&&&[Begin Chapter 10.]

        An ornate grey staff, tipped with a red sphere, lay against a
pillar amidst the immense, gothic architecture. Gargoyles and
transparent crystal skulls dotted the high archways, their ruby eyes
gleaming in the torchlight. Wall to wall shelves spiraling through
dozens of alcoves were filled with ancient tomes, waiting for the
unknown day in which their forbidden knowledge would be called upon.

        A treatise on Moon Kingdom contracts lay in tatters near a
shredded "Bride" magazine in a forgotten corner of one of the
many twisting archival alcoves.

        The dark, cavernous library was silent, save for the insane,
indecipherable mutterings of the room's sole occupant.

        "Soon, my precious...  Soon, my precious, you shall no longer
be mine! You shall curse another, but never again me.  Ah-hahaha..."

        A figure in a hooded, loose-fitting black robe pored over a
selection of large books, strewn haphazardy across the wide, eerily
decorated stone table in front of it. The names for these included
the Necronomicon, the Kitab Al-Azif, the R'leyh Text, the Book of
Eibon, Darkhold, the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Eltdown Shards, the
Book of Dyzan, the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon, Nameless
Cults, the Elder Scripts, and many more whose titles were unreadable.

        The robed figure trembled as it slowly turned the pages of one
particularly strange, runed volume.

        The shadow stopped, examining one specific paragraph in depth.
The mysterious being took a hesitant breath and pushed back its hood,
revealing a head of long, dark-green hair and the soft facial
features of a woman. Her left eye twitched, her face contorting into
a mask of focused anger and calculated malice.

        Meiou Setsuna was not a well Time Guardian at the moment.

        "This... could be," she hissed, then realized with
disappointment that it was yet another torture that would be
insufficient for the task to be done. Scowling with rage, she
backhanded the manuscript off of the table, scattering its ill-bound
pages across the cobblestone floor. She growled like a beast that had
lost its prey. "Bah! Limited horrors, created by limited minds!"

        Setsuna raised her arm to clear the rest of the table in front
of her, then stopped as she noticed a glint of blue light shining
underneath the folds of crumbling paper she had just knocked away.

        Before she could do anything, the entire pile burst into an
intense, violet fire, blackening the cobblestones and burning away
in a flash. Not even ash remained from the destroyed tome.

        The robed Time Guardian sighed and began to turn away, but
halted when she heard an ambient humming. On the floor where the
ancient tome had lain, small electrical sparks appeared inches
above the stone and increased in magnitude along with the humming,
circling the former width of the book.

        Within a few moments, the sparks had become an intense, yellow
lightning, which danced into glowing, demon-shaped silhouettes,
before finally coalescing into a small, rectangular shape.

        A gold-clad book phased into existence. With a final spark,
the lights faded and the book clattered to the floor.

        Amidst the following silence, Setsuna narrowed her eyes at
the small, glistening object. "Clever..."

        She took a few hesitant steps and knelt beside it. She reached
out to touch it, but drew back as soon as she had. The book was
_cold_. Completely and utterly frigid. It drew the heat away from
her as if it were hungry, starving for her life energy.

        Setsuna gritted her teeth. Somehow, she knew that this was
what she was looking for. She snatched the book in both hands,
fighting off the weakness it threatened to cause her, then picked it
up and brought it to the table.

        Upon closer examination, the small book had no title or author
on its entire cover, just ornamental gold decorations... and a
somewhat fragile-looking snake-faced lock, holding it closed. The
diamond eyes of the stylized reptile glinted, seeming to look at her.

        A quick attempt to pull open the lock met with failure; it
was surprisingly strong for its design... or even its materials.
The gold clasp was tissue paper thin... and yet did not yield to
the Time Guardian's efforts.

        "A magical lock, then," Setsuna whispered with growing
confidence. She knew precisely how to handle such simple things as
locks. Even magical ones were no true barrier or challenge to her.

        She grabbed the lock's snake-head with her right hand and
focused her energies toward it.

        The book's metal lapped up her energy as if it were a
feast to a starving tiger.

        The snake came alive, hissing in her hand.

        Setsuna wrenched the lock to the side with all her might.

        A bubble of red lightning manifested itself around the book.
As she pulled, it expanded and grew in strength.

        Finally, it reached a threshold and the green-haired woman
stopped focusing her energy into it. The magical lock grew weaker.
Unable to resist any further, the bubble burst in a shower of
electrical sparks.

        The snake vanished into the cover and the book swung open.

        "I will not be stopped," Setsuna said with great determination.
She looked down and saw that the book had opened to its third
chapter. She read the title and frowned. "This... cannot be right."

        However, as she examined the rest of the section, a malevolent
grin crept onto her face.

        The Time Guardian realized that she had been going about...
convincing her unwanted fiance in entirely the wrong way. He was
always up to a challenge, and would eventually overcome all that
was sent at him.

        This, on the other hand, would not fail. If she did it to him,
he would be broken for good, and more than willing to break off his
engagement to her.

        It was not a possibility; it was a fact. If it were to be
employed against him, he would, without a doubt, never fully
recover... and hate her forever for what she did to him.

        As Setsuna thought over and considered the precise effects
that would be caused by the method detailed in the book, she began
to laugh. Softly at first, but soon becoming a triumphant cackle.

        Meiou Setsuna, Sailor Pluto and Guardian of Time, was going
to get rid of Ranma.

        Once and for all.


        "Stop that, stop that!" the ArbyFish said, holding a sign up
to the redhead's face. "They'll be no meta'phor's here! This is a
no-meta'phor zone."

        Ranma-chan blinked, trying to grasp the meaning of the
abstract drawings on the small, wooden picture in front of her.
"Uh... I don't get it."

        Arby rolled his head and shook his eyes. "You wouldn't." He
haphazardly took out a long twig with some leaves on it and pointed
it at the sign he was holding. "Ya see... It's all similies. On this
drawin' roight 'ere, we'z gots lotsa pictures a' absa'lutely
nothin'." He traced an outline in the air around one of the designs.
"So, ya gots stuff _loike_ something else." He traced a picture.
"See? This won's a twig." He traced another. "N' this's a badger."
He traced yet another. "Look! 'Ere's a three-toed sloth!" And
another... "N' a cabbit! Look! Can almost see it go 'Mayan' along the
Plains of Madagascar!" He tossed the twig and the sign over his
shoulder. "So, ya see, ya'z got similies on the soign, and not
meta'phors, so ya can't 'ave meta'phors in this temporal epoch!!!"
He paused. "Or... it's _loike_ that, ya see."

        "No, actually, I don't," Ranma-chan said, slowly shaking her
head in bewilderment.

        "But she was just trying to read me a story," a little,
pink-haired girl in pajamas lying by them in a bed whined.

        Arby fluttered over to sit on her head. "Alroight, Lil'

        "It's Small Lady," Reenie corrected, trying, but failing to
shoo the odd little creature away.

        "'Swot I said," Arby replied, fluttering out of her reach and
settling back down on her head. "Lil' Mucus." He looked at the
martial artist and chuckled, pointing at the girl underneath him
with one of his flippers. "Cute lil' spit, inn'she?"

