Pandora's Box – Second Arc
by Felix McKraken     More by this Writer
This is the second arc of Pandora Box

Warning : Mention of suicide and death



Chapter 02 : Premonition
"It sucked you in, it dragged you down/
To where there is no hallowed ground/
Where holiness is never found/
Paying debt to karma/
You party for a living/
What you take won't kill you/
But careful what you're giving/

Can you feel a little love/
Can you feel a little love/
Dream on, dream on"
-Depeche Mode "Dream On"

Cool tiles were beneath his feet, and the harsh fluorescent lighting buzzed softly as it illuminated the hallway. Slowly his gaze moved up from the cracks on the floor to the open doorway. He wasn't sure why he was hesitating. He took a step and it felt like an eternity. He inspected his bare feet for a moment before pressing on. The air-conditioning felt stale and dead, but then, it always did. He hadn't traveled in space for years, but it was sort of like riding a bicycle – once you grew accustomed to it, it never left you.

His tail came out from around his waist to help keep him in balance. It felt stiff and lifeless, like a marionette in his control. His mind, however, felt thick, like it was being choked by useless information and pointless trivia. Everything seemed blurry, but the details assaulted his senses and demanded ceaseless attention. It was bright, yet infinitely darker.

The soft sound of him walking across the floor seemed intrusive. So quiet. Too quiet.

It's not so bad, he told himself, the sooner we find Buu the sooner we can go back. Something spiked within him at these words. Something deep flickered somewhere inside, and he met it with both confusion and indifference. He focused on making it down the hall and through the door.

The brush of cotton corresponded with each step he took. Standing in the threshold, his gaze fell on the form of a younger Saiyan. Black locks shined in the light, glittering like obsidian. The air tasted tangy and bitter.

Maybe he breathed too hard because Goku turned and greeted him. "Hey, Vegeta," he said with a warm smile. His own face was as blank as a mask. Kakkarot's words became hallow and vague. His lover sat before him looking puzzled, and in a rush, he felt his blood boil and his muscles bunch.

He wanted to BREAK that smile and decimate that beautiful face. He wanted to completely eradicate those eyes full of life and joy. He wanted to beat flesh, snap bones and hear the pain. Words came to him, in every language, and in none of them.

Sacrifice. Power. Control. Pride.

His head swam.

"Vegeta," he became aware that he whispered his own name. At this, his mind unraveled.

Freedom.

Seeing past the other man, his vision concentrated on what he was witnessing outside the window. His stomach curled in bitter, acidic fear and he opened his mouth to scream. Everything happened so quickly, as if snapping back from before. The ship was torn apart like a quartering execution, and pure dark enveloped him. It felt like emptiness, like tangible gravity, like limitlessness. It felt like death.

"KAKKAROT!" he called out.

"What? What is it?" Goku replied in concern, his hand on the prince's shoulder. Vegeta blinked a few times as consciousness set in. He was sweating lightly and staring at the face of his lover. Looking into those eyes, he felt the threat of his nightmare wash away.

"Nothing.." the brunette lied in embarrassment, "I was just..dreaming heavily. That's all."

"Are you sure you're ok?" the black-haired man inquired, "There's only a few things that make you scream that loud." A half-hearted smirk came to the younger's lips.

Vegeta lightly pressed on Goku's chest, pushing him into the mattress. "Yes, and you love to exploit one in particular," the prince purred darkly as he straddled the other man. He bent down and gave him a brief kiss on the lips. "I'm going to get a drink of water," he announced as he unmounted the pouting Saiyan, slid off of the bed, and quietly stalked into the bathroom. After some careful deliberation, he decided to keep the door open. He'd have less privacy in a sense, but then it wouldn't make Kakarot wonder.

The dream had unnerved him. It had effected him so profusely that he didn't want to expose Kakarot to it. He'd prefer not to explain something that the other male wouldn't understand anyways. He turned on the cold water faucet and rinsed his hands.

Why had he dreamt this? Ever since he'd been with Kakarot his days had become so peaceful and his sleep restful and calm. He cupped his hands and let the water pool in them. Then he quickly brought it to his lips and gulped it down. When he no longer felt parched, he turned the faucet off and reached for the nearest towel. Staring at himself in the mirror, he felt ashamed and frightened. Help me.. he thought to himself, I was more afraid for my own life than of the notion of hurting Kakarot. He tossed the towel onto the counter when he was through with it.

