Chapter 67: The Real Threat Awakens

It didn't take Bulma long to find Vegita. The chi trail he left behind as he rocketed after Gero was so fierce that it extended nearly for a half-mile behind him. Bulma knew that if she resumed time's flow as she flew alongside him, he'd simply blow past her, and he might not notice her presence in his zeal to reach his quarry. She didn't want to get in his way, but she did want to talk to him, if only for a few moments. He'd taken off too quickly for her to tell him where she suspected Gero's lab was, and besides, he needed to be made aware of the fact that Gero was sure to lay low if he sensed Vegita up above him, charging out after him like this. They had to be sneakier, or they'd never catch him in time.

Bulma flew out a good mile ahead of Vegita, and then she allowed time to flow at a crawl. As he advanced upon her, she was relieved to see the look of recognition on his face, and the scowl of annoyance as he heeded her raised hand and stopped in front of her. Bulma let time flow at its normal pace and shot him the briefest of smiles.

"Out of my way, woman," he growled at her. "Between me and my prey isn't a position most sane people would like to find themselves in."

"I know, and I'm sorry," she said hastily, "but I had to. Vegita, you're rushing into this too quickly. You don't know where Gero is going, and besides, if you zoom around so conspicuously like this, you're just going to alert him to where you are, and make him hide all the more. We need to try to sneak up on him, or we'll never catch him in time."

"And I suppose you know where he's off to, do you?" Vegita grumbled at her, his eyebrow twitching angrily at being hindered thus. "Don't think I'll stand for much more of this, woman, because I'm in no mood for games!"

"I'm trying to tell you that I might know where he's going," she said impatiently. "Dad found an article about him in a scientific journal, and everything it said about him was true. The only thing I never followed up on was the place where they'd guessed Gero had set up a secret lab. I didn't want to walk into a situation I couldn't handle, so I never went looking for it. The fact that he took off in the direction of the mountains cinches it, though. He's got some kind of lab built out there, and if we can find it quickly enough, we can keep him from reaching it. Finding Gero is going to be all but impossible; he doesn't give off a chi signature, and he's deadly cunning. If we keep flying around up here, he'll simply slip past us by a route that isn't visible from the sky, and we'll be the first ones he sets his other jinzouningen loose on. I want to kill him before that happens, and I've got a plan. Are you interested in hearing it, or are you going to ignore me and go off on your own to just wait for him to outsmart us?"

Vegita let out an angry snort. "You'd better make this worth my while," he snarled. "Spit it out already. We're wasting time!"

Less than a minute later, Bulma had stopped time and was racing toward the mountain range that was mere miles away. Her jaw was set, and her eyes were peeled. She had to be as observant as possible for this task, and she knew that she had plenty of time to get it done, so there was no excuse for rushing things.

Bulma's plan was this: she was to teleport ahead and search for Gero's lab. If she found either it or Gero en route, she was to fly back to Vegita and bring him there to deal with it. Time was their greatest enemy right now, so if she could make up for what they'd already lost by doing this, it would be a great help. She only hoped that the lab would be easier to locate than Gero had been so far. Even if she was a genius, she wasn't going to be able to find what she couldn't see.

Bulma made an exhaustive search of the dozen or so major mountains in the range, and although she thought she had come close on several occasions, she never once found anything that could have been the concealed entrance to a secret laboratory. Likewise, she never found Gero, either.

She was considering the possibility of searching again, when something occurred to her that made her bite her lip anxiously. Perhaps that journal had been wrong. Maybe Gero's lab really wasn't out here, and he had only headed this way to throw them off of the trail. What could they do if that was the case, though? She had no idea where else one would hide a secret laboratory in this part of the world. The mountains were surrounded on nearly all sides by desert, and the only side with any green was densely populated. Gero might have been tempted to hide in plain sight, but something told her that a malicious man like him would have been discovered sooner or later, as he'd be likely to do more than simply scare off anyone who got too close.

Deciding that searching just wasn't achieving what she wanted, Bulma sighed and flew back to Vegita. She had no choice. They were simply going to have to do things in another way.

"It's no use," she muttered when she resumed time after she'd returned to where she'd left him. "I can't find anything out there that even comes close to what I'd expect to see. Either he's hidden it extremely well and I'm just not good enough to find it, or it's not out there at all. I can't help thinking that it might be easier to find Gero than his lab, after all. At least he's bound to be out moving somewhere. Still, I didn't find him either. I'm open to suggestions, Vegita. My plan failed, and there's nothing I can say to excuse it."

