They were out on the back deck, playing. Bulla had come over for dinner. Their caretaker Jia was inside, cooking spicy chicken curry. Chari’s mouth watered as she caught its aroma. Onion and ginger and garlic tickled her taste buds. Night was coming on; a wintery wind blew through West City. The blue-haired girl held a capsule, sporting an audacious grin.
“Look what I found in my mom’s lab, Char.”
A flash of light revealed a skeletal figure, its shining chrome frame illuminating the yard. Lying on its back, the robotic being, who wore a white kimono, did not move.
Her voice was stripped of all reservations. “Bulla, what is that?!”
“Cool, isn’t he? Mom told me his name is Android 21.”
“Don’t worry, he was never completed. Mom’s been trying to re-activate him for years, but no luck so far.”
She took out her portable hand computer.
“What’s that for?”
“Mom and I have been working on installing a new AI into his frame so he won’t be evil when he wakes up. But we can't do that until his power’s been restored. Help me place these around his body,” the princess said, pulling what looked like flat round discs out from the back of her datapad. “Let’s try to bring his infinite energy device back online.”
The girl did so. They went at it for a while, and as it grew darker and the stars came out from behind a veil of swiftly moving clouds, she looked up, the comforting scent of cut grass twitching at her nose. Her father was up there somewhere, hunting space vermin. The twinkling lights were so far away. She shivered and was glad to be with her best friend.
Inside, Jia’s phone rang. Through the screen door, the girl noticed her caretaker’s voice become sharp, worried, and quiet. She looked up while Bulla continued clacking away at her touchscreen.
“Now? Is it absolutely vital? Moru– Okay, I get it. Alright, alright, I’m on my way.”
A blue light pulsed through the skeletal frame of the android. He did not wake. Bulla bit her lip. Chari liked it when she did that.
“Gosh, Dr. Gero programmed this android good. I can’t believe he’s not turning on!”
“Maybe he’s broken?”
“No, he’s just under lockdown.”
The screen door opened, and out came Jia, brushing her dark hair out of her eyes. “Chari, where’s Olivien?”
“In the gravity unit.” She pointed to the bulbous training structure sitting on the grass farther out in the backyard.
“Oli! Oli! Oli!!”
The door opened, and out shot her twin, who was wearing nothing except black training shorts and fingerless gloves. Red-faced, dripping with sweat, his chest heaving, the boy landed next to them in a flash. “What?”
“Bulla, are you staying the night?”
“Um… sure? I guess. It’s a little early for bedtime.”
“I’m sorry, kids. I’m afraid I must step out for a few hours. I need you to go to bed now. Chari,” the woman said, her voice rising in an authoritative plea, “make sure everyone brushes their teeth and gets tucked in. If I catch any of you out of bed when I return, I will alert your father about your behavior, and he will take appropriate actions.”
“Where are you going, Miss Jia?” asked her brother as he wiped himself off with a towel.
“I have some, ahem, business to attend to. It’s an urgent matter. I apologize. This never happens. You will just have to do what I ask. Please.”
“But it’s not even eight!”
“I don’t have time to argue. You can watch television for an hour, then it’s bedtime. Do not leave your room, understood?
“Yes ma’am,” they replied.
She glowered at them, moving from face to face, lingering longest on the boy’s. “Olivien, you better not sneak off somewhere. You know what’ll happen if you do…”
He scowled. “I won’t.”
“We shall see. Now then, I must go.”
With anxious energy, the woman returned inside, not waiting for an answer, grabbed her purse, and raced out the front door. Moments later, the pot of curry boiled over. Even Bulla giggled when she saw what a mess it had made. Jia would have to clean that up when she got back.
The Saiyans, good little boy and girls that they were, marched into the twins room, got into their pajamas (Bulla borrowed a pair of Chari’s), jumped into bed (as well as the pull-out bed on the couch for the princess, bless her grace in amateur situations like this), turned on the television, and watched some commercials for about two minutes and thirty-seven seconds.
Then, like clockwork, they slithered out from under their blankets, Olivien leading the way. Their caretaker was a nice lady, for the most part, but she was only human. She could not fly, and more importantly, she could not sense energy. They always knew where she was. Following her was easy.
They left the television on, turning it down for added effect. Her brother jumped through the window in a blur. She beckoned the princess through before her, which made her stomach tingle. In her white-and-yellow onesie, Bulla threw herself through the opening, flying sloppier than them (she was two years younger, so it was to be expected), and nearly shattering the glass. That would have been the end of their game. Somehow, she managed to right herself at the last moment.