He took a deep breath and really looked at himself. He stared until his face no longer looked familiar, and he watched his lips mouth his given name. That was the moment of destruction within his dream. Why? What was this feeling in the back of his head? There was nothing to compare it to, and it was terrifying. He turned the light off as he left the bathroom and he silently returned to bed.

Goku had waited up for him, to ensure that he truly was fine. Meeting those warm eyes, Vegeta felt torn. It was silly, he knew, but he was ashamed for his actions in his dream. It didn't really happen, he told himself as he stood beside the bed, So why do I feel so bad? His fingertips strayed across his lover's forehead, gently brushing bangs to the side. He loved Kakarot more than anything he had ever held dear, but the nightmare injected a poison of doubt. He decided to let Kakarot be his antidote.

"Everything okay?" Goku asked, but is was a dark rumble with emotional undertones.

The prince said nothing. Instead, he chose to climb onto the bed and straddle the younger man once more. His lips descended to lightly caress the willing pair beneath him. He desperately needed reassurance, and intimacy spoke in volumes where words were mere drops in a bucket. Kakarot's arms encircled his waist, and he reached under Vegeta's shirt to smooth palms over the prince's back. His skin was warm; his touch – cathartic.

The foreplay was slow and leisurely. The sex itself, when it came to that, became soothing. The prince was on top, but he had decided to let Kakarot have control. The younger man had his hands on Vegeta's hips, holding him in place as he gently rotated his own. Vegeta had soon become breathless and he placed his hands on Goku's chest for support.

Warm, safe, loved... A shudder coursed through his body and his eyes began to roll back so he closed them. "Kakarot," he gasped as his skin tingled in anticipation. He felt the other man brush against his mind and it caused him to climax with an undignified shout. Another moment or so later, Goku received an orgasm of his own.

Pillow talk was non-existent. A few soft kisses were exchanged before both of them settled into comfortable positions. When Vegeta slept, his dreams were blank and his mind at ease.

---

The calendar read May 30 and they'd been gone two weeks already. Although the capsules were provided by Bulma and her family, none of the Briefs (including Zarbon) had opted to go, which was a widely accepted course of action. A small group had assembled to assist Shin, including: Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Piccolo, Yamcha, and – surprisingly – Android Seventeen. After his sister had tied the knot with Krillin, he decided to spare himself the pain of their sickening romance in exchange for the exploits of outer space.

At this point, the passengers' circadian rhythms were finally settling into a more natural pattern. Also, some on the initial excitement about the excursion had begun to transform into apprehension. The best thing that had happened to them so far was that Shin had a lead, and their destination was now within a few hours reach. Their target was one notorious boss from a crime syndicate in a place known as the Elclan System. Marcuso Loi, also known as "Marky the Liar," apparently engaged in shifty dealings with rare and exotic goods, and a source hinted that he handled Pandora's Box in his earlier days. Unfortunately, sources tended to hand out as much facts as as much coin was going into their pocket. Although unreliable, this tip gave the party a starting point in their intensive task.

Shin was at the table, carefully reviewing their current status as Goku was cooking breakfast. Apparently the aroma of eggs and bacon served as a wake up call because moments later the room was crowded with hungry people in various states of dress. For example, Yamcha looked as if he was still half asleep, but Gohan appeared fresh and ready for the first meal of the day. It only took another minute before Vegeta joined them, his hair damp, unruly, and wild. He took a seat at the table and idly glanced over what Shin was examining.

"Alright, chums up!" Goku soon called out, causing everyone to line up cafeteria style and consequently be served breakfast. After the group was done placating their appetites, Shin decided this was an optimal time to discuss a plan of action upon arrival. Once the table was cleared – with the exception of Vegeta's coffee cup – he spread their information sheets around for visible ease.

"The planet we'll be landing on is considered neutral territory," the god began, "which doesn't mean we'll be any safer than anywhere else." Vegeta injected a snort of amused agreement. Continuing, Shin explained the plan he had constructed, effectively using his visual aids at various points in his speech, "We'll be landing, here, on the southern continent, under the unofficial rule of Klordian-eae. The inhabitants and visiting merchants are as friendly as a pack of sirens, and they're going to trust you as far as they can throw you. So, while we're there, I'd prefer if you never mention that you're looking for Pandora's Box. This'll hurt us more than help us, and you wouldn't believe how far being vague will get you. The number one rule we should follow is to exercise caution -- don't cause trouble.

Now, after we land, we'll break into three smaller groups and proceed to search for ties to Marcuso Loi. When someone asks you why you want to see him – and they will – tell them 'Marky's business with Keichii is no business of yours.' Never tell them anything else."

