Theoretically there was nothing to be nervous about, and of course Bulma wasn't nervous. Her lips were dry, her palms inexplicably sweaty, but that had nothing to do with anything other than the waiting… didn't it?
Ok, perhaps she was overdoing her own tenacity a little, but the reasoning was simple. She didn't want to let Vegeta intimidate her, no one who had stayed at her house ever had. That, you see, was precisely why she left her message with Dende and hadn't met him by the pool herself. She had to have some authority over every situation and making him do the legwork seemed her surest way of producing a result.
Being a creature of comfort and leisure once again after the moths she had spent in depravity she had decided early on that she was going to enjoy the luxuries of home for the longest time possible. She had to remember that she was the important being in the house and that as such, her guests should at least know who she was and Vegeta more especially needed to realize that she was the one doing him a favour, not the other way around.
Of course this didn't calm the racing of her pulse or stop her from lighting up a cigarette and inhaling deeply as the figures she had been studying for the last twenty minutes came ever closer.
Leaning back on the sofa, she pushed her legs onto the coffee table and tried to look as casual as possible as the lock turned.
"Hey!" She greeted, looking up to the intruder through the green haze of a VDU.
She hadn't expected he would answer, and he performed his role delightfully. He didn't so much as look in her direction as he entered, but instead made a beeline for the piping hot food. She watched as he lifted a plate and snagged a piece of gammon steak, moving to sit in the armchair opposite.
"One thousand two hundred and forty one."
He glanced up.
"The scouter reads your energy level as one thousand two hundred and forty one."
Mystery explained, he scowled and carried on eating. It was mesmerizing in a weird kind of way. How did he stay so compact and slim when he could stuff away so much? It was another mystery to the Saiyan enigma that was worth exploring. At least Goku had height and breadth to explain his appetite… Vegeta on the other hand… but perhaps she was being a bit hasty. He might be compact but his muscle definition was perfect. When she had watched him work out earlier it was something inspiring in itself. Not being able to help it she tried ineffectually to trace the lines of his chest through the gauze of his white top.
He looked up again… this time with a deep frown on his lips… was she staring? Her cheeks crimsoned and she pulled her eyes away.
"You know it took me an extra hour." She commented, stubbing out her cigarette, and trying to turn the direction of her thoughts. "Can you believe that? I was working on the darn thing a whole hour before I realized that there was in fact nothing wrong with that reading. Tell me…" She whispered, "How much have I got to add on before I get even close to the truth."
He raised an eyebrow, and opened his mouth, but the words when they came were simple. "Not enough for my liking."
Bulma would be lying if she didn't admit she was a little disappointed, but she supposed that getting him to acknowledge her was the first step… getting him to trust her… well she could wait for that. Rather than pushing the matter she simply laughed at herself for having expected more.
It was the wrong thing to do.
Vegeta moved quickly. Pushing the table aside, he was very promptly standing in front of her. Before she could move, before even the alarm bells of self-preservation could be heard, Bulma found her wrist trapped and twisted in a painful hold. Vegeta's nose was no more than a millimetre away, the growl berating through his teeth, fanning her with hot breath.
"That makes you happy ningen?" He snarled.
"No… I wasn't laughing at you…it was… shit that hurts…"
His eyes searched hers, predatory, ruthless, and cold. She shivered and tried to pull away. His grip didn't lessen.
"Be assured." He rasped in a deathly quiet, "When the time comes… it will be more than enough."
His stare held her motionless for a while longer and then as though withdrawn repulsively, his hold was dramatically released. In the blink of an eye he had retreated to his chair and was happily shovelling back food as though nothing had happened.
Bulma, struggling to regain her senses, was left rubbing her wrist in shock.
How did he do it? Lose it and then rein in the anger so quickly. It was as though his normal composure was balanced on the edge of a chasm, ready to flip and fall with even the slightest push, and yet by his very own control, it saved him just as he was about to hit the bottom. Well perhaps she was doing his temper more justice than it deserved. She didn't doubt that many an innocent had paid dearly for such a mistake.
Tentatively she looked back up. His occupation hadn't changed. He was still devouring his feast as though he hadn't eaten for a month. There was a sense of familiarity in the action, perhaps ingrained through her friendship with Goku, despite the fact, surprisingly or not, the murderer in front of her had better table manners. It was just the same as when she had watched him train on her mother's patio so dedicatedly that afternoon. In his own way, Vegeta wasn't as different as he wanted everyone to believe. It had taken her by surprise, how… well… normal it was. It was Vegeta, and yet it was as though the narrator of her life did a swift u-turn and made the villain not quite as daunting as he had appeared in the previous chapters.
