~ Lady Eldaelen ~
Notes: These things usually go at the end and I will have more to say later -but first, an anecdote. When LotR Return of the King came out, I saw it three times in theaters. Once with my college gaang, once with my parents, and once with my high school best friend. For the last one, we shared a popcorn; I, a reasonably sized cola-flavored icee (those things alway size down); she, a bladder-buster extra-large bucket of diet soda. She drained that drink long before Sam had his moment of glory (though really, at what point wasn't Samwise awesomesauce?). When Aragorn started singing, my friend was squirming. By the time everyone started moseying around on horses, she was ready to bolt. "How many more endings are there?" she hissed at me. When she saw me counting them up in my head, I thought she was going to pass out. As soon as that first credit popped up, she all but Instant Transmissioned out of there. First in the potty, definitely not the first out. Pretty sure she broke a record.
Pee now. It's the 49-month wrap-up. Rap, rap, wrap-up.
- Start -
"Petition for reconciliation of timelines?"
"Most universes aren't even aware of crossed feeds."
"Just a precaution," Dende answered brightly, handing over a thick file of paperwork to the oni administrator.
"You upstart Guardians, so eager and full of incentive. So exhausting. What planet are you responsible for?"
"Getting younger by the millennia. It might take a few years- don't expect to hear anything back."
"Thank you, ma'am!"
Protocol was broken this time, for them. Nail took off for the Lookout before Bulma and the others arrived. Back at the Base, Gohan's med tech performed a brief exam in his room and let him stay there instead of checking him into the Med Center for overnight monitoring. Videl curled up at the end of his bed and watched over him long after he passed out.
While the majority of the Base celebrated the Rift's apparent destruction, Vegeta was tasked with visually examining the depths. Tien took him out in a Capsule boat and spotted as Vegeta made a few dives. When he gave the all clear, the warriors finally breathed out their first sighs of relief.
Morning brought the media, most of which was addressed by the Briefs and Capsule Corporation's PR team. They all were lauded as heroes, the Jaeger program a success.
Videl woke in Gohan's bed, nearly falling off it with Goten wedged firmly between them. She blinked at Trunks peering sleepily from the bunk above.
"When are we going to wish Goku back?"
They waited nearly a full day for Gohan to wake up. Then they gathered in the lab, five Dragonballs on the table waiting for the two the Sons kept, number four and the number seven that Goten found on his first time allowed to track one by himself earlier in the year.
"So," Bulma began tentatively, "now the hard part."
"You promised him you'd tell your father?" Chi Chi asked her son.
Gohan nodded and pulled another washed carrot out of the pile to cut up for lunch.
"But you haven't told Dad anything, just me."
Gohan nodded again.
"You've been home three months now, Gohan."
"I know. I just don't know how-"
"You could start with 'hey Dad, while I was training with the Kais in another dimension, I met your crazy father, Bardock, who wrangled a day pass out of hell on "technically good" behavior and after he helped me break a millenias-old sword which unleashed the universe's oldest Kai who unlocked my latent power, we had a chat about his maybe-true premonitions?'"
"Bardock wasn't crazy."
"You're missing the point."
"It's just… how can I tell Dad that his dad can see the future and saw them meeting each other? The only way that's going to happen is if Dad…"
"Dies?" Chi Chi set down her knife and wiped her hands on a towel. Then she placed them over Gohan's, waited until he looked at her fully. "We're all going to die, son. You, me, your father. You can't stop it. Not talking about it won't make it any less likely to happen."
"I know," Gohan mumbled.
"You can't be afraid of others dying. You'll spend your whole life scared and you'll still lose them." Chi Chi kissed his cheek and patted his hands reassuringly. "Now, make no mistake of equating pain and fear. If one of you boys die before me, it's going to hurt. But I'm not afraid of that possibility. Neither is your father."
"We should restore the lives of those that Cell killed," Krillin started.
"On Earth," Gohan added.
"Right. We don't want the Ice-jins to reopen the Rift someday."
