Disclaimer: I do not own DBZ or the characters attributed to the show
Author’s Note: Remember, if you are underage, don’t read this. Adult content ahead, and I want no one to say I didn’t fairly warn them. Also, I need to say: I took a few liberties with my descriptions of the Missile Silo that is serving as Z gang’s hideout. Mine is pretty extensive, and while I know real ones are big, I have no real idea what is in them. Also, I didn’t include Krillin’s recollections in this chapter because he basically remembers everything in the previous chapter. I felt to repeat them would be overkill and drag out the length of this chapter. This note will make more sense to you as you read. Also, I had to make yet one more chapter, though I do assure you that the next chapter will be the final one. There were just too many damn things to wrap up, and I didn’t want to rush it. That wouldn’t be fair to the people that read this story.
OF PRIDE AND VENGEANCE
Bulma startled back to consciousness, groggy, bleary-eyed, and sore. Rising up on her elbows, she touched her jaw gingerly, wincing as she made contact. She felt like she had been ran down with a truck? What on Chikyuu had…
With a hoarse cry, she remembered all. Or at least she recalled everything up to the point he had clocked her, the bastard. What she wouldn’t give to lay his ass low for that hit. What had happened to Vegeta? Was he near her? Had he been drugged again?
A low, harsh chuckle, issued from some point in the far corner of the room, drew her attention away from the questions swirling about her brain, and she turned her head, blinking rapidly as she looked straight into glaring white light. Damn Gero and his penchant for bright light. Slowly, her vision adjusted and she gasped as she made out the hulking form of Costa leaning negligently against a far wall, arms crossed over his chest like two steel clubs.
"Hello sweetling, glad you decided to wake up and join me," his voice was low and mocking, and she fought back the fear hearing it invoked deep within her belly. How close had this monster come to raping her before, and now she was alone with him, and this time she had no protection that she knew of.
"Costa," she whispered in horror, trying to maintain an even voice. He thrived on fear and terror. Showing him any would simply be giving him what he wanted…it would give him power, and she could little afford to add to his. She had to figure out where she was, and how far she was from Vegeta. Obviously, Costa had taken off with her somewhere, though he had not left the confines of Gero’s underground lab. She could tell that simply by her surroundings
"It will be so much more fun now that you are awake." His mouth curved into a cruel smile, sending slivers of ice down her spine. "Actually," he said, pushing off the wall he leaned against. "I was beginning to get lonely. I have no idea when Vegeta will get here, and I was afraid I would get bored waiting for him." Walking towards her, he shot her a leering smile.
The urge to scream bloody murder shot through her, and again, with sheer force of will, she pushed the desire away. It wouldn’t get Vegeta here any faster. It surely wouldn’t take that long for him to find her and get them out of this, or at least she hoped not. Trying not to shudder as Costa closed the distance between them, Bulma held her position, only moving to push herself into a sitting position. He came to a stop beside her and squatting down beside her, he reached a meaty hand out to finger a tendril of blue hair.
"I have traveled all over this universe, woman…and I have seen many an exotic creature, but I have never seen a shade of color like this on any creature. Is this a common color on this planet?"
The question took her by surprise, and pushing back the desire to smack his hand away from her, she swallowed, nodding slowly before she answered. "There are a few women that have it." Bulma felt his finger brush against her scalp, and she suppressed the shudder that threatened to ripple through her body. Memories of the last time he had laid a hand on her flooded her mind, and she moaned low in her throat. She had to stay in control. She couldn’t give into the rising hysteria that was bubbling deep within her gut.
Costa sat back, never releasing her hair. "I like it." Bestowing another suggestive smile on her, he tugged on the strand of hair, urging her towards him. "We are going to have all sorts of fun, you and I. And when this over, we’ll go somewhere…together."
"I’ll die before I go anywhere with you, bastard!" despite the fact that she was petrified of the man, she managed to force the belligerent words through her dry mouth. She would not be a willing victim here, no matter how scared she was. Vegeta would come for her, he would be here soon…she had to hang onto that "Vegeta will come and beat your ass! I do hope you know that."
Costa’s eyes went empty and cold, and Bulma found herself yanked viciously up by the hair he had stroked so reverently mere seconds before. Swallowing against the pain, she forced herself to meet his black gaze, filling her own eyes with as much contempt and scorn as she could possibly muster. Her body shook, but she forced herself to maintain the eye contact, showing him in no uncertain terms what she thought of him. Kami, it hurt. Hot tears welled in her eyes, spilling over and scalding her cheeks. But she kept her pride, gritting her teeth and staring at him with smoldering blue eyes. He couldn’t know that he terrified her; she couldn’t give him the power over her.
"I think not, little one," he rasped calmly, gaze unwavering as it met hers. Slowly, he trailed a cold finger down her tear-stained face, wiping at the wetness that stained her cheeks. Bringing the finger to his mouth, he sucked it gently, smiling benignly. "You see, I am no fool. I know that he is different somehow. He holds a power that I have never seen…" his voice trailed off, and she watched as he nodded towards the gun that lay not too far away from them on a low table. "I’ve made allowances for that, allowances that ensure I will walk away the victor. I’m afraid that your almighty Prince Vegeta will fall." He smiled toothily at her, leaning in close. "That will leave you at my mercy, bitch. Best you remember that before you shoot that lovely little mouth off anymore. It would be best to align yourself with the winner."
"You coward!" she shrieked. "How sad is it that you have to use a damn drug to beat him!"
Costa’s face darkened, and for one heart rending moment she thought he meant to strike her. She braced herself for it, hoping that she might be able to survive it, but to her immense surprise, the blow never came. Slowly he regained his composure, calmly and coolly releasing the hair that he held in his hand, and watching with malicious amusement as she hit the floor. "Your tongue will see you killed yet, sweetling. Mind it, or I might get the urge to cut it out of your pretty little head." Standing, he walked towards the door, a frown marring his face. "Dammit, where is that bastard Prince of yours? Perhaps I drugged him too quickly."
Cursing herself for her own stupidity, Bulma sought out Vegeta through the bond they shared. Why had she not thought to do this before? Perhaps her fear over Costa had clouded her senses. Calling through her mind, she searched for him frantically.
He answered her immediately, his deep voice calm and reassuring, though she could hear the slight slur to his words. Costa had drugged him, but he was still on his feet.
Bulma, I’m coming. Just another minute…
She shut her eyes thankfully, only to flare them wide open a second later. The drug…Costa had that damn gun, and he had already administered it to Vegeta. She couldn’t let him do it again. Vegeta was strong…but who knew how much he could take? She had to do something. Eyeing the gun that sat discarded on the table, she turned her attention back to Costa. He stood at the door, giving her a side view of him. His eyes were closed, and she could see a look on intense concentration settled into the lines and grooves of his face. Was he listening for Vegeta? Was he trying to sense him? Could he? She wasn’t certain what capabilities he had. He seemed far weaker than Vegeta, yet he was at least half Saiya-jin. She had to make a move and grab that gun. Could she accomplish it before he saw what she was doing? At the worst, he would notice and she would have a second to pump his body full of the damn tranquilizer, or whatever it was that Gero had created. As weak as he appeared to be, surely it would incapacitate him. She had to try.
Gathering her courage, she took a deep, silent breath, trying to stay as quiet as she could. This was her only chance, she knew it, and it might mean the difference between life and death for Vegeta. Costa wouldn’t hesitate to render him helpless and kill him in some cowardly fashion. She had to succeed. Failure wasn’t an option.
Trunks stared into the rubble that had fallen on Juunanagou after his father’s blast. Watching his father stagger away…no doubt to retrieve his mother, Trunks turned his full attention to the artificial humans. With his father occupied elsewhere, it would be up to him to end their terror.
"Trunks," He felt a cool hand slide into his, and he turned to stare down at the wide blue eyes gazing up at him.
"Eriadne," he said quietly. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, but I—" biting her lip, she looked away for a moment, before rushing ahead with an onslaught of words. "Please don’t hurt them, Trunks. Give them a chance. I know they have done terrible things, but they had their own choices taken away from them. Gero was the villain…"
"Hush," he said, laying a finger against her lips. "I…don’t know what to tell you. Have you thought about how hard they will find it to function in society? Have you given any thought to what awaits them, and even if I were inclined top spare them…" his mouth curved downwards as he uttered the words. "Would the rest of society be able to forgive and forget?" He was acutely aware of Juuhachi who stood away from them, watching them intently. How could he ever forget what she had done to him? Just facing her this way was enough to make him want to shudder, but he had to press on. He had to end the terror here and now. He didn’t believe for an instant that either one of these two creations would ever be able to atone for the cruelties they had visited upon the planet. He understood Eriadne’s desire, and he cold feel her pain as palpably as if it were his own, but he didn’t think he could give her what she wanted. He had trained to destroy these creatures. Though they might have been fully human at one time, to him, they were nothing more than monsters, stripped of their own humanity.
