We will not exchange one for the other" a voice declared, "ssshe is sssimply not the sssame," the face above her growled low in its throat, the air quivering with its anger. "They are exactly the same!" the face roared, the veins on its neck bulging with rage. "The one we have isss already trained," the voice hissed, "but perhapsss we can make an arrangement we will both profit from." As its slithering tongue disappeared behind it's razor sharp teeth it drew near, leering down its broad snout at her. "Yesss, perhapsss thisss one could work for us nicely one day…".
Then the images stopped. Her emotions once again her own as an iron hard barrier dropped in her mind and cutting off her mind from Vie's. Gasping, she slumped forward, her heart racing and her breath labored. Swallowing hard Bulma placed a hand over her heart, as if to make sure it would not burst from her chest. A sense of pity welled inside Bulma, pooling in her stomach and tightening her throat as she tried to comprehend what had just occurred.
"Vie?" Bulma questioned, not daring to look at the child.
"I'm sorry. I did not mean for you to endure that," Vie whispered, as she buried her head in her hands.
"Vie. Those weren't yours, were they? That man, that…face. I've seen it before." Bulma's tongue felt heavy in her mouth as it formed the words, the image of that familiar face fading from her mind even as she tried to grasp it. Where have I seen it before?
Before Bulma could finish Vie burst into renewed tears, sobbing loudly as her whole body trembled violently.
"You don't understand!" Vie screamed, her calm demeanor vanquished as she lost control. Her small fists tightening until her knuckles threatened to burst from her skin. "They are my memories, just as they are hers. Medon and I…we're the same person."
Bulma froze, her mind unable to comprehend. Like an ill fitted machine her brain tried in vain to fit the two pieces together, but no matter how Bulma tried to combine them it just did not make sense. Vie is not the monster that torments me, Bulma thought to herself, I can see the goodness in her eyes.
"No," Bulma said, her voice calmer than her mind, "You are not a monster."
Vie took several shaky breaths before answering. "No, you don't understand. My father, King Aracono, is not my father at all. By blood he is my brother. When he was exiled from his planet he returned, with every intention to take Medon away with him, but it was too late. Vegeta was there, marching his way up the steps of the palace on his way to kill or capture everyone inside. By use of secret passages he got to Medon before Vegeta did. Medon was wailing, her cries echoing throughout the halls. He was not strong enough to fight Vegeta and succeed nor could he calm Medon into silence. He did the only thing he could do; he plunged a syringe into her small body and drew forth her life's blood, extracting her DNA."
"You're a clone?" Bulma was taken aback, Is that possible?
Vie paused, her lips quivering as she searched for the right words. With a sigh Vie whispered, "In a sense. The king waited a long time before he brought me into the world. After leaving he traveled to neighboring planets, forging alliances and even taking some by force. It was many years before he became King Aracono, securing his position through a political marriage. But I was not the first clone. My 'brother', the one Vegeta killed in the arena…is technically my brother by blood, but only because he was a clone of the king himself."
Silence filled the room, the buzz of the nearby monitors vibrated in the air around them. As Voel shuffled her wings Bulma jumped, forgetting the two cow creatures were still there.
"You have been through a lot since you've been here Bulma Briefs of Earth, but you do not understand, nor will you ever" Vie spat, her voice laced with anger.
"No, I understand all too well. You don't understand" Bulma said quietly, a strange calm filling her body. "I've watched so many of my friends die right before my eyes. People who were stronger than me, and yet here I still stand."
Taking a deep breath Bulma continued, "Humans only live about a hundred years give or take, mostly take, and so many of us squander it away. When we stand on our planet we seem so big, so significant. But I've watched my planet fade into the distance as I traveled through space. I've stood on alien planets and looked up at their stars, my own sun just a pinpoint of light in the distance. A hundred years? That's nothing. Our sun is over 5 billion years old. Billion! That's 10 million human life times. We're an arrogant species to think so selfishly about our lives. Sure a human can live their life in the pursuit of happiness. Get a job that pays a lot of money, get a big house and have a big family. But who will remember them when they die? Their children sure, and their children's children as well. But somewhere down the line their name will be forgotten and all the accomplishments of their life reduced to nothing. I was like that when I was young. I lived for myself and enjoyed the challenge, because I enjoyed the attention. But then I watched my friends fall like grains of sand before Frieza and I realized: I will remember them and I will remember their sacrifice, but the rest of the planet will not. I will tell my children of their deeds but when my children forget their deeds will be forgotten, their sacrifice in vain. But knowledge, knowledge is forever. I now seek knowledge for the benefit of my species. I seek knowledge that will allow my species to escape from the time bomb that is our sun, that is set to implode less than 5 billion years from now. No, I can't die here. Not before my deed is done."