        Ranma-chan put down the book she had been trying to read
to the Princess. "Uh, yeah..." She paused. "Why do you keep calling
her stuff like that, anyway?"

        "Well, ya see," the green-patterned seal began, "a 'spit'
is a newborn. When they grow up a bit, they turn to a 'snot.'
Progressively, they turn from 'snot' ta 'snort' ta 'mucus,' then
'phlegm,' 'sloime,' and 'sludge.'" He paused. "Ya don't wont ta
know what 'appens afta' that. Let's just say they turn ta more
solid forms... then doie." He shrugged. "Ya know. It's a way a'loife.
We get used ta it after a whoile." He smiled. "I'm somewhere between
sloime n' sludge m'self. Ya know, I've still got 'bout foive billion
years left in me before I congeal."

        Ranma-chan stared.

        "Ya see, I don't doie... Aye _congeal_," Arby clarified, then
paused, looking off to the side.

        Ranma-chan continued to stare at him.

        "Oh, goodie! Look, a popsickle," Arby said after a moment,
starting to munch on the ends of Reenie's 'rabbit ears.'

        "Aaaah!" Reenie whined, flailing around wildly to try to get
the ArbyFish off. "Make the moldy thing stop!"

        "That's not a popsickle," Ranma-chan noted, quietly inching
toward the creature.

        "Well, it's _loike_ a popsickle," Arby said, still chewing
on Reenie's pink hair.

        "You said that it _was_ a popsickle... I thought you said
this was a no metaphor zone."

        Arby stopped, standing up on his tail. "Oh, and since when
d'you know 'bout meta'phors, yon'snort?"

        "Anything Goes Martial Arts Book Critiquing," the redhead
replied confidently. "Learned it last month to fight off a
Martial Arts Librarian that was threatening the Tendos."

        Arby chuckled. "Ya think ya soooo tough, dont'cha?"

        Ranma-chan smirked, folding her arms. "Yeah. I _am_ the best
martial artist there is, after all."

        The ArbyFish gave a predatory smile. "I'm a marshal autist,
too. I know the auts of Feng Xuey n' Haiku!" He sat up into a
rather silly, seal-like ArbyFish combat stance on Reenie's head.

        The sailor-suited girl rolled her eyes. "Those aren't
martial arts."

        "Oh, really?" Arby asked, then, much to Reenie's relief,
fluttered off of her head and tilted one of the pictures on the
bedroom wall twelve degrees to the left. "Lookit this, now, n'
listen carefully. I'm only gonna say this once."

        The ArbyFish took one short breath, and began his recital.

         Klaksons broken ta moie 'ead, and realoize that Oye am ded:

        "I don't get it. What's that supposed to do?" Ranma-chan
asked, then winced and fell to the floor as her left side went
completely numb. "Aaah..."

        "Painful ta 'ear n' look at, innit?" Arby asked gleefully,
pointing at the now badly-positioned picture. "Marshal Auts Feng
Xuey comboined with 'Aiku cn' mess up yer energies roight noicely
if ya know 'ow ta do it." He tilted the picture back into its
original position. "Pinky winky wizzlebumz," he complimented the
picture, then turned back to Ranma-chan. "N' you can't learn it cos
I won't teach it ta ya cos it's too powa'ful. So there."

        The pigtailed girl was about to protest, but...

        *EACCCH!* Arby coughed up a small, slimy mushroom into the
redhead's lap. "There ya go." He then fluttered out of the room,
humming an innocent tune.

        As soon as Ranma-chan managed to get the feeling back into her
body, she stood. "I've seen and heard some _weird_ things in my life,
but that thing... Well, that's sure one of them." She took notice of
the mushroom clinging to her skirt. "And... I've had some pretty bad
experiences with mushrooms, too..." She picked it off and tossed it
into a nearby wastebasket.

        "So have I. Arby scares me," Reenie said, trembling slightly
as she pushed back the covers she had been cowering under.

        Ranma-chan sighed. "Oh well... No big deal. I mean it's not
like Arby's a c-c-cat or anything..."

        "Somebody call?" a small, purple cat asked, poking her head
out from under the bed. She saw the redheaded girl in the pink-
highlighted sailor fuku and smiled. "Oh, hi! You must be the new
Sailor Earth. I'm sorry for not coming out to meet you for all the
time so far you've been here... where are you going? Wait!"

        As soon as Ranma-chan saw the cat, she had taken off, running
and screaming. "AAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

        The cat followed with a bounce in her step. "What could she be
running from... I mean, it's just little me..."

        Reenie gasped. "Diana, wait... and Ranma, you're supposed to
be babysitting meeeee!" She climbed out of bed and followed after

        The mushroom that had been thrown away jumped out of the
trash can and began to follow also, making little squelching noises
as it hopped along.


        Crystal Tokyo... Ah, what a place! It takes a beating and
keeps on getting rebuilt. Sometimes, they even change the wallpaper.

        A week ago, it had been attacked and nearly destroyed by no
less than ten thousand Nemesian droids, a couple dozen Nemesian
fighters, fifteen incompetent cannon-fodder Nemesian leaders, and
one hyper-powered, shrunken hentai.

        There were no survivors; Every last one of those had been
destroyed or killed in battle, by one method or another.

        Except one, that is.

        "Oh, my head..." the woman whispered as she awoke. She looked
at the individuals in front of her, trying to focus her eyes. When
she finally saw who was there, she gasped and recoiled back into the
bed she had been placed in.

        Before her stood none other than Neo-Queen Serenity, King
Endymion, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter... and a dozen silver-clad
Crystal Tokyo guards.

        "Good, you're finally awake," Neo-Queen Serenity said. "You
were in a coma for nearly a week."

        "Thanks to _you_," the injured woman hissed. "You will
suffer for this!"

        The red-highlighted Senshi stepped forward. "Riight... but
before that, we'd like to ask you a few... questions."

        The woman lying in the bed clenched her teeth and closed
her eyes tightly, a tear going down her cheek as she remembered
all that had been lost in the battle. "Might as well, for all the
good it'll do you."

        "Alright," Endymion said, "first of all, what did you hope
to accomplish by attacking us?"

        "We had hoped," the woman growled, "to _destroy_ you."
She sniffed. "I expected to take revenge for my lost brothers,
and I did NOT expect to be captured and subjected to an entire
Senshi Inquisition!"

        *BLAM!* The hospital room door blasted inward in a shower
of sparks. Sailor Saturn rushed in, waving her Glaive, followed
quickly by Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune.

        All were wearing long red robes over their fuku.

        "Nobody expects the Senshi Inquisition!!!" Saturn shouted.

        The guards backed off to the edges of the room, an action
soon mimicked by the royalty and the Senshi.

        "Oh dear," Serenity whispered to her husband, "they're at
it again..."

        "Invited by a new age-" Uranus began.
        "Our three main weapons are-" Neptune continued.
        "Fear, surprise, and a _fanatical_ devotion to our cause!"
Saturn finished, grinning maniacally.

        "Saturn," Uranus said, motioning to the woman lying on
the bed, "tie her to... THE RACK."