"Trunks," Eriadne said, moving closer to him. "I can take them somewhere…I can hide them…"
Trunks pushed back his lavender hair with a shaking hand, trying to come up with some answer that wouldn’t give her cause to hate him for the rest of her life. She had to understand that it could never be as simple as she made it out to be. A stirring in the rubble jerked his attention away from her, and he pivoted, turning himself as Juunanagou emerged from the rubble.
"Where is he?" Juunana growled, scanning the area for Vegeta. Shooting an icy glare towards Trunks, Juunana shook the dust and dirt off of him. "Where did he go? Tell me now, so I can kill him for that."
"Father had more pressing issues. You are, of course, welcome to take your best shot at me. I promise you, I am just as good a fight as he is." Trunks stared intently into Juunana’s slanted blue eyes.
"Oh, I’m sure," Juunanagou sneered, shrugging nonchalantly. "I suppose it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. I’ll see Vegeta dead by the end of the day. Might as well kill his son first." His lips curved into a taunting, wicked smile, and casually he crossed his arms over his chest.
"Oh, I think you will find me a far more dangerous adversary now. You won’t be fighting Vegeta today, I promise you that!" Trunks snapped, eyes blazing like blue fire. He had waited so long to do this. They were stronger in this timeline. If he could defeat them here, then he could go back and destroy the ones that existed in his own timeline. The thought fueled him, and he felt something hot surge through his veins. He would see their terror ended today.
"Really?" Juunana snorted, face set in boredom. "I doubt you will ever be able to give me a decent fight. But still…you are better than nothing, and it will give me immense pleasure to see another egotistical Saiya-jin cut down."
Trunks smirked dangerously. "Shall we find out? You might be surprised."
"No! Trunks, please, I don’t want you hurt!" Eriadne grabbed at his arm, holding it tightly. Her eyes bored into his, desperation flashing in the blue depths, and for a moment Trunks felt the urge to give in to her pleas.
"Eriadne," he began, gently prying her cold hand from his arm. "I can’t walk away from this. I can’t accept that he might change and not hurt anyone else. He’s just too dangerous." Throwing a glance back at Juunanagou, he nodded. "And it’s not as if he’s giving me any options. He wants this battle."
"Juunana!" She cried, trying to sidestep Trunks. "Gero is dead! You don’t have to follow him anymore. You could have a normal life. Please…this isn’t the way!" Swallowing past the hard, thick lump that clogged her throat, she swiped angrily at the hot tears that burned past her eyelids and spilled down over her cheeks. She had watched her parents wilt away and die at the loss of their children. She had seen the destruction of the only family she had ever known. She had stood over their graves and promised them, someway, somehow, that she would find closure for them. She had been cheated! They had all been cheated. She couldn’t let it end this way. She had to find a way to dissuade one of these two men that it didn’t have to end badly.
Juunana tipped his head, studying her curiously. His cold blue gaze swept over her, and for a moment, she thought she saw a glint of sadness that was quickly lost in the seemingly endless depths. "Normal life?" He asked quietly, tone calm. "What kind of normal life do you expect me to live? Gero gave me power…endless power, and the desire to use it. I have no desire to give that up. This is my normal life. I don’t know any other way."
Eriadne opened her mouth, determined to convince him otherwise, but before she could utter a single word, Trunks arms wrapped around her, and she found herself drawn back against his hard body.
"Enough," he whispered into her ear. "He isn’t going to listen to you. Gero took the part of him that might remember you and your family away. This isn’t your brother…not really."
"Trunks…" she said weakly, slumping back against him, exhausted. "I can’t give up on him."
"You don’t have to," the words tumbled from his mouth unexpectedly, and he snapped his jaw shut, shocked that he had actually given in. He watched warily as she stared dazedly at him, and then sighing heavily, he skimmed a hand along her jaw. "I won’t go easy on him, I won’t lie to you. I mean to kill him. But…" running a hand nervously through his hair, he spoke quietly. "I will give him a chance to remember and seek help. If he walks away from here and lets my Grandfather work on him…" Trunks shrugged, already knowing what the inevitable outcome was going to be. Juunanagou would never accept his offer in a million years. He already knew that. Still, he had to give Eriadne some hope, or perhaps to show her once and for all, that the brother she was so dead-set on saving was beyond her help. He ached for her, knowing that it would be a bitter blow. She had suffered greatly in her life, lost much. He swallowed thickly, realizing just how much he knew about pain, loss, and suffering.
"Trunks," Trunks watched her swallow hard, and he laid a hand against her mouth.
"Don’t say a word," he ordered, voice husky and deep. "This hasn’t worked out yet, and I don’t really believe it will. Still…I…" Glancing away from her piercing cerulean gaze, he took notice of Juunanagou staring at them, arms crossed impatiently across his chest. Maybe he did have some residual memories. The artificial human had made no move to interrupt them, and it was hardly in his nature to stand idly by. Frowning, Trunks shoved Eriadne away. It really mattered little. Juunana was still a monster. He could never forget that. "Go," he ordered. "He’ll kill me if I’m distracted. You have my word. If I can reason with him, then I’ll give him a chance to survive. That’s all I can offer."
"It’s enough, Trunks," Eriadne smiled hesitantly at him before backing away. He had offered her far more than she had anticipated. It was a long shot, but it was fair. She could never forget that he had suffered at their hands, just as she could never forget that Gero’s hands had turned her brother and sister turned into monsters. All she could really hope was that by some miracle, Juunana would see something, find some reason to give in and live. Swiping at a wayward tear, she moved back, pressing her back against the cold stone of the walls. "Please brother…" she whispered into the air. "Please…"
So what happened after that last big battle with the artificial humans?" Yamcha ran through the corridors of Gero’s compound, following Krillin’s lead. "How did he manage to get a hold of you, Krillin?"
"I was lying there in a pool of my own blood." Krillin’s voice shook slightly as he went back to that awful day. It had been bad enough lying on the floor of the prison cells, unable to stem the sudden rush of memories that Gero had managed to subdue. He had been rendered helpless, left to the mercy of the horror as he recalled vividly all that happened to him. Clearing his throat, he pushed on, knowing he needed to make some peace with all that had befallen him. It was the only way he was ever going to be whole again, if that was even possible anymore. "I knew I was dying…I could feel my life slipping away along with the blood. I knew there wasn’t going to be any coming back this time. I was s-scared at first, but…" Krillin broke off as he choked on the words. Stopping in mid-stride, he leaned wearily against the wall, short body shaking. "I—"
"Hey," The deep, firm voice calmed him, soothed him almost, and he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. "It’s alright Krillin. That day was hell for us all. I can’t remember much, but what I can recall…"
Tien shuddered, his grip on Krillin’s shoulder tightening as he remembered the horror of feeling Juunana’s blast go through his body. It had blazed through him like a rocket, burning and searing flesh and organs. The smell had been more than he could fully assimilate at the time, but now…
"I still wake at night," he said finally, searching desperately for the right words to convey his emotions. "It’s like it all happened yesterday.
"How did you survive?" Krillin asked softly, peering up into Tien’s scorching, troubled gaze. "How did you make it out of there alive?"
Tien shrugged. "I hit the ground, and when I did, I knew I was dead. There was nothing to describe the pain I felt, and the knowledge that I had left Choutzu alone. He was my brother—in spirit, if not blood, and I knew that he would be unable to fend them off. I was gut sick…and I was lying there bleeding to death." Tien broke off, glancing to the side, but not before Krillin caught the tell-tell gleam of moisture on his cheek.
"But Choutzu made it…" Yamcha interjected. "You told us that at Capsule Corporation. "
"Choutzu is the reason I’m still alive," Tien shrugged nonchalantly. "He came in there while the artificial humans were battling Vegeta, while they were distracted." Tien turned back to them, eyes dry and controlled. "Somehow he got managed to get me to my feet and out of there. I have now idea how he was able to accomplish it, but because of him, I am alive today."
"Probably all that training we did under King Kai." A smile lit up Yamcha’s face. "That little guy is tough as nails."
Tien smiled faintly. "Yeah, I haven’t always given him the credit he’s due. When push came to shove, he was there for me and he saved my life." Turning his head towards Yamcha, he looked at him questioningly. "How about you, Yamcha? How did you survive? I saw the hit you took, right before I fell."
Yamcha smiled shakily. "I was outclassed from the beginning, I knew that. The artificial human punched right through my chest. I was unconscious almost instantly." Rubbing a hand across his chest, Yamcha shook his head. "You know, I can still feel that hit as if it happened yesterday. It’s like you said, Tien. I wake at night and I’m there, fighting the same battle…" He broke off. "I hope that memory eases as time goes by."