And with that Bulma stood, shedding all sadness and filling herself with a sense of purpose. Clenching her hand into a fist watched as her skin tightened around her knuckles, and if she squeezed hard enough she could see her veins pulse in rhythm with her heart.
"Let's do this" Bulma declared, her triumphed gaze meeting each of theirs. The two cow just stared, not moved by her words but rather the tone in which she said them. Unable to comprehend her burst of emotion they looked to Vie for guidance. Following their gaze Bulma too looked to Vie, awaiting her response.
For several minutes Vie didn't move, not even to blink. She fixed her eyes on the floor at her feet, and refused to meet their gazes. Then she flicked her eyes upward, meeting Bulma's. Her crimson red eyes locked with Bulma's blue orbs and Bulma felt a tugging sensation in her mind. Before Bulma could react the world around her was pulled away, as if it were being sucked into a vacuum, leaving an empty black void in its wake. Only then did Vie stand, her eyes never leaving Bulma's. In 3 short strides she marched up to Bulma, seemingly at height with Bulma despite her shortness, and without a word she pressed her hands firmly on either side of Bulma's temples and closed her eyes. As soon as Vie's eyelids touched together she vanished before Bulma's eyes, leaving her alone in the empty void.
"Listen to me Bulma," Vie's voice rang out, "I'm going to walk you through your recent memories. I'm going to help you sort out the sequence of events and help you distinguish reality from fantasy. Medon has been trained since infancy to control others minds, but I must know if some part of her can still be saved…for my sake. Please, help me find any clue Medon left behind."
"Ok," Bulma thought aloud, "We'll save her Vie, I promise."
Before Bulma could dwell on it further the blackness around her swirled violently as the sensation of being submersed in water tickled her skin and Bulma found herself instinctively holding her breath. Squeezing her eyes shut, she waited for the swirl of color before her eyes to find shape, wondering what scene would emerge before her. Then she felt a sharp tug at her mind as she opened her eyes, vague recognition settling into her mind. She felt as though she was suspended in liquid, the world before her distorted as if she were looking through glass. Before her stood two reptilian like creatures, dressed in white lab coats as they peered down their snouts at her with their mouths open as if they had been conversing. Between them stood Medon, the small girl glared up at Bulma as she opened her mouth and said, "She's awake."
Goosebumps prickled across Bulma's skin, the base of her skull tingled as fear shot through her mind like an arrow tearing through her brain.
"Fear not Bulma," Vie's reassured her, "It's only a memory."
"Those eyes," Bulma exclaimed, her fear escalading. Medon's blood red eyes seemed to be locked with Bulma's, their piercing gaze looked straight into the very depths of Bulma. Slowly Bulma became aware of a red haze clouding her vision. Glancing around she saw red swirls slicing through the water, tainting it. Looking down Bulma screamed as she saw her hands covered in blood, the blood contaminating the water and making it so thick it stung her eyes and filled her nose. As she screamed air bubbles flew past her face, her precious oxygen escaping. When the oxygen in her lungs ran out she felt the water rushing in, filling her lungs until they burst. The world was spinning. She was drowning. And those blood red eyes…
"BULMA!" she heard Vie exclaim, but she was drowning and her ears were filled with water. So much blood red water…
Then the darkness of the water before her eyes vanished as a bright whiteness blinded her, burning her eyes as if she had looked out over a fresh snow coated in ice on a sunny morning. Struggling to breath, Bulma took a huge swallow of air, her nostrils flaring as she pulled in as much air as she could, trying to fill her lungs.
"Her hold over you was strong," she heard Vie murmur as Voel nervously stomped a hoof against the metallic floor.
As Bulma opened her eyes and looked up she saw Vie standing over her once more. She is Medon, Bulma thought to herself, But her upbringing has made her different. Her eyes are devoid of hatred and malice. Instead they are full of life. She may have been brought to life as Medon, but she has become Vie.
"It seems she's caused a lot of subliminal interference in your mind. I believe a lot of these memories were created to induce fear in you. Fear of me and of Medon…but why?"