"Keichii?" Vegeta instantly blurted out. He couldn't fathom why Zarbon's brat would have any involvement in their quest.

"Keichii Montasqueu," Shin answered, "A once double agent who collected, or should I more aptly say 'stole,' goods from the Cold Empire. Though his motives were.. slightly questionable at times, his sabotage weakened Freiza's control until his murder roughly twenty years ago. He was widely known for being rather vain in regards to rare treasures. Sadly, this was one of the reasons that lead to his early demise. Anyways, we'll report back to the ship at nineteen hundred. Goku, Vegeta, Gohan: You're group one. Piccolo, Yamcha, Krillin: You're group two. And Seventeen and myself shall be the last group. Any questions?"

Piccolo spoke up, "Yes. Why would Marcuso have ties with someone who has been dead for twenty years?"

Shin smirked at him, "Marky's business with Keichii is no business of yours."

Piccolo smirked back.

---

The metal container bounced off the stone wall with a clatter, spinning to a halt on the ground a few feet away. Amidst the bundle of pedestrians, it was knocked out of sight moments later. Yamcha exhaled a pent-up sigh and complained, "This is pure crap." Piccolo, unable to help himself, rolled his eyes. He felt as if he was babysitting more than saving the universe. Several hours after their arrival the trio of the two Earthlings and a Namek hadn't yielded any results, except for a former desert thief constantly making rather rude observations about their progress.

"I mean, how does he expect us to-"

"Yamcha!" Piccolo finally snapped at him, "Your negative attitude isn't adding anything constructive to our predicament. Shin split us into a group because he thought we'd work well together. He put us together because he thought we were strongest this way. To be honest, he probably doesn't expect any us to find anything today, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do our best. And it's not exactly as if we have the power, jurisdiction, or flat-out ability to harass people until they tell us about You-Know-Who's You-Know-What."

"YouKnowWho'sYouKnowWhat?" Yamcha looked completely lost. When the Namek glared at him, he suddenly realized what he meant and mumbled something that Piccolo assumed was an embarrassed apology.

Attempting to smooth over the situation, Krillin spoke up, "Yamcha, Piccolo's right. Shin put us together because he obviously thought that we could find information easier as a team. But this is isn't easy, like fighting Freiza."

"You thought fighting Freiza was easy?" Yamcha was astonished. Piccolo hit him over the back of the head for drawing attention to the group. A few people gave some curious glances and exchanged some conspiratory whispers. Rubbing the forming bruise, Yamcha clenched his teeth until he felt that were clear from potential eavesdroppers. "You call the fight with Freiza easy?" he hissed lowly.

"Compared to this.." Krillin replied, "Yeah. With Freiza we knew exactly where he was and what he was doing and why. This mission.. we can't just run off somewhere and kill someone to solve it. We have to use deductive reasoning. We have to spend time and effort into carefully manipulating people just to get a name or a place that may or may not even be right. It's like connect-the-dots except we have to find the dots first. You need a level head for this, and frankly, your attitude doesn't reflect the cunning bandit I knew and grew up with."

The other man sulked from this rebuttal, and hardly spoke until they were back on the ship at 19:00.

---

"Grhh... Pig piss and horse vomit!" Vegeta growled as he pulled off his sneakers and wrestled to remove his jacket. Gohan tried to cover up his chuckle by pretending he had a cough.

"Vegeta!" Goku exclaimed, astonished, "Just because we didn't find anything yet-"

"Shut up!" the prince snapped before his expression relaxed slightly, "Look, the sooner we get off this planet the better. I just.. don't like it here." He turned and stormed off much to the other Saiyans' bewilderment. Goku pursed his lips in irritation, but refrained from following the older man. It was obvious he needed some space to cool down, so Goku opted to start dinner with Gohan as his assistant.

Minutes later, when the water on the stove began to boil, the main hatch opened and in trudged group two. "How'd it go?" Goku called out over his shoulder as he poured noodles into the pot. Piccolo shrugged, Yamcha shook his head while heading towards the bathroom, and Krillin mumbled as he gave his response. "That good, huh?" the black-haired Saiyan sarcastically jabbed. He didn't press the point because he felt as if his group had come out on bottom in comparison. The real excitement began when they were half-way through dinner because this was when Shin and Seventeen made their entrance.

