[Earth] The Spring After

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    • [Earth] The Spring After

      February 2012, eight months after war

      Eight long months since Earth had emerged from the crucible.

      What came out from the war only sparsely resembled the society of a year or two years ago. Cities had fallen—East City was still a mass grave that would require years of repairs to clear away the rubble and corpses of the fallen. Satan City’s downtown districts had been destroyed, but even with its heart gutted, the small metropolis had endured thanks to the efforts of a few valiant warriors.

      Central City, once the de facto capital of the Earth, had been torn to pieces during the climactic battle of the war. The urban warfare had claimed the lives of thousands along with the majority of the city’s military, political, and economic leadership. As one of the senior leaders left after the bloodletting, General Gauger found himself pressed into an unwelcomed role as a shepherd to a shattered flock.

      In the aftermath, the center of the planet’s power and influence had shifted to the south and west. South City and West City, both relatively untouched by the fighting, found themselves in positions of vast influence. Yet, as human beings are want to do, the bickering between the two prevented any sort of substantial collaborative effort. The difference in culture made it too difficult for either metropolis to set aside differences for a brighter tomorrow, even after a war which had claimed nearly a billion souls.

      To the far north, what had once been North City was now something entirely new. The remains of the Ragnarok rested across the region which had once been the quiet, northern town. In the aftermath of the peace, the Stallions decided to forge their new society from the relic of the one they were intent to leave behind. After the weapon, defense, and propulsion systems had been gutted and confiscated as part of the peace accords, what remained of the Ragnarok was gradually used to construct a city within the scorched shell of the massive capital ship.

      In the months since the final flight of the Ragnarok, Piper Juunanagou had settled into her own unwanted role in the new world.

      Her new position found ‘Captain’ Piper Juunanagou stationed in new North City as an adjunct of the South City military. She was one of several military aides in the city who were there to provide counsel and support to the Red Stallions and their despondent king, who had lost nearly his entire family in the war. While noble on the surface, Piper was a glorified spy—a set of eyes and ears to ensure that the Stallions honored the peace treaty and that none of the other cities tried to do anything shady. With the balance of power utterly fucked, there was no telling when something could disrupt the status quo and plunge Earth back into another intra-city war.

      One of the only solaces in her job was that Piper didn’t have to deal with the constant murder and mayhem that had dominated her life for so long. The initial armistice had been a blip mired in continued battles as the diehard Red Stallions “died with their boots on,” but after the peace treaties, the ravaged world had settled. People were just too tired and too emotionally broken to want to beat the living shit out of one another over mundane things. It also helped that the body counts were still piling in every day, even months after the cessation of hostilities.

      Earth had lost more than cities and commerce. Thousands of heroes—small-scale and the sort that used to dominate the television sets—had fallen in the fighting or vanished from sight. Some had been confirmed among the valiant dead, but there were plenty others who had just fallen off the radar.

      For their part, the Sentinels had emerged from the fighting mostly intact. Piper’s unit had survived, even the sour-faced Master Sergeant Wolfe, but the 102ndhad been devastated in the fighting in Central City. The group had rallied to defend a stadium filled with displaced citizens from an armored unit of Red Stallions. Six of the eight members had perished protecting the stadium while the people were evacuated, and of the two survivors, one had committed suicide shortly thereafter. The sole survivor, likewise suffering from PTSD and survivors guilt, had been confined to a therapy ward at Sentinels Main. Piper, who had her own share of suppressed demons, had been by to visit the man a few times while she had leave. She had been shocked by how young he was—barely twenty-four. His face was lined with wrinkles and his eyes seemed dulled by the horror he had seen firsthand. He constantly babbled about watching his sergeant be torn in half before his eyes.

      The other solace to her job?

      Piper had been able to select her staff from whoever she wanted. After initially being amused that she was important enough to have her own set of retainers, she had ruffled every single feather in South City (and the Sentinels for that matter) by selecting Vad Zulenka and his wife, Trixie. Along with the two ‘wildcards’, the woman had selected Hoffman, Cruise, Cooper, and Reckne—all for entirely biased reasons. Along with the four Sentinels and the pair of ‘rogue elements’ (a second of the many politically correct monikers used for the tandem in official reports), Piper took several of the young men and women who had served in her platoon in South City.

      While most of North City existed within the remains of the Ragnarok, the military attaches all lived in a small community outside the ship-city. Fortunately for all the men and women of the various city-states, they had separate living quarters. South City’s attachment had a little five-story hotel a few blocks from the shuttle bay that led into North City. Piper had a two-bedroom suite, and even though she often had overnight company in the form of Abigal, the other bedroom was empty the majority of the time, unless a guest had to stay.