"But Goku wasn't killed on Earth," Videl hesitantly pointed out.
Gohan and Chi Chi shared a look before the Son matriarch replied, "We know."
"So we use the second wish to bring just Goku back," Bulma said.
"That's a wasted wish," Chi Chi replied, wrapping an arm around Goten.
"Because he didn't want to be wished back," Vegeta answered.
"What?! How would you know?" Bulma shot back angrily at him. He leveled his gaze and waited until she worked it out.
"We discussed it often," Chi Chi verified, "before…"
"But it's Goku!"
"I'm just one person, B."
"Dad?" Goten perked up at the familiar voice.
"Hey, son. Yeah, it's me."
"How are you talking to us?"
"Heh. Funny story, that. I had visitors waiting for me at the checkpoint. They crashed Lord Enma's viewing party of the battle."
"Didn't even bother sending out invitations," another voice chimed in.
"King Kai?" Gohan asked.
"In the flesh, well, not for you, I suppose. That was some fight, kid. I see you put all my instruction to good use. Now we've got to work on your old man here."
"I'm so proud of you, Gohan," Goku added. "Look, King Kai can't keep this connection open for long. I'm okay here, really. Save the second wish for something else."
The dragon cut an impressive figure against the near monochromatic backdrop of bleak, snowcapped peaks in the north mountains. Trunks and Goten stared up in awe, for once stilled into absolute silence. Like Videl, they'd never seen Shenron in person before. Tien and Chiaotzu stood next to the boys, observing the summoning before heading back to their home a couple mountains over.
They'd agreed on one wish for now, and if humanity as a whole was struggling in a post-Rift world, a second wish in a few months would go towards that.
Videl squeezed Gohan's hand, anchoring herself before she was swallowed up in the depths of Shenron's gaze. Beside her, Gohan carefully delivered their request. In less than a minute it was over and the dragon was swirling in the air and disappearing into the Dragonballs once more.
Krillin set down and unwrapped his burden in the middle of the battlefield and waited. After hearing Goku that last time, saying goodbye, he knew he didn't want to be so afraid to lose someone that he didn't try.
The sky darkened, the winds shifted, and three figures appeared next to Eighteen's body, now starting to stir. Two left on their own accord, hearing the mental welcome of their third. Krillin held still, letting the other pair acclimate to the new surroundings, no need to be completely reckless, but both recognized him without incident.
"They're back at the Base, waiting for you on the roof," he addressed Seventeen. The android nodded once before alighting.
Eighteen watched her brother's retreat until she realized Krillin was staring at her. He had eyes for nothing and no one else. Krillin knelt down next to her and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear.
"I love you, Eighteen," he said boldly. "I don't want to go one more moment without you hearing that. I love you."
She pulled him close, closer than she'd ever allowed before. Their embrace was so immediate, so intimate, so foreign to anything he'd ever experienced before. They stayed that way, together, for a long time.
Videl hushed her passengers and asked Bulma to repeat her message.
"I asked for an ETA."
"Oh, uh, less than an hour."
"Sounds good. Don't take any detours, Chi Chi wants us to all have lunch together."
"So if we don't have to fight Kaiju anymore, what are we supposed to do all day?" Goten asked.
"They're going to make us go to school," Trunks said throwing himself backwards into the seat with a huffy sigh and a crossing of arms.
"With an attitude like that, can you blame us for worrying about your socialization?" Gohan joked.
"Yeah, we have friends and everything."
"Friends, huh? Who are they?"
"Me and Trunks are friends," Goten began, counting off on his fingers. "We're friends with you."
"How about someone that's not a warrior or a Base worker? Or related to you?"
"We don't have time for regular people," Trunks defended when neither one could answer.
"You do now," Gohan said.
"Can we go camping more?" Goten asked.
"Maybe my dad will take us somewhere in space."
"Maybe we can go to the other Earth!"