        *Dramatic Chord* Saturn looked around with a frightened
expression on her face. She pulled out a small, plastic-coated
dishwasher rack and a rope, which, as she balanced her Glaive
against her shoulder to free one of her hands, she tied to the
injured woman's chest.

        "Now," Neptune said to the woman with a calculating look, "will
you confess?"

        The woman scowled. "Confess to _what_?!"

        "HAH!" Neptune laughed, putting a finger up to the prisoner's
face. "HAH!" she laughed again, then paused and backed off.

        "Saturn," Uranus said, "give the rack... A TURN."

        There was a dramatic pause as the glaive-wielding Senshi looked
around, shifty-eyed. She looked back at Uranus. "Which side?"

        "I don't care which side!" the short-haired blonde Senshi

        *CRASH!* "C-C-C-C-CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!!!" a redheaded girl
in a pink-highlighted Senshi outfit screamed, breaking through the
wall and rushing through the room.

        "Oof!" the woman lying on the bed said in pain, as the girl
jumped onto her stomach on her direct route through the room.

        *CRASH!* The girl burst through the wall on the other side.

        "Mreow?" a small purple cat with a white, painted line down
its back asked rhetorically as it ran through in pursuit of the girl.

        "Ouch..." the sore woman said as the cat jumped in exactly
the same spot the girl did.

        The cat rushed out the hole in the other wall.

        "Vhere are you, my dahling?" a voice with a seductive French
accent called as a black and white skunk hopped in. It glanced
around and hopped onto the woman's stomach on its way through.

        "Aaah!" the woman half-screamed at the pain and twitched at
the stench wafting by her.

        "I am, how you say, coming to get yoooou!" the skunk called
as it left.

        "Noooo! Ranma, Diana, Pepe, waaaaait!" a young, pink-haired
girl in white and pink bunny pajamas and slippers called as she
jogged through.

        "Aaaow..." the woman on the bed groaned as the girl jumped
on her stomach.

        "'Scuse me, sorry!" the annoyingly cute girl called back as
she exited.

        *Squelch!* A mushroom made squishing noises as it hopped
in, leaving a slime trail. It, too, leapt upon the woman's stomach...

        Then, it looked around, squeaked, and dove into her wide-open
mouth and down her throat.

        "ACK-ACK!" the woman choked as the mushroom went into her
digestive tract. In the next instant, her hair turned yellow.
"Alright!" she cried. "I confess! I confess! I was the secondary
leader of a strike force sent specifically to destroy _you_,
Serenity. Okay?! So just purify me! Purify me NOW, why don't you?!"

        Neo-Queen Serenity took a moment to process all that had just
happened. "Ah... well, if that's they way you feel..." She took
out her magical wand and Crystal. "I mean, you're sure?"


        "Well, alright..."


        Ahem... And now for something completely different.

        Nephrite sat, concentrating in his cathedral, still attempting
to uncover the meaning of memories that had been revived within him
last week. "The stars know everything..."

        These memories had not changed his opinions: Far from it; the
recollection of his past experiences had only solidified his
determination to find that elusive Ginzuishou-

        {{SILVER IMPERIUM CRYSTAL,}} the massive constellation Draco
reminded, rather loudly.

        "Buzz off!" Nephrite growled, tearing his gaze away from the
functioning magical zodiac, and continued his inner muddlings.

        Yes, he would find the Empyrean Silver Crystal, destroy that
incompetent Queen Beryl, silence that idiot Zoicite, eliminate the
Moon Princess if she decided to show up, and perhaps destroy the
entire Negaverse while he's at it.

        Maybe then, he could have some peace and quiet... settle down,
buy a house, open up a shop, get married, have kids...

        Nephrite winced. He was remembering things... but not quite
enough to figure out why he was getting these strange... impulses
every once in a while.

        All uncertanties aside, he was sure that it had something
to do with the near-death experience he had at the hands... or
tiara, rather, of Sailor Moon. That was when the flashes had
begun. He would have forgotten about them in the following
struggle with the monster Zoicite had sent against him if they had
not kept resurfacing.

        None that he had seen so far really changed his mind about
anything... but there was one image that still troubled him.

        His wife?

        His daughter?

        Nephrite knew he had neither, even in the Silver Millennium.
He had been close to some, but intimate with none.

        But the vision could not be easily dismissed, and that was
why he had spent the past week ignoring Beryl's calls and asking
the stars for answers to this.

        "The stars know everything," Nephrite repeated, turning
back toward the magical zodiac.

        In front of him, the view of stars in space swirled.

        "Show me the key to this mystery..."

        A dark, triangular view opened in front of the stellar
picture. The image of a young, reddish-brown haired girl appeared.

        "Again, it's Molly," Nephrite whispered, then frowned. "But
she didn't know about..." He paused in thought. "But the Kurozuishou
reacted to her. Either she knows how to find the Ginzuishou, or...
Could it be _inside_ her?"

        That was a theory he could test.


        Molly lay on her bed, sleeping soundly, unaware of the man
that had just appeared in her room.

        Nephrite held out the Star Crystal, which hovered in the air,
inches away from his open hand.

        The crystal emitted energies, which would illuminate any
trace of the Silver Crystal, if it were there.

        The energies passed over Molly, searching through her...

        Once the magic had gotten down past the bone structure without
finding anything, the general decided to give up.

        "So much for that idea," Nephrite muttered, then vanished.


        Doctor Samuel Beckett, accidental time-traveler and unwilling
part-time body snatcher, awoke to the now-familiar room of the girl
he had leapt into.

        He shuddered momentarily, shaking off the passing remnants of
an annoying, tingling sensation.

        "That felt weird," he whispered to himself. "I wonder what
just..." He broke off as a shining, square door slid open in the
middle of the room and a man wearing an ugly plaid suit stepped out.
"Al! Where have you been for the past week?!" He paused. "And...
why are you wearing _that_?"

        The black-haired hologram chuckled nervously, adjusting his
jacket. "Well, Sam... I kinda... lost a bet, and, well... Things
went downhill from there. I'd be VERY happy if you wouldn't ask
any more questions about the suit."

        Sam nodded quickly. "Right, right. Where have you been?"

        Al sighed. "Well... When Susan heard about how you helped
save Maxfield Stanton, she went ballistic. She didn't say much
about it--She's a pretty quiet gal, but... stuff started happening,
there was some kind of 'anti-temporal pollution' law she got pushed
through Congress... Let's just say it took a while before Goushie
and Ziggy found a convincing loophole in the legal jargon... It's
a mess, Sam. We're lucky they're letting me talk to you _now_."

        Dr. Beckett frowned. "Okay... So, now that you're here, could
you tell me something? Like, why I'm still here?"

        Al nodded, punching a few things into his hand-held computer
link. "Yeah, sure can. Ziggy says that there's an... eighty-eight
percent chance that Maxfield is still in danger."

        Sam grimaced. "What from? Last time, it was from a bunch of
magical schoolgirls and some nightmare from a science fiction horror

        The hologram tapped a couple keys on the link. "Well... Sorry
about not giving any warning about them... I mean, how were we
supposed to know that Molly's friends were short-skirted nocturnal

        The time traveler shrugged. "I'm not sure I believe it
myself... But then again, it wouldn't be the strangest thing that's

        Al nodded and looked at his friend, and smiled bemusedly.
"And... Ziggy says that there's a fifty percent chance that good
ol' Mister Stanton is going to get massacred by a tree-branch
through the shoulder."