"Never mind," he said gruffly. "It's not as though you wasted a great deal of time, even if you did waste more energy than was needed. I'll at least give you this much, though; your idea of being less conspicuous as we search is less pitiful than I'd expect from you. We shall search on the ground, with our power suppressed. Perhaps we'll have the good fortune of discovering the old fool before he wakes his other toys, but either way, he won't survive this day, and neither will his other creations. As a matter of fact, I'm rather pleased with this turn of events. I'd prefer that he did wake up another couple of jinzouningen for me to smash. Let him wake his feeble toys. All of them will soon see how meaningless their weak, fake little lives are!"

"Vegita," Bulma said with a scowl, "that's just stupid. Taking unnecessary risks won't guarantee us victory; killing Gero before he wakes up the other two will. We need to find him and fast, or we might end up over our heads here. I know you're all fired up now that you've come back, and believe me; I'm so excited to see you that I can't stand it. But just the same," she added, crossing her arms and frowning as she looked down at the ground below them, "something about the way Gero looked when he told us about his other two jinzouningen makes me really nervous. The man's not an idiot, Vegita. He watched every move you made when you fought Nineteen, and if he thinks these other two jinzouningen can beat you, then they very well might be able to."

"You'll soon feel foolish for underestimating me like that," Vegita growled in an irritated tone of voice. "I've heard enough. We're wasting time here anyway, so perhaps you'd prefer to do something more constructive with your time than spending it whining at me. We will resume searching for that mechanical fool. I'll take the western half of the mountains, and you will cover the east. Find me and bring me to him if you discover him; I forbid you to confront him alone!"

Without another word, Vegita dropped to the ground and took off at a blindingly fast run for the westernmost mountains in the range. Sighing dejectedly, Bulma followed suit and headed for the eastern half. She hoped that if Vegita did find Gero, he'd just do away with him immediately. She couldn't help worrying about how that insufferable pride of his might be his undoing one of these days.

- - - - -

Bulma had only been searching for some ten minutes when she began to sense the approach of Piccolo and Gohan. Kuririn, Tenshinhan, and Chaozu were some distance behind them, and beyond them was another, somewhat familiar power that she couldn't quite recognize. Bulma stood stock still as she focused on this strange power, and she studied it with a confused, irritated frown on her face.

"Who is that?" she muttered. "It can't be Yamucha... I know it's not Goku, either. It feels so familiar, though... I wish I knew who it was."

She was still musing aloud when Piccolo and Gohan flew overhead, and she leapt up into the air to join them. "Hey!" she called out to them, beckoning them toward her. "Come here for a second, you two!"

Gohan turned and flew toward her, but Piccolo seemed less eager to do as she asked so obediently. He made a point of scowling at her as he grudgingly turned and followed Gohan.

"What is it, Bulma?" Gohan asked her. "Did you and Vegita find Gero, yet?"

"No," she admitted. "I've done an exhaustive search of the mountains in halted time too, and I've been unable to locate anything that even remotely resembles a lab. We've seen neither hide nor hair of Gero, and I'm beginning to get worried that he shot off in this direction just to throw us off his trail. Vegita's searching the western half of the mountains, and I've been searching the east. You guys are welcome to join in, naturally."

"We'd better get going, then," Piccolo grunted. "Kid, you head out that way." He pointed off in the direction where they could sense Vegita. "Stay out of Vegita's way, but don't ignore him, either. It's likely that if he finds Gero, things are liable to get explosive around here, and you won't want to get too close."

"Right, Piccolo-san!" Gohan exclaimed, nodding and dutifully flying off to carry out his sensei's orders.

"What are you going to do, Piccolo?" Bulma asked. "D'you have any plans you could throw my way? I haven't made a lick of headway out here so far, and I'm open to suggestions."

"I'm going to search in this vicinity," Piccolo grunted. "Gero must have been heading this way, because there isn't anywhere else around here to hide that makes any sense. If you can't figure out what to do, you might try bringing the others here so that they can help us search. More eyes will mean fewer places for that thing to hide in."

Bulma grimaced at Piccolo's caustic dig at her incompetence. "Fine," she sniffed angrily. "I guess that's a good idea. See you later, Piccolo." She vanished instantly, and Piccolo allowed himself a light smirk. Perhaps she wasn't as thick-skulled as she could be. At least she was beginning to realize how useless she was by herself.

Although they hadn't been aware of it, Gohan, Bulma, and Piccolo were being watched. Gero weighed his options as he stared critically at the three adversaries in the clearing beyond his hiding place in the bushes. He knew that something had to be done. He couldn't just flee to his lab now that so many gawkers had come to find him. He had to use other means of securing his safety, and he had just realized what means that would be. In order to become strong enough to defeat Vegita, he'd have to make himself stronger, and very much so. In order to do that, he was going to have to absorb a large amount of energy. So who should he drain first? Should he focus on the boy, the girl, or the Namek?