"It will," Tien replied firmly. "We just have to face it like we have everything else. We’ve faced The Saiya-jin, Frieza…death. We can overcome this too."
"Yes," Yamcha said. "I suppose remembering and sharing the pain we felt that day is how we are going to do it, too." He bit his lip thoughtfully before continuing. "Well, I was out when I hit the ground, and dying too, I’m sure. He punched clean through my chest. I’m smart enough to know what that meant. I have no idea what happened immediately after, but later…later I woke up in the desert…in the same place that Puar and I had called home before we ever met Goku and Bulma."
"How did you manage that?" Krillin asked, amazed.
"Puar," Yamcha choked out. "She told me later, after I had come to, that she had shifted into one of Gero’s army clones. She was able to maintain the ruse long enough to get me to shelter. She fed me a senzu bean she had gotten from Bulma before the fight had began. Then she managed to steal a capsule from some demolished capsule shop and she drove us out to the desert where she nursed me back to health. You tell me that you were amazed at Choutzu…well… Choutzu is strong, he trains. Puar is…" Yamcha broke off, eyebrows raised in awed memory. "I will never understand how Puar managed. There is nothing I wouldn’t trust her with now."
"Looks like we both did some underestimating," Tien smiled, patting Yamcha on the back.
"Yeah," Yamcha returned the grin. "I’ll never make that mistake again."
"I didn’t even know that Puar could drive," Krillin’s voice held a faint tone of amazement.
Yamcha shrugged. "Neither did I." His tone deepened as he turned his full attention back to Krillin. So, are you ready now? Can you tell us what happened to you?"
Krillin stared into Yamcha’s wide black gaze for a moment, before slowly nodding. "Yeah, I think so. It isn’t easy, but I’ll find a way. If you guys can do it, so can I."
Tien smiled lightly. "It’ll help, you know. If you tell us, and let us know, it will help you."
"I hope so, Tien." Krillin said gravely. "I sure as hell hope so."
Roshi peered out from the shadowy depths of his voluminous robe. It had been a thoughtful choice to put this old robe on. It shaded him from view and lent him an almost mystical appearance. Watching Gero’s army beat and manhandle a group of people in the small village he had come to, he realized that it had been the perfect choice for what he hoped to accomplish.
He had arrived only a few short moments ago, and he had been in time to see the Cyborg army in an obvious mission to obtain more human guinea pigs for Gero’s research. It sickened him. And they had all gone blindly to the fate that awaited them. Listening to Gero, believing his every word, falling for his machinations, what willing fools they had all been. It was easy to believe that humanity was getting what it deserved. It was even easier to believe that these people were reaping the fruits of their stupidity. It was wisdom and compassion that had helped him to understand humanity wasn’t perfect. When they were at their worst, well, humans could do the worst evil, but when they were at their best…there was nothing as amazing as a human’s capacity for love and courage. One had only to stoke the fires to find it lying dormant, and once it was ignited, it would blaze and spread until it consumed people and led them down the right path. And that was what he was about to do.
Roshi had already seen about ten of the townspeople thrown into the transport that the Cyborgs had come in. He had watched as they had come willingly, all believing that Gero had sent fresh water to replace the poisoned water that Gero himself had identified. Hadn’t he been the one to cure them of the toxins that drinking the water had introduced to their bodies? It hadn’t taken long for any of them to be disabused of that notion. He had to do something.
Stepping forward, he drew a deep breath. He was old and no longer as strong as he used to be. Still, for what he had to accomplish, he had more than enough in his reserves. It was the only way he had of really helping Goku anymore.
"Stop harming these people!" he bellowed in a frail voice. Best they underestimate his true power until he finally showed them what he had. "Let them all go!"
"Shut up!" A large, beefy guard shouted at him. He noticed, looking at all of them, that they were all huge and stocky. Obviously, though they had unique faces, they had been patterned after the same body type. He wondered how intelligent, Gero had thought to make them. Obviously, he had not wanted them to minds of their own. That would have been dangerous. Still, had he given them in battle wisdom? Knowing Gero, he wouldn’t doubt at all that he had. That was why he would have one real chance to wipe them out.
"Who do you think you are, stealing these people from their homes?" Sweeping his hands out, Roshi’s voice grew in volume. "They are not your friends. I have seen, myself, firsthand, what Gero is doing. He steals your brothers and sisters. He takes your wives and children, and he uses them as science experiments in his own sick reality. Don’t be fools! Don’t let these monsters take you. They are more of his experiments, programmed to police you!"
Hushed, shocked whispers rippled through the growing throng, and even the cyborgs ceased their activity as all attention turned to the robed man who stood on the outskirts of the crowd.
"The old man is crazy…" he heard someone shout. And then: "But look at how they treat us? Didn’t you see them dragging that girl into the transport?"
"It’s true, I promise you!" he shouted again, knowing that they needed another push. "Look at these guards. They are the exact same. Only their faces are different. Gero created them as his own personal army. You must take back what he has taken from you!"
The beefy guard pushed towards him, shoving people out of his way. "Shut him up!" he growled angrily to another guard, at a loss as to how to answer him. They hadn’t been programmed to do anything but fight and police. He had no idea how to counteract the man’s words and save face with the people that surrounded him. He could do nothing more than try to take the troublemaker out.
"Look at how he’s reacting!" Roshi pressed on, watching the guards turn towards him. "Does he deny it? He can’t! He doesn’t know how!" Flinging off his robe, Roshi lowered himself into his old fighting stance. Closing his eyes, he reached into the center of his body, drawing on every bit of energy he had. From a distance he heard the startled cries of the growing crowd as he pumped his energy into his frail body, filling it out with the power that he had accumulated.
Cupping his hands together, he began the familiar cadence that had become Goku’s signature move in battle.
"KA…" he began, struggling to maintain the power that was flowing through his blood like a torrential river.
"ME…" there had never been anything like the feel of power as it ran through you this way. He had all but forgotten the pure joy of it.
"HA…" the ground shook beneath his feet as the blast grew. Opening his eyes, he saw the guards had stopped in their tracks, and the people had fallen to the ground, sheltering themselves from the fury of the blast.
"ME…" he was almost ready. The blast was almost ready.
"HAAAA!" The ball of energy leapt from his hand, streaking towards a small cluster of guards that stood watching him in stunned disbelief. No one had believed that an obviously frail old man would be capable of anything like this. He chuckled. Boy had they been surprised.
Panting heavily, he watched his Kamehameha wave tear through the stunned guards, sending their mechanical pieces flying in a hundred different directions. When the fury had abated, he watched the townsfolk slowly climb to their feet, staring with shocked eyes at the old man that had wreaked such havoc.
Pointing to the destroyed Cyborgs on the ground, he grinned. Circuitry lay strewn about, wires protruded from pieces of arms and legs. His wave had worked wonders. "I told you they were nothing more than machines." Turning his head towards the remaining guards, he pointed. "Now are you going to let them take your lives away from you, or are you going to get them?"
For a moment, no one moved, no one spoke. And then, with a low rumble that grew into a thunderous roar, they converged on the remaining guards, fighting for their lives, and their village, and each other.
Watching the fray, Roshi smiled. Yes humanity was a wonderful thing once you ignited that spark. With a heavy sigh, he frowned. Speaking of sparks, he had more to ignite. Reaching for his robe, he slipped it on, retreating into the deep folds once more and slipping inconspicuously from the fray. Time was of the essence. He’d better get to it.
"Master Roshi?" Gohan whispered to himself in amazement. He had just felt an incredible burst of power. And Master Roshi’s signature had been all over it. What was he doing? And how had he been able to reach such a tremendous level of power. It was far less than what he himself was capable of, but that it had come from such an old man amazed him.
"There it is, Gohan, my boy." Doctor Briefs pointed to the nearly invisible entrance to the old missile silo that he and Roshi had converted into the underground hide out. It was where he would soon be administering the antidote he hoped would help Piccolo.
"Doctor Briefs," Gohan turned his attention back to the older man as he made his descent. "Are you sure that my Dad will be alright where we left him?"
"Gohan, his strength should be at full power when he comes to. The small rest he gains from fainting will be highly beneficial to him. While he is doing that, we can be getting Piccolo back to his old self as well. He’ll be able to go and give your father as much help as he can.
"I suppose you’re right," Gohan said thoughtfully, still worried about his father. Yet he couldn’t deny he was thrilled to be moments away from seeing his mentor and friend alive and well again. He had believed Piccolo lost, and the knowledge had devastated him. Gohan couldn’t remember the last time he had held such high hope. They had been dashed time and again, but now…now things were different. They felt different. Touching down, Gohan waited patiently as Briefs located the small, nearly invisible entrance.
"It’s been so long since I’ve been here, I all but forgot how to get in." Briefs smiled, climbing down the small ladder that led down into the hollowed out silo. Walking a few feet ahead, he led Gohan into the massive underground hanger that had once been used to store missiles.