Dende resisted the urge to fidget. So did his companion beside him. They sat in silence, not completely uncomfortable, mostly just anxious. A speck in the distance quickly grew until another air car hovered above and maneuvered to land beside them.
The air car emptied quickly, Goten and Trunks zipping out to greet Chi Chi and Bulma and Vegeta, just emerging from the stairs. Gohan's curiosity made him pause at the unfamiliar vehicle, but nothing out of the ordinary caught his attention. That didn't happen until Videl stepped out and took note.
"Huh. My first air car was a CC25 Sport. Haven't seen one of those in years, not when the mandatory buyback program was initiated."
Behind Dende, Piccolo popped open their air car's backseat hatch and stepped out. Gohan's eyes widened when they flicked to the windshield, mouth dropping open.
"What the- those are my tag numbers!" Videl exclaimed, already sprinting to Gohan's side as he flung the driver's door open. It wasn't completely apparent if he yanked the driver out or if she jumped into his arms first.
Dende exited and bowed in greeting to the others. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to say anything earlier. I couldn't be sure…"
"Sure of what?" Bulma asked.
"That she'd been killed here."
"It attacked just after the core spooled up. The time travel parts interfere with communications, so no alerts made it through from either end."
"There didn't appear to be any damage to the controls," Gohan said. "The whole Jaeger was just empty."
Pan sat on the couch in Bulma's lab, between Videl and Gohan and surrounded by the others. They'd spent most of the afternoon talking, trading stories of this world and hers. After her untimely run-in with Cell, Pan had been assigned to some sort of Otherworld task force where she got all the training she needed and more. She'd blushed several times mentioning Trunks, her time's Trunks, who had headed the group and partnered with her more than once from the sounds of things.
"It, Cell, knocked me out from behind," Pan replied, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head in the exact manner all the Sons did. "The last thing I remember was messing up the destination I was entering when I got hit. Slip of the wrist."
"You weren't supposed to end up here," Videl deduced.
"No, I wasn't. I was going to the timeline Trunks had already been to. I should have been five or six there. Trunks had traveled before he was born, but Bulma and Vegeta weren't told, not until his second trip after he'd already been born there." Pan looked between Gohan and Videl, eyes shiny with unshed tears. "We never meant to put another person at risk."
Vegeta scoffed. "Your Trunks ascended, right? In front of everyone? We might not have been told, but there's only so many Saiyans left in the universe. I highly doubt we were completely clueless, especially if yours had my son's hair."
He nodded at the pair flanking Pan on the couch. "And I wouldn't worry too much about destroying your chances in this time. Those two have been mooning at each other since their first sim."
It was the rainiest day on record since before the Rift opened. Some feared the oceanic changes with its closing were affecting the entire planet's ecosystem. Those that lived in the Base had different theories. Rain was a great deterrent for the pesky news choppers that hadn't left the area with the world still celebrating.
"Okay, we've got the cargo holds loaded," Bulma said, checking off some tasks on her data pad. "Seeds, raw materials, machinery."
"Prep is complete, ma'am," a tech replied, hesitating in handing over the Jaeger's master data pad, unsure as to who should get it.
Bulma nodded to Pan, who accepted the data pad shyly.
"You're the pilot, you need to be more assertive."
"We've never had enough support for all this."
"You will, in time."
Krillin and Vegeta emerged from the lower levels.
"All clear and secured," Krillin announced. Vegeta gave Pan a nod but nothing more. Just before he turned to leave, Pan jumped off the platform and threw her arms around him. Confusion gave way to shock when she stretched up and kissed his cheek.
"That was from Bulma," she whispered. Pan tried to pull away, but Vegeta grabbed her arms. Then he brought one hand up to rest on her own cheek momentarily, before letting her go and walking out.
Krillin gave her a hug, then Bulma did, then she was left with her not-quite parents.
"I'm so glad I got to meet you," Pan whispered in Gohan's ear. Gohan picked her up and swung her around. When he set her down, he couldn't speak without clearing his throat first. He held up two capsules.
