"There!" Chiyo called.
It was half an hour since their group split up. Gohan had taken Bulma and Yajirobe to Mt Paozu to see Goku. Vegeta had flown off with Trunks following him. Tenshinhan, Chiyo, Piccolo and Kuririn had all left for North City, where Dr Gero's lab was apparently hidden.
Chiyo was determined to participate in the fight against the Androids, so she was on her best behavior. She kept up with the adults and didn't speak unless spoken to. And so far, nobody had told her to go home.
North City was just up ahead. It was a sprawling city, surrounded by mountains and patches of forest, all bare and rocky like the area they'd fought Twenty in.
"Which one of these mountains looks like the best place to put a lab?" Kuririn asked, half-jokingly.
"Dr. Gero's lab is in a cave in the mountains around here, right?" Tenshinhan asked. "But how do we find it? It's all mountains here."
"We'll split up and search," Piccolo said impatiently. "Give a signal when you find it."
"What kind of signal?"
"Raise your chi abruptly. We'll feel it."
Chiyo shivered. She had long sleeves, but her clothing was made for a mild climate. Up here, the wind was so cold it raised goosebumps on her skin, but she bit back the urge to complain.
"It's cold up north," Kuririn said, rubbing his bare arms. "Do you have any money, Tenshinhan? I wanna buy a jacket."
"I'm cold too, Kuririn," Tenshinhan replied impatiently. "Ignore it."
"Earthlings are so inconvenient," Piccolo muttered. "Now hurry before those Androids are activated. Tenshinhan, head north and see what you can find. Kuririn, head west. Chiyo, double back in case Gero is tailing us."
"Wait up!" Kuririn called, holding up a hand as the others began to move.
Piccolo stopped with an impatient snort. "What is it now?"
"Nothing. I thought it would be a good idea to give you some senzu seeds."
Kuririn opened the bag tied to his sash and counted out a pile of something that resembled green kidney beans - the same bean he had given Vegeta a few hours ago.
"So are these senzu seeds?" Chiyo asked, inspecting them carefully.
"Yeah, they make you better if you've been hurt," Kuririn said. "Don't eat one until you absolutely have to, okay? You might need them later."
"Thanks, Kuririn," Piccolo said. "Let us hope we don't have to use them."
An hour passed, in which Chiyo searched for Dr Gero as if it were a game of hide and seek. It was easier to pretend it was all a game than to think of what had happened earlier. Without the constant interruption of the adults and their conversations, she was left alone to her thoughts - and not all of them were pleasant.
The two Androids they were trying to find... they were the ones who killed everyone in the future.
Except for me and Gohan, Chiyo thought, shivering. Everyone's dead...even Papa.
She clenched her teeth together and kept running. The thought of Papa at home dying made it worse, and not for the first time she wished there was something she could do, anything - she wanted to be in the battle, but part of her wanted to run home and crawl into Mama's lap and cry until her eyes hurt.
"I'm t-too old to c-cry," she said out loud, blinking until her eyes stung. "I won't cry...I wo-o-on't..."
Chiyo's head snapped around as someone's chi dropped suddenly; she recognized it as Kuririn's. She changed direction and put all her energy into her running. If Kuririn was in trouble she had to get to him fast, before -
Just ahead the bare ground opened onto a clearing, and she could make out Twenty bending over Kuririn, who was sprawled over a fallen log. Chiyo lunged, lowering her chi until the last minute. Approaching from the side, she struck Twenty in the face and sent him flying.
Twenty flipped before he hit the rock wall and landed some twenty feet away. He glanced up, his face set in a mask of rage, and spotted Chiyo standing between him and Kuririn.
"Cursed brat!" he growled.
Chiyo fired two chi blasts at the Android, but he vanished.
"Up - up there!" Kuririn croaked, pointing a hand. "Up!"
She deflected the chi blast Twenty threw at her, and dodged his follow-up punch; pivoting on one wrist, she dealt him a kick that snapped his head back. But the advantage of surprise she had was gone. In two moves he sent her flying into the nearest outcropping, bringing down half of the rock on top of her.
Chiyo heard Kuririn's shout; heard Twenty talking, but her muddled senses couldn't take it in. Everything was spinning, and she could see the Android approaching, wavering... or was that her vision? She knew she had to get up, her whole body was shouting at her, and someone else was shouting at her too, but she was just so tired...
Next thing she knew, a rough hand was shaking her shoulder.
"Hey, come on," Kuririn said, his face looming in her vision. "We have to go."
"I don't want to," Chiyo said dreamily, and closed her eyes. Another moment and she was yanked upright and shaken, a little harder this time, and the pain hit her seconds later.
"Hey! Oh, oh - ow! My head!"
"Come on, kiddo," Kuririn said impatiently, and grabbed her hand. "I know it hurts, but we've got to catch up to him before it's too late!"
Chiyo summoned the rest of her strength and somehow managed to keep up with him, one hand held in his, the other clutching at her head. Her arms felt heavy, her legs shaking. Every step she took felt like she was running through sludge.
Kuririn must have been hurt by Twenty too, but he was running at full speed, bounding from rock to rock and occasionally pulling her into the shadow of a cliff to hide from Twenty.
As the minutes passed her headache lessened and the fuzz lifted from her vision, and she was alert enough to run alongside Kuririn instead of just being dragged.
Then suddenly he stopped, and flew upwards. Confused, she followed.
There was a hole cut into the face of the mountain before them; too precise to be a natural cave, even if it weren't for the enormous metal door a few feet inside.
Gero's lab, she guessed. And it would have been great to find it, if only Twenty hadn't been standing before the door with a triumphant smirk.
"You are too late, humans!" he cried. "You won't make it in time – even if you call in your friends."
"Send out the signal!" Chiyo said, as Twenty disappeared inside.
Within moments Piccolo and Tenshinhan appeared from the opposite direction at top speed. Piccolo seemed unsurprised to see her and Kuririn in their dishevelled state - but then again, Piccolo always looked grumpy and unimpressed to her. But Tenshinhan stared openly as he slowed and finally stopped in mid-air a few feet away.
"What happened to you?" he said.
Chiyo blinked. "Who, me?"
"Yeah, you. You've got blood all over you."
Chiyo rubbed at her forehead and stared at the bright red blood smeared over the back of her hand. "Oh...I didn't notice."
"We ran into Dr. Gero," Kuririn replied grimly. "She saved my butt, and got hers kicked in the process."
"Enough," Piccolo rumbled, as Chiyo giggled. "That's Dr. Gero's lab, I take it?"
"Yeah. That opening in the mountain is the entrance."
"Right," Tenshinhan said, grinning. "Good job, both of you."
"You can congratulate each other later," Piccolo growled. "Right now we have work to do."
"Hey, hold on!" Kuririn shouted, as Piccolo and Tenshinhan made for the lab. "I-I forgot to mention one thing. Twenty beat us here."
"You should have told us before!" Piccolo roared.
Chiyo stared guiltily at Piccolo's back as he rushed for the lab, and suddenly was glad Kuririn hadn't told her she'd slowed him down.