"Wow!" Gohan exclaimed boyishly, following after the Doctor. He had seen movies with places like this, but he had never imagined that he would actually set foot in one. It was massive, far larger than he would have expected.
"Yes, it is quite a sight isn’t it, Gohan?" Briefs smiled at the boy’s enthusiasm. "Here, let’s go this way. I have Piccolo in a regeneration tank down this way." Leading Gohan down a long corridor, Briefs paused before a plain metal door. "I believe this is the one. Truth be told, everything looks the same around here. I have a feeling I could wander around this place for days and never see the same thing.
Turning the knob, they entered. Gohan’s eyes were immediately drawn to the peaceful figure floating in a tank of water at the far end, and his breath hitched painfully, burning his lungs. His heart quickened as he realized that it was all true. Piccolo was really alive, and with some luck, he would be walking and talking in just a few short moments. There had been some part of him that had been afraid it was all just a figment of his imagination—some wishful thought that he had managed to convince himself was reality.
"Let me get these capsules out. Clicking a capsule, Briefs threw it on the desk, watching the small black case, that held the antidotes he had come across at Gero’s lab, appear. "I hope this works." He muttered to himself, seeing the look of anticipation shining on Gohan’s youthful face. The boy deserved something positive to happen. He had known far too many hard times in his short life. A vision of Mirai Trunks popped into his mind and he grimaced. So had his grandson, or at least the future version of the small baby that he knew and loved. He hated to see such young people go through through such terrible times. They were all but children, in the prime of their lives. They should be having good times and laughter, not fighting for their very existence in a neverending basis. Both young men had grown up far faster than they should have, and he would fight to ensure that the young Trunks would know something far better than his unfortunate, future counterpart.
"Is there anything I can do, Doctor?" Gohan asked anxiously, heart pounding like a drum. He needed to see Piccolo alive again. He had all but become his replacement father when his own had been gone. Piccolo had trained him, listened to him, guided him. He had even sacrificed his life for him, and their bond ran deep. It had been the hardest thing he had ever done, accepting that he would never benefit from Piccolo’s presence again. It was something he knew he could never do again.
"Go ahead and drain the tank, Gohan. Lay him on that examination table in the far corner. These are going to be ready any moment. I induced sleep with a drug I introduced in the tank. Once he is out, and I have administered the antidote, I’ll see about giving him something that will wake him up." Briefs slid the needles out of the case, preparing the proper one for injection. Laying it down, he rifled through the cabinets, looking for the things he would need.
Gohan did as he was bid, catching the Namek’s limp green body as it slid from the tank. Carrying him to a table, he laid him gently down, turning to stare expectantly at Doctor Briefs. "I’m all ready, Doctor Briefs."
"So am I, Gohan. So am I." Grabbing the needle, Briefs crossed the room bending to tie a ripped piece of cloth around Piccolo’s bicep. Readying the needle, he pressed it against the green flesh of the Namek’s arm.
Gohan’s heart leapt into his throat as he waited for the Doctor to administer the shot. This had to work! It just had to! Clearing his throat, he gave voice to his hope, looking to Doctor Briefs to assure him all would be well. "I sure hope this works, Doctor Briefs."
"Well, Gohan, I suppose we just have to have some faith. " Doctor Briefs turned his blue eyes towards Gohan and smiled kindly. "As long as I’ve known your father, he’s always kept his faith, no matter what the challenge. Let’s take a page out of his book, shall we?"
Gohan nodded somberly, fisting his hands tightly against his side. He watched as Briefs poked the needle into Piccolo’s green flesh and injected the formula that they had found. This just has to work, he said to himself in a valiant effort to defeat the negative thoughts that were hammering at his brain. He had to maintain hope. Wasn’t that what his father had always done. And it had always been Goku’s belief that they would always find a way that had carried them all through such difficult times. He had to find that same optimism within him. Piccolo would survive. He was strong. He was a fighter. That he had survived this long was a miracle in itself. Surely that battle had not been in vain.
Briefs pulled the needle from Piccolo’s arm, and crossed back across the room to the small lab table. "Let’s see if he wakes up on his own, shall we, Gohan? If he doesn’t awake within a half-hour, then we can rouse him up ourselves." Briefs turned to face the boy, eyes sweeping over the haggard features. How long had it been since the boy had slept, he wondered? For that matter, how long had it been since he had slept?
Feeling the sudden, strong desire for a cigarette, he drew one out of his pocket with a trembling hand, wondering for a moment about his wife. Bulma, he knew, was safe with Vegeta. The boy, for all his faults, would die before he let anything happen to her. Still, he would be lying to himself, if he didn’t admit that he wanted his wife and daughter here close to him. He wanted to be assured of their safety. Was his wife here, maybe? Bulma had been here, and she would hardly have left her mother alone, and he was sure that little Trunks would be with her. He longed to see the child’s cherubic face shining with such pure innocence. After all he had seen and witnessed at Gero’s lab, he needed that one simple joy. After they had gotten Piccolo straightened out, he would go in search of her. He needed to make sure that she was all right. Taking a long drag on his cigarette, he settled his gaze on Piccolo.
"What do we do, Doctor Briefs?" Gohan asked nervously. "Is there anything we can do to help him?"
With a tired sigh, Briefs shook his head. "No, Gohan. The only thing we can really do now is wait. I would prefer to let him come out of it on his own. " Smiling at the boy, he smoothed a hand over his moustache. "It’s hard I know, son. But Piccolo is strong…a fighter. He will come around, and soon, I’m sure."
"I sure hope so, Doctor Briefs. This waiting is so hard." Gohan sagged limply against the wall. Kami, he was tired. He hadn’t slept in days. Oh he had tried, but sleep, for him anyway, had been elusive while he had been a captive of Gero’s. Now there simply was no time to do anything.
Briefs took another long drag of his cigarette, watching the boy with keen blue eyes. Slowly, he nodded. "It always is, Gohan. "It always is."
Vegeta stumbled down the corridor, following his strong sense of Bulma’s ki. He was close. She had to be just around the corner. Her frightened voice, calling his name, still echoed in his brain, and he grimaced as he realized again, for the millionth time, that she was alone with a man that had tried to rape her. She was alone with a monster that likely would do so again. He had sensed nothing from her through the bond. There were no overwhelming feelings of fear or disgust. He hoped that meant she was untouched by the bastard.
Clenching his fists, he stopped for a moment, concentrating intently on the different ki signatures he could sense. Costa was with her, he felt that, and they were close. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes for a moment, sending out a feeling of calm assurance to her. It took all his willpower to keep her from feeling the rage and anguish that was coursing through every vein in his body. He didn’t want to frighten her, not now. Bulma needed to stay focused on her own survival. His rage was reserved for Costa, and he would gladly save every last bit of it for him.
Sneering, he started forward, feeling the muscles in his legs and arms begin to tighten and firm up again as he battled the effects of the drug. Each step became easier as he moved forward. He had been able to overcome it. It had slowed him down for a few moments, but he had overpowered it, and with his sheer force of will, he knew he would be able to overcome it again and again. There was nothing that would stop him from tearing Costa limb from limb.
His body trembled with the ferocity of his rage, and for a moment, Vegeta thought he might lose control of it. Not now. He couldn’t give into it yet. Forcing it down, he pressed on. He had more practice than he cared to admit to in keeping his pain and fury in check. How many times had he turned that rage off in Frieza’s presence, knowing that to give into it would mean certain death? He had become the master of all his emotions, never letting anyone see or hear anything that might give his true feelings away. It had become a survival mechanism. The only person who had ever been able to see past his many defenses was Bulma, and she had paid dearly for that. He had rejected her cruelly over and over again, too weak to cut her off from him completely, but far too prideful to admit that she might ever mean something to him. The pride had turned into a nearly suffocating fear at what her closeness meant not only for him, but also for her. And his worst nightmares had come true when Costa had entered the picture. He had failed to keep her from harm, and now she was at the mercy of a lunatic who was hell-bent on vengeance.
This was exactly why he had wanted to stay uninvolved with her or anyone for that matter. He had known that specters like this loomed in his past. He had never wanted to feel this way. It was far safer to care for nothing, yet he had been unable to hold himself away from her. Why? He had absolutely no idea, and he hardly had the time to analyze his feelings properly. All he knew was that for some insane reason this one, small woman was his…destined for him perhaps, and now she was in danger. The rage that burned through him was fueled by the awful fear that he so detested. Fear of losing her, fear of thinking something worse than death might actually happen to her, fear that he would let her down. Fear that if something did happen to her, it would cut him to pieces.