"Gentlemen!" Shin greeted them with a beaming smile. It was as if this one word put life back into the dampened spirits of the crew, and they perked up in hopes of good news. "What a delicious smelling dinner!" he concluded much to everyone's chagrin, and they promptly deflated. The god hummed to himself in between bites, apparently oblivious to the poor mood that hung around the table. When his plate was cleared, he turned his attention to the solemn faces that surrounded him, "Goodness. No luck was to be had, I assume?" Harsh silence reigned for a moment.

"So, you didn't find anything either?" Vegeta spoke slowly, his dark eyes staring intently at the deity.

"Not as such, not as such.." Shin admitted, "Seventeen and myself went shopping."

This seemed to offend Yamcha, "Shopping? While we were out there busting our asses, you went shopping?"

Shin merely laughed at the other man's expression. "Please, do not think me slacking off on the job," the god smiled and leaned back in his chair, "I promise you, the shopping we've done today is very beneficial to our mission."

"So, what were you looking for?" Yamcha eased off a bit and normality was restored to his voice. I suppose it really was unreasonable of me to snap like that, he thought to himself.

"Hookers," Seventeen answered. There was a mixed chorus of outrage and disbelief in retaliation.

Eventually, Shin calmed them down with the assurance of an explanation. "Marcuso was known for having.. 'lady friends' on a fairly consistent basis," the god told them with a hint of a blush on his cheeks, "These ladies are more prone to give out information to a handsome face. As you can see, Seventeen was a wonderful asset to have in this particular case." The android tried not to look pleased with himself, but only just. Unable to withhold it any longer, Shin announced, "We have another lead."

Silence ensued for only a second until everyone broke it at once. This time, however, Seventeen disrupted the noise by saying, "Well, a lead to our lead." Finally, a sense of order came to the group. Plans were discussed, and farewells were then passed around as they went to their quarters. Nerves were high that night, refusing to let sleep claim them easily.

"Don't get your hopes up," Vegeta warned Goku as they were climbing into bed, "This can very well be a cop-out." The younger Saiyan replied by cuddling next to his lover. Vegeta sighed in mild irritation, "Your feet are cold."

Goku smiled into the brunette's shoulder, "I know."

---

"Vegeta, do you know what a galaxy is?"

/It is..owned by Freiza/ he felt himself saying. 'Felt his hands moving as if on their own accord. 'Felt the familiarity of this type of speak. It was as if his brain and body functioned on different levels from one another. It was if they were doing a dance and his brain was two steps behind, desperately trying to catch up, but the haste was the root of his problem. His eyes finally focused and a being came into view. A tall person, but mostly skeletal, and with dark eyes like a swirling hurricane of indigo with stunning violet at the eye of the storm.

The man seemed so far away, yet he felt as if he could reach out and touch him. It was fuzzy and painful to grasp his surroundings. Inside or outside, always confined. Here, where days and nights blended and age was uncounted.

"Did you know that not even light can escape a black hole?"

This destructive force. The ultimate destructive force.

...Silence and pressure. 'Standing on the threshold of a vacuum with eyes staring, unblinking, at what he saw. His breaths were shallow and trembling. The purest of dark was swallowing all in its path. Planets were eaten, moon and satellites devoured, dust and debris absorbed and light sapped. Nothingness. And his heart beat hard in his chest. He was terrified, and for a moment, he forgot who he was. For a moment, he wanted to cry. It was like the opposite of beauty.

Then, he felt it sliding away from him, but he wasn't sure what "it" was anymore. A sensation, a memory, or a fabrication.. he couldn't discern. The prince drifted in limbo for a moment as it felt like several of his own voices vied for possession of concentration. He wasn't certain about anything anymore. He was simply tired. He just wanted to sleep or die. He just wantedHIS SCOUTER RELEASED A PLEASANT INTONE which notified him that he hadn't completed his mission yet. It sparked anger in him for his carelessness, which somehow became their audacity.

When was enough enough? Who did they think they were by living? Breathing? Feeling? A white hot aura surrounded his body, burning the grass and charring the earth.

Life was war. Death was peace. He was doing them a favor. Really.

His body ached.

He imagined himself becoming impossibly old, but not because of his extended lifespan, rather because of.. something he couldn't describe. It was as if his youth was wasted, and inside this was him – old, shriveled, crippled, weak; skin with lost elasticity, muscles atrophying, and foggy, sunken eyes. These thoughts were a trigger to something he never expected. It was like being drunk, but at an extreme acceleration. His thoughts were unfocused, cluttering, and painful. Make it stop, he pleaded to himself, I can't... I can't..take...