        "Oh, how wonderful."

        "It's a lousy way to die, Sam..."


        Nephrite stepped back into his cathedral. He sighed, shaking
his head. He had wasted several days trying to find the Ginzuishou,
and attempting to find out more about his memories.

        He hadn't made much progress. The stars knew everything...
but they sure weren't telling him much.

        The general returned to his meditations. "The stars know
everything..." He stopped, realizing the futility of his search and
remembering that Zoicite hadn't done so much as annoy him since the
'Spikey' incident. That meant she was definitely up to something;
More than likely preparing something even stronger than the beast
she had sent after him.

        Therefore, he would need more power to fight her off.

        Nephrite held his hands together in concentration. "The stars
know everything... and now, I ask for power from them! I ask for
power from the stars!"

        Intense blue energies whirled around him... then slowly faded
and dissipated into nothingness.




        A loud, throbbing thump reverberated through the cathedral...




        A fluffy pink bunny, wearing black sunglasses, red sandals,
and carrying a drum, slowly made its way through the room. It went
past Nephrite, stood on the back of its hind legs and twirled once
around, then made its exit.




        Nephrite frowned at this. After another moment, he raised his

        There was a dull humm and then...

        A long... _very_ long, dramatic pause.

        The brown-haired general let his hands drop. "Nothing is
happening... What could..." He stopped as he gazed at the stars
floating in front of him. "Wait..." The stellar view had moved out
to encompass a much larger area. The entire galaxy, as a matter of

        An ethereal line drew itself through a distinct, massive world,
then passed through the singularity at the center of the galaxy,
and intersected another planet on the other side.

        As Nephrite examined the impossibly detailed galactic map,
he paled. He didn't quite remember how he knew these far-off worlds
and their meanings, but he did. "Planets Vegita and Frieza on
opposite sides... centered around nothingness and obliteration."

        He also noticed a small, but _very_ bright speck moving
toward Earth's solar system from the edge of the galaxy... which
was not very far away and was closing fast.

        Nephrite banished the image with a flick of his wrist, and
sat down into the stone throne-like chair in the middle of the
room, holding his head.

        Of all the celestial signs he could have seen... that was
probably one of the worst.

        He had asked for power from the stars...

        Well, he was going to get it.

        As was the rest of the planet.


        The spherical white-grey pod sped through the vastness of
space at a velocity that would make any group of serious physicists
collectively sigh, shake their heads, and roll their eyes.

        Through the pod's large, transparent red viewing window,
a sleeping figure could be seen.

        It was a man, with wild, unruly black hair and a red heads-up
display over his left eye, attached to the side of his head by a
small metal apparatus. He wore a tight, black jumpsuit underneath
his thick, white, yellow, and blue ribbed breastplate. His armor
covered from his neck down to his waist, with extra plating over his
shoulders and more hanging downward off of his waist to provide
further protection.

        His heads-up display beeped, coinciding with several
instruments on the panel in front of him lighting up.

        [Awaken, Kakkorotto,] the apparatus on the man's head intoned.

        The black-haired man's bloodshot eyes snapped open.


        "Oh my," Kasumi Incognito said in shock as she looked over
her daughter's grades. "An eighty-seven?"

        "I'm sorry, Mother," Terra whispered as she looked down at
the kitchen floor.

        Kasumi looked worried. "Your grades have been dropping steadily
for the entire week..."

        "I... don't know what the problem is... It's as if most of my
concentration has been directed elsewhere."

        "Is something on your mind?" Kasumi asked, putting her arm
around Terra's shoulders.

        The redhead nodded. "Yes... something has _really_ been
bothering me lately. I just can't seem to be able to concentrate
very well. I can't quite place it, but-"

        "Could it be this?" Kasumi asked, bemusedly plucking a fuzzy
green thing off of her daughter's neck and showing it to her.

        Terra frowned as she recognized the item in question. "Arby?"

        "'Ello, Madam!" the ArbyFish stated enthusiastically, looking
rather pleased as he sat in Kasumi's hand.

        "What were you doing there?" Kasumi asked the creature nicely.

        "Wouldn'tcha ratha' ask _WOT_ I is?" Arby asked.

        "No," Kasumi replied, smiling, "I know who you are."

        "Ya can'tz knowz wot Aye is!" the ArbyFish said in a rather
peeved tone. "'Simply isn't propa'! I 'aven't toldja yet!" He sat
back on his tail, enraged. "Ya see... if you know wot I am before
I tellz ya so, then the fabric of our existences would 'aveta be...
um... intertwoined inta' such a knot that you'd know wot I could be
before I'd know wot you would be! This knot'd be so unstable that any
friction along the loine would cause, um... wrinkles and... blista's
in the space-mushroom continuum." He looked down at his flippers.
"Yeah, I'd say this's a sheep-shank m'self..."

        "Oh no, that is definitely a flipper. A very handsome one, I
might add," Kasumi smiled at Arby.

        "Nooo," Arby snapped... a twig between his flippers, "I mean,
th' mushroom that boinds the... world tagetha' is the mushroom that
is glued to the back of a _greata'_ mushroom... which has, um,
coagulated by th' forms of fungus that floy fribbery along flukes
of... folly. Ya see, fungus is the glue that 'olds the universe
tagether... n' if it weren't for the fungus, stars'd collapse n'
the world'd explode!" He gazed intently at Terra's mother...
then paused and blinked. "'Ey! YOUR 'ead won't 'xplode! Why not?"
He leaned in speculatively. "Got sum fungus in there, eh?
Knowadamean? Nudgenudgewinkwink. Say'no'more!"

        The brown-haired woman just smiled and nodded pleasantly.

        "So," the ArbyFish continued... snapping more twigs, "if
you'z know wot I is, it'd be... It'd be incredibly costly for
ink n'paint n' the flashbacking department... Not ta mention th'
backflashing stuff that'd 'ave ta be made, usin' all those bottle
caps ta-"

        "Oh," Kasumi said, continuing to smile, "then I don't know
you and have never met you. In any lifetime." She looked away, then
looked back, and gasped, holding a hand to her cheek. "Ara... Terra,
what is that?"

        Terra blinked. "That, Mother, is... Arby. He's an ArbyFish."

        Arby nodded, smiling. "Indeed I is. Luna kicked me out last
week, so I 'ad ta crash n' drain ena'gy n' bodily fluids from
Terra's... star seed, 'art crystal... Ya know, the basics. Can't
go back n' use me mushrooms... n' Saila' Plu'o told me ta keep an
eye on 'er n' make sure she got noice n' softened up so she can't
be powa'ful 'nough ta change the future, the toimeloine n' such.
So I sez, 'Sure. We loikes the toimeloine. Lotsa mushrooms in the
toimeloine.' She sez, 'Yeh, woteva'. Just do it.' I say, 'Oh
goodie!' So I'm 'ere, bein' 'er keepa', n' suckin' out 'er loifeforce
so she c'n be just loike the otha' normal people." He paused. "Ya
know, Terra's gots lotsa ena'gy. 'Ave ta keep on drainin' or she
keeps gettin' supa'human powa's... She'd probably be back up ta
full in a month if I stopped roight now. But no, I'z gots ta keep
doin' it so she can't foight off any brand new threats by 'erself.
She's destined ta doie, ya know. Real soon. Within a year-loike."