Vie rubbed her chin with 3 delicate fingers for moment then returned her attention to Bulma and once more they dove into Bulma's subconscious.
"That memory was to instill a deep fear. Now focus, what happened next."
Bulma awoke in a cold sweat, panting heavily and almost in tears. She flung back her sheets and slipped her feet into the fuzzy pink slippers her mother had given her for Christmas the year before.
"Please no!" Bulma cried out, Please not this again.
Around her the room vanished, an image of Vie appearing in the darkness. "If you will not show me, then you must tell me."
Taking a deep breath Bulma began, "It was a dream, just a dream. I was home and I was trying to reach my parents. They kept getting farther and farther away while my own dogs chased after me." She paused, a lump forming in her throat, "Oh Kami" she whispered, collapsing to her knees, "They were eating me."
"And you dream of these things often?" Vie questioned.
"No," Bulma shook her head, "Just that once. Well…maybe it was twice…I don't remember."
"Hm," Vie hummed in her throat. "I believe this was also Medon, trying to break your spirit of any hope of going home. Filling you with the sense that those who love you are too far out of reach and those meant to protect you will only try to harm you."
They tried to break me, Bulma repeated to herself, But Poeh wouldn't let them. He helped me understand the power coursing through my veins. My heart beats with purpose, and so while my heart beats as strong as ever I must be strong as well. Poeh was all alone but he had the strength to be strong for himself as well as for me…to be strong for myself is the least I can do for him. I can't let his efforts be in vain…
"Keep digging." Bulma stated with a jerk of her chin, let's find something to use against them.
Vie continued onward with obedience, the images coming to life in Bulma's mind with renewed vigor. With a blink of her eyes Bulma found herself back in capsule corp., But this time I knew I was dreaming.
"Another dream," Bulma said aloud, "Vegeta was in this one."
The memory seemed to fast-forward, the trip down the hall taking only a moment before she found Vegeta before her. He was muttering to himself and she felt herself call his name and she watched as he lifted his head to look at her.
"It's almost as if he's looking right at me," Bulma said with an amused chuckle, admiring Vegeta's coal black eyes.
"Bulma," Vie's voice rang out hesitantly, "I think he was looking right at you…"
"How is that possible?"
"I think…I think this was a moment when Medon lost her grip on your minds. She was trying to control your mind while it was dreaming and it slipped through her grasp. Your mind linked with Vegeta through the hold she had over him, but only for this moment. Look closely at his face."
The longer she stared into his eyes the more convinced Bulma was that Vie was right, That's the gleam of recognition…But then Vegeta's gaze flicked away from her, and she fell back into darkness.
Bulma could feel Vie's puzzlement, and Bulma couldn't help but feel puzzled herself. I wonder if it means anything…a moment of weakness…is that all I need to reach out to Vegeta? If Vegeta's mind can't distinguish fantasy from reality do I need to reach him through Medon's own grasp?
"It's no wonder Medon lost her grip," Vie mumbled, "your brain is hard to control when it's stimulated."
Good to know, Bulma thought with a smirk. At least I have one weapon.
Without allowing Bulma to dwell on the thought Vie brought forth her next memory, the loud crash of a door making Bulma jump.
As the evil cow creature heaved her into the hallway the memory around her blurred, speeding up as she flew through the air. Then pain burst from her side as she looked up to see the king leering down at her. Around her the memory paused, the king's movements slowing to a stop.
"This image of the king…it's a perfect likeness. He must have been present when Medon was putting you through this…he must have been giving her the orders…" Vie said softly as her voice trailed off into the distance.
"But why?" Bulma asked the air, hoping Vie would hear, "If he wants to save her why is he condemning her to her fate?"
"I cannot say. But I intend to find out" Vie replied, her voice laced with anger.
Bulma felt the memory fading around her, but the feeling that something important was about to happen made her yell out, "STOP!"
The memory paused, fading back into view. Without Vie's aid Bulma began to remember….
"Father," Poeh had said, addressing the king.
"You are no son of mine," Bulma felt her mouths form around the words as they emerged from the king's mouth, "Nothing so disgusting would ever come from my seed".
"Well this is an interesting statement indeed…" Vie mused, "I have attended several court sessions where he openly declared Poeh as his bastard son. Why would he claim otherwise?"