That fear, coupled with the fury at all the abuse and humiliation they had both suffered at Costa’s hand was about to consume him in a raging inferno. His discipline had to hold. He had worked for years to maintain the rigid discipline that led him on the battlefield. His pride and his woman were at stake, and he could not lose himself, not yet. Soon…
As he moved forward, muscles once again rolling smooth beneath his skin like a wildcat, the thought of how he would rip Costa limb from limb brought a wicked smile to his face. Yes, soon, very soon, if his sense of Bulma’s ki was correct. Where she was concerned, he was always aware, and every nerve in his body was screaming at him that she was close to him, very close.
Bulma’s hand had just grasped the barrel of the tranquilizer gun when Costa turned his burning black eyes to face her. She barely had time to breathe, as they widened in realization, and his face turned a vivid shade of red. Clutching at the gun, she threw herself back just as he launched himself at her, grabbing at her with his huge hands. Skittering back, she tried to straighten the gun in her grasp so that she could get off a shot at him, but he was fast—too fast.
Grabbing her around her neck, he banged her head against the corner of the hard table, sending a searing jolt of pain through her head. "Bitch!" He rasped coldly. "Do you think I’m stupid?" Prying the gun from her hand, he aimed it at her. "I should give you a taste of this to keep you quiet."
Bulma shrank back, head throbbing, blood streaming down her face from the wound he had given her. Her eyesight blurred for a moment, but with sheer force of will, she kept herself from blacking out. Kami, how easy it would be to just slip out of consciousness and remain safely oblivious to anything that was happening. What she didn’t know couldn’t hurt, right? Wasn’t that the idea? Swallowing past the cold lump of dread lodged painfully in her throat, she fought the desire. She couldn’t. She had to fight. She couldn’t give up, especially with Vegeta on the way. She had felt a small wave of his reassuring presence as he grew closer to her, and she knew he was coming. He would be there. Drawing in a deep breath, she stared venomously at the bastard half-Saiya-jin who loomed above her. "I hope you die, you stupid bastard."
Costa’s lip curled upwards in fury, and he raised the gun to her head. "How about I put this right into your brain? Let that be the first thing Vegeta sees when he comes to kill me."
Bulma winced, wishing that she had kept her mouth shut. Why had she pointlessly angered him? She had to keep her mouth shut long enough to stay alive. Goading him wasn’t going to further those ends. Opening her mouth, she searched for a reason to stay his hand.
She never had a chance. As if he were nothing more than a rag doll, Costa was lifted off of her and hurled across the room faster than she could form a word. Looking up, she felt her heart pound in her chest at the sight of Vegeta standing above her, snarling like a maddened animal. "Vegeta," she said softly, wanting nothing more than to feel those steel arms go around her in assurance that the worst was behind them.
The look on his face, however, told her it was far from over. He wore an expression of cold rage that she had never really seen before in the years that she had known him. Oh she had seen him angry, furious actually, but she had never been close enough to him in such heated moments of battle, to ever see the look he wore now. It was death, she realized. It blazed everywhere: on his face, in his eyes…
His eyes, she felt herself shudder. They were dead and icy—frightening. This was his battle face, she thought. This was the face of the killer that had existed long before they had ever come together. She watched as he seemed to see her for the first time, and then quickly he was on his knees before her, running a gloved hand over the contours of her face.
"Bulma," he rasped shakily, voice thick with concern, yet heavy with anger. He was doing his best to control that rage in front of her, and she felt something twist in her heart, cutting her like a knife. He didn’t want to scare her. This onetime slayer of planets, the dark Prince who cared for nothing but himself and his precious pride, was trying his best not to frighten her. Swallowing painfully, she laid a trembling hand against his.
"I’m alright, Vegeta." Staring into those hard, black eyes, she tried valiantly to smile at him. "I’ll just stay here out of your way." Kami, her head ached. She was afraid that if she tried to stand, she would keel over.
Vegeta stared into the blue depths for what seemed an eternity, before rising to his feet. Being concerned about someone else’s welfare was a new experience for him, and it left him feeling vulnerable and immensely uncomfortable, and yet the blood rage was simmering just underneath the surface, reminding him of the killer he had once been, and of the Saiya-jin warrior he would always be. Caring for her hadn’t really seemed to change that. He needed to kill Costa. It was the only way the rage was going to be appeased. His pride had suffered, his woman had suffered…he would kill the bastard for that, and he would ensure that the death would be painful.
Turning towards the half-Saiya-jin, he let the rage go, and shut his eyes as it pumped through him, flowing from him in thick black waves that seemed to choke the room. Across the room, Costa lay dazed, the rubble of the collapsed wall around him. With a sneer of near glee, Vegeta walked towards him purposefully, the sudden thrill of the battle overtaking him. Except in this case, the fight was meaningless. It was the thrill of the kill. Costa had earned his death in spades, and he would be glad to hand it to him. Standing over his prone form, Vegeta smirked maliciously down at him. This was hardly even a challenge. Bending, Vegeta grasped him by his throat, heaving him in the air. Costa twisted in his grasp, gasping for breath, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.
Bulma managed to get an arm over the table, and carefully, she hauled herself up against it to see what was happening. She watched as Vegeta dangled the crazed half-Saiya-jin in the air by his throat, his eyes never seeming to leave Costa’s face.
"How does it feel, Costa, to be at my mercy?" Vegeta grated out through clenched teeth, the sudden, terrible memory of how it had felt to believe that he had raped Bulma running through his head. That he had even dared to lay a finger on her infuriated him and he tightened his hold in slow, agonizing increments. "Without your drug, you are nothing…just like your worthless, piece of shit, brother." Vegeta’s face twisted in amusement at the look of fury that flashed in the bastard’s eyes.
"Fuck you, Vegeta," Costa rasped hoarsely, before a tight smile splayed itself across his face. If he could get him in a rage…make him oblivious to anything but his rage…he might have a chance. Nappa had always told him that Vegeta’s immense pride was his biggest downfall. Giving a short bark of laughter, he threw in a taunt, hoping that his brother had been right. "Oh, isn’t that what I did to your woman? She was a good ride, Vegeta," he wheezed as Vegeta’s grasp tightened. "I see why you’ve allowed her to enslave you." He watched as the Prince’s face darkened.
"I guess the joke is on you, fool!" Vegeta spit out harshly. "Didn’t you wonder why you never had any memory of actually raping her?" Vegeta watched Costa’s face startle before he managed to disguise the emotion. He had struck a nerve. Bulma had been truthful with him, though he hadn’t really doubted her. She had let him touch her again and again, and if she had been truly raped, she would have been unable to. He had far more experience in the field than he cared to admit. Just another truth he kept sealed away deep within himself.
Lowering Costa to his level, Vegeta smiled wickedly in his face. "You never touched her, you fucking idiot." With a short, sharp laugh, Vegeta held his gaze, making sure Costa saw every painful moment of the death that awaited him.
"Keep telling yourself that," Costa wheezed in fury and fear. Wincing he could do nothing more than watch as Vegeta’s fist rose and flew into his face, connecting hard with his mouth. Spitting out blood, he braced himself for another. Obviously, Vegeta needed more goading before he would so something stupid. "You know, Vegeta, you never told me what it was like to be so…" he paused, voice hoarse from the pressure to his throat. "…close to Frieza?" Lacing the words with as much suggestion as he could, he watched in triumph as Vegeta’s face twisted in pain and anger. "Did you enjoy your time with Frieza, Vegeta?" He pressed on, knowing that his words would either get him killed, or catch him the break he was looking for.
"Shut your mouth!" Vegeta roared in fury, throwing another vicious punch to Costa’s face. "You know nothing of what I endured!"
Coughing, Costa let the pool of blood that had filled his mouth run down his chin, taking perverse pleasure in the look of disgust that settled on the Prince’s face. Judging by the sparks that were flickering in Vegeta’s black eyes, he was close to losing it. Costa pushed harder. "Oh, Nappa always thought you enjoyed Frieza’s attentions. Tell me, did you call him Master, Vegeta, when you were all alone with him?" He gave a short, mocking laugh.
With a raging scream of fury, Vegeta hurtled Costa into the wall. "I will kill you, bastard!" Launching himself at the half-Saiya-jin, Vegeta felt the last of his restraints give as his rage flowed from him like his life’s blood. How dare this low-class, weak Saiya-jin mock him? How dare he speak to him in such ways? He had no idea what he had endured under Frieza’s rule? He had been enslaved by Frieza, forced to bend to his will, and serve his every vicious whim. His pride had been stripped from him, bit by bit, and thrown to the winds. No one knew how that had felt. With a fierce, wild cry, he powered up, letting himself make the change to Super Saiya-jin.
Costa, head spinning dangerously, fumbled madly for the tranquilizer gun that he had been holding when Vegeta had first thrown him into the wall. He wasn’t a stupid man. He was well aware that he was merely a half-Saiya-jin, far under the blinding power that Vegeta wielded so effortlessly. He had one chance to defeat the Prince, one chance to obtain his vengeance. He hardly considered himself cowardly for that knowledge, just practical. He knew his limitations where Vegeta was concerned, and he knew the only way to beat him was to incapacitate him completely.