She shook her head. What was she thinking! Her wrist was still thumping in agony, wasn't that difference enough? She couldn't afford to keep slipping up. She had been so careful in the laboratory. She knew he could be pushed, but that didn't mean she could extend that liberty too freely. The only way forward was to observe and to keep her emotions in check. Of course it was made all the harder when a misplaced laugh could be all it took to make him fall.
"Take it off."
Bulma had missed the last of his food as it had been inhaled from the plate.
"The scouter… take it off."
She did as she was told.
"Give it to me."
Getting up from the sofa she handed it to him and sat on the arm of his chair. He scowled in warning and standing promptly back up, she moved away, laying both arms on the back of the couch instead. Silently she watched from there as he put the scouter to his ear and turned it on.
His normal scowl deepened, accentuated by the dim lamplight. "What the fuck is this? I thought you said it was fixed!"
"Ningen… don't push my patience or you'll have more than a sore wrist to worry about. The circuitry is still malfunctioning, the text is completely fucked."
Bulma exhaled in relief. "It's working fine… I just used a programme to translate it into Japanese, that's all."
With a look of deep distaste he pulled the machine away and flung it to the sofa. "Then why the hell bother repairing it at all. I can't find a fucking thing with it like that!"
Leaning over the back, Bulma scooped it up. "I'm sorry. I didn't think you'd have a problem reading it, you speak our language so well, but that's ok… just tell me how to find the files."
He contemplated for a moment before shrugging indifferently. "Go to the main page and click the side twice as though fixing a power reading."
Bulma did as she was told.
"At the top left is a search engine from the Ice-jin mainframe. Even a being of your limited brain capacity should be able to find what you need from there."
Bulma's eyes widened in shock, "You mean it's that easy? No password… encryption… nothing?"
"The scouter is a tracking device." He stated impassively. "Anyone searching information of that sort would instantly become a target. Frieza ran his empire on fear and living power, not technology."
"Still… it seems a little… lax."
"You think an instant bounty on your head and the Ginyu force hot on your heals is lax?"
"Well… perhaps not, but I mean, what other information is available and how much space would have to be covered to get the Ginyu force there in the first place? How long would it take for say one of Frieza's fastest ships to get from Namek to earth? It has to be more than enough time for an enemy to plot his downfall."
"I don't think you quite grasp this concept onna. We are talking about the Ginyu force here, and at a push Frieza himself. It would be suicide no matter how much time there was to plot. Besides it is only the less important technology that is not password protected. Anything of more importance was only shared amongst the Cold family."
"Still I…" Bulma froze. Did she just hear that right? A chill skittered up her spine. "F… f… family? There are more of them?"
She looked uncertainly into his eyes just in time to catch a flitter of emotion cross the black of those orbs. His teeth were gritted as he ran a hand through his hair. He didn't look like he wanted to answer.
"Vegeta, please… do you know something the rest of the Z Senshi don't?"
He didn't say anything.
"Please?" She asked again. Her voice was shaky.
He exhaled, lowering his hand. "The information I am about to give you has nothing to do with your pathetic warriors ningen, and you will say nothing to them about it, is that understood?"
Bulma nodded. "You have my word."
"Of course. If it is broken I have licence to kill you." He stood and moved to the window, looking out as though studying the stars. "As far as I know there are only two others. Frieza's father, King Cold, and his brother, Cooler."
"And they're still alive?"
"How…" Her mouth was dry, "How powerful are they?"
"I am not sure. King Cold is not as powerful as his sons. Maybe a little over Ginyu's level in his last body."
He turned to face her. "No one knows for sure. He has not been seen for many years. Being the older, it is plausible that Cooler has surpassed his brother."
Bulma grabbed the scouter and flung it from her face.
"Shit! I've been using this thing all afternoon! What if…"
Vegeta chuckled openly. "What if indeed… but the chances are that King Cold will come here soon enough anyway."
"H… how can you be so relaxed about it?"
He looked away. "Because it's an interesting prospect. King Cold should not be a problem for me, even if I am still here when he arrives, and Cooler…" He grinned evilly. "…Cooler will be a formidable challenge. I'm not sure that even Super Saiyajin would be enough to defeat him, but I look forward to finding out." He spoke positively and turned to stare at her. "That is why I do not want anyone knowing. Kakarrot took my destiny and my vengeance away from me. Once he is dead Frieza's demise will rest in its proper place, at the hands of the Saiyajin Prince, and then the Cold family will fall once and for all."
