After an incredibly long absence here I am. I hope that this chapter is well worth waiting for. Iím working really hard on building up the suspense and giving you an exciting story. In this chapter you will get your first glimpse at the Machine Planet.
You will note the chapter title has changed. I thought ĎA Chill is in the Airí would be more appropriate for the next chapter so I made a new one for this one.
All previous disclaimers apply.
Chapter 8: Deceptive Appearances
The Capsule Corporation ship silently slid through space with its four occupants bound for a destination only known by the silent Saiyajin Prince. The two android occupants of the craft had long since given up on having any kind of communication with Vegeta about the mission and sat quietly with their thoughts while the fourth sought to remain unnoticed and sate his curiosity at the same time.
Carefully little Trunks undid the latch to his compartment and raised it enough to get some fresh air into the hot, claustrophobic space and spy on the ships other three occupants. It had been quiet for so long he though that perhaps they had all fallen asleep but they all appeared to be wide awake. Vegeta sat at the console leaning back in the seat staring out of the cockpit thankfully oblivious to the hatch that had just practically at his feet. Trunks looked up at his father who seemed even more serious than usual. He stared at the stars before him intensely not seeing him at all. Trunks frowned. He knew his father was worried about his mother and probably thinking about her at the very moment and planning how to get her back and he was planning on helping him do it. He knew his father would be angry when he revealed himself but he hoped he would understand.
The demisaiyajin next turned his attention to the androids who sat at the opposite side of the living space looking equal parts bored and reflective. Android 17 was playing with his scarf with a thoughtful look in his sky-blue eyes while 16 seemed a little more aware of his surroundings. In fact Trunks could have sworn that the android was looking in his direction so he carefully ducked down farther hoping to avoid detection. He wasnít ready just yet to be seen. He had planned to remain unnoticed for at least another day because by then they would be too far out to turn back. He had brought enough food and water to last himself that long and planned to remain hidden.
"16," android 17 said to his fellow cyborg finally breaking the uncomfortable silence.
The giant android ceased from looking in the saiyajinís direction and turned towards him will his eternally serious expression in reply, which 17 knew enough to know he had gained the others undivided attention.
"I have to ask a favor of you," he continued with a toss of his black up over his ear. "There is a flap just behind my right ear here. Inside is slot that and Iíd like you to insert this into it." Producing the case that Dr. Briefs had handed him he opened it up and revealed a microchip. "This chip will increase my speed and my strength somewhat but its only intended for temporary use and so it burn out if over used. I can only make use of it for about an hour before it dies so weíll have to do this at just the right time. I think Iím going to have to depend on you to do since, somehow I think Vegeta wouldnít be willing to help even if I asked him."
"You want me to do this when?" 16 asked.
"Iím not sure" 17 said closing the case and putting it back into his shirt pocket. "It will have to be when and if we need it. Iíll tell you when that is. I donít want to waste it prematurely."
"I understand and will be happy to help" 16 answered before turning away again towards the spot in the floor he had suspected seeing movement from before.
17 sighed and commenced playing with his scarf as the silence descended upon he and the others once again. "This going to be a long trip," he thought glaring at the saiyajin who sat across from him. "Just look at him refusing to even look in our direction. If I didnít owe Bulma for her tireless quest to reactivate 16 I wouldnít be caught dead in the same room as him."
Vegeta was unaware of the glare of his traveling companion, just as he was unaware of everything else. The crushing weight of his failure to protect his mate consumed his thoughts. He ran over the events again and again only to find another way in which he had failed. His insane jealousy toward the human warrior was exploited driving home even more so its stupidity. There was no other word to describe it. He knew the child Wrench was a threat and yet he left his mate unattended because of his emotional weakness. "I swear Iíll find you Bulma," he thought "and I will tear apart every last civilization in the universe if I have to. I will not fail you again."
Tearing his gaze away from the blackness of space Vegeta rested them on the device he had been turning over in his hands as he thought. It was yet another reminder of his mate who had constructed it with his assistance during his recovery from the probe incident. The side of his mouth turned up into a smirk as he remembered, although he would never admit it, he had enjoyed his time of convalescence when he was confined to the house. Being unable to train had not been pleasant at first, in fact had been driving both of them insane. His mate had been ordered to rest as well for the sake of the brat, who she had been carrying at the time, and so she had been in a foul mood before his had aggravated it further with his ill temper. Just when he had begun to wonder if either of them would survive with their sanity intact or without tearing each other apart they had found an outlet through what he had intended as a simple insult.