Feeling the cold metal underneath his shaking fingers, Costa yanked it to him, cradling it against his body as if it were a child. This would save his life. It was the only thing that was standing in-between him and death as far as he was concerned. Pointing it at the Saiya-jin that had just started towards him, he fired, once, twice, three times into the Saiya-jin’s charging body.
Bulma screamed at Vegeta when she saw Costa raise the gun. She had forgotten all about it and now it was being used against Vegeta yet again. How could he still be getting chances to use that shit against Vegeta? Forcing her weak body into action, she pushed herself up to a standing position, leaning heavily against the table. Kami, what had the bastard done to her head?
Vegeta ignored the shots, barely cognizant of Bulma’s scream. The drug meant nothing to him, now. He had overcome it before. He would do so again. He was far stronger than anything Costa could shoot at him. "Is that the best you can do?" He growled mockingly, smirking evilly as he spoke. "You’re going to regret that."
Costa’s eyes widened as Vegeta bent towards him, lifting him once again into the air. Firing again, he watched through horrified eyes as Vegeta reached for the gun. Firing again he watched in terror as the gun was plucked from his fingers and hurtled casually across the room.
"Vegeta…" Bulma breathed, amazed that he had withstood the drug as well as he had. It had not even seemed to faze him. She watched as the gun hit the far wall and fell with a dull clatter to the floor. Maybe she should go and retrieve it…just in case.
"You weak fool," Vegeta sneered in disdain. "You truly are as pathetic as your brother." With a casual flick of his wrist, Vegeta tossed Costa across the room. Turning to stalk after him, he frowned in irritation. "I wanted a real fight. This is nothing more than child’s play. I could have had a better fight from that stupid piece of junk Gero created."
Costa slid back, away from Vegeta, struggling to get up. Why had the drug failed him? Did he need to give him more? Where had it gone? Looking up, he saw her staggering towards the corner of the room, concentrating heavily on something. Following her gaze, he saw the gun lying on the floor. He had only to make it. Perhaps he could grab her, too, and use her against Vegeta.
Vegeta frowned as he saw Bulma make her way across the room. "Woman," he barked angrily. "Get down." Stupid woman. She had told him that she would stay out of his way. If she got in the way, she could be killed, and he didn’t want to have to worry about her while he was fighting.
Bulma turned to look at him, her face stark and white. "The gun, Vegeta. I want to get that stupid gun before he manages to get it back and u se it on you again."
Vegeta pushed away his concern at the weary look of pain that lined her beautiful face. She couldn’t distract him, not now. Afterwards, he would care for her injuries and get her as far from the place as possible. "Don’t worry yourself over it," he said flippantly. "My training has taken me to a new level of power. Let him have the gun, it will do him no good."
Bulma stopped, biting her lip for a moment. What if he was wrong? What if the drug managed to stop him? What if he was underestimating its affect on him? What then? Even now, Costa was making his way towards it.
Get down, Bulma! Now! His angry voice echoed in her brain, and she fell to her knees, knowing that she was distracting him from the battle at hand. She would have to find another way to get that gun.
Alright, alright! She shot back in retort. You don’t have to yell at me.
I don’t want you dead, woman. He snapped. Now shut up and stay down!
Sagging back against the desk, she did just that, leaning tiredly against the wall. That had been far harder than she had thought it would be. Perhaps she had suffered a concussion.
Relieved that she had listened to him, but concerned that it had been that easy with her, Vegeta lifted his hand and fired a blast in Costa’s direction. Perhaps he shouldn’t tempt fate and let the bastard get a hold of the gun. Despite his words, he had already felt his body slow significantly at what had already been pumped into him. He had been able to maintain his power, though, and he took that as proof that the drug was of little concern to him anymore.
Costa leapt out of the way of the blast, hitting the floor and rolling with the force of his fall. Seeing the gun, he launched himself towards it as another blast seared along his skin. With a harsh grunt, he grabbed at it and watched as it skidded across the floor, out of his reach pivoted.
Vegeta grunted in disdain as he shot another ki blast at the Saiya-jin. He was toying with him, and it was less than satisfying since the half-Saiya-jin could hardly fight back. What was the point of fighting someone as weak as this? "You rely too much on your stupid drug," he sneered arrogantly. "When are you going to learn that it is useless on me now?" He growled in frustration, maddened that it had any affect on him at all. With a growl, he flew at Costa, determined to finish it. He had thought to make him suffer, but the memory of his woman’s wan face, and the sluggishness he was feeling from the drug changed his mind. The man was barely even a fight, anyway. It mattered little, as long as Costa died by his hand.
Landing a kick, he watched in satisfaction as Costa hit hard against the wall, crumbling it around him. "I’m growing tired of playing this game with you," he snarled angrily, lifting a hand. "It’s time for you to die."
Costa gave a hoarse moan as he rolled to his feet. He had to find a way out of this. He owed his brother; he owed the Gods of his world. They had sanctioned this quest. They had assured him that victory was his. He was the righteous one. Vegeta was the killer. How many people had died horrible deaths at Vegeta’s hands? How many more would? Standing, he turned his black gaze towards the golden Saiya-jin.
Vegeta frowned as he tried to focus his mind on the blast. Why wasn’t he able to? Dizzily, he swayed, and it was only as he sunk to his knees that he realized in horror that the drug had affected him far more than he had anticipated. With a harsh groan, he willed himself back to his feet. He had to fight this. Bulma was here. If he went down, she was at Costa’s mercy.
Costa lips turned painfully up into a sneering grin. It had worked, it had just taken it longer than he had expected. With a harsh laugh, he tilted his head up. "I knew it!" he bellowed out. "The Gods are looking after me, Vegeta. They want your bloodstained hands wiped from existence."
"Hardly," Vegeta snapped, legs shaking. "Bring it on, Costa. Let’s see what you can do."
"You are humorous, Vegeta." Costa laughed shortly. "But you are at my mercy now. A few more shots of that drug and I will have you on your knees. Tell me, would you be willing to sell that pride of yours to keep your woman alive?" He chortled at the look of horrified rage that settled on Vegeta’s face. "I will use her well, Vegeta. She will be the spoils of my victory over you." Taking a step back, he made his way towards the gun, unconcerned that Vegeta staggered after him. "Before you die, Vegeta, I will ensure that you see her suffer. It is only right that a heartless killer like you feel the pain and suffering that you have visited upon the rest of the universe."
Giving a roar of fury, Vegeta launched himself at Costa, sending them both careening into the wall. Feeling it collapse around him, he tried to force himself onto his feet. He had to stand up, he had to. With a groan, he lay still, unable to make his body to work.
Bulma, run…he managed to send, his mind quickly slipping into a thick black fog. Fighting it with all the strength he had, he forced himself to stay conscious, somehow. If he could just focus on his energy, he could defeat this drug, he knew it.
Costa crawled his way out of the rubble, body aching. He had to get the gun. A couple more shots, and Vegeta would be his. Bracing his aching body against the ground he hoisted himself up, staggering to his feet, unprepared to face the barrel of the very weapon he sought.
"Looking for this?" Bulma sneered, holding the gun in a death grip. "I will be damned if I let you use this shit on him again."
"Do you really think you can stop me, sweetling?" Costa smiled condescendingly. "You’re a weak human, and though I can readily admit I am hardly as strong as Vegeta, I know for certain that I am far stronger than you."
Bulma smiled. "Well, you have proven to me, Costa, just what this drug is capable of. If it renders a Saiya-jin as strong as Vegeta helpless, what in the hell do you think it is going to do to you? You ‘re nothing without it…"
"Bitch," Costa’s lips curled upwards cruelly. "I’m going to enjoy breaking you. And I’ll be sure that Vegeta enjoys it, too—every long, agonizing moment of it."
"You aren’t going to get the chance." Bulma paled at the images his words invoked, but held herself steady, "I can feel him, and he’s fighting this drug right now. He won’t be letting it get the better of him, and neither will you."
"You think?" Lashing out with his arm, he caught her hand just as she fired. The gun flew from her grasp, but not before the shot had entered his body.
With eyes blazing he lunged towards her, catching her arms as she maneuvered out of his way. "You stupid, stupid bitch. I will kill you for that."
"Stop it now! Enough is enough, Costa!" The feminine voice filled the room, and Costa turned, eyes widening as he took in Tannia. She stood in the door, another gun pointed directly at him.
"What are you doing here?" he snarled, shoving Bulma down to the ground. Like a predator he moved towards hers. "Put that gun down, Tannia. I am trying to avenge the massacre that this bastard Prince wreaked on our planet. He killed my brother! Who are you to tell me enough is enough?"