        Kasumi's eyes widened for a moment as she processed this
information. "Really?"

        The ArbyFish nodded. "Yup! A real universe-skakin' destiny.
It doesn't 'appen... the universe explodes. Do not collect go,
do not pass two 'undred dinare through ya circulatory system.
So, I gotta go n' make sure it 'appens by drainin' 'er 'till she's
weak as a regula' younga' 'chubby' Sushi."

        The green-white seal-like thing latched back onto Terra's neck
and started to disappear.

        Terra's smile was getting a bit strained at this moment. She
reached up to pull Arby off, but her hand passed right through him
without any effect. "Ar... Arby, draining others' energy so that
they can't survive major battles isn't very nice..."

        "Quiote," the ArbyFish replied, momentarily unattaching himself
from Terra's neck, "but I'z gots me orda's. Principle of th' thing n'
all that floomin' jarg'n." He assumed a lecturing posture. "Ya see,
if Aye didn't-"

        "Ah, Arby?" Kasumi asked.

        "Wot?" Arby asked, looking up at her.

        "Would you care for a mushroom?" the woman asked, smiling as
she held up a covered plate.

        "I loikes mushrooms... wot koinda mushroom is it?"

        Kasumi lifted the bell-shaped cover, revealing a large, pink
and orange mushroom, with a big, red nose and large, floppy red

        The look on Arby's face at that moment was more or less the
same as that of a crusader that had just happened upon the Holy
Grail. "It's... it's... it's a Mumbling Moscow Clown Mushroom!!!"

        The mushroom honked its "nose" and began to juggle several
multicolored spherical objects, muttering incoherently.

        Without delay, the ArbyFish dove down upon it like a bowl
full of jelly.

        *Clang!* As soon as Arby was on it, Kasumi snapped the
lid over the plate.

        ['Ey,] a muffled ArbyFish voice rang out. [Lemme-]

        "Could you please sit in the corner?" Kasumi asked.

        [Which one?]

        Kasumi paused, examining the extraordinarily round surfaces
of what she held. "Any one, if you don't mind."

        *Ting!* There was a minor reverberation within the container.

        [Alroight, found it.]

        Kasumi smiled. "Now, please stay there."


        Terra's mother nodded, and placed the covered plate on the
kitchen counter. "I'd like to talk to you later, if it wouldn't
be too much of a problem..."


        Terra almost frowned. "Mother, why did you do that?"

        The woman smiled down upon her daughter like a beam of pure
sunshine and placed her arms around her. "Because I care about you
deeply, and don't want to see you hurt."

        Terra blinked, raised an eyebrow, then finally smiled. "I know,
Mother." She paused. "How were you able to catch him like that?"

        "Um... I learned it long before you were born."


        "At... an ArbyFish catching school."

        "I thought you said you didn't know what an ArbyFish was..."

        "That's... true, dear. I always wondered why I went there."

        "Did it take long to learn?"

        Kasumi smiled, nodding emphatically. "Yes."

        Terra turned toward the covered plate. "Are you alright in
there, Arby?"

        [Just foine. The air's stagnatin'. Good for growin' me
forceful kinetic absorbsion resistant, reactive, n' ablative
mould! With this new powa', I will grease the infidel 'shrooms...]
His incoherent babbling faded into the background as Kasumi pushed
the covered metal plate to the rear of the countertop.

        "Don't worry, Terra. He'll be fine," Kasumi said. She glanced
at the cute Hello Kitty clock on the wall, then looked back and
continued to smile at her daughter. "It's almost eight o'clock. Isn't
it time for you to go to bed?"

        Terra nodded brightly. "Yes, Mother."

        The cheerful redhead walked upstairs to her room.

        Kasumi looked toward the covered plate, holding a hand to
her cheek as she considered what to do about the errant ArbyFish.

        [Well, ya could stick me in a closet for three ta foive weeks,
put me in a microwaive, take me out, wash me with fabric softena'...
I'd start ta congeal 'bout then... But it really depends on wot-]

        "Couldn't we please just discuss this?"

        [Oh, I s'pose... if ya'z wonts ta makes things easia' on ya...
but where'z th' fun in that?]


        "I love humans," Kakkorotto said in what a Terran might
identify as an Australian accent, reviewing the information his
scouter was giving him, "that's why I like ta kill 'em."

        The sayajin cleared his throat and continued in a much more
malevolent tone as he looked out the window of his pod toward the
planet he was approaching, "And here we have a world that is
completely filled with them."

        Kakkorotto laughed to himself, considering what a tremendous
find he had just made. Inside this sector, the entirety of which had
been designated a 'no-fly zone' by a sayajin prince thousands of
years ago, there was a planet that had a AAA+++ combat rating.

        This meant that the inhabitants either had a very high level of
technology with extraordinarily powerful weapons, a large amount of
beings with power levels of ten thousand and up, or one... perhaps
two entities with power levels of more than one hundred thousand.

        Kakkorotto grinned.

        In any of these cases, he was in for some fun.

        Odds like this would normally have been more than enough to
frighten off his brother Raditzu... or even Prince Vegita. Come to
think about it, a world such as this might even make Frieza himself
quake in terror.

        Not Kakkorotto, though. It was true that he had been a lowly
third-class soldier sayajin, subordinate even to his older brother,
but this particular warrior had recently discovered a few ways to...
enhance his capabilities.

        The mindset that had brought about his increase of power had
resulted from something no sayajin likes: defeat. It was no ordinary
defeat, however. Kakkorotto had been captured. _Captured_ by the
defenders of a world he and the only other sayajins left in the
universe had sought to claim as theirs and sell on the intergalactic

        It seemed simple enough: kill them and take their measly little

        As it turned out, though, that world was not inhabited by a
bunch of benevolent, robe-wearing, peace-loving old men. It was, in
fact, occupied by a large group of sadistic, technologically obsessed
hyper-powered multi-limbed insect-like creatures with bad temperments
and the tendancy to laugh maniacally every two seconds.

        Up until then, Kakkorotto had sometimes wondered what it would
take to get Prince Vegita, in transformed oozaru form, to scream like
a little girl and take off running.

        He shuddered, wishing that he had never found out.

        Raditzu, Nappa... or was that Kappa? Anyway, they and Vegita
had made it to their pods and escaped before the creatures could get
to them.

        Kakkorotto had not been so lucky.

        Unable to resist, he had been taken and subjected to an endless
array of esoteric, bizarre, and invariably painful experiments, most
of which brought him very near to death.

        He couldn't say how many times, nor wish to remember half the
ways, but the sayajins grow stronger after recovering from being
defeated or almost dying... and that was exactly what happened.