"Maybe…maybe he didn't want us to try and use Poeh against him?" Bulma realized, the thought troubling. But did he do it to try to save Poeh or just try to save himself?
Vie gave no response other than a snort. Without dwelling on the memory further she summoned up the next barrage of images; Blood was beginning to run down Bulma's chin as each turn of a corner brought on a coughing fit that left her hands soaked with the redness of her life.
Time slowed as the king stopped mid march, his leg still raised while the creature dragging Poeh beside them froze. Glancing over toward Poeh Bulma felt a fresh stab of pain at her heart, her eyes hazing over as tears threatened to spill down her face. I must be strong…
"I don't detect any of Medon's work here," Vie announced before softly adding, "his suffering is at an end, he need no longer worry about mortal woes."
Her words did nothing to soothe Bulma's distress. It's all my fault…
Without regard to her torment the memory continued, the king dragging her roughly across the floor. Bulma had taken to looking into doors as they passed; it helped distract her from the pain. They had passed countless empty rooms like the one they had come from, but several more seemed to be infirmaries. But the contents of one room took Bulma's breath away; it was lined from wall to wall with banks of monitors and the sight of it made Bulma's eyes glimmer with hope. But the hope quickly faded as the room grew further and further away.
The memory froze again as Vie giggled, "They certain regret allowing you to see that room."
The sound of her laughter was so startling Bulma completely forgot her own distress. "W-what are you talking about?" That sound, Bulma thought, how could something so innocent and pure exist in a place like this?
"You'll see soon enough" Vie announced, the laughter gone from her voice as serenity took hold once more.
Then the memory continued its motion; They came to an abrupt halt outside a metal door, identical to all the others that lined the hallway. The king tossed her inside effortlessly, shutting the door with a loudthunk. Bulma allowed the coolness of the floor to draw the heat from her battered body as she fought to catch her breath. With each inhale her ribs bit painfully at her side, but she was growing accustomed to the pain.
A softtapdrew Bulma from her brief reprieve as her head fell to the side, looking for the source of the noise. Before her, not even a foot away, was the little red headed girl from before. Her blood red eyes stared down at Bulma, devouring her under their gaze.
"Make it stop!" Bulma cried out, a feeling of immense pressure pushing down on her, the same sensation of diving too deep in a pool. Her ears hurt, the pressure pushing inward as if two sharp fingers were trying to force their way into her brain. Those blood red eyes…
The memory receded in a flash of blinding white light, and Voel's worried face appeared over her. The cow creature wasted no time in scooping Bulma into her arms and cradling her against her chest. The pressure on her ears and mind faded away, leaving a dull ache in their absence.
"Her hold over you is stronger than I feared…" Vie muttered to herself, running a hand through her hair. "We cannot continue, lest we risk your mental stability. To turn you raving-mad would not help our predicament."
"No," Bulma declared. "I can't run away anymore. It's time I stand and fight!"
"As you wish" Vie said solemnly.
"W-wait," Bulma stammered, realizing something in the room wasn't right. Glancing around she discovered someone was missing, "Where's Anevi?"
Anevi thundered down the hallway. His long stride carried him through the maze of stone walls and torture chambers, the sounds of desperate fists banging on doors orchestrating his journey.
"Let Vie and Bulma work out Medon's mind games," he snorted as the thoughts passed through his mind, "Voel will watch over them, to beat this game I need to beat its boss."
The worst of the devastation seemed to have passed while the damage it wrought was strewn across the floor, huge chunks of ceiling alongside collapsed walls, a river of blood flowing freely from the crushed occupants of unfortunate rooms. No time, he thought to himself as guilt tugged at him, willing him to turn around and help those who survived. I must end Medon's tyranny before she lets him tear the arena down from over our heads.
The clash of battle guided his way, always turning toward the loudest sounds. The saiyan is in combat, but who is he fighting? King Aracono? My brother…
Mid-step his foot caught a stray stone and slipped from under him, his other legs barely able to catch his weight as momentum drove his body downward. I must focus on the task at hand.