"You are hurting an innocent woman, you monster." Tannia shrieked, fury that this was what her father had chosen to give her to filling her. "You have no honor. At least the man that you are trying to kill has some of that." She held the gun shakily up. She had found it upstairs, in the room that Costa had first found the woman. It had been lying in the rubble all but forgotten in the myriad of fighting that had seemed to rage around her. She had followed them down here, biding her time, hoping that the Saiya-jin Prince would defeat Costa.
"Stupid woman," Costa growled threateningly. "I can see that I will have to take you in hand when this is all over. If you are to be my wife, you will have to learn your place."
"Are you stupid?" she shrieked, moving away from him, towards the Prince who lay facedown in the rubble. He was her only real hope for freedom from Costa. His woman seemed sure of him, and judging his strength, it seemed likely that at some point, he was going to prove her right and battle the drug and win. "Do you really think that I would ever allow myself to be tied to you? I would die first, Costa."
"That can be arranged!" With a snarl, he flew at her, closing his hands around her throat. With a gargled scream, Tannia let the gun fall from her hands. She stared up at him, eyes glittering dangerously.
"Do it!" she rasped at him harshly, her usually soft, even voice, abrasive and hard. "Kill me, and explain to my father what you’ve done."
"As if he cares?" Costa sneered. "It will be of little consequence. I will simply add your death to the already many crimes that lay at the feet of the almighty Prince Vegeta. It will be one more reason to make him suffer."
"I don’t think so!" Bulma said with a smile. Taking advantage of his distraction, she had retrieved the gun and now held it level, aimed directly at his big, bulky body. Firing off another shot, her smile grew larger as it hit Costa directly in the leg. "You aren’t going to be doing anything to Vegeta."
Giving a bellow of rage, Costa dropped Tannia to the ground, whirling to face Bulma. "You stupid bitch," he growled as he stalked towards her. "You just don’t give up do you?" He staggered, but forced himself to stay on his feet. She had nailed him with the drug twice. He had to get the gun away from her and get Vegeta completely under his control quickly, before it affected him anymore.
"Get out of here!" Bulma yelled at the woman, unsure of who she was exactly, but knowing with certainty that she would suffer at Costa’s hands if she didn’t get away. "Get out of here while you have the chance!" She backed away from Costa, firing another shot at him. He had to drop at some point.
"I can’t just leave you!" Tannia stood, rubbing her throat gingerly. "He’ll kill you!"
"Not if I can help it!" Bulma retorted, firing again. "He’ll drop at some point. Just go!"
Biting her lip, Tannia hesitated before nodding once. Turning she fled, scrambling over the rubble and out the door.
With her attention focused firmly on Costa, Bulma backed away from him, snarling madly at him. "How does it feel, you bastard? How does it feel to have this shit pumped into you?" Bulma fired again, watching with satisfaction as he dropped to a knee. "How does it feel to have your will stolen from you, coward?" Her blue eyes lit with riotous fury, snapping fire at him as he leered up at her. To her dismay he righted himself and lurched forward again, flinching violently as she pumped another dose of the tranquilizer in him. Dammit, she had pumped him full. This shit had taken down Vegeta, though Costa had put far more in him if you counted all that he had shot into him at their first meeting. Still, Costa wasn’t even half of Vegeta’s strength. What in the hell was taking it so long to work? Was he so crazed that he didn’t even feel it? He was angry, she’d give him that, but so had Vegeta and he had been unable to fully fight the stuff. Why wasn’t it affecting Costa in the same way?
Costa grinned sickly at her. "Nice try, sweetling. But it will take more than that to stop me. I have the Gods on my side." He nodded towards Vegeta who lay silently on the floor. "That bastard doesn’t." He took another staggering step towards her, and she pulled the trigger again, cursing as it clicked.
Dammit, she was out of the drug. She would have to try something else. She would be damned if this big, stupid bastard touched her again. Tossing it aside, Bulma looked desperately around for another weapon she might be able to use against him.
Catching sight of her discarded stun gun, the same gun that she had seen the other woman aim at Costa, laying beside Vegeta, she leapt for it, ignoring the pain in her head and body. She had designed it with Costa in mind. Might as well use it on him. Sliding across the floor and clasping it in her hand, she turned over, managing to fire off one bolt as he trekked towards her. "Dammit, why can’t you leave us alone? He is a different man!" He said nothing, just staggered forward, an almost maniacal smile gracing his lips.
Bulma fired at him again, watching hopefully as he staggered and stopped, but somehow managed to say on his feet. Beside her, she heard Vegeta groan as he tried to rise up and she clenched her teeth as a sudden wave of anger swept over her. "You bastard! You’re too afraid to fight him at his full strength so you have to drug him! Where’s the honor in that?" She shot her gun again, taking pleasure at the crackle of electricity that snapped around him, and the look of intense pain that choked his ugly, brutish face. He fell to one knee, but doggedly pushed himself up again. Kami, she had pumped him full of drugs and electricity. He had to go down sometime. It had to be pure adrenaline that he was running on right now. There was no way he was that strong.
"Vegeta should be dead, bitch." He rasped in a harsh, whisper. "I took him to face a tribunal of people that he had wronged. Death should have been his fate. It is the least that should happen to him for his crimes; let alone what he did to my brother."
"Your brother was a miserable coward, just like you." she spat hysterically, shooting him again with a half-sob. Let him fall! Why couldn’t he just fall and die? "Damn you,! She screamed in fury. "Why can’t you stay down?"
Costa snarled at her once, seeming to hesitate for the briefest of moments, before slowly keeling over and hitting the floor with a heavy thud.
"Oh Kami," she sobbed, inhaling deeply. "Oh Kami, please let him be dead. Please." It dawned on her that praying to Kami was a rather ridiculous sentiment. He was gone, disappeared. There was no one left to pray to. Frowning at the odd thought, she leaned back on her elbows, sucking in deep breaths of air. Costa was finally down. Relief shot through her in a rush and she fell back beside her husband, exhausted. Beside her she heard a low moan, and was just about to roll over and touch him when she felt something grasp the ragged edges of her jeans. With a sharp cry she looked down and saw his blackened hand clutching at her pants. He wasn’t dead! After everything she had done to him, he was still alive!
Hurriedly she lifted her gun and fired, watching, horrified, as nothing happened. Shit, she was out. She looked up, wide-eyed, and watched as he lifted himself up and yanked her leg towards him.
"You’re mine now, bitch!" He slurred, voice oozing malice. "And you’re going to pay for that!"
With a keening cry of desperation she reached out, looking to grasp onto anything around her that might slow him down, and jerked spasmodically as she felt her cold hand grasped in the warm steel of—glancing over, she cried out in joy as she watched Vegeta give a mighty tug, yanking her away from Costa and into his arms.
Vegeta pushed her behind him before he advanced on Costa, snarling like an animal possessed and flaring to Super Saiya-jin. The power that flooded through him seemed endless, and he fed his energy with all the rage and pain that was burning in him, screaming as the power-up went on. Around him the room crumbled and shook, but he paid little heed. This was more power than he had ever felt before. He was—he was going beyond Super Saiya-jin. A fierce rush of pride and joy shot through him. He had ascended to a new level.
Costa scrambled to his feet, looking wildly around for something he could use against the maddened Saiya-jin. The bitter taste of fear filled his mouth and grimaced. "Dammit, how do you do that?" His eyes swept over the golden haired warrior whose death he could easily read in the merciless, cold teal eyes. His limbs felt like they weighed three tons. Damn that bitch for drugging him. He wasn’t sure why he was still on his feet. By rights he should be dead, but yet…he still stood. It had to be the Gods telling him that his vengeance was right and just. He had only to find a way to defeat Vegeta. The gun! Yes, that was it. He had some more rounds of the drug in his pants. His eyes fell on the place he had seen her drop it. If he could find some way to reach it, he could finish him off.
Vegeta. Following his gaze, saw it before he did and he shot a ki blast at it, sending into a hundred small pieces. That was what he should have done in the first place. "Fight like a man, fucking coward!" He spat out, his fury spiraling through him in thick, heavy waves.
"Vegeta," Costa stared at the golden man in awe. Vegeta’s anger pumped through him permeating the air around them. Electricity sparkled and crackled around him, and his cold teal eyes stared at him as if he were already dead. His power was tenfold what it had been before. In all his fury, he had reached something different. "Do you think it really matters one way or the other if I have that gun?" he blustered wildly. "I have the will of the Gods behind me and they say that you must die for all the crimes you have committed. By all that is holy, I hear Nappa tell me that you must die." Costa clenched his head in agony. "He screams at me, Vegeta. He screams at me that you are to die."