        Eventually, he became strong enough to fight, and even harm
some of the nigh-omnipotent creatures. During his break-out attempts,
though, he was still utterly overwhelmed by them in power and number.

        Then, he had done the impossible: He, a lowly third-class
soldier, through one particularly trying and lengthy experience, had
become a _super_ sayajin.

        The battles resulting from escape attempts with this new power
could last for hours, and he was yet unable to get away.

        It took until he had reached _tenth_ level super sayajin before
he could finally escape, and he had to destroy every last one of
those insufferable creatures before he could do so.

        As Kakkorotto reflected upon this experience, he realized that
he came out of it far more powerful than he could have possibly
imagined. In addition to this, he discovered that the creatures
had modified and upgraded his scouter: the device would not short
out, no matter what power level it was shown, and it not only
displayed the outward power levels of things; it showed the base
power level, the current power level, the maximum potential power
level, and two other settings that he couldn't quite decipher.

        And that, in a nutshell, was why he was looking forward to
killing off this planet's inhabitants. Life and death combat was
indeed pleasurable, especially against very powerful opponents.

        Kakkorotto smiled at the rapidly-approaching surface of the

        It was going to be nice to get in some more target practice
before he went back home to... say hello to Prince Vegita.


        Prince Herb, Emperor of the Musk Dynasty, son of Ginseng,
heir to the lineage of Bahamut, Tiamat, and Smaug, long-time enemy
of the Amazons, and all-around naughty guy, gazed upon his gathered
armies, who were spread across the fields in front of his ominous
mountain fortress.

        Fires dotted the night landscape, adding shadows to the figures
and faces of the already terrifying, beast-like soldiers.

        The Emperor's primary henchmen, two young men by the names of
Mint and Lime, stood beside him, dressed for war. Their battle armor
gleamed in the torchlight, making it almost appear as if they were
covered in freshly spilt blood.

        Aside from his new lightweight armor, Mint's usual small
wolf-cap had been replaced by a much larger and sharper-eared one.
He gave a fanged smile as he saw Herb's assembled forces look up
at them.

        Lime smoothed back his tiger-striped hair and nodded at his
leader, anxious to hear what was to be said.

        "Today," Herb called to his warriors, "we will march upon
the enemies of the Musk, and claim what is rightfully ours. We have
spent long, hard decades training, enhancing our strength, and
assembling this, the most powerful army in Earth's history. With our
newly united strength, we will crush those that oppose us with nigh
impunity, proving our might once and for all. GLORY TO THE MUSK

        The army howled and cheered at their leader, willing to do
whatsoever he wished in order to prove their worth to him...

        Then, all of the sudden, a small dot appeared in the sky, a
flaming red vapor trail burning behind it...

        *CRAAAAAASH!!!* ...which soon became a rather _large_ dot, and
slammed into the midst of the Musk army, incinerating every last
one of them in the following explosion.

        As the smoke cleared, Herb looked in disbelief at the charred
and broken skeletal remains of his formerly nigh-unbeatable fighters,
and frowned.

        In the center of the carnage was a relatively small grey
sphere with a red-hued window directed at him.

        Even from this great distance, Herb could see that the occupant
of the sphere was laughing at him...

        "Mint, Lime," Herb said, choking back a sob, "kill him."

        The two in question nodded and dove off of the balcony, their
strength and agility allowing them to land without difficulty on the
ground below, and rushed toward the pod.

        A door opened on the front of the sphere, and a black-haired
man stepped out. He was wearing an odd sort of armor and had a red
glass over his left eye. He took out a rectangular device and
pointed it at his vehicle, pressing a button on the device.

        *Bok-Bwok!* The device beeped.

        The door on the grey sphere slid closed before the pod lifted
off, speeding away into the distance.

        The man had enough time to look around and admire his landing
before Herb's henchmen were within striking range.

        The fastest, Mint, arrived first. He quickly took up a fighting
stance in front of the intruder, snarled, and shouted, "Rouga Ryuusei

        The wolf-capped boy vanished and reappeared behind the wild-
haired man, taking out and throwing a horrendous number of small
steel daggers at him...

        *Whoosh!* ...Which passed right through him.

        Mint stopped and gasped in disbelief.

        The man glanced back, grinning at him.

        In the next moment, the fanged boy was hit from behind, knocked
violently into the ground by his opponent.

        Mint screamed in agony as the bones in his shoulder and lower
body were instantly reduced to shards by the force of the assault.

        Seeing this, Lime's eyes widened as he hurried his approach.
As he neared, he lunged, fist-extended into a frantic, high-powered
punch; the sort of punch that can shatter boulders, splinter forests,
and register on the richter scale when it hits...

        ...Which was effortlessly caught by the other man.

        Without hesitation, the armored visitor twisted Lime's arm,
turning him around, and kicked him high into the air, then vanished
and reappeared above him, knocking him back down with both fists.

        Just before the large, tiger-haired young man could hit the
ground, the invader flickered into view behind him, and booted him
away to crash into the Emperor's palace, utterly shattering the wall
he had impacted upon.

        Herb's palace collapsed from underneath him.

        Aghast, he levitated down from the falling wreckage, flying
over to land in front of his enemy. He clenched his teeth, staring
in anger at the wild-haired individual. "YOU," he growled, pointing
at his enemy, his eyes glowing a bright blue as an aura of the same
color built up around him.

        The black-haired man smiled, casually grinding his booted heel
into one of the dead troopers' few intact skulls, utterly crushing it
in a splintering of grey bone. "Me," he agreed with a chuckle. He
pointed at himself. "Me, Kakkorotto." He pointed at Herb. "You,

        Herb let out an enraged half-growl before shouting, "HITOU
RYUU-ZAN HA!!!" and unleashing a volley of arc-shaped chi-knives
at Kakkorotto, who made no move to avoid them.

        *Bambambambam* The chi-blades impacted harmlessly against a
semi-spherical transparent red barrier that appeared around the
black-haired man, who folded his arms, unimpressed.

        Not noting or caring about the ineffectiveness of the attack,
Herb flew around Kakkorotto, leaving behind a trail of energy.
"RYUU SEI HISHOU!!!" He dove toward him for a chi-enhanced multi-
vectored assault, hitting from two sides at once from his trail of
hot chi and another from his direct strike.




        The black-haired warrior casually backhanded Herb away to
crash into the top of a tall mountain near the horizon.

        "There's... no way," Mint whispered from his mostly-buried
position as he saw this.

        Kakkorotto waited for a few seconds, then tapped the device
on the left side of his head. It beeped and clicked as five rows
of small, indecipherable characters appeared on the display over
his eye.

        He glowered for a moment. "Two hundred battle points and
dropping..." The sayajin sighed and shook his head. "Barely worth
batting an eyelash over." He cupped his hands to his mouth and called
toward the mountain where he had sent his opponent. "YOU HAD BETTER

        With that, a light-blue aura flared up around him and he
flew off, leaving a thick energy trail as he did.

        Mint looked at the now-shattered mountain in the distance,
before his attention was called back to his current predicament.
"Unhh... Nothing's going to stop this pain..."

        Lime, badly injured, but alive, crawled out of the wreckage
of the palace and in the next couple of minutes, had managed to move
to the side his fallen comrade.