"Some new computing equipment and the only copy of the records of your technology here."
"And the gifts from the others," Videl added as Gohan passed over the capsules.
Pan tucked them into a pocket in her pilot suit before throwing her arms around Videl and whispering, "I've missed you so much."
"I couldn't be prouder of you," Videl whispered back.
They helped secure her in the controls, performing all the last minute tech duties. Gohan and Videl both slowed, the closer they got to finishing, until Gohan finally voiced, "You can always stay here."
The time spent alone, just the three of them, had been filled with many tears and tender moments on top of the underlying urgency of Pan's imminent departure. Her eyes were dry now with her journey so close to its end. She knew this world was not her own.
"I don't belong here," she said, giving them one last smile. "Not yet, anyway."
Most of the Base workers paused in their duties to watch what would be the last Jaeger power on. Only a handful of them knew the full impact of what was really happening when the core began spooling up. At its peak output, the Jaeger's ambient noise noticeably changed, then muted entirely a split-second before the machine disappeared.
The Med Center would be the last part of the Base to stand down, on the group's own insistence. They spent the new stretch of downtime assembling reports and outlining new studies to continue different lines of research they wanted to pursue with all the data they'd collected over the years. Bulma had already tapped a couple of them to stay on as archivists and transition to Capsule Corp's Med Division for future support of her family and friends. Yet there was still one question without an answer.
"Oh, well, let's see," the senior med tech pulled up a series of folders on his screen, "Mr. Goku's file. Are you looking for something specific?"
"We'd prefer not to bring our own biases in," Bulma said, nodding to Gohan next to her. "Just start at the beginning and list anything you think is significant."
"Okay. There's the preliminary data you collected prior to bringing a med crew onboard. That includes a few exams from previous Budoukais from Mr. Goku's teenage years. His hospital records from the encounter with the being Radditz. Catastrophic trauma, upgraded to status minor in ten days, full recovery in twenty-three. Severe needle phobia, the first recorded instance of his tendency to leave against medical advice. There's some marginally documented testing incidents, all fully recovered from. The encounter with the being Vegeta- ah, Mr. Vegeta. Similar outcome as the previous encounter. The exam after his return from his space travels was clean. Then we standardized all the medical records when the Med Center opened and caught the beginnings of a heart condition and began treatment not long after that."
"Wait, what? What was that last part you just said?"
"There was an anomaly in one of Mr. Goku's regular baseline scans. An uptick in heart work output at resting levels. When questioned, Mr. Goku admitted being more tired than usual, but this occurred not long after Mr. Goten was born so he thought it was related."
"But it wasn't?"
"We compared his stats to Mr. Vegeta's at approximately the same interval after Mr. Trunks was born. There was a slight discrepancy in Mr. Vegeta's as well, but Mr. Goku's was larger by over a factor of ten."
"You sure it wasn't just a difference in parenting styles?" Gohan asked.
"No, we weren't sure at the time, which was why we also reviewed your scans at both times, sir. Your baselines trended closer to Mr. Vegeta's."
"Why were we not told of this?" Bulma questioned.
"It was relayed to Mr. Goku. Diagnosis, treatment, followup were all documented in his file."
"What was the treatment?"
"We sent biopsy samples to the Capsule Corporation Med Division. They concluded it was viral in nature and synthesized a serum- an antidote."
"Did my father know about this?" Bulma asked.
"Yes ma'am. He signed off on the doses for the other four Saiyans."
"What?!" Bulma and Gohan exclaimed.
"The life-cycle of the virus in humans tends to follow the much lengthier timeline for other old-age related heart diseases and not present a problem until much later in life. This would have killed Mr. Goku in less than two years at best. As the virus was only immediately dangerous to Saiyan blood, after the six month mark with no recurrence, we added it to the other four Saiyan's inoculation regimens."
"Well I guess that covers that then," Bulma muttered, scribbling notes in her data pad.