      Adjacent to Piper’s suite was that of the Zulenkas. The trio’s living quarters comprised the entirety of the top floor, and they were even connected by a set of doors that were often left ajar. Neither Piper or the Zulenkas had much need for privacy from one-another—the three had shared one body on more than one occasion. The doors were often only shut when Piper or her neighbors had more ‘private’ matters to attend. Since their arrival in town, that had been their life.

      Try as she could to find something to complain about, Piper found it hard to do so. The most exciting thing in their lives right now was whether or not to go clubbing or see a new movie after finishing an eight-hour workday at the office.

      It was a weird little slice of heaven for a trio of soldiers with enough stories of bloodshed and violence to make a butcher feel ill.

      On a somewhat chilly day in mid February, a screech filled the captain’s suite. A haughty, terrifying wail that could be heard all the way on the other side of the floor. For nearly a minute, the warbling scream resonated through what had once been a beloved silence.

      By the time Piper’s hand smacked down on the snooze button, a frowning Vad Zulenka had already risen from his bed and started toward his closet.

      “These damn women could sleep through a fucking orbital bombardment,” the saiyan mumbled under his breath as he glanced over to his bed at the gently snoring form of his wife, tangled up in blankets she had stolen from him during the course of the midnight hours.
    • Hailey yawned through her fatigue as she arrived to the sixth sub level of the hotel Vad was staying in with Piper and friends. The once white energy masking and absorbing tiles that lined the entire room were scorched with burn marks and cracked in several places. Vad shut the vault door behind them and spun the lock, sealing the duo in the room.

      “You sure it’s a good idea to keep this from your wife and Piper?” The blonde said, rubbing her eyes.

      Vad pressed one his hands to his shoulder and began rubbing the muscle. “I don't think they would approve of me pushing Super Saiyan 2 to it’s limit. Nor of the fact that I’ve only just began to tap into Super Saiyan 3 for seconds at time. Despite the war being over…I’m a soldier. I’m going to be prepared for the next invasion.”

      “Yeah, if but Trixie found out that you had surpassed her in secret…” Hailey dropped into a split to stretch her legs. “Not only that, but if the Earth government found out that its biggest rogue element was actively improving himself to planet killing levels. You’d reignite a whole other conflict. The one to kill you”

      Vad gritted his teeth and erupted into Super Sayian.

      “Luna’s last posthumous message hinted at a threat from outside our known reality. I need to be ready, Hailey, and you’re the only one who can help me. You have the same exact training I do.” Vad explained, pushing himself into his next SSJ level.

      With a sigh the blonde dropped into a deep Dragon Stance and nodded. “Fine. Just promise me you’ll be more careful. Whatever memory is keeping J3 locked for you is strong enough to stop your heart. I can’t keep Trixie’s awareness of you blocked for very long and if I lose you, I may not be able to stop her from finding out next time.”

      Zulenka nodded and charged the blond standing before him. Feinting around the punch she sent her elbow to his chin, which was immediately caught with his free arm. Dropping low he swept her legs out from under her. Using the momentum, the Reaper Assassin sprang to her hands and flipped out of harms way of an oncoming knee to her lower back. Returning to her feet she slid on her heels as Zulenka righted himself and ignited his aura. The whole point of this dance was to force Hailey to break through Vad’s defense and forcefully draw out the memory that would awaken his next form using her telepathic abilities. It was quite the workout that the two had been doing every morning for the past seven months. Hailey Richards had seen herself improve infinitely.

      Her first task had been to help Vad control Super Saiyan Two and get it on lock down. Around the fourth month of their secret training Zulenka had finally mastered it on a level like his mother. During one of their sessions she had managed to accidentally awaken a third transformation that had sent the Saiyan into a blind rage that almost killed him. That five seconds had nearly killed them both. Vad had gifted Hailey with Luna’s journal from her time in the Afterlife. The blond had discovered that while Super Saiyan 3 was a transformation by itself, it had the potential to consume the other two and become the only one a warrior could access, at varying degrees of drain on the soldiers’ energy and stamina. Using her numerous doctoral degrees, Richards made the educated guess that the reason Vad got such a dramatic increase in power when she had unlocked it was because it was consuming the first two levels and pushing his body to a level that it couldn’t sustain.

      As the blond countered the Sayian’s punch with a flat strike to his nose she followed with a knee to his stomach. They were running out of time. Trixie was usually up about an hour after her husband and they needed to attempt another transformation before she was fully awake. Unlocking her Potential, Hailey’s eyes turned blue in color and she broke through the Saiyan’s defense. Shattering his arm with a vicious counter, she took hold of his face and delved into his mind with her abilities. Finding the memory involving changelings and experiments she forced that one to his conscious mind before sending a snap kick to his chest. Almost immediately Vad’s aura exploded outward and his arm mended itself. His pupils had gone black and as the man screamed in horror at the memory surfacing in his mind he dropped to his knees.