He continued to stare, but Bulma couldn't look away, something in his features was plagued with such esoteric meaning that all she could feel was overwhelming curiosity to know more. "You want vengeance that badly?"
His smirk morphed into a frown "You don't believe I'm capable of it, of reaching Super Saiyajin?" He growled.
"That's not what I meant, but having been Goku's friend for so long I have to believe that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. I might not want you to achieve Super Saiyajin, because I know what that might mean for my friends and I, but I can't deny the truth. I have seen how powerful you are." She lifted her wrist. "And felt it as well."
He sneered, "I've seen Yakurian flea's with more power than you onna, that is proof of nothing."
Bulma smiled. Was that half a joke?
"But I guess no creature that has been so sheltered could possibly grasp the concept of what it is like to have warrior blood." He continued. "That is why I look forward to the Ice-jin's retaliation, even if it is years away. We Saiyajin's live for the challenge … we thirst for it. Let ten fleets of Frieza's kith and kin come. I will defeat them all."
"Yes." He agreed, with a sardonic grin "Yes I am."
Stooping, he picked up the discarded scouter and pressed it into Bulma's hand.
"Now enough of this nonsense! You will stop wasting time and get the information needed, because there will be much more to worry about if I have lost even more training time because of your idiocy."
She tentatively folded her fingers over the small machine. Her whole sense of security was shattered and complying with his wishes was now no longer a point of obstinacy.
"You have all the information you need there."
She nodded mutely, and inclining his head by way of a farewell he left the room.
As soon as the door clicked quietly behind him all the strength in Bulma's legs evaporated and she sunk to the floor. "Shit." It was the only word her mind could muster into words. "Shit, shit, shit!"
She stayed that way for many minutes afterwards.
It was hard to digest all the information. She hadn't thought of anything past Frieza. It had been just the same as every other disaster she had lived through, the repercussions of the tyrant's death hadn't even crept into her mind. How could her thoughts have become so linier? What other clouded threats could the planet earth have to suffer in the wake of such an upheaval in the universes balance of power?
When Vegeta had first arrived on the planet, hell bent on finding the dragonballs and destroying anything that got in his way, she had believed his power was absolute. She remembered thinking at that time that there couldn't possibly be anything more formidable than the Saiyajin prince, but she had been proved wrong on Namek. What made Frieza any different?
Vegeta had been right about one thing, there was no use wasting time. She had lived through so much, it was stupid to get all worked up now when the threat wasn't confirmed. Making sure there was someone on planet that could help out if needed was all that could be focused on, more especially centring on that time they couldn't rely on Goku. If one of Frieza's vengeance-driven relatives decided to materialise before they had a chance to wish him back then they were pretty much up shit creek.
The Namekians had little or no chance even with their placid but well tuned fighting ability. It was unfair to rely on Gohan. He was just a child, so that just left Piccolo. Was he strong enough on his own to quash such a threat? Would he want to? He was still pretty much an unknown to her. Vegeta was even more so, but at least he had a reason to want them dead.
Her mind was made up from that minute. Vegeta staying on earth was no longer a matter for diplomacy, it was an issue of necessity, and she realized almost immediately that she would have to be the one to make it happen.
Clipping the scouter cautiously back into place, she searched its vast data banks
Over an hour was dedicated to this one practice, but satisfied that the information she needed was there she continued on… and she was right. Not long after the hour mark she stumbled on the files needed. There was a sense of defeatism that didn't sit well in her stomach but speed was the objective not pride. After all… what was pride worth after being on the receiving end of a big bang attack? Still she kicked herself for not being able to figure it out on her own. She had wasted so much time on worrying about controlling the amount of power subjected to the dampeners that she hadn't even considered using it to solve the problem.
With the unsettling acceptance that maybe her genius wasn't unrivalled in the grand scope of the universe, she committed herself that evening to adapting the alien blueprints for compatibility with her fathers space pod design… and that's precisely what she did. It was by no means an easy task, but proved simpler than she at first had reason to fear.
It was one week later.
Vegeta was very determinedly fixed in his brand new training room and completely oblivious to the dampeners recycling his energy, pumping it straight back to the central computer, and bypassing the critical level of heat they were subjected to in all Bulma's previous testing.
It appeared on the whole that Vegeta was pleased with his new training room. At least Bulma deduced he was, considering she hadn't seen him once since giving him the password, and not even a syllable of complaint had been uttered in her direction during or after his inspection. She, however, could not say the same. The pod had been working beautifully for a little over two days, and already her mind was aching for something to take it away from the monotony of everyday life.