But it happened anyways. And with clarity and lucidity.

Here were real flashbacks. This wasn't reminiscing. He was living it again as if it were just now, but the now kept changing.

His fists literally crushing his enemies, the blood drenching his uniform-
The sharp blade digging into soft tissue deep inside his chest-
Huddled in the corner, naked, petrified-
Freiza laughing light-heartedly, as if he'd just shared a private, pleasant joke-
He was suspended weightlessly in thick liquid-

OH GOD, THE PAIN...

The voice of an older male screaming in desperation, "Vegeta, help me!" But the his ki was already centralized in his hand, and it didn't even take a thought to do what he did next-
An overwhelming grief was making him break his knuckles against the wall-
'Eating frantically as he was pressed for time, trying desperately to stop the agony his body was trying to endure. He kept telling himself 'they're animals' over and over in his head. But he still had to close his eyes-

WHY...

Kakarot's beautiful, smiling face.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

Vegeta awoke with a start and was greeted to the darkness of the cabin. He felt like shit – as if the worst migraine imaginable decided to double team his head with the worst hangover imaginable. With a grimace, he sat up, and then found out that wasn't a good idea and lied back down.

Minutes passed, or maybe hours. "Fuck.." he whispered as he bit back a groan. He felt nauseous. When his eyes were open they felt dry and would experience a pins and needles sensation from time to time, but when they were closed it made it seem like he was spinning continuously out of control and it took willpower to resist vomiting.

Goku eventually rolled over towards him, but Vegeta dared not say a word. The prince wasn't sure if the other man sensed him awake or not, but his lover's hand gently ran over his back. It was warm, but he didn't feel like being touched at the moment. It smoothed down his spine all the way to his tail. He winced and clenched his teeth, but otherwise made no indication that he was conscious. Apparently Goku took the hint because he merely put his arm around the brunette and left it at that.

---

When the alarm clock went off, Vegeta swore he'd just gotten to sleep. He did everything in his power to avoid everyone.

---

As Shin called attention to himself, the group settled down in order to be debriefed. "Well, now that we've all eaten and are ready to start the day," he began, obviously overlooking the fact that Vegeta was working on his fifth cup of coffee, "I'd like to take this time to discuss our lead and our plan of action. First and foremost is his name: Wohrdin Ruzf." The Prince of Saiyans spewed coffee on himself with these words and went into a coughing fit.

"Are you ok?" Goku asked, obviously concerned as he patted him on the back a few times, then handed him a stack of napkins when he began to compose himself.

Piccolo, ever the one to be insightful, instead inquired, "Do you know this guy?"

Vegeta shook his head, hoarsely replying, "I'm fine.. coffee tried to go down the wrong way..."

The god, once sure that the prince had recovered, continued, "Wohrdin is a small-time trafficker. He's a lackey, if you will, and we don't know too much about him besides the fact that, other than assisting Mr. Loi, he also worked within the Cold Empire. That, and he's apparently older. Roughly fifty to sixty years old, by Earth standards. Physically, he's short and stocky, with mottled skin and greying hair. Any questions?"

A moment of silence passed before Gohan raised his hand, "Yeah. What are the groups today?"

Shin gathered the files on the table and put them into a folder, "We're all going together for today."

---

The sun hung almost directly overhead as the crew came out of the fifth apartment complex that Wohrdin had lived in for a brief amount of time. The breeze was dull and uncomfortably warm, and caused those unfortunate enough to encounter it to become more irritable. Unable to stand it any longer, Yamcha pulled his hair back into a ponytail and contemplated cutting if off at the end of the day. He also took this time to shoot out a comment, "This guy moves more than I do.." It was met with no response as they shuffled down the sidewalk in clumps of ones and twos. Shin pulled them aside a moment later to reassert their spirits. That, and a parking lot had less loiterers.

The god spread a map of the inner city across the hood of a vehicle. "According to my calculations, we are here," he pointed to a region in the southwest corner. "And here is where we'll want to go," he tapped the intersection of two streets to the north of their current location. Piccolo inclined his head and examined the paper.

The Namek couldn't help himself any longer and he blurt out, "Okay. How did you gather that?"

Shin began to very neatly fold up the map, and he glanced at Piccolo, but didn't address him till he put the map away. "Because," Shin explained, "I'm a god." He discreetly gave a wink before he lead them back onto their journey.