Even without a threat, activity at the Base had yet to slow down. Chi Chi set Goten and Trunks to work helping her pack up the living quarters. Krillin oversaw clearing out the hangar, Bulma retreated to straighten out her lab. Vegeta created a new training regimen for himself. And Gohan followed Videl as she sought out the familiarity of the Camp. Already some of its inhabitants had departed, leaving open spaces around the perimeter. Who Videl sought out, though, was still around.
"Hey, Erasa," Videl greeted. The blond rushed over and pulled them both in a hug.
"You're really okay," Erasa cried. "I didn't think you'd come back."
"Erasa! Of course I would!"
"I know, well, I hoped. Oh, I'm sorry about your dad, Gohan."
"How do you even know about that?"
"Yamcha told us that evening. He offered to let us visit, but it didn't seem right, that soon."
"Folks have come through the Camp saying the whole Base is going to be dismantled by the end of the month," Sharpner said, leaning against the door frame of their shelter.
"We built it with Capsule technology, it probably won't even take that long," Gohan mused, studying the Base's outer walls that towered along the edge of their area. Videl grabbed his arm and dragged him inside along with the others. Out of habit, the four immediately settled on the bottom bunks, Gohan fitting in next to Videl seamlessly, like he'd always been there.
"So," Erasa questioned, "what have you two been doing all week?"
Gohan and Videl shared a look, then Gohan nodded with the go-ahead. Videl sighed. "This week, we, um, we spent time with our daughter."
Seventeen stepped into the Capsule Corporation labs with much less apprehension than he expected. It helped that his family had accompanied him. Even more so the fact that he was invited as an observer and not a subject.
Dr. Briefs had recognized the model and research had verified that the android found in Cell's lab was a design based off Dr. Gero's late son.
Together, Seventeen and Eighteen were the only ones present when they reactivated him. It quickly became obvious that this particular model was offline for a reason. Sixteen had no inclination towards violence, not after he was told Goku was already dead. Krillin had tested that, walking into the isolation room, defenses down.
Dr. Briefs gave him the same offer he'd presented to Seventeen and Eighteen, a place to stay and work if he wanted. Sixteen took the lodging, at least temporarily.
The Briefs planned a party.
With the help of some of the other warriors, the Sons spent a couple of days getting the family house in Mt. Paozu back into full-time livable condition. The little place never felt so full. Not only had Chi Chi and Goten and Trunks returned, but Gohan and Videl had invited Erasa and Sharpner for a visit as well.
Gohan made good on his promise and took his brother and their friends camping in the deep forests that Gohan had played in, long before the Rift opened.
While they kept half an eye on Goten and Trunks, the other four planned a trip to Orange Star. Erasa and Sharpner wanted to visit their families and probably put down roots. But they only agreed to it if they could first make a stop so Videl could return to her childhood home.
"I don't think I could go without you there," Videl had whispered the first night Erasa brought it up.
"Do you think your house is still there?"
"Sure. My dad put it in my name. It was the only thing I asked for when I won the Budoukai."
"You asked for a house?" Gohan questioned.
"I already had a helicopter I was too young to get a license for."
"Videl's loaded," Erasa divulged.
"Yet she wears gym clothes and last year's running sneakers more often than not," Sharpner added.
"I could wear a paper bag and still wipe the floor with you in a fight, Sharp."
"What about you, Gohan? I mean, you're going on this trip with us, but what do you think you'll do, you know, later?"
Gohan glanced at Videl. They hadn't talked much about… them… together. And he hadn't wanted to presume. "I'm not sure. I'll probably stick close to Mt. Paozu, help my mom out with Goten. I'm a few credits short on my doctorate, though since my research was all related to the Jaegers, I don't know if it'll still be useful for much. Need to ask Dr. Briefs."
"When did you find time to go to school?" Erasa asked.
"My mom didn't let defending the world get in the way of my education."
Videl wrapped her arm around Gohan's side with a smile.
"I'd say you were joking," Sharpner began, "but I've met your mom. You really found yourself a brain, Videl."