If only I had my bombs, he cursed aloud, if only they had not been taken from me…
Their design was flawless, the plan perfectly executed. Once set they could only be disarmed manually. The bombs required sacrifice and that was their secret. Once set they could only be disarmed by someone who loved the arena enough to give their life for it. Who would give their life for this pit of despair? The bombs coursed with free flowing current, current that would gladly leap to anyone foolish enough to grab it, current enough to stop the heart dead. But they knew…Medon got to me first, a small silver dart, a dose of poison to knock him unconscious and he was hers. I should have known…that boy, that poor archnoid boy didn't have to die. He was willing to risk his life for each of the three they had strapped bombs to but he had grabbed the one closest to him. The shock was not what it once had been, it did not stop his heart the way it should have and instead he had to live with the guilt.
He had been around Medon long enough to know her tricks and once you knew it was easy to see, like any magic trick. Medon was the master of manipulation. Using a limitless imagination she could conjure up nightmares worse than your darkest fears, turning you against yourself. But one thing was beyond her grasp, one weakness, one last hope.
One thing…then a slip of his foot and he let out a snort of anger, I shouldn't think so much. I must focus.
I shouldn't think so much. I must focus….the thought a foreign dagger in his mind. Slowing to a halt he looked around, suspiciously eyeing the hallway for intruders.
"This isn't right…" he muttered under his breath, clenching his knuckles as he tried to think.
The archnoid boy did not have to die. The child's bomb was never set to go off. What does that mean? Could it be-
Above him the ceiling collapsed with a deafening crack, narrowly missing him as he dove to one side. No, can't be distracted…must think…think of the girl. The saiyan. What is it all for? Does he only want-
Beneath him the floor caved in on itself, his feet trapped within its gapping mouth. No. No. I must not fall victim to her fantasies again…no…
With a final loud crack the floor completely gave way as it dropped his bleeding form into a pit of darkness. Struggling to his feet he tried to think, tried to remember, tried to forget.
A snort from the darkness drew his attention. Dread seized his heart as his stomach dropped like a stone, his tongue turning to lead in his mouth as his lungs held their breath.
Brother? No…not anymore.
The face that emerged from the darkness was the face of his brother from a distance past. No, this can't be happening. But it was, and before him his brother crept from the shadows. His legs were slashed from thigh to ankle, layers of muscle and bone exposed to the foul air. His broad chest and back was stripped bare, the lashes of countless whips cleaved his flesh from bone and left a wasteland behind. His mouth foamed as blood dripped from the holes where his teeth had been.
"Brother" the face called, the white of its eyes exposed in fear. "Why didn't you rescue me brother?" it cried, the stumps that remained of its hands waving through the air. "You could have saved me," it screamed, a blood curdling sound that pierced his heart like an arrow made of ice.
Brother? How could I have let this happen?
With one last scream his brother collapsed, sliding across the floor in a pool of his own blood, landing before his feet. Dropping down to his knees he scooped his brother up in his arms and cradled him to his chest. "I'm so sorry" he whispered as a tear dropped unseen into the growing pool of blood.
"You should be" his brother cackled, his eyes rolling back into his skull as the stump of a hand punctured Anevi through the eye. Blinded he tried to fling his brother from his arms but the tormented figure held firm. "Save me brother!" it cackled as its mouth opened wide, maggots and worms pouring fourth until the floor was a moving mass of their deathly filth.
When Anevi opened his mouth to scream they poured in. The taste of death and the sensation of the squirming grubs enough to make him retch, the bile catching in his throat where it refused to part as he struggled to breath. Every breath brought forth another lungful of bile, the acid burning at his chest as if someone had shoved a burning torch down his throat while he inhaled.
"Brother" Anevi managed to gasp, the world growing dim before his eyes and with one last plea he begged for the end.
"Pathetic" Lidev spat, disgust welling in his throat as he looked down at the miserable form before him. At his feet lay his brother, one hand drenched in blood from where he had gouged out his own eye, his breath ragged as he choked on his own bile. The stark white room they had contained his brother in was now stained with his brother's blood. Is no room in this palace of pain unbloodied…
As his brother writhed in pain before his eyes he heard him whisper, "brother." Something within Lidev stirred, distant memories of the life they once lived trickling back. The times when they galloped through the fields together, when they rough housed, when they were brothers.
That time is long gone, he thought resentfully. We live in a monstrous world and to survive we must become monsters. Hefting a blade borrowed from the armory he granted his brother's pitiful last wish and sank the shaft to the hilt in the flesh of his brother's neck, atop the scar where his brother had once taken the blow in his stead.
