Chapter Fifteen: Anakehm

"Fresh Blood"

"Aash'an, we have three hundred men ready for invasion. What are your orders?"

Raditsu was aware that someone had spoken to him, but his mind was too far away to really understand the words. He was silent; what other response could he make? Raditsu watched from the bridge's vid screen as the warship Kuraoh veered off to its left slightly, toward the mother ship. Now let the Aisu-jin try one more attempt at a surprise attack! The Kuraoh would incinerate the Aisu-jin fleet ship with little effort. But Raditsu guessed that was why they had not made any other attempts; no, they had wanted something else before and now they had it. They'd wanted the prince, and Brolli. The king had merely been icing on the cake.

"Captain?"

The voice came to him again, and he turned to see his subordinate, Keil, watching him with curious eyes. There was an important question in them. The other warrior shifted uneasily from side to side.

"What is it?"

"The warriors for invasion, Aash'an; they stand ready on board Kuraoh. Our backup squads tell us that the Kei-jal'a were not damaged in the attack and are ready for use. What are your orders?"

Raditsu sighed thoughtfully. Still, he could not find the energy within himself to respond as he should. What in all the gods' names had gone wrong to make the situation this dire? What had they not known - what had they not seen?

"Oh yes," Raditsu murmured finally. "Tell them to transport here. The Aisu-jin will expect an assault transporting from Kuraoh, but not from here." Keil nodded. "Any word from Galactic Security Squad 5?"

Keil's expression changed, though it was almost imperceptible. But Raditsu saw that much, and knew the reason for his subordinate's hesitancy. Squad #5 was widely known throughout the entirety of the Saiya-jin empire, which of course meant that anyone living in the Videon knew who they were whether it was by that name, or another.

Raditsu had heard various names. On Mizukashi, they were known as Lihima, meaning "beasts" or "wild things". And before the planet Arlia had been purged, they were called Yuxhim, meaning "soulless ones"; the Aisu-jin fondly referred to them as Rishallak za, or "flesh eating demons". Their commander was probably the most ruthless, unforgiving soldier in Vejiita-sei's army, and his subordinates were mere extensions of his will. Raditsu had to smirk a bit at the thought of them.

It did not matter, he thought, how they were known. The point was that the Saiya-jin had already waited too long to summon them; they had already underestimated the seriousness of this war and were about to rely on Squad #5 as a final hope.

"Any word from them, Keil?" Raditsu repeated his question because Keil had yet to answer. The soldier in front of him swallowed.

"None yet, Aash'an. But the transmission was sent to Commander Bardock's scouting device less than twenty minutes ago. Depending on their location, it may take several more minutes for him to receive it."

"Very well," Raditsu said, "stand ready to receive communication from them."

"Will they come, Aash'an?" Keil asked.

"They will." Raditsu told him. "Although my father is somewhat of a vigilante, he knows his duty. He will come."

Keil nodded and saluted again, this time ready to depart.

"Suukah," he said hurriedly, and hurried from the bridge. A few other soldiers followed him.

"Shallan," Raditsu replied quietly. He turned and faced the vid screen again. "Can someone give me an engineering report?" He asked absently.

Before one of the bridge operators had time to reply, the communications officer addressed him: "Aash'an, there is a transmission signal from somewhere in the northeastern sector of the Videon. It is urgent."

Raditsu's eyes narrowed; Vejiita-sei's solar system was in the northeastern sector. He bit his lip and remembered that his father had been given orders to patrol that area after Vejiita-sei's destruction.

"On screen," he told the officer. And the image of the Kuraoh disappeared to display fuzzy interference. After a few seconds, though, the image righted itself and his father's face was visible.

Raditsu had to grin evilly. His father looked more and more like a rebel each time he saw him. He wore a red cloth around his forehead: the tag, as it were, of his squad. And now, when he looked very carefully, Raditsu saw that there was a new scar on his father's left cheek. It crossed over an old one he'd gotten during the Saiya-jin raid on the Videon's eastern sector to defeat the Quarli emperor, years ago. It had been quite a resistance, Raditsu remembered. Enough to scar his father, anyway - which was quite a feat in itself.

"Ah, Raditsu. If I'd known the transmission had come from you I would have responded sooner." His father's grin was nearly a mirror image of his own, but Raditsu did not favor his father's appearance so much as his other siblings.

"Commander," Raditsu said, "you do us an honor."

His father laughed; it was quite amused, considering the circumstances. After he had finished, Bardock licked his bottom lip.

"Always kissing my ass, Raditsu! In such things you have always outmatched your brothers."

"Indeed," Raditsu said gleefully.

"Have you finally convinced the King that you need our help? Or is this merely a courtesy call?"

Raditsu's smile fell, and he crossed both arms over his chest. There was a brief moment of silence, and even the operators on the bridge seemed to have stopped what they were doing. Bardock's eyes grew dark, and before Raditsu could answer he saw a familiar face edge its way onto the screen beside his father.

"Raditsu! It's been a long time, hasn't it?" His younger brother Turles cackled at him and squinted.