Like a dog, Chari followed her out. While the cold was on her cheeks, her heart was beating too quickly for her to mind.
Chari had never flown down to Seikishi City before. She felt a deep sense of something akin to admiration when she looked out over the misty water. Lady Jia had driven down to the docks. In the dead of winter, in the last throes of Age 787, the fog had risen up from the shoreline, blanketing nigh everything. They watched from above, keeping pace with her hovercar until it pulled to a stop just outside a warehouse on the water’s edge. The name ‘Morizakura’ was printed in big white lettering on the side of the building. She came to a stop, hopped out, and disappeared into the mist.
They sensed her walking down to the pier, where two men waited for her. They were only slightly stronger humans in Chari’s estimation. Her teeth began to clatter. She did not much like the cold; she wanted to go home. Bulla was shivering too, though she was trying to hide it. They descended to get out of the wind, but also so that they could more easily hear what Jia and the others were saying.
As Saiyans, their hearing was superior to what one could reasonably expect of a human. Nevertheless, they were careful to keep their distance. Hovering over the wooden planks, they drifted through the fog after their caretaker.
“Batteries must’ve died…”
“If they had done anything–anything–Morucan, I would have been powerless to stop them. I could have been killed.”
“I know, I know, that’s why we called you.”
“What’s the plan?”
“We’ll install a new one tonight while they’re sleeping. Mr. Cardinal’s inside. He wants to talk to you about it.”
Jia's footsteps faded. Chari had never heard of a Mr. Cardinal, nor had she been aware that Jia also worked for someone else. Her father had to know about it, but this was still pretty weird. She had thought that Jia only took care of her and her brother. The men hadn’t gone with her; one lit a cigarette, the burst of red visible through the haze.
“I can’t hear,” Bulla complained. “What are they talking about?”
They crept forward, now nearly at ground level to escape the wind. The warehouse, rusting in places, having been battered by salt and bird poop, lay before them.
Oli cocked his head. “What’s that say…? Sh-shin… ou?”
“Morizakura, you idiot!” Chari whispered.
“Hey, who’s out there?!” a man’s voice shouted through the mist.
Her heart sank. Exchanging a wide-eyed look with her twin, Chari went to kick off from the ground when a pair of older men in suits and slicked-back hair came running over. They looked more than annoyed at first, until they noticed her tail. That’s when the pair got real spooked.
“Shit, look at those tails…”
“Damn aliens. Hey, what’s the protocol? What would Mr. Cardinal want us to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“We have to stop them from going down there, at least. It’s tresspassin’, Tresparson.”
“Right you are, right you are. Oi, kids, stop right there!” He pulled out a gun, waving it about. “Go home, or I’ll–”
Reflexively, Olivien blasted Tresparson with a blue beam of energy. Chari hardly had time to gasp before a teal ball of her own had to be thrown at the man’s companion, lest he scream out and give away the whole charade.
Two piles of dust remained. A kiai was enough to scatter them into the night. Nobody would ever know what had happened. Suffice to say, Bulla scolded them bad for what they had done, and they really had nothing to say in defense of their actions. The three flew back home in silence.
Chari had sensed that Bulla, being only half-Saiyan, did not understand fully the ways of her people. The princess was not a fighter like Olivien or herself. She was not as much of a warrior as her brother, truth be told. If her best friend wasn’t going to train, why should she? The girl would rather spend time with Bulla than spar. That was not to say she didn’t feel the itch to trade punches every now and then.
They watched an inane television program about the Great Saiyaman (the lame concept made Chari want nothing more than to grow up to be the opposite of that guy) for a few minutes before falling asleep.
Jia returned some hours later to find the children sleeping with the television on. As one could imagine, the next day, they were reprimanded heavily, although it’s difficult to say how effective Jia’s scoldings were. Perhaps they forgot within the hour what she had said. They did not, however, forget that one odd night where she had rushed off to the Morizakura warehouse and they had followed her there only to be confronted by two men.
Those men were gone, and that was that. Neither twin felt guilty about what they had done. Sometimes, in the years following, she wondered what Mr. Cardinal thought had happened to Morucan and Tresparson. Being vaporized by space monkeys probably wasn’t the first thing he had suspected. Nobody would have guessed that the children could be so ruthless, so cold-blooded, at such a young age. Chari would not have believed it had she not been there.
The princess’ sensibilities aside, if anything, she and her brother had been merciful to those men, for a quick, painless death is all anyone can ask for in life.