Beside him Medon stood, watching with lifeless eyes. Her eyes no longer see, he knew, her mind no longer thinks. Lidev took a step back as his brother's blood flowed outward from his body, flowing the sloping grooves of the tiled floor. Yet still Medon stood, hardly moving but to breath as the blood reached her toes and pooled around her feet. Her skin no longer feels, he knew, her ears deaf to all but those who commanded her.
Taking her lightly by the arm he lead her from the room, leaving Anevi's lifeless corpse behind. He almost bested her, Lidev thought to himself, he almost escaped her grasp. Medon fell into step by his side in short measured paces, her face a pale mask of stone, his brother's blood squishing out from between her toes with every step, leaving a trail of bloody footprints in their wake. Her power over the minds of others is extraordinary, he thought, but so easily overturned. She was a scrawny thing, her skin clinging tightly to her bones, the black clothing she wore hanging off her body loosely. Her lips were bleeding from where her teeth had broken flesh, which often happened when her victims mind's thought too much and threatened to overwhelm her grip on them. A small log may be a mighty dam upon a stream but it is quick to sink when the floodwaters come rushing down.
He remembered when they had first brought her to the arena. He had still been a young bull back then, filled with youthful fire. She had been a screaming bundle of cloth, toothless with a face blood red from screaming. She had been given to a female meuhvache for caretaking, the only female in the arena to be graced wings – a rare genetic mutation among the species.
He had not seen the girl again for many rotations – rotations of the planet being the only method of telling time - and when she reappeared she looked as she did now, a small child lost in a big world. She had still had fire in her then, fighting every step of the way as her new caretaker (himself) had dragged her from place to place. They were both so full of hate; hate at the world for what had befallen them, hate at themselves for being too weak to prevail over the menace that weighed on them, hate at those who had enslaved them. Lidev had bested his demons, pursuing the strength of the icejin and killing that bastard who had dared to beat him senseless. Medon on the other hand was surrounded by her demons, demons that poked her with sharp needles, demons that kept her on the brink of starvation, demons worse than the ones who go bump in the night.
At first Medon had hated Lidev too, he was her captor the same as the rest. For the safety of arena personal her eyes were bound at all times with a dark rag, tied so tightly it could only be removed with a knife. But once the experiments began she grew more and more distant, the fire in her eyes dwindling to a flicker of flame. At first the experiment was simple – when under attack how long could Medon defend herself. Her attackers spared her no mercy, prisoners of the arena they did everything within their power to kill her. At first she could only hold them at bay for mere moments, barely able to restrain their control over their muscles, but when her strength was depleted she left the test clinging to the fringes of life – beaten bloody by her attackers until Lidev stepped in to end their life. As time progressed her endurance grew, eventually holding them for full rotations, and as her endurance grew her compassion withered. Kill or be killed. She began to experiment on her own, learning the limits of her powers that evidently was only limited by her imagination. By the end of these experiments she drove her attackers insane, tormenting them until they ended their own life at which point she walked away unscathed, following Lidev back to her cell like a beaten and broken dog follows his master.
By the second round of experiments she was already mute, dwelling solely in her own mind as the last flicker of flame in her eyes extinguished. These experiments were scientific, what was happening in her brain when she took control of her victim. The explanations were too scientific for Lidev, but his brother studied the results night and day. Her capacity to control numerous minds was only limited to the strength of each mind, she could only maintain control of a single strong rebellious mind when she could otherwise sway hundreds of simple broken minds. It was quickly discovered that when her victim's mind became too active, thinking too much or asking too many questions and therefore engaging more cognitive properties of the brain, she lost her grip on them as the brain expelled her dominion. "Her one weakness," he thought to himself as he walked to back to her cell, "and that damn human has exposed it to many times for comfort."
"I wonder what flowers look like," Medon thought to herself.
"There is nothing we can do for him!" Vie cried out, pulling at Bulma's arm with all her might as Bulma made a run for the door. "He has made his choice, we must continue if you want to leave this arena alive!"
"No!" Bulma screamed as she dragged Vie along with her, "I can't let someone else die for me!"
With her back turned to them, Voel slammed the door shut without a word. As Bulma took a sharp breath, ready to curse Voel out but the quivering of the meuhvache's shoulders gave her pause. Is she crying?
She was. With a moan Voel collapsed against the door, her body shuddering with every labored breath.
Vie released Bulma's arm and placed her small hand on Voel's shoulder, bowing her head in respectful mourning. Silence engulfed the room as Bulma tried to think. What do I do now?