"Fool. You are as stupid as your brother, only more insane." Vegeta spat, bearing his teeth at the man and clenching a fist before his face. "I told you once that I would see you dead for what you did to me, but for her—I will see you suffer." He swung his fist, listening with satisfaction as he heard the crunch of bone. Impassively he watched the big man fly backwards and hit the wall. "Your brother was an waste of life and so are you. I did the universe a favor by ridding it of his presence and I’m about to do another by taking care of you. " His booted foot hit Costa’s side, followed by the crunch of shattering ribs.
"You arrogant basted." Costa coughed, choking on blood and bile, each breath he took burning in his lungs like acid. "You think it will end if you kill me, that I am the only man that will use your bitch against you."
Vegeta sneered at his words, bending to grasp the man by his throat and lift him up. "I will deal with anyone fool enough to follow you. You should be more concerned about yourself." His fist slammed into Costa’s stomach once, than twice, before he tossed him against the wall, smirking at the dent that he left. Glancing behind him, he saw Bulma’s haggard, pale face and he frowned. She looked like she had been through Hell and as much as he wished he could pound Costa into a pulp bit by bit, he knew that it was time to end it.
Looking back to Costa, he smiled at the look of dazed awareness that clouded the half-Saiya-jin’s face. With an evil smirk, he grabbed the man by his tail and fired a shot, slicing the tail off at the base.
Ignoring the screams of pain that emanated from Costa, he tossed the appendage aside and smirked again, watching as the half-dead coward writhed on the floor. Perhaps he had done the job well enough after all. It looked as if all the damage that Bulma had been able to inflict was finally catching up with him. Raising his hand, palm up, at the man, he pointed it at him. "Be sure to say hello to your bastard brother for me—" He sneered arrogantly. "In Hell." Firing, he watched impassively as Costa opened his mouth to scream before he was obliterated into nothingness.
Taking no time to revel in the bastard’s defeat, he turned and crossed to Bulma who stood watching him with a frighteningly calm expression on her face. He stopped before her and tore off his gloves, not wanting to touch her already filthy, bloody face with the blood of Costa. "Woman," he whispered gruffly. "Are you alright?" His hand cupped her cheek and that was all it took to break through to the safe place her mind had taken her.
With a shrill cry she threw herself into his arms and sobbed into his chest—harsh, gut-wrenching cries that turned his stomach inside out and left him shaking with their fury. Slowly, hesitantly, he closed his arms around her tightly and held her quaking body against him. What did it matter? They were alone, and she had been through hell. " It’s over." He said soothingly into her ear. "He’s dead. As dead as his brother."
"Are you alright?" Bulma’s eyes glittered like twin diamonds, as she gripped his shoulders fiercely. "When he shot you with those damned drugs again, I thought for sure we were going to have to go through that hell all over again. I froze until I found that damn tranq gun, but he just kept coming. He wouldn’t die…" She choked and he soothed her gently. She looked down at the now useless stun gun she held tightly in her hand. She let it fall and it clattered to the ground.
"I’m fine woman." He gritted his teeth in rage at his carelessness. "I was angry…and I—" He clamped his mouth shut, unwilling to admit that he had let his anger get the better of him. He had known that Costa would use the damned gun, had believed himself capable of overpowering it. He had been so sure…His arrogance had nearly cost her, her life. Ironically, it was the very same gun that had probably helped to save her life. He clenched his fist in her hair at the thought of how he had failed her, and how close she had come to death.
Thanking every God he knew that she wasn’t a weak woman, he held her closer to him, uncaring if she felt the tremors that raced through his own body. He had reached another level of Super Saiya-jin. He had gone beyond Super Saiya-jin because of her. His desire to protect her had sent him over the edge and allowed him to ascend to levels he had never believed possible. She was his strength, not his weakness like he had once thought. She was a fitting mate for a Saiya-jin warrior and Prince. If they had been on Vegitasei, he would have gladly paraded her before any and all of his race. She had proven her worth more times than naught, and today she had held her own as his equal in battle. Bowing his head, he rested his forehead against her hair, inhaling the scent of her sweat and blood deeply. If she’d had more energy in the gun, she’d probably have killed the half-Saiya-jin herself.
"I love you, Vegeta," Bulma whispered urgently against his chest. "I don’t care if you never say it back to me in our lifetime. All I care about is that you know how much I love you."
Vegeta crushed her against him passionately, kissing every inch of her tear-stained face. "Woman," he muttered shyly. "I—" He had no particular talent with women. She was the first one he had ever really dealt with, and he had no idea what to say to make her feel what he felt for her. Words were so inadequate, and really in the end said very little of what you were truly feeling.
Bulma laughed wetly against his chest, pulling herself more tightly against his body.
"Don’t worry about it, Vegeta." It was enough to see it shining on his eyes. He cared for her, really cared for, and she had no doubts now. They would be together forever.
"I’m keeping you," he muttered fiercely, irritated that he couldn’t tell the woman what she wanted to hear. He could admit it to himself, despite the horror the thought caused him. He was helpless to hide from the truth. Perhaps, later, after this ordeal was completely over, they might be able to sit down and work things out. He was no talker, but he was certain that he could convey a few things to her.
Bulma tipped her head back and stared into his black eyes, gracing him with a light smile. "Well that is good to hear." She said with a hint of amusement lacing her voice.
I love you, Bulma. He croaked the words out through their bond, eyes averted from her face like a petulant child. That is the only time I will ever be able to truly say it to you.
Turning his face to hers, she said nothing, merely bestowed him with a blinding smile that took his breath away. Unable to look away, he stood there, shamed that he was allowing himself these few personal moments when he should be back upstairs destroying artificial humans. It was that thought that finally gave him the motivation to look away.
"I have to go and defeat the artificial humans. Trunks can hardly handle them all on his own. I’ve been able to sense him, and so far he’s holding his own but…" Vegeta pulled away from her, the cold mask on his face once more. "I want you to go away from here. Go back to the shelter and wait." The brat had yet to tangle with Juuhachi, and when he did, Vegeta wanted to be there.
"I can’t," she stared at him with wide, blue eyes. "I gave all my capsules to my father."
Vegeta compressed his lips in a tight, slashing line. "Dammit, Bulma. It isn’t safe."
"I’m safe with you." She pointed out. "I’ll stay out of the way, I promise."
Vegeta’s eyes blazed for a moment, before he nodded. "You had better. If I see one strand of your hair in sight, I will blast you myself."
Bulma smirked for a moment, but refrained from egging him on. He needed to go and help their son. That was more important than anything else. "There’s a mainframe down below. I think it controls a good part of his cyborg army. If we can destroy it, we might be able to shut almost all of his systems down for good. "
"After I’ve destroyed those damned tin cans," He rasped, grabbing her up under his arm. Lifting into the air, he flew low. "I can’t sense Kakkarot at all, but his mate is still in the room that Costa found you in. Gather her and find a safe place. I don’t want to have to be concerned that I might accidentally kill you."
"I’m going to go back down to the mainframe, Vegeta, and wait. I’ll try to break into the system and see if there is anything else I need to learn about. You’ll come for me, afterwards, right? You’ll help me blow it up?"
"Do you doubt that, woman?" Vegeta asked incredulously. What did the woman need as proof of his loyalty to her?
"Oh, no, Prince, I don’t doubt you at all." She smiled mischievously, a sudden fierce joy flooding through her. He could easily take apart the artificial humans. She had seen for herself his new level of power. They didn’t stand a chance. The odds of their survival had just gotten a whole hell of a lot better. She was sure of it.
"Doctor Briefs!" Gohan shouted. "He’s moving! I saw his hand clench!" Excitedly, Gohan leaned over Piccolo, searching for any other signs of life.
Briefs hurried over to them, placing a finger on the Namek’s wrist. His pulse had strengthened. Reaching for his small flashlight, he lifted one of Piccolo’s eyelids, shining the light into them.
With a fierce roar, Piccolo reared up, sending the Doctor flying. Sitting up, he looked wildly around, trying desperately to get his eyes to focus on something.
"Mister Piccolo!" Gohan shouted. "Are you alright?"
"Gohan? " Blinking rapidly, Piccolo relaxed slightly as he felt his eyesight slowly start to focus and sharpen.
"Mister Piccolo!" Gohan said in relief, a happy smile filling his face. "Look, Doctor Briefs, it worked! The antidote worked!"
Heaving himself up off the ground, Briefs smiled at the boy’s joyful exuberance. "So it seems, Gohan." Walking towards the Namek, he felt a grin split his own lips. He had held onto his faith and been rewarded. Maybe now they could get some answers about what had happened to Kami. He was fairly certain that if Kami disappeared, Piccolo would as well. That he was standing in front of them was proof that somewhere, Kami was still very much alive. And that meant they might be able to use the Dragonballs. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Piccolo." He said calmly, after a moment. "We have a lot to talk about."
* * * * *
Coming Chapter Fifteen:The final battle between the Saiya-jin and the Artificial Humans. What did happen to Kami? Fixing the world, making decisions and Trunks farewell.