The walk was bland in comparison to the work of the previous day. Conversation was dead as each man was caught up in his own thoughts. Piccolo, who towered over those around him, was following Vegeta and staring at the back of his head. He wished he had the guts to harass the brunette about Wohrdin, but he knew better due to his unintended catch of Vegeta slipping hard liquor into his coffee. Instead of pressing the issue, he decided it was best to let it go for the time being.

Of course, the street they needed ran uphill. Lofty apartments closed in the crowded street from either side. Besides color, the buildings appeared identical. Some residents were sitting out on their balconies, fanning themselves as they watched the din of traffic and throng of pedestrians below. Hazy shadows of passing vehicles only gave glimpses of respite from the stifling heat. The only one who seemed unaffected by the weather was Android Seventeen, who was walking with wide strides next to Shin with his hands in his pockets.

"How much further?" Piccolo called out when he could feel sweat trickling down his back. I'm not made for this environment, he thought to himself.

"Another couple of blocks," the god replied, bearing no hint of discomfort in his voice. He was definitely trying to live up to his title.

The rest of the trip seemed to pass quickly and, at a large intersection, Shin lead them across the street to a building that looked as though it belonged in a demilitarized zone. It appeared as if it had been shoddily repainted over the course of many years and rusting metal barred the windows from intruders – or perhaps ensured the occupants could not easily escape. It was mostly grey, but dirt and grime clung to the siding, resilient to stay despite the citizens best – or perhaps, worst – efforts. A group of people stood to the side of the entrance, talking and laughing amongst themselves both loudly and obnoxiously. However, the atmosphere changed when Shin and the crew approached the steps to the front door. The females huddled closer to their male counterparts and their raucous behavior become more intensive and subdued. Gohan, who was still fascinated by all the wonders of an alien planet, stared at them until Vegeta cuffed him over the head.

"Ow!" the half-Saiyan snapped, rubbing the offended area, "What was that for?"

Vegeta retorted, "You're being impolite." The tone of his voice was strenuous and odd.

"You didn't have to hit me.." Gohan grumbled softly, yet he refocused his gaze towards his feet. Goku, who watched the whole ordeal unfold, bit his tongue in order to not make a scene. Between Vegeta's attitude and his sudden, brash inclination of physical violence (however slight and mundane) toward his son, the younger full-blood was more than ready to have a discussion with his lover when this visit with Wohrdin was finished. No matter what Gohan would do or say, he had never incurred Vegeta's wrath outside of sparring.

"The last thing I need right now," Goku decided in his head as he trudged through the front door, "is for Vegeta to start pulling the same old shit from before." He calmed down by reassuring himself that Vegeta probably had a very rational reason for his behavior.

As soon as he stopped worrying about the prince, he took in his immediate surroundings. The dank, cramped hallway was as equally and wholly uncomfortable as his last train of thought. The stench of the building permeated off of every inch. The smells of the old lingered, muted by the conglomeration caused by the current occupants and their various preferences of living styles. Goku had been fortunate in his life in that he had managed to avoid the sections of major cities with poor living standards. There were heavy, unpleasant scents lingering and wafting through the air, but none were more repulsive to the black-haired man than that of one apartment in particular that they passed. He held his breath as his eyes watered because of the overwhelming imprint of urine. He noticed that Vegeta and Android Seventeen were the only ones who weren't cringing or giving outward signs of their distaste.

Then, Shin stopped moving, so they stopped moving. He turned around to address them with a sheepish smile on his face. "I have a confession," he said, "I read the mind of the gentlemen at the last apartment complex we were at, but I didn't receive a room number." Yamcha groaned, but had enough sense to not start bitching and complaining. Piccolo shifted his weight and crossed his arms.

"Well, why don't we-" the Namek started.

Vegeta, however, cut him off, "Seventh floor, down the hall, three doors from the end on the left."

"How would you know that?" Piccolo asked curtly, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

"He has a very distinctive smell," the Saiyan replied bluntly, brushing past everyone in order to ascend the staircase.

Somehow, even though they were getting closer to their main goal, the day was getting progressively worse. It was unspoken between the lot of them, but nerves were shot and adrenaline was starving off any sleep deprivation they experienced, and the atmosphere made it nigh impossible to be optimistic.

Spiraling upward, their footsteps piqued interest, but also caused a clear path to erupt before them. A motley crew such as themselves positively oozed trouble.

"A distinctive smell?" Goku mustered up the courage to express his disbelief, "Over this?"

Vegeta didn't even look at him as he replied, "You apparently haven't experienced urine in this state before."

"And you have?" Goku shot back nastily.