      “That’s it Vad! Fight it! Push that power out!” She shouted, shielding her face from the intense heat coming from her ally.

      Vad roared in anguish, his power sky rocketing and radiating off the special tiles in the room. The floor began to crack.

      “Shit.” Hailey thought to herself. “This room may not be enough to hold him.”

      The blond watched as the Saiyan’s golden hair had lengthened down his back. As quickly as it had arrived Vad passed out and collapsed into a heap on the floor. Having expected this Hailey had walked over to the medical kit on the wall and retrieved a syringe of adrenaline. Turning Zulenka onto his back the blond jammed the thick gauge needle into his heart and depressed the plunger.

      With a cough the Saiyan came back to the world of the living and sat straight up.

      “Close, but no cigar. We gotta get back upstairs anyway.” Hailey said tossing her previous target a towel.

      "Your wife will be up soon."

      Fighting to the bitter end is an advantage when your opponent does not wish to perish.
    • The woman sighed as she rested her head on the desk.

      “Everything okay in there, Captain?” A soft voice asked from the other side of the cubicle wall.

      Piper lifted her head just enough to not muffle her response. “Blue screen of death again. They really need to stop cost-cutting with these tech people. Third time this week.”

      “Did you lose anything important, Ma’am?”

      “I always do, Lieutenant Hoshi.”

      The woman on the other side of the wall tried to stifle her laugh, but she was always awful at it. “What do they say when this happens, Ma’am? Something about working overtime to ensure stability in the peace accords?”

      The captain laughed at that. “Yes, someone who isn’t me will be working overtime, dear Lieutenant.”

      That remark silenced the younger woman in the adjacent cubicle, who went back to her own work with a little more gusto than she had for the first seven hours of their shift.

      Now left unable to do anything productive at the office, Piper mashed the power button until the blue screen went black. Once the machine was powered down, she retrieved her PDA from the desk and quickly put in yet another tech request. At some point, they would have to cave and just buy up-to-date machinery that wouldn’t implode every other day. Once the form had been transferred and the colonel had been notified via yet another passive-aggressive email, Piper slid the device back into the desk. With some luck, she might be able to ‘work from home’ tomorrow, rather than come into the sea of little cubicles.

      “Have a nice day, Captain Juunanagou,” Lieutenant Hoshi spoke from beyond the wall as her superior finished preparing for departure.

      “You too, Carina,” Piper replied as she turned her focus to the southern corner of the room, where the exit sign was happily emblazoned over the white plaster wall. Every month, the people up above kept mentioning that they’d send in a company to paint or put up wallpaper, but the interior design had yet to materialize. Didn’t they know that people worked a lot more productively when they felt comfortable in their surroundings?

      With nothing to intercept her, Piper made her way out from the ‘hive’ and gave polite nods to the staff who worked at the front desk and reception areas. The three girls were all university students enrolled in the ROTC, and the trio of officer cadets had been transferred here to make up for some previous incidents on their record. Piper had looked into it, and she had discovered that the girls had just been written up too many times for parties and violations of curfew. All three were near the top of their class, so this reassignment had been a compromise to keep them in the program.

      “Have a nice day, Mom,” one of the cadets—a brunette named Janice—shouted as Piper neared the door.

      Captain Juunanagou turned and flashed a warm smile to the trio at the desk. The nickname, something that only the girls could do in person (even if it was commonly used anytime the captain wasn’t present), had started just a few weeks after the operation from South City had established itself in the embassy. Piper, in an effort to keep everything running smoothly those first few days, had gone slightly ‘overboard’ in her micromanagement of schedules and assignments. While she had cooled off substantially once everything was set and operating normally, the nickname had stuck regardless.

      After a quiet cab ride, Piper found herself back at the little hotel that housed the detachment of South City personnel. She gave a gentle wave to the driver, who was a former Red Stallion soldier from a planet in the adjacent quadrant. How strange it must have been to go from pseudo-enslavement to driving a cab in a multi-cultural city-ship and its attachment of military villages.

      At this time of day, the hotel was mostly empty. Most of the soldiers who worked the night- and graveyard-shifts would be asleep in their beds, desperately hoping to gather up the energy they would need to grind through their time at the embassy. It wasn’t that the job was unbearable—it was the simple fact that eighty percent of the South City staff had been front line soldiers. Of that percentage, nearly two-thirds suffered from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The hotel housed three live-in trauma counselors, a psychiatrist, and two psychologists.