The same face peered over his father's other shoulder; it was Turles's twin, Kakarot. Raditsu had to smile at the two of them; Turles was always the sharper of the twins, and Kakarot always the moron. But the two of them had few rivals in strength and as it turned out, Kakarot always beat the living hell out of Turles during sparring matches - oddly enough.

"Raditsu!" Kakarot fumbled onto the screen. "Long time no see! Hey, you got time for a spar? Ow-!" Bardock had slapped him upside the head.

"Idiots!" He snapped. Bardock had little patience for the absent-mindedness of his twin sons. "Raditsu... You have something to tell me?"

Raditsu nodded and uncrossed his arms. He told his father everything: everything from the moment Vejiita had declared their departure for Yuki-sei until the attack on the interstellar dock, the death of the king and the capture of Vejiita and Brolli. Bardock's mouth thinned with every word.

"So you see Father, we have desperate need of your attention. I can only apologize, since we have not requested it sooner. But it is difficult trying to convince Saiya-jin royalty of anything."

"Indeed," Bardock agreed quietly. Turles and Kakarot had grown uncharacteristically quiet. Perhaps they too had been shocked into silence just as Raditsu had. "Perhaps the King should have called for us the moment Vejiita-sei was destroyed. We have been scouting the outer rims of her solar system since we received word; no one has come back. We have been wasting our time!"

"I know, Kantak." Raditsu said. "And wasting your talent. But it is I who requests your help now; our main objective is to rescue Vejiita-Zarshi, the Kassha'hal Brolli, and to invade Yuki-sei as was planned from the beginning. We can no longer delay by distracting the Aisu-jin; we have underestimated them."

"So we have," Bardock said regretfully. "The system you have always loved so much has failed you, jya'nehm."

Raditsu bowed his head for a moment. It was true that Raditsu had always favored the more strict rules of society than his father or brothers had. It was commonplace for them to be always skating on the thin ice of legality, and the only reason why some of their actions had gone unpunished was because of the squad's value to the empire. Raditsu lifted his eyes back to his father.

"Perhaps that is so, Father," he told Bardock, "but if you do not help us now there will be no system left to have disdain for. Our very existence is threatened."

Bardock was silent for another few seconds, and Kakarot shifted uncomfortably at his side. Turles looked at his father, and then back at the screen; his face was unreadable. The operators on the bridge had quietly ceased all activity. Bardock leaned forward and blinked a few times into the screen.

"Raditsu, you will tell Vejiita-Zarshi after we've rescued him; his reign had best be a long and prosperous one."

Raditsu grinned and uncrossed his arms. He saluted his father. There seemed to be a sigh of relief throughout the bridge.

"I will tell him, Commander. The Royal House thanks you... I thank you."

Bardock chuckled some more. Turles and Kakarot were cracking their knuckles; they knew a fight was coming. So much so that they could probably smell the blood from here. Bardock stopped chuckling.

"My ship's warp pods should still be fully charged and can dock with your fleet ship. We will be there within the hour."

#

The corridor was icy, drafty and dark. She jogged down the empty space, watching her breath freeze in front of her. This ship was unlike anything Bulma had ever seen since becoming acquainted with space travel. But then, she thought, the Aisu-jin were unlike anything she had seen thus far; and she had seen her fair share of alien life forms since leaving Chikyuu. But Chikyuu was admittedly far from her mind now. The only thing Bulma wondered was simply: how in all the gods' names was she going to get out of the mess she'd created?

Thick, cold tears threatened to well over her eyes each time Bulma really began to think of the dire situation she'd created - each time she understood just how stupid she had really been. How could she have trusted Furiza? How could she even have believed that he would have trusted her? But what was done, was done now. Bulma had spent enough time mourning her mistakes and miraculously surviving Vejiita's wrath. Even without the use of his ki, surely he could have strangled her without much effort. But he hadn't, Bulma remembered. She was here, alive, and sweating even in this cold hallway.

She had realized upon leaving the cell block that she could not go back to Furiza. Even Bulma had now run out of excuses or fabrications and, she realized, if Furiza even thought he smelled a hint of deceit he would kill her. And that would be the end of that... Bulma shook her head and slowed her footsteps; she was nearing the junction and there, she would have to make a choice.

Bulma pressed her back up against the freezing wall. It seemed she had not the will even to shiver. She rubbed the back of her hand against her mouth and nose to make an attempt at warming them. She was unsuccessful.

The intersection here would lead her either north toward the helm of the ship, where Furiza waited for her, west into the engineering wing or east toward the medical wing. North was not an option; Furiza was too keen, Bulma knew that now. And so, should she proceed to engineering and attempt to communicate with Raditsu first? Or should she try another approach? Bulma thrust her fist back into the pocket of her tunic and felt her pulse gun; the metal had gone cold in a matter of seconds. Bulma traced the contours of her self-made weapon and thought for a moment.

If she remembered correctly, the gun had ten charges in it. When she had finished crafting it, that even number had seemed enough for her to utilize should she ever need it. But Bulma had not anticipated needing it so much as she did now. Then again, Furiza had not anticipated her being armed; he had never once checked her for weapons. His mistake may have saved her life, for she had no other weapons - not even the knowledge of using her own ki.