They all laughed easily, and Erasa followed up with, "and Videl, what will you do?"
"Well, seeing as how my biggest life goal has recently been achieved, after we go to Central and Orange Star, I guess I'll have to start a new bucket list." Gohan blushed when Videl leaned against him, completely at ease in a way her oldest friends had never seen before. "Shouldn't be too hard to think up a few more things."
The house had been maintained meticulously well. The front yard, green and weed free, was a far cry from the state of Gohan's childhood home when they'd returned. Videl led them along the side, through a gate set in a short fence. Gohan steadied his breathing while memories from the drift flashed in an overlay as he followed behind the others. He heard the evac sirens, saw the darkening skies, felt the fear rising as he sensed Kaiju scurrying closer. There weren't bare patches in the yard, not anymore, but Gohan saw the bright blue splatters of Kaiju blood eat away at the grass all the same. Distantly he heard Sharpner ask Videl a question as he and Erasa took seats in one of the back porch swings. She answered, turning to look over her shoulder and back at him. Gohan saw her as a child, katana in hand, exhausted, terrified, mourning. He had no idea how long he stood there, reliving that drift.
Clear blue eyes locked onto his. They were freer, brighter, more alive than he'd ever known. Videl touched his arm and the world around him shifted into focus, back to the present.
"I was thinking we could visit the high school, when we get to Orange Star," Videl teased, walking to the open back door. Gohan could hear Erasa and Sharpner already inside. "Maybe check out the fourth floor."
Gohan mirrored her smile, falling into step behind her. "Wherever you want to go, I'll be there."
- The Actual End -
Some world-building decisions I made for this story…
Distances didn't matter from a time standpoint, at least for anyone who can fly. So movement between the Base and Capsule Corp, for instance, is a completely doable daily commute, which is par for course for Krillin and Gohan. Air cars have a bit of a disadvantage, which is why Dr. Briefs tends to chill at Capsule Corp (teleconferencing is dead, long live teleconferencing) but that still doesn't affect much. To the future!
The death count was a lot lower, mainly because I didn't want to rely too heavily on the Dragonballs in the Pac Rim scenario. In a deleted scene, they agreed that death during an encounter is the only acceptable use. Hence why they weren't used for Gohan's shoulder, which conveniently gives him an analog to Raleigh's injury.
I really tried to keep each scene at either general third person or one specific POV… up until drifts started happening. Then, POVs started blurring intentionally if there were drift pairs involved. Because: mind melds. They're sharing consciousness, stuff is gonna bleed over and us normals looking on just have to roll with it.
Chi Chi and Gohan's conversation about Bardock, Goku, and death saved delaying the end to this story by a few more months. There was a lot more written about Gohan's time in the Otherworld that I could not even figure out where to put. Just swap Bardock for Goku and you get the general idea. Yamcha taught Gohan got his sword-shattering home run skills, of course. And the Elder Kai gifted Gohan a replica before he returned to Earth, because he's a classy Kai like that. Plus, sword-wielding Gohan in Kai garb = life. My favorite character design for him, hands down.
Ugh. Hercule is tooling around somewhere. Orange Star, probably. Satan City. Whatever. I do not care for him much. Neither does this Videl. Where's her Green Dad stories? While we're on dads, I split the bulk of the Cell fighting between Gohan and Vegeta mainly because they were impacted the most by it, losing Future Trunks and Future Pan. Videl, too, she assisted where she could. That was Goku's forfeit in this world, knowing this before anyone else at the fight and passing the fight onto the other two.
How did no one find Pan's Hope Four earlier? Maybe imperfect Cell managed to blast a hole in the ground and shove Hope in before going larval and hiding for a while. Or, you know, this universe is 10 feet higher than Future Pan's universe, a la "The Late Philip J. Fry" episode of Futurama and Hope Four materialized underground. Did I mention I love the idea of a Future Videl and Pan? For the duration of her death in present time, Pan totally met up and hung out with her own Trunks as Time Patrollers, because why not add video game lore into this, too?