"I swear Vegeta, you have the intelligence of a tree stump," Bulma had shouted. "How many times do I have to repeat the fact you have to stay in bed until the dizzy spells pass!"
"You are the one who is the idiot," Vegeta growled.
"You know as well as I do that Iím a genius," she had snapped.
"Oh yes," he replied with biting sarcasm "You are so intelligent you are light years behind the rest of the universe with youíre pitiful toys."
"Just because you use some advanced technology every day doesnít mean that youíre an expert in it," Bulma retorted.
"For you information, Woman, I had to know quite a bit about the technology so that I could make repairs when on a mission if necessary and your gadgets couldnít even compare to them."
"For Kamiís sake you didnít know how to operate the microwave when you came here and you expect me to believe youíre some kind of engineer. Iím not an idiot you know."
"It is not my fault that I had never been required to cook meals in that fashion. I had underlings to do that for me" he replied. "Give me some credit Woman."
"Even if you do know about a couple of machines I bet that they arenít that complicated if a moron like you could understand them,"Bulma replied.
"If you took one look at the circuitry in the simplest of the devices used in Freezaís army your head would explode!"
"Prove it!" Bulma challenged.
"What?" he had questioned in disbelief.
"You heard what I said," she reiterated. "Prove it. If you know that technology so well then you can tell me about it and I can build it. In fact I bet that I could even improve on it."
"That would be a stupid waste of my time," he said nastily
"Oh yes you are just so busy laying in bed and twiddling your thumbs!" she taunted. "Youíre just using it as an excuse because you are incapable of explaining any of that technology. You know how to do absolutely nothing eat, fight, order people around and destroy things."
"Baka! I am certain that I am far more intelligent than you could ever hope to be," he challenged.
"Then prove it smart guy. Pick a device that you are so sure is going to stump me and Iíll show you who is brains of the outfit."
The result of that challenge had been the very device, the holographic emitter, which he now held in his hand and she had more than proven her point with it. She had indeed improved upon its design and so he had moved her on to further challenges. During the month of his recovery they had managed to build many different pieces of technology each more complex than his previous challenge. They had come away from the whole experience with a greater respect for one another than he had thought possible.
Flipping the switch on the side of the object in his gloved hand he watched as the first of the two images he had programmed into the thing flickered to life. It was of a photograph he had scanned into it with an aqua-haired beauty proudly displaying her latest invention for the camera. He had a hard time deciding on the image to use for display. Most of the pictures had someone else besides his mate in them and he didnít want to show anyone elseís likeness to the cutthroats he as about to ask for assistance. Although he didnít care much for his mateís friends it wasnít wise to give out too much information or it could come back to haunt him in the end. He was careful especially to avoid pictures of her that contained himself or Trunks, he couldnít let anyone suspect he had a family. In the end he had decided upon this particular image not only because she was alone but also because she was dressed in a manner that didnít show-off her body that much. He couldnít stand the thought of a reprehensible lot of space trash ogling his mate. She was dressed in a pair of cover-alls, her face was smudged with grease, her hair was messy but she still managed to look beautiful. Her eyes sparkled with the light of accomplishment and she smiled confidently at the camera. The quality and clarity of the image was unsurpassed by any other holographic images he had come across in his travels. The image looked so alive that if it had been life sized he would have imagined she was actually there with him and this thought caused his heart to sink. Quickly he switched to the second image before his emotions got the better of him.
This was an image of the boy responsible for Vegetaís current humiliation obtained from the Capsule Corporation Security Cameras. The youth apparently hadnít felt the need to erase his visit from the camera, probably as a way of rubbing Vegetaís nose in his victory. "I will show you the folly of messing with the Prince of the Saiyajin by using your own arrogance against you brat" Vegeta mumbled at the image darkly.