"Yes," the prince said in such a way that if his words were the embodiment of temperature then they'd be rapidly approaching absolute zero. This made the younger man feel like a jackass, which caused his foul mood to escalate. No one else dared to say a word.

The hallway was typically narrow, and crowded mostly with litter rather than people. Broken pieces of furniture, rotting remains of meals, and bits of plastic and metal were a few of the assorted items strewn about. All of this was perceptively dodged by the train of aliens. They crowded around a door that bore a faded and mutilated number 723. In the quietness of the moment, the air felt charged. Shin raised his hand and leaned in to knock, but Vegeta lifted his foot and kicked the door down. Splintered wood twanged as he knocked debris out of the way and stepped inside.

Compared to the other apartments, the place was nice. Some aerosol and cleaner was combating the odors from outside and barely succeeding. It was mostly modest with sparse traces of trophy wealth. Like a true lackey, Wohrdin apparently had no ability to control his own financing. A crystal chandelier loomed over a coffee table propped up on an empty beer case. "Classy," Yamcha decided to add some commentary. He picked up a magazine and opened it curiously. It had aliens in unhumanoid form doing things he didn't understand with captions he didn't know how to read.

The prince slapped it out of his hand, "That's gross. You don't know where that's been."

The Earthling, realizing he had just done something very stupid, put his hands in his pockets to refrain from touching anything else.

The group spread out across the apartment, peering around in hopes that somehow it would cause a type of development. Vegeta spotted something on the wall, and Shin noticed. "What is it?" the god inquired.

"His calendar," the brunette answered, hovering his hand over the page and dragging it right to left, "It says he's expecting company tonight. Well, that is rather accurate, but unfortunate. For him." Their inner musings were interrupted by the sound of a door creaking. Android Seventeen turned around to be greeted with the face of an older man with greying hair. A look of bewilderment crossed the man's features before it became panic. He slammed the door – or would have if it wasn't for Seventeen's hand. The door flew open as the android gave it a little push, and he held it there to allow Shin entrance.

"Wohrdin Ruzf?" the god asked, his hands neatly clasped in front of him.

"Who wants to know?" the man shot back, warily eyeing the individuals that entered his bedroom. He was pressed against the wall within seconds.

"My name is Kaioshin," Shin answered politely, "I understand that you have worked for Marky. We are agents of Keichii's and wish to speak with him."

Mr. Ruzf nervously shifted and muttered, "I don't know nuthin' about anything. I just work down on the Piires-side factory." How quaint. How innocent. How convenient.

Shin nodded as if he was disappointed, but understanding. He sucked in a breath and pivoted to the side, his back as straight as a ruler. "I'll just leave you be then," the purple-skinned one declared, "After all.. you're not obviously going to divulge any information such as – oh – why hearing Marky's name petrifies you with fear, or what you have under your bed and why you're so worried about that as well. Besides, you wouldn't possibly be interested in Keichii's.. expression of gratification for cooperation. So, we'll just be going now. Gentlemen." He had spared Wohrdin one small look of superiority before he turned away from him completely. Uncertainly, they began to shuffle out when the criminal spoke up.

"Alright! Alright!" the stout resident growled with resignation, "I'll tell you what you want to know, just don't.. don't talk about you-know-what." Shin took great amounts of willpower to not express his elation.

"Please," the god smiled genially and gestured as he spoke, "Have a seat."

Watching the transgression and interaction was enlightening to Gohan in particular. Sometimes, he mused, it's the quiet ones you have to worry about. All bite and no bark. Wohrdin sat at his desk, the wooden chair he chose giving an ominous creak underneath his weight. He poured himself a drink with shaking hands and downed a shot like a drowning man gulps water.

"May I sit?" Shin requested. The "host" gave a nod which signified that he felt he had no real choice in the matter. The deity sat on the very edge of the bed and never broke eye contact with the other man.

Dejected and twinged with hopelessness, Wohrdin slumped and sighed, "What do you want to know?"

"You do trafficking," the god began with a statement, "You're pretty good at it. You've done it a long time and have quite a bit of resources and networks before you. So, what I ask of you is this: Why are you scared of Marcuso Loi, the man that ensured you a prime source of income and offered benefits far beyond the conditions in which you live in now?"

Wohrdin's face was a grim slate, yet somehow twisted with inner conflict. Shin granted him the time to think. Let him mull it over, the Mohawked man thought with patience, Let his own fears dissolve his resistance. He'll tell the truth not because he'll want to, but because he'll think there is no better, viable option. It's only a matter of time.