For the bulk of this slow release, I didn't know how old everyone was. I think I'd aged up Trunks and Goten a couple of years when I first started writing things because Buu-aged, fused T&G were ridiculous hellions -no, that's not fair, I have too much Buu Saga hate to stay objective. I aged Gohan up, anyway, too. After thinking about it for more than five seconds, if I were pushed to give an answer, I'd set this as Gohan being post-high school, twenty-ish? Ugh. Does it matter? It's not like this is getting a Super/Uprising-based sequel.
Physically, the written first draft of this nonsense spanned four-ish notebooks and a couple month's worth of a Hobonichi Techo. I've bought two of those things and never actually used them as intended for a planner in the published year. Daiso stopped reliably selling fun notebooks at some point during this endeavor and I drained my stock in the process. At a very loose count of the three main digital files I pulled the bulk of the story from, this monstrosity in the raw clocked in around 100k words, less chapter header/footer and notes. Of the approximately 35k that got cut, there was a lot of Gohan whump (I recently learned that fic term … the more you know… rainbow comet), the littles going Super, and a bunch of random one-off scenes.
Pacific Rim remains one of my favorite movies, full stop. Its release was so delightfully unexpected and refreshing. Loved it. Love it still. And Dragonball Z was my first ever fandom, before I even knew what such a thing was, back with ICQ and internet access from AOL CDs. Kids, ask your parents.
This has been a wild ride, one I'm so glad I chose to stick out through the sloggy, self-doubting, procrastination nation to its end. And one I'm even moreso glad to be through with. Hooray for completing something! #goals
Thanks for reading!
- Start Stinger -
Krillin tucked the Jaeger capsules into the ruggedized briefcase on the last desk remaining in the Command Center. There were only four empty capsule slots left, one for the last of Bulma's lab, the Med Center, the main server farm, and the Base infrastructure itself. Today was the day the entire briefcase would be filled. Krillin squinted in the dim, minimal-power light and straightened his bow tie, a bit awed at the near-emptiness of the Base. He was one of the last people still inside, accompanying the person who would begin the final encapsulation process.
"Where the hell did my flashlight go?" Bulma's voice sounded from the Command Center's main power panel. Or, more precisely, she was behind the panel, in the adjoining electrical room really, disconnecting miles of wiring to safe the system before they shut down the servers and turned off the bulk of the Jaeger Program's digital brain. "Krillin, power up and get over here, I dropped my flashlight somewhere in this rat's nest and it must have clicked off."
"Won't I short something out?"
"Gohan used to work around the electrics all the time when he was in Super. As long as you don't pull some massive power surge, a soft glow should be okay."
Obliging, Krillin did as he was told, though he stayed by the door, one hand always on the grounded metal doorframe. Bulma sat hunched over a serpentine pile of wires, pawing through the newly-illuminated spaghettied loops, until she plunged a hand in nearly up to her elbow and fished out the lost flashlight. She flicked it back on and pulled one last row of connectors.
"This is the least connected the system's been," Bulma said, "since we first installed it, what, a decade ago now?"
Krillin thought of all the hours he'd spent with her in the lab, back when it was just the two of them and her harebrained idea and a bunch of sheetmetal and raw circuit boards. It was fitting, he thought, that things were ending so much like they'd begun.
"It's hard to imagine we're at a point to really shut it down."
A familiar alarm beeped, one they hadn't heard in months, and Krillin and Bulma locked eyes. Powering down, Krillin scrambled to Bulma's side as she whipped out her data pad and brought up the main server's status terminal. With the sudden removal of the last drain on its resources, there'd been enough processing power to finish a calculation that had been running in the system background for weeks.
Bulma's fingers trembled slightly as she closed the notice that a new Rift activity date had been verified. Immediately a timer display popped up, flashed 427 days, and began counting down.
- To be continued? -
No way in HFIL, senpai.