Suddenly the Prince was startled from his thoughts by Android 16 stalking over and tearing open one of the floor compartments. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded jumping to his feet. The android ignored his demand and leaned down, reaching into the compartment and pulling out a small, lavender-haired boy. Gapping in disbelief Vegeta stared into the face of his sheepishly grinning son.
"It appears we have a stole-away" android 17 observed with a smirk. "I canít believe that you didnít sense him Vegeta."
Ignoring the black-haired androids rebuff Vegeta turned back to his son. "What the hell are you doing here and come I canít feel your ki at all?" Vegeta demanded of the boy as 16 set him on his feet.
"I took this" he said wearily pointing to the belt about the waist with the shiny buckle "and I found a setting that masked ki. I came to help Father. I thought you could use someÖ"
"I do not require assistance from anyone let alone my four-year-old son who can barely shoot a Ki blast!" Vegeta fumed violently ripping the belt from his waist. "I told you to stay with Kakorotís brats and you deliberately disobeyed me! I should beat you within an inch of your life for being such an idiot!"
"But Pa PaÖ" Trunks began feeling the sting of his fatherís word cause moisture to collect in his eyes.
"But nothing!" Vegeta savagely cut him off noting the moisture beginning to spill from the corners of his eyes. The prince turned his back on the boy not wanting to watch his emotional outburst. "I donít want to hear another word from you! There are sleeping compartments over there and I want you to go in there and stay there until I am ready to look at your face again."
"Come" 16 told the crying child "I will show you where you can go." Reluctantly Trunks followed the android.
"You really hurt him you know" 17 said coolly.
"I donít need advice from someone who has absolutely no experience with children" Vegeta said coldly.
"I may not be an expert but I know enough to realize your parenting skills are seriously lacking" 17 replied. "Even I can see how crushed he was from your last words. Bulma wouldnít be pleased."
"You know nothing" the prince seethed. "Leave me now."
17 frowned and returned to his corner and awaited 16ís return watching as the curious jumble of emotions played across Vegetaís face.
Bulma shifted groggily in the bed she had somehow found herself in. Having last remembered being at her kitchen table and sharing a pot of tea with Chi Chi she was a bit puzzled. Now she was reclining on her back in a bed, which she was pretty sure was not in her bedroom, with a splitting headache as if she had one too many drinks at her party earlier that day. Squinting she tried to avoid the bright light shining in her face by shielding it with her hands as she looked around herself in alarm.
"Where in the hell am I?" she muttered.
"You are in a space craft and are just coming out of stasis," a youthful voice said from beside her.
"Wrench?" she questioned her heart coming up into her mouth as his words sunk in.
"Yes" he answered as she turned her head towards him.
"How did I get here?" she asked still squinting as she watched him shape his features into a look at disdainful amusement.
"I brought you here Mrs. Vegeta-Briefs, or perhaps I should say Princess Bulma?" he asked with a smirk. He was pleased as she looked sleepily toward him in disbelief. He loved baiting the groggy and confused minds of those he had acquired and this was his first opportunity in quite awhile. "Yes Iím quite aware of your mateís identity."
Bulma glared at the boy with this remark as her mind began to function more normally. "How did you get so tall all of the sudden?" she asked irritably noticing for the first time that he was looking down at her.
"Easy" the boy said with a laugh rising up a bit more "I floated up here."
Bulma slowly sat up and noted that Wrench was indeed hanging in the air next to the bed. As the reality of her situation sunk in she felt uneasiness settle in the pit of her stomach. "Okay spit it out" Bulma demanded. "Why did you bring me here and how did you manage to get past Vegeta and the others?" she asked trying to disguise her worry with an attitude.
Wrench laughed. "I like you Bulma," he said impishly. "I can call you Bulma, canít I?"
"At the moment the only thing I care about is that you answer my question" Bulma snapped dangling her feet over the side of the bed.
"Very well," the boy said with a shrug backing away from and settling himself down into a chair.
"I have brought you here under the orders of my employer Dr. Kougou" Wrench began as Bulma tested out her legs. "I am a representative of a very powerful intergalactic association that deals in technology. I donít suppose Vegeta ever told you about the Guild?"
Bulma glared at the boy who at the moment had adverted his eyes from her and commenced to study the stitching on his black gloves. "No he never mentioned anything like that," she said once again as the specter of how little she knew of Vegeta increasing her discomfort.