"We must continue," Vie said quietly as she took her hand from Voel's shoulder. "We're almost through your memories, we must be close to finding her weakness."
Without warning the room around Bulma disappeared before she could even blink.
Her mind was groggy and her head was pounding. Gripping her forehead with a sweaty palm she tried to steady herself. Even though she could feel the coolness of a floor pressed against her back the room seemed to be spinning all around her, colors swirled together as the lines between objects blurred, leaving Bulma nauseous before she could even stand. For the briefest moment she expected to see Capsule Corp come into view before her eyes, but as memories of recent events flooded her mind the harsh white lines of her cell came into view and any hope of Capsule Corp was gone in an instant. Every muscle in her body tingled painfully, as if they had all fallen asleep as her legs so often did when she conducted long experiments in her lab. Like a legion of angry ants the neurons under her skin sent needle sharp pricks of pain to her brain. But as Bulma lay still the angry prickle beneath her skin began to recede and soon she didn't feel them at all.
Groaning she pushed herself into a sitting position, releasing her forehead to rub her temples. As she sat up she felt the bile rise in her throat and for a moment she feared she might be sick, but the moment passed and after a few shallow breaths she bravely looked up to engage her surroundings. The room was a standard 8x10 cell, with no windows and a lone metal door. Swaying slightly, Bulma stood on shaky legs and staggered toward the door. Leaning forward heavily she gave the handle a hard tug, but when it refused to give she could not say she was surprised.
Slumping against the wall by the door her eyes found the floor beneath her feet. The stone was perfectly smooth, without so much as a crack or bump from corner to corner. As the stone met the wall it seemed to melt away, seamlessly sloping upward into the concrete-like wall. But as the walls continued their vertical climb they encountered no ceiling, climbing upwards indefinitely until blackness swallowed it whole.
As her eyes gazed upwards into the darkness the door beside her swung open suddenly, two blood red eyes meeting hers and the cow like beast slowly entered the room.
"Lidev" Vie said with disgust, her voice echoing around the fringes of the memory. "This room is conjured from Medon's mind. Somehow your mind took control of your limbs when it wasn't supposed to. The meuhvache that entered the room was not Lidev, your tormentor, but an innocent bystander. You gouged his eyes out before laying waste to an entire computer room. It had the whole arena in an uproar"
"Wh-wwhat?" Bulma stammered, her mind racing, "I gouged his eyes out?" Growing dizzy she held up her hands, blood running down her arms as it stained her pale skin crimson red.
"Bulma!" Vie's voice shouted, drilling into Bulma's ears and piercing her brain. Oh Kami, my head is about to split open….
When she opened her eyes again she was staring at the ceiling, Vie's face looming over her as the tips of her fire red hair brushed against Bulma's face. With a sigh Vie's face disappeared from view, the whiteness of the ceiling filling her vision as she groaned. Placing a palm against her forehead she tried to calm the pounding in her skull.
"It's no wonder you escaped her grasp. When your mind gets all worked up like that it's very hard to tell it what to do!" Vie snorted, giving Bulma a nudge with her toe. "I took a peek at the rest of it, Medon certain knows every trick in the book."
"What are you talking about?" Bulma muttered, rubbing her eyes with her palms.
"Your mind took off running, so to speak, but Medon seems to have a very handy trick for reeling you back in. By distracting your brain she can derail your train of thought and bring you back under her control. You probably don't remember it but she filled you with the sensation of being shoved, forcing you to focus on making your way forward. Then the memory of an old lover reined in your outburst enough for her to put your mind back to sleep. From there the arena put in cryostasis, where your body could not do any more harm. Back in the realm of Medon's mind you were 'rescued' by Anevi who was also under her influence."
"Remember when you thought you were escaping? You were in Medon's mind with Anevi"
"Anevi! He's the brother of Lidev, your tormentor. He's a scientist of sorts here in the arena"
"Oh you're hopeless."
Bulma rubbed her temples as she tried to process it all. No matter how hard she tried to think Vie's words would slip away, as if she was grabbing at a feather falling through the air that always blew just out of reach at the last moment. Unable to handle any more Bulma promptly rolled onto her side and drifted off into a restless slumber.
Bulma has managed to escape Medon's grasp, can Vegeta do the same? Find out next time on Dragonball Z!