She couldn't explain why, but her home just didn't have the comfort level she had experienced before her visit to Namek. She believed that half of the reason was because she missed her close friends. There were no visits from either Krillin or Son-Kun to break up the pace of her life and even though her house was teeming with guests, it almost made her feel lost. Perhaps it was the amount of strangers at Capsule Corporation that made it so uncomfortable, however polite the majority of those strangers might be.
One of the main reasons she felt so displaced was because a very important person in her life was missing, or to be more accurate… dead, and would remain so for at least another fifteen weeks… Yamcha. She missed him so badly at times, more especially when she was in her living area, curled up on the sofa and on her own. It was pathetic how lonely she was. Work was a distraction, but not the cure she needed.
The television had been blaring static for the last twenty minutes and reluctantly she gouged the remote from behind the leather cushions and put it on stand-by. It was late, perhaps one, half one in the morning. She had spent the day in relative quiet. She wasn't needed in the laboratory and so had done nothing more poignant than eating fresh pastries from the local bakery and making sure her guests were well supplied with water.
The evening had been dedicated to going through some of her old home movies, wishing that things were as simple as they had been back then. The last tape in particular had held her captive, swelling her heart with a warm fuzz of nostalgia and sadness. It had been taken during the days leading up to Vegeta's first arrival on planet.
All her friends had taken a time out from their training and had been treated to a large barbeque at Kame house. Despite his hermitic aptitude the perverted old master certainly knew how to throw a party, and the day had gone strangely well. It was as though a calming cloud of complaisance had settled over the small island, perhaps brought in on the front of some warm ocean air current, and made everyone get along. Even Chi Chi had appeared subdued, and although she was still her pushy obstinate self, it was in a calmer inclination, muted with the flow of the tide and the sparkling sun.
Then there had been Goku, Krillin and Chaotzu, their usual placid selves, and even with the loss of Lunch, Tien seemed a distant shadow of his usual nervy and high-strung self. To a certain extent they were ignored for the majority of the day, because no one could have kept her from Yamcha's side. He had spent a long period of time in the desert, away from her and the Capsule Corporation and was almost officious in his attention.
Nothing was beyond her comfort that day; he had been attentive, affectionate and playful, reminding her of how he had been when they were younger. His smile dazzled her, his touch excited and his warmth comforted. The usual disagreements and bitching had been put aside and there was nothing to feel but the beautifulness of being together.
The video hadn't been much, but enough to send little pangs of sadness piercing through her heart. The camera had been close to his face, zoomed in so much that you could see the sunlight dancing in the depths of his eyes, his smile radiating placidity as he shied away from the lenses close scrutiny. And then there had been his voice. She hadn't heard it since the day they had regrouped on earth after being wished back. But then it wasn't so much of the Yamcha that she loved. That day on the beach it was just the way she remembered it, gentle, insisting, but in such a light, caring and playful manner. It made her heart clench and hot tears of emotion prickle down her cheeks.
That was how it was affecting her now. Damn him! Why did he have to leave her? Her conscience told her off for being selfish, but she couldn't help it. She missed him so much. Did he have any idea how hard it was for her, whilst he was living it up (so to speak) with his friends in otherworld, training under King Kai? Didn't he think of her… of how much she would miss him? "Selfish!" She scolded.
Having lost the light of the television she now sat in total darkness, her cheeks sore from the tears. Strangely enough though she didn't feel ready for bed. She was emotionally drained but not tired. She knew she wouldn't be able to sleep until she'd washed away her troubles under the warmth of a refreshing shower.
She wandered in a haze to the bathroom and started to undress, letting the silk of her summer dress pool to the tiled floor. She stepped cautiously into the booth and after adjusting the temperature, let the water pelt her skin.
Five minutes came and went in the blink of an eye, and she was midway through purging her skin with an aromatherapy gel when she felt it. It pierced the back of her mind, prickling up her spine. "Is someone there?" she questioned nervously, and instantly felt very stupid for asking.
Disregarding the sensation she continued, softly humming a lullaby remembered from the cotton wool of childhood memories. She felt it again, and this time it was so powerful that she dropped the sponge. It was as though someone was reaching out and touching her mind telepathically. One of the Namekian's perhaps? Ridiculous! Vegeta? No… she shook her head, that would be just plain creepy.
"Stop that! Whoever it is! Go away!"
There was no answer. Bulma shivered, wrapping her arms self-consciously around her exposed body. The sensation had been so real, and not knowing what quite had happened, but acknowledging the lasting effects on her already cracked emotions, she sobbed… full and hot tears.