"I wouldnít imagine he would" Wrench commented steeping his fingers and turning his green eyes to her again "saiyajin were never ones to place much stock in technology."
"Listen kid" Bulma barked, "Just answer my question."
"I can see why the Prince would pick you," the boy stated with an imperious smile "you have exactly the same disposition as him and he was always an arrogant baka."
Bulma gritted her teeth and took note of her surrounding while trying to calm herself down. Slowly taking deep breaths she closed her eyes leaving Wrench to begin speaking whenever he saw fit. Throwing a temper tantrum was not only out of the question but would also empower her abductor and sheíd be damned if she let this kid control her.
Wrench moved a stray hair from his vision and let her wait for a moment more before continuing. "As I was saying, my employer is the head of the Machine Planet Guild, a secret society of only the best and brightest minds in the known universe and you are now one of those minds."
Bulma turned around and regarded the boy to see if he was indeed serious and found that he indeed was from his calm demeanor.
"You see itís my job to collect the best from whatever culture we investigate and add it to our own stockpile of material. In this way we are constantly ahead of everyone else and can command a high price for our products and services."
"You mean Iíve been collected to add to a brain farm and invent things so that your boss can get rich?"
"Iím not anybodyís slave so you might as well turn around and take me back home" she said confidently.
"Iím afraid you donít have a choice in the matter" Wrench replied "the Guild owns you now. You will work for them whether it be willingly or by force."
"No one can force me to do anything," Bulma snapped. "Let alone a spoiled brat of a kid!" Before she could breathe he appeared out of nowhere before her and she felt his rock hard fist cave into her midsection. Gasping she slid to the floor and curling up in a ball tried hard to regain her mental faculties over the burning heat radiating through her abdomen.
"Your first lesson is not to underestimate anything," Wrench told her. "Nothing is ever as it appears to be on the surface. Iím sorry I had to do that but its better that you learn to hold our tongue now. The doctor doesnít have much patience for defiant attitudes or sharp tongues and the punishment heíd inflict on you would be much worse than what I did just now."
Having recovered herself a bit Bulma looked up at Wrench. She knew it was possible for a child to be powerful and yet she still was surprised by his show of force. As she looked at his mocking emerald eyes Vegetaí words the day Wrench arrived at Capsule Corporation came to her mind. ĎJust because someone is a child doesnít mean that they are innocentí he had said. It was then she noticed for the first time that his eyes werenít those of a child. They contained no spark of youthful wonder but rather the knowledge of life that came with age.
"What are you?" she ventured when her breath came back to her.
"I am irony," he answered cryptically. "I am young but old, weak yet strong, flesh yet machine and alive yet dead." He laughed at her expression. "Yes a riddle for you to ponder madam scientist. Donít worry all will be explained in time." He turned and headed towards the pilotís chair at the console. "All your questions will be answered when we reach the Machine Planet," the boy said turning away from her.
"You never told me how you got past Vegeta and my friends," she stated.
Wrench turned and looked at her. She had not crumpled but she had mellowed somewhat, which was good. "While your mate and ex-lover were busy creating my diversion for me I slipped a sedative into you and your friendís tea. Once you were asleep I brought you to my ship and now here we are. As for what exactly happened to them all in the course of their battle I have no knowledge."
"You know heíll come after me," she told him.
"Iíve given him something to think about that might delay that inevitability" Wrench answered "but it is doubtful that even the great Saiyajin no Ouji will find us."
Bulma smirked. "You donít know him very well," she said.
"I know that no one has ever found the Machine Planet despite admirable efforts" Wrench said lazily meeting her gaze "and even if he does manage to find his way there I welcome it."
"Then you are a fool" Bulma sneered.
"Iím not a fool," he said coolly "a glutton for punishment perhaps, but not a fool." He smiled at the womanís imperious grin. "I welcome the chance to battle a Super Saiyajin."
Bulmaís frown deepened. "You welcome the chance to battle a Super Saiyajin?" she questioned. "You must have a death wish. Especially if you want to fight Vegeta." She drew her legs up to her chest and rested her cheek on her knee trying hard to grasp the nightmare she had awakened to and then a thought struck her. "How come you seem to know so much about me?"