When Wohrdin met Shin's eyes again, the god knew he had won.

"..Marky was good at what he did too. Too good. He made powerful enemies," the criminal explained, leaning back in his chair, "A few years back, he was made an offer to.. what's it called? Consolodatt.. He was to break up his empire and divide the power, but who wants to share? Marky said no, but Iian insisted."

"So insistent that he'd do it with or without Marky's consent," Shin filled in the blank, "or with or without Marky."

Wohrdin gave a nod of affirmation, "Iian began making hits. Unofficial warfare broke out and Marky began to pack up his operation and ship it to another galaxy."

"Which galaxy?" Shin asked.

"Dunno. Marky had me running 'round here packing up his goods. He was finishing up business when Borrj decided to start his. 'E got Marky in the back and became Iian's right hand man. Iian got his way. He runs the place now. Marky's men.. just moved on or settled down. 'Too dangerous to do it any other way," the old man ended with another, ungracious shot.

The god did not respond till he felt the silence was dragging on too long, but he did purposely tap his hand against the side of the bed in the mean time. While tapping, he spoke quietly and casually, "Marky was moving to another galaxy, and he trusted you enough to handle his merchandise. Where was he sending his goods?" Tap. Tap.

The portly goon shook his head and mumbled rather nonsensically.

"Wohrdin," Shin said. Tap. Tap.

Another shot was downed.

Again, "Wohrdin." Tap. Tap.

The seconds tapped by.

Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

"Ceerse Tsonun," the low-life relented, his cow-like eyes finally meeting Shin's, "but I don't know nuthin' else. Honest."

Coyly, Shin injected, "What about Pandora's Box?"

"What?" Wohrdin replied in befuddlement, "Look, I dunno who Pandora is, but they didn't send anything through Marky that I saw." His ignorance was genuine. He wasn't smart enough to lie. It takes a good liar to come out on top in a situation like this.

Shin inhaled and began to stand, intending on bidding the criminal farewell.

Then, suddenly--

Blood.

It painted the wall, the desk, the chair, and Wohrdin. At least, it painted part of the old man because half of his head was the bit doing the decorating. Shin spun around to see Vegeta's outstretched hand still faintly glowing from the expenditure of ki. The prince's face was like a mask.

"Why the Hell did you do that?" Goku shouted before anyone else even had a chance to act.

"You heard him," the brunette answered coolly, "He didn't know anything else."

"You don't just kill him!" boomed the younger Saiyan.

"He's just a petty criminal," Vegeta growled, "Who cares if he's dead?" A scowl formed on his brow.

"Who cares?" Goku's muscles flexed and his ki crackled slightly, "Vegeta, that's not the point!" He stepped forward, "You don't just kill someone. You don't just decide that his life isn't sacred! That's not for you to decide! You had no right! ..No right!" He punctuated his words with a push on the prince's left shoulder.

"Don't you fucking touch me," Vegeta's voice rumbled dangerously as he retaliated with a shove. Goku moved in and the brunette instantly gave a reflex with his fist. Punches met torsos and faces rapidly, ferociously, and without regard or restraint. Horrified, the group stared at the brawl till some sense filtered in through the haze.

"Hey! HEY!" Piccolo shouted, grabbing their shirts and extending his arms so that they slammed into opposite walls. "Goku!" he glared at the black-haired man, "You're not helping the situation!" When he saw the other male open his mouth, he cut him off, "Shut it! I don't want to hear it!" The Namek turned his attention to the fuming prince, "You." He recognized the look in Vegeta's eyes and, for a second, he hated him. But just for a second. He rotated, spiraling his arms to keep the distance between the Saiyans. "Go cool down," he said to the brunette, literally forcing him out the door. Vegeta glared acidically, but complied. He stepped through the wreckage of the door in silent fury.

"He had no right," Goku fumed, wrestling to wrench free of Piccolo's grasp.

"We heard you the first time!" the Namek said firmly, baring his teeth, "That doesn't change what he's done. If you're not going to contribute constructively, then just go back to the ship." He retracted his arm and let the younger man go. Huffing, Goku stood rooted by some form of self-control that proved his capability.

The corpse sat, a gigantic infringement on their non-involvement rule.

They stood in silence for a moment.

Then they went to work.

---

WOHRDIN RUZF.

Letcheu. Sibcha. Tomn. Nial. Vlekydop.

And Wohrdin.

Dead and gone, except in memory. Perished for the secret they shared.



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