      Piper met with the psychiatrist, ‘Dr. Lynda’, every other Tuesday. Oddly, the meetings were informal more than anything else. While the redhead’s files contained her entire litany of prior diagnoses, Dr. Lynda and some psychologists in what was left of Central City had already cleared her of any requirements for mandated therapy and medication. While the professionals weren’t certain of the cause, Piper knew it had to do with Viper.

      The first time that Vad, Trixie, and their empathic third wheel had fused together, all three of them had experienced ‘hangovers’. Piper’s had manifested as a one-track mind bent on the destruction of a man who had run afoul of her in Ja City. In her compromised mental state, she had failed to see that the retired soldier and his followers weren’t mercenaries but people who had kept the corrupt Namekian city a little closer to the straight and narrow. It had taken Piper too long to gather her senses—she killed them with all the fury of an unleashed and unhinged Zulenka.

      While the ghost of Commander Jackson Arminius occasionally haunted her subconscious, Piper had eventually recovered from that incident. The situation had forced her to pull herself back together and suppress those foreign impulses. The fact that she had rebounded so quickly after killing the commander was a testament to how strong she had truly grown since arriving on the sands east of South City four years ago.

      After that first incident, Piper had never expected to go down that same rabbit hole. The three of them had been mauled and brutalized on Namek, so in a sense, that had been their desperation maneuver. With no idea if they’d ever be back, they had gambled hard and ultimately won the pot (or, in that particular case, the Dragon Balls). The gestalt sacrificed itself to save a small child, and the three had been reborn from its ashes.

      Then the Stallions had invaded.

      Their praetor had thrashed Vad Zulenka within an inch of his life, leaving him comatose. Trixie, severed mentally and physically from her husband in a costly attempt to save her own life, had lived as a ghost those following days.

      Viper’s second coming had never been intended to be anything but an epitaph. It had been a desperate gamble by Piper to save the life of the most precious thing to her, and Trixie’s way of reuniting with her comatose husband. That the fusion had broken down this time had been a surprise to the demon and the soldier. In the aftermath, the same haze had been there, but Piper was also certain that she was different in more than a few ways. The fusions had broken down, but even so, the process had scrambled bits and pieces of the three people.

      While she knew she was still Piper, that didn’t change the fact that she hadn’t needed medication of any sort in the last eight months. Unfortunately, the last thing she wanted to do was say that her anxiety and other prior medical conditions had been treated by ‘a three-way fusion with a demon and a super saiyan.’ That sort of stuff would either result in her being a guinea pig or locked away.

      Best to let the trio’s secrets lie with them.

      When she settled into the hotel lobby to enjoy a soda from the vending machine, Piper wasn’t surprised when she heard the thud of boots. A look showed Vad Zulenka exiting from the stairwell. He made it a few steps passed the small collection of couches before he even noticed the woman sitting there sipping a Diet Mountain Dew.

      “Hello, Piper, you’re shift ended a little early?”

      She nodded her head and smiled. “Tech issues. How was training with Hailey?”

      The saiyan, who had already appeared tense, furrowed his brow. He glanced around before taking a step closer to his friend. “Excuse me?”

      “How was the training? Nothing exploded, so I assume that you’re taking babysteps toward your goal?”

      “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Vad replied, remaining adamant.

      Piper smiled. She wasn’t angry—she had known about the training since shortly after it had begun, and she was actually happy that Vad had found something to pour his energy into. She knew that saiyans started to get cabin fever if they didn’t have a goal or an objective or at least something to punch a lot. “You think you’re the only one whose gotten stronger, Vad?” Piper tapped the side of her head with her free hand.

      There’s more than just physical strength, Sergeant Major Zulenka.

      Vad scowled. “Just because your telepathic doesn’t mean you read minds, Piper.”

      “It’s not mind reading,” Piper replied as she took another sip. “You know how I could touch things and get memories and emotions?”

      “Of course,” Vad replied. He recalled their first meeting, when the woman had tapped memories that even he was unaware that he had buried deep in his head.

      “It’s like that, but I can tap it freely. Or at least, I can sometimes. With you and Trixie, it’s pretty easy.”

      “Are you calling us easy?” Vad asked as his demeanor lightened just a little.

      Piper rolled her eyes between sips. “Viper,” she replied. “Like I told you… we all got scrambled up between the three of us, so in a sense, it’s like solving a puzzle I helped make.”

      “I see,” Vad responded. “Don’t tell Trixie. She doesn’t need to know. It will only agitate her.”

      “I won’t tell her,” Piper replied. “But do you really think this is something you should keep secret from your wife? You know the dangers if it goes south.”

      “Thanks, Mom,” Vad groaned as he dismissed the grinning woman’s sermonizing with a wave of his hand and made for the door.