"I tapped into your computer systems that contained all of your journals and blue prints" he said tauntingly "it was entertaining reading. I had no idea that a girlís journals from age 13 on would be so interesting."
Bulma felt her stomach sink with rage. "You read all of it?í she asked.
"All of it" he replied.
Bulma suddenly felt lost as she looked into his bottomless green eyes. Eyes that had seen all her private thoughts and violated everything she was.
"We will reach planet fall in 10 minutes" the ship announced.
"Ah it should be coming into view soon" Wrench said smoothly. "Would you like to see your new home Bulma?í
The woman turned her head and stared at him. "There are no windows," she said plainly.
"Here" the boy said grabbing a strange looking headset and handing it to her. He watched as she suspiciously examined it. "I promise it wonít hurt you. The doctor would be most displeased if it did. Slip it over your head."
Deciding she might as well comply Bulma set the piece on her head and the metal back slipped comfortably around her spine at the base of her skull. Suddenly she felt a tingling sensation in that area and gasped as her mind was suddenly filled with a rush of information. Her mind was filled with a picture of a lone world hanging in a dead galaxy. Information streamed into her consciousness regarding the muddy blue-brown world before her that was as dead as the solar system around it. This world that had long drifted around the outskirts of the magnetic pull of the dead star that once warmed its face now supported a hodgepodge collection of beings and technology from worlds far beyond its borders. A dead world, that through technology, had been reborn. It seemed impossible that the obvious wasteland of a planet could indeed be host to all the things the information pouring into her mind was claiming.
"Well," Wrench asked the woman. "What do you think?"
"I think itís a bit of a fixer-up" she quipped.
"Remember things arenít always what they at first appear to be."
Vegeta walked into the dark room and let the door slide shut behind him. His son was lying down on the bunk in the cabin staring at the ceiling. Vegeta walked to the side of the bunk and peered at the blackness of space outside instead of the boyís face.
"I wanted you to know we will be docking at a space station shortly," the prince told his son. "I will be leaving the ship with one of the androids to do some investigating the other will stay behind with you to gather some supplies. You are not to leave his side or to tell anyone who you are. Is that understood?"
"Why canít I go with you, Father?" Trunks asked dolefully. "I wanted to help you find mother. I thoughtÖ"
"No that is the problem," Vegeta replied looking down at his son with a touch of urgency in his voice "you didnít think. You have no idea what danger you have put yourself in or this rescue attempt in by coming. Why would you do something so foolish?"
Trunks looked up into his Fatherís countenance, which although it was in shadow, he could see well enough to see a trace of worry. The dim starlight caught his ebony eyes and betrayed the troubled thoughts.
"I want to be a brave saiyajin warrior like you always tell me I should" the boy said softly. "I thought that youíd be glad that I wasnít afraid."
"You should be afraid," Vegeta said "because there are things out here that are very deserving of fear. Fear is only a weakness if you allow it to cripple you instead of using it. Bravery is not a fool-hardy rush into danger."
Trunks looked away from him clearly uncomfortable with his words and commenced to gazing at the stars. "Iím sorry Father," he said softly. "I just wanted you to be proud of me."
Once again Vegeta was struck with a feeling of helplessness at the boyís obvious plea for something that it was difficult to give. It wasnít difficult to feel proud of his son, who had displayed a natural ability for fighting, intelligence and insight beyond his years but it was difficult to show. For most of his life he had never be praised or commended for anything despite his wanting it. He knew what it was like to desire approval and not receive it, however he also knew what it was like to receive it. His mind drifted for a moment to almost forgotten memories of a time when he knew what it was like to bask in someoneís pride in him. Once long ago he was the pride of his people and lauded by all as its future. Once long ago his father had looked down at him with a smirk or a nod and a look of approval and word, albeit short and curt, of praise. He remembered how keenly he felt his fatherís disapproval and sought to gain his praise.
"Trunks" Vegeta said with difficulty sitting down on the edge of the bed. "I am proud of you but not when you behave like an idiot as you have done today." Trunks smiled up at him with an undisguised happiness at almost shamed him. His sonís cyan eyes sparkled like his mateís soaking in his rare words of approbation. "You are too much like your mother. You are reckless and impulsive at times," he said sadly.