        Losing his color, the tiger-haired young man held out his hand,
in which there were two small pills. "Here... try these."

        Mint nodded, taking them in his working hand. "Yes, Nuprin.
Little... yellow... different."


        A dead, almost apathetic breeze blew across the dry, windswept
plateau, taking away a few more grains of sand toward the hot,
forbidding desert below.

        There were no clouds to be seen, and the only things that
broke the monotonous, oppressive surroundings were the few scattered
craggy mountains in the distance and the occasional jagged rock
jutting out of the gravely sand.

        The midday sun beat down harshly upon the burning landscape,
offering no shade, shadows, or hope of solace from its rays.

        A short distance above the large plateau levitated a being;
one wearing a dark purple gi underneath a bulky white cloth and
cape, which rippled in the wind. His face was a deep shade of
natural green, and he had large, long, roundly pointed ears. The rest
of his head was covered by a white and purple cloth turban.

        The green-skinned man looked down toward the plateau, where
another individual looked up at him.

        Standing at six feet tall and wearing the tattered remnants
of a suit of form-fitting black body armor, he made a stark contrast
against the blindingly lit desert. He wore a pair of barely intact
black combat boots, and there was a slightly torn green tiger-striped
bandanna that was partially hidden under his unkempt sugar-pink hair.

        "You've managed to impress me, Tim," the levitating one said,
hovering closer. "That's not an easy thing to do."

        "Yeah, well," 'Tim said, red-faced and sweating from the heat
his outfit was absorbing, but nonetheless looking very confident, "I
guess I'm just an impressive kind of guy, aren't I?"

        Piccolo smirked. "Riiight." He straightened his posture and
did his best to look serious. "After only one week of intensive
conditioning and literally backbreaking training under me, you've
managed to make it past the first test."

        "Excellent," the pink-haired man said, rubbing his hands
together. "What do I get?"

        The Namekkian frowned in thought, then grinned after a moment,
showing off his elongated canines. "To show off to everyone else how
great a fighter you truly are, you get... a new uniform."

        *BZZZT* Piccolo pointed a finger at 'Tim, shooting out a thin
beam of energy, which expanded to encircle the pink-haired man.

        'Tim glowed for a moment, not breaking his gaze with his
trainer. When the glow subsided, his clothes had changed.

        He was now wearing a green gi with a camouflage design. The
pants were slightly loose and baggy, but only enough to provide
freedom of movement. Above that, he wore a short-sleeved pink
undershirt, covered mostly by the gi's sleeveless vest-like top.
On the left side of the jacket's front, inscribed in a white circle,
was the design of a small, three-petaled flower with shading that
made it somewhat resemble a face.

        His bandanna had been repaired, but was otherwise unaffected.
Similarly, his black combat boots had not changed their style. He
also wore thin, pink bands around his wrists.

        And, emblazened across the back of 'Tim's shirt, against a
large, circular white background, were a few ornately drawn Chinese

        Literally translated, the kanji read, 'Wussie.'

        "Wear it with pride," Piccolo added with a narrow-eyed smile.

        *Whump!* Kicking up a cloud of dust, 'Tim fell directly onto
his back from the weight of his new outfit. "Oh, yeah! That's the
stuff!" he exclaimed. "What'd you use? High-gauge steel?"

        "Heh. No, lead-shielded uranium. Only the best for my...
'toughest' students."

        'Tim turned his head to look at his right arm, which was
firmly pinned to the ground by the pink wristband, and looked to the
other to see that it was similarly weighed down. "Alrighty, then," he
whispered in satisfaction at his new attire.

        Piccolo smiled, raising an eyebrow. "You're a real idiot, you
know that?"

        'Tim strained to lift up his head under the immense weight
of his bandanna. "Idiot? That sounds familiar, but I can't grasp the
meaning at the moment..."

        "Really?" the Namekkian asked, amused. "What about Belgium?"

        'Tim forcibly sat up. "Almost, but... not quite."

        "Nit?" Piccolo guessed.

        *Thump!* The pink-haired man's upper body fell back to the
dirt. "Nope."


        With a sudden twist of his legs and shoulders, 'Tim rolled
onto his front. "Not exactly..."


        "Wasn't that the First Advisor's nickname?"

        Piccolo laughed. "Joojooflop..."

        'Tim blinked. "What?"


        The pink and green attired part-time human frowned. "So...
what are you trying to tell me?"

        "That you're a complete and total _wussie_!"

        "Now _that's_ stepping over the line," 'Tim growled as he
pushed himself up with his hands and knees into what could be termed
a very shaky 'girly-style' pushup. He looked up at his levitating
trainer. "And I _hate_ it when people step over lines. Especially
pink ones. It disturbs my sense of continuity."

        The green-skinned alien looked him in the eye and smirked.
"Man, you _are_ pansy, aren't you?"

        The air grew silent.

        *KABLAAAM!* Anticipating future violence, a mountain in the
background exploded.

        "WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?!!?!?!" the pink-haired man
snapped, somehow managing to drag himself to his feet, his legs
shaking under the tremendous weight of his clothes.

        "Let's see," Piccolo said, counting off the insults on his
fingers, "an idoit, Belgium, a nit, a Turlingdrome, a loon, a
joojooflop, a smeghead, a wussie..." He grinned. "And a pansy."

        The faint sound of birds could be heard in the distance.

        *BLAM!!!* Another mountain exploded in a shower of dust and

        "Well," 'Tim began, his eyes narrowed and his legs ready
to buckle out from under him, "_you_ are nothing more than a

        "A... what?" Piccolo asked, not exactly impressed at the lack
of force behind this particular insult.

        The pink-haired man grinned. "A hologram; a photonic projection
generated by a computer-based emitter."

        The Namekkian stared at him... then started chuckling, before
bursting into all-out hysterical laughter.

        "This is no joke, I can assure you," 'Tim said through clenched
teeth. "Your life is a hoax, perpetrated by _me_ because nobody
from Namek would take my calls. You were created to train _me_." His
expression relaxed slightly. "In short, your life; your rivalry with
Goku, the fight with Raditz, the trip to King Kai's place, and even
that incident with Nail, wasn't real. None of it happened. Sorry,
you're a hologram, and I'm not. Nyaaa!"

        *Thump!* Finally, 'Tim could no longer support his weight and
fell flat onto his face. "Ow..."

        Piccolo finally managed to stifle his laughter to a point where
he could speak. "You're some piece of work, 'Tim," he chuckled, "I
haven't laughed this hard in a _LONG_ time."

        "Yeah," 'Tim said, slowly sitting up, "you should be laughin'."
With no small amount of effort, he rummaged around in one of his
pockets, finally pulling out a small rectangular box, which he
flipped open. "Computer, remotely overlay program Piccolo-Alpha-Five
with modification Epsilon, and make it mauve."

        [Confirmed,] a voice from the box said.

        Piccolo smirked. "What's that supposed to do? Turn your face

        "No," 'Tim half-growled, once more dragging himself to his
feet. He smiled mischievously at his trainer. "Turn you into a

        *Poof!* In the next moment, the Namekkian found himself wearing
a fluffy, mauve tutu... With a white leotard, tights, and laced up
mauve slippers.