Looking back down the corridor to the south, she remembered an angry Vejiita waiting for her in his cell. Probably, he was uncertain if she would come back for him. But she had no choice, really; perhaps he knew that. But perhaps he thought that she no longer cared whether she lived or died here, in this icy hell, if it be by his hand or by Furiza's.

Bulma's lip curled with indignation. She left the pulse gun in her pocket and headed as calmly as possible toward sick bay.

#

Outside the heavy, security-sealed door to sick bay, Bulma paused. Before hitting the call button she attempted to compose herself. It seemed as though a cold sweat was still dripping down the center of her back, and it crawled over her skin with maddening sensation. She wiped the palms of her hands furiously against the silky pants she wore and took a few deep breaths. Bulma pressed the call button.

To her surprise, the door opened without a request call. The Aisu-jin standing on the other side of it looked no different from the others, but for the ranking crest near its collar bone - or what passed as a collar bone, she thought. He/she/it scowled at her and snarled. Some of that repulsive red saliva dripped off of its lip.

"What do you want, sha rilak?" It asked her irritably. Bulma glared at it with all the hate left in her, though she had sparing quantities of it left.

"Furiza instructed me to see the one in charge of sick bay. There are some..." She paused and tried to think of the word. "Complications... After-effects... Plasma shock."

The Aisu-jin snarled one more time and looked away to the other side of the bay, apparently to its subordinate because its tone was quite harsh, and crossed both arms over its slick chest. It spat out a few words that Bulma could barely understand and spewed forth more of that red, saliva-like liquid. Bulma lifted her upper lip in disgust and reached into her pocket. As the lizard-like alien spoke, she aimed her pulse gun carefully between its eyes. When it looked back at her, those eyes widened for just a moment before she fired.

Bulma had not actually seen her creation work on a living creature so far, and she had at least a bit of time to be pleased with the results as the Aisu-jin gripped both sides of its frazzling head. A few sparks flew as the pulse interacted with whatever neurotransmitters the alien's dying synapses had fired, and those black eyes rolled back into its head. With a sudden grace, Bulma stepped over its body and took sight of the other Aisu-jin. This one was shouting curses at her and reaching for the communicator near its desk.

She fired again, aiming for its chest.

This time, the Aisu-jin shuddered a bit before collapsing in a convulsive heap on the floor. It screeched a few times as the pulse traveled up its spine and perhaps into its cerebellum. No matter, though, Bulma thought. So long as it was dead. And it was, she realized as she stepped closer to it, though it still twitched a bit.

Bulma looked around; there was no one else. Hurriedly, she went to the first body and dragged it back into the small sick bay. Bulma slammed her palm down on the control pad and watched the door swish shut in front of her. Then, she went quickly to work.

Bulma examined the reconstruction and rejuvenating equipment. She saw that its structure was not completely unlike that of the Saiya-jin tanks and beds, but that it was slightly more advanced. She did not have the time to investigate it more thoroughly, she thought with regret. But if it was programmed and calibrated even sixty percent the same way as Saiya-jin equipment, it would probably emit the same pulse waves if its energy core collapsed: the same pulse waves that powered her gun.

If Bulma could rig the energy core, the resulting explosion would not be enough to damage large areas of the ship. Yet it would indeed be possible that anyone in the room during the blast would have been killed - thus creating the distraction she needed and lifting suspicion from her. Bulma knelt down beside the closest tank and ran her hand along its underbelly. If the Aisu-jin had constructed their tanks the same way, then the core control panel should be somewhere... just about...

"Ah! There..." Bulma grinned to herself. The core control panel had been exactly where she'd guessed. For a moment she was more than proud of her scientific mind.

There was no security panel on the lid, and so Bulma flicked it open and crawled onto her knees to see better. The light in the room was a greenish gray, and it made things a bit more difficult than she had imagined a moment ago; this was especially true once she started reading the Aisugo characters. They were difficult, she realized: more difficult than any she had studied so far. But, Bulma thought, she was in luck. The control panel was familiar in structure and color; even if she could not read the characters then, at least she knew which key strokes she would have to follow.

Bulma was finished the key sequence before she expected. There would be no time to stall now; there were only forty seconds until core meltdown in the machine she had altered. She had only that time before the machine detonated. Bulma scrambled to her feet and raced over toward the refrigeration units to retrieve a few extra vials of numbing agent. They probably would not be enough to calm all of Brolli's pain but it was better than nothing.

The machine's alarm had begun to sound, and a few other emergency lamps in the room flickered. Bulma stuffed the vials into her tunic and retrieved her gun. With one last glance, she made sure that the two Aisu-jin were expired. When Bulma was sure that they were quite dead, she opened the control panel and slid through the open door. Once it had slid shut behind her, she entered the lock sequence on the outside panel and turned to race down the hallway. The explosion would not damage the ship extensively, of course, but the hallway would probably be impassable.

Bulma ran as fast as she could back toward the holding wing, where she hoped to find Brolli still alive.