"Pa, Pa" the boy stated, "I promise Iíll behave. I donít want to mess things up. I want Ma Ma and you back safe." Vegeta looked down at his son and once again felt the sinking feeling of foreboding that came over him when his son was discovered. "Good because I do not want anything to happen to you and your mother," he said softly. "The universe is a cold place and there are many who would seek to hurt you to get back at me. No one must suspect that you are my son. Do you understand?"
Trunks suddenly sat up and wrapped his arms around Vegetaís neck who he felt stiffen uncomfortably in his tender grasp. "I understand," he said ignoring his fatherís lack of response "and I love you Pa Pa."
Vegeta tentatively allowed his hands to come around and rest on the childís back. It unnerved him on how he froze with the simplest expression of affection from his son but the truth was he wasnít sure how to or if he should react. Not long ago he would have immediately responded with resistance and chastised Trunks for it but now he could not. He was forced to admit that part of himself desired this contact especially not when he felt the separation and fear of loss he did now. Somehow he found comfort in his sonís shared fears and in the knowledge that at least there was one other person in the universe that valued his existence.
A knock at the door startled father and son from their moment of connection. Respectfully, Trunks intuitively released his grasp on his father sensing that he would not want to be caught by someone showing any affection.
"What is it?" Vegeta asked gruffly.
"I thought that youíd like to know we were arriving shortly" 17ís muffled voice replied.
"Iím coming" the saiyajin answered. "Remember your word boy," he said briefly to Trunks who nodded and smiled.
Vegeta rose from his seated position and walked into the room Trunks following closely.
"Identify yourself" a crackle came over the speakers as he sat down. Punching a button a screen revealed itself and an image appeared of a stern bird-like being.
"We are a small vessel seeking information and supplies" the prince stated relieved that this man was not the port-master he remembered.
"Information?" the avian man queried.
"Yes" Vegeta replied. "We are looking for someone."
"You are bounty hunters or mercenaries then?" the man asked nervously.
"After a fashion" Vegeta said. "We donít have time to play 20 questions. We have legitimate business so let us dock."
"Very well" the man stated. "Have the fee of 1000 credits ready upon landing."
The three passengers watched with curiosity as the station grew closer and they slipped through the force field barrier into the bay and landed with a soft thud on the padded platform. Vegeta turned from the console and to the others as the shipís engines grinded to a halt.
"Remember you are to tell no one of the Earth or volunteer my identity" Vegeta said rising. "Under no circumstances are you to reveal that the woman we are seeking is my mate or that the brat here is my son."
Standing back with 16 Trunks watched as the door to the craft lowered and gazed in wonder at the sight before him. Ships of all kinds were lining the walls of the enormous hanger. He looked excitedly up at the red-haired giant and received a smile in return. He followed his father and 17 as they walked down the gangway and stared past them to the strange looking beings below. One was a rather burly looking thing that looked kind-of like the cross between and alligator and a dinosaur and the other looked almost human but for the odd blue tint to his skin and the horns that stuck out from his head.
"Greetings sir" the reptilian one stated. "We need you to fill out these forms and then you can be on your way. Your ship will have to be inspected of course."
"Yes the big ugly baka will take care of that for me" Vegeta said authoritatively. "I have business to attend to." With the android on his heels he exited the station at a brisk pace he entered the main corridor and immediately turned left navigating the crowd. Slamming into a large, being as he turned the corner. "Out of my way" he barked glancing up to meet a pair of deep purple eyes the face before him twisting in shock. Stopping mid-sentence his blood ran cold as realization hit him and he quickly turned and continued on his way.
17, having observed the strange encounter, wearily eyed the violet-eyed creature as it scrutinized him while he passed it. He made mental note to ask the prince about it later as they continued to push their way through the throng certain it could only mean more trouble.
* * * * *
Guess who Vegeta just bumped into? What does this chance encounter mean for our rescue party? Where are Vegeta and 17 headed? What will happen to Bulma? Who and what exactly is Wrench? All these questions and more will be answered in:
Chapter 9: A Chill is in the Air
LOL! I hope you enjoyed this installment of the story. Iím working hard to make you want to come back for more and I hope Iím succeeding! Thanks for being patient!