        "Wear it with pride!" 'Tim chuckled, pushing back some of his
disorganized pink hair in the traditional Namekkian gesture to,
shall we say, "Sod off, ya wee pansy!"

        Piccolo stared agape at his altered costume, then looked down
at 'Tim and scowled. "You'll pay for that," he promised.

        'Tim smirked. "Just try it, you substandard hologram of an
asexual, floating, pinecone-dropping, photosynthesizing, water
sucking, purple-wearing bipedal son of a brotherless egg." He held
his communicator up in front of him. "Computer, deactivate-"


        "...program?" 'Tim finished, then slowly looked down to find
that his communicator... AND right hand had been utterly destroyed.
"Hmm... I _know_ that's going to sting a bit when the nerve signal
finally resolves itself, and..." He winced, barely able to maintain
his shaky balance as he doubled over in agony, clutching the newly
charred flesh with his other hand. "Ah, there it is! Right on cue,"
he choked out, quite pleased at his analysis. "It isn't _nearly_ as
bad as the last time, though..."

        "You've got two seconds to apologize," Piccolo added, still
looking a bit peeved. "Or I start getting mean." He emphasized the
word 'mean' by momentarily charging his index and middle finger on
his right hand with a sparking yellow energy. "Two..."

        "Apologize to a _hologram_?!" 'Tim shouted incredulously.


        "Hah! Like I'd ever-"


        "OH YEAH, THAT'S THE STUFF!!!" the pink-haired man shouted,
his eyes bulging wide as Piccolo blasted him in the chest, pushing
him to the edge of the plateau, leaving a deep trail in the hard-
packed dirt to his final location. "Aaaaaow," he muttered, looking
down to the one-half-inch deep, blackened gouge that had been taken
out of his green gi and pink undershirt. His forearms were also
badly burned from the blast. He winced. "That... stings."

        "Hmph." Piccolo looked on in disgust. "Quite frankly," he said,
"I'm _embarrassed_ you even survived that."

        "You (HACK!) call that an attack?" 'Tim taunted, coughing
out a small puff of black smoke. "Whoa, beta and gamma particles..."
He attempted to laugh, but only managed a short chortle, as his
charred lungs began filling with fluid. "Come along, then..."

        The long-eared Namekkian rolled his eyes and shook his head,
turning his back to the man. "I _really_ shouldn't even bother..."

        The green-clothed man wobbled at the edge of the cliff. "Brown-
booted dimorphic egg-laying lizard!!!"

        Piccolo glanced back at him. "But since you asked so nicely..."


        Kasumi gasped, almost dropping the dish she had been drying
off with a small towel over the sink. "Oh my..."

        [C'n feel that, can'tcha?] Arby asked from inside the covered
metal plate at the back of the counter. [It's violins. Lots of 'em.]

        The brown-haired woman pursed her lips, put down the dish, and
took off the plate cover. "What do you know about... Oh, I'm sorry."

        Arby and the Mumbling Moscow Clown Mushroom were sitting at
a small table on the plate, having tea. "Do you moind?" the ArbyFish
asked indignantly, looking up at Kasumi.

        *Ching!* Arby pulled the cover back down and continued speaking
incomprehensibly to his conversational partner on the other side of
the table. [So I sez ta me mushroom...]

        Kasumi glanced around, then pulled the drapes away from the
window and gazed off into the night.

        She looked worried.



        "Urk-urk-urk," the pink-haired man choked, significant
quantities of his own blood draining from his system out of various
deep wounds, including but not limited to his mouth, his right eye,
and a really big one on his chest.

        He had been knocked off the plateau, and the slaughter... ER,
_fight_, had continued for a few seconds as 'Tim was rapidly,
professionally, and systematically ripped to shreds.

        "Okay, but this is the last time," Piccolo said. "This is your
brain..." He held up a red mass in his right hand. "This is your
brain on Piccolo."

        *SQUELCH!!!* He crushed the mass, gore squirting in all

        "ANY QUESTIONS???"

        'Tim coughed, beginning to convulse, but managed to raise his
one working hand. "Y... yes." He coughed once more. "How-how...aaah-"

        "Let me guess," the green-skinned alien muttered, "you're
wondering how many snaps it takes to get to the center of a
joojooflop, right?"

        The red-soaked gi-wearing individual twitched, involuntarily
wobbling his head side to side.

        Piccolo grabbed him by the head with one hand and pointed
the other at 'Tim's ribs. "Let's find out."

        *SNAP!* "One!"

        'Tim winced in pain, his mouth opening wide and his lips drawn
back as if he were trying to scream. His remaining eye began to glow
a faint blue.

        *SNAP!* "TWO!"

        The pink-haired man let out an agonized wail. A bright blue
aura started pulsing around him.

        *ZRRRRRRRRRRRRRR* His bandanna turned to black ash amidst the
sheer power flowing through it. The torched cloth fragmented and blew

        *SNAP!* "TH-" Piccolo stopped as he felt the energy from the
man in his grip build up. He frowned, then made a quick and wise

        *WHOOSH!* Piccolo flung the battered man away from him with
a flick of his arm.

        As 'Tim flew toward a nearby rock outcropping, a glowing,
golden crescent moon appeared on his bare forehead, thin shafts of
light shining out of it. "Ghaaaaaaaaaaaa..." Tears formed at the side
of his tightly-closed eye.

        His wounds quickly regenerated; his eye shifted and reformed,
as did the damaged skin on his body. His hand reshaped itself into
perfect working order. His broken ribs, damaged lungs... All of it
had completely reformed in a matter of seconds.

        *KABLAAAAM!!!* A blast erupted from his aura, obliterating
the outcropping he was approaching.

        Piccolo was blown back against the wall of the plateau from
the force of the resulting shockwave.


        A white-blonde woman with a blue mark on her forehead looked
at the wildly flashing computer terminal in front of her.

        She frowned. "There it is again..."


        As the aura subsided, 'Tim slowed midair, landed softly, then
turned around and looked without emotion back at Piccolo, his eyes
flaring a bright blue. The crescent moon mark on his forehead gleamed
brightly enough to be easily seen from the long distance away.

        The Namekkian's eyes widened, feeling the awesome energies
pulsating throughout the area, focused around the pink-haired man.

        Bits of rock rose into the air and the ground began to crack
underneath 'Tim. He cupped his hands together as a golden aura
flared up around him, aiming at the green-skinned man.

        *Zrr-RRR-RRR-RRR* "KA-MAY-HA-MAY-HA!!!"

        *BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!!!!!!* Piccolo barely managed to move
aside as a massive, continuous blast came forth from his opponent's
hands, utterly obliterating the plateau in a flash of fragmenting
rock. "Where'd he get that much _power_ from?!" he whispered in
disbelief as he looked back across the charred landscape to his
glowing opponent.

        A few high-velocity pebbles deflected off of a randomly
flickering spherical blue barrier around 'Tim.

        Piccolo cracked his knuckles and smoothed down his mauve tutu,
taking a deep breath.

        This was going to get nasty.