The boy seemed the least likely of them to give him any trouble, as he was weaker than the Namek, but unable to spirit himself around like the girl. However, his weakness only made him a less desirable target. Gero needed chi energy, and lots of it. The girl didn't have enough either. It appeared that his first target should be the Namek. Now, how was he going to manage this? If the girl saw him attack the Namek, she'd simply knock him away and possibly blow his plan. Wait a minute... the boy was leaving. Good. That made things easier. If he could incapacitate the girl and latch onto the Namek quickly enough, he ought not have much trouble.

Gero was about to leave the cover of the bushes when all at once, Bulma disappeared. She had left! He grinned a cruel grin as he realized that they had made his task all too easy. His prey was just waiting to be taken!

Bulma tried to ignore the nagging uneasiness she was feeling as she raced out toward Kuririn, Tenshinhan, and Chaozu. They were all in a fairly close grouping not far off, but not far beyond them was that strange power she had sensed before. In all her eagerness to fill Piccolo and Gohan in on the situation, she'd forgotten to ask them what they had made of their strange follower. Now wasn't the time to dwell on it, though. She had to get these three out to the mountains to help with the searching.

When she did reach them, Bulma wondered for a moment how she was going to get them all in one trip. If she wasn't careful, she might injure their limbs or knock them into one another too much in flight. Two people were easy to carry, but three was a little trickier. Finally, she came upon a happy bit of brilliance, and she allowed time to flow again.

"Hey guys!" she exclaimed as she quickly took up a position alongside Kuririn. "Would you like a quick transport out to the mountains?"

"Bulma!" Kuririn exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Why aren't you on up ahead?"

"We're having some difficulty finding Gero, and Piccolo thinks that if we all search, we'll have better odds," she told him. "I'm here to take you guys out there, only I need to conserve my energy, so I want to do it in one trip. Come on; join me on the ground for a sec. I need to do something before I take you out there."

They all did as she asked, and they watched with interest as Bulma quickly opened her boot flap and took out her capsule case. After removing a small capsule from it and quickly replacing the case in her boot, she punched the button on it and tossed it out in front of them. It popped open to reveal a small, convertible cruiser, big enough to seat four.

"Hop inside," she ordered, grinning as she pointed at the seats in the open-air vehicle. "This way I can take you guys there without knocking you around too much!"

"Heh-heh! Looks like we're riding to the mountains in style, boys!" Kuririn laughed as he quickly hopped into the driver's seat. "Nice going, Bulma! This way I won't be so dizzy when you bring us out of it!"

Bulma shot him another grin, but she folded her arms impatiently as Tenshinhan and Chaozu got into the cruiser and laughed along with Kuririn. "Buckle up, okay?" she asked them. "I don't want to run the risk of flipping you guys out of there along the way. Don't worry; I'll unbuckle you before I let time start again, so there won't be anyone ambushing you."

They did as she asked, and when everyone was buckled and ready to go, she stopped time again and lifted one side of the car. She was glad that it was one of the smaller ones; it wasn't more than she could handle, but one of the larger vans might have become a little annoying after a while. She hefted the car up onto her back and took to the air, flying carefully but quickly back to the mountains.

When Bulma returned to the place where she had left Piccolo, she dropped the car in her surprise. Gero had his legs wrapped around Piccolo's waist from behind, and he had one hand clamped over the Namek's mouth, and an evil grin on his insufferable face. He was doing something unpleasant, and judging from the strained, angry expression on Piccolo's face, it was also something very painful. Bulma forgot all about Kuririn, Tenshinhan and Chaozu, and she immediately shot over to Piccolo's aid, wrenching Gero's limbs off of him and shoving him away. Without thinking once about the consequences, she let time flow again and immediately formed a fist-sized tokidan. As she belted Gero in the face with her super-hard projectile, several things happened at once. The car she had been toting the boys in dropped awkwardly onto the ground and flipped over, surprising its unfortunate passengers and causing them to struggle out of their seat belts in an effort to escape their uncomfortable surroundings. Piccolo let out a great gasp and dropped shakily onto one knee, and Gero let out a surprised grunt as Bulma's tokidan slammed into his nose and knocked him backward.

"At last you've come out of hiding!" Bulma snarled, panting a little as a rush of adrenaline bombarded her body with a fresh surge of power. "I had a feeling you were coming this way, Gero. It looks like you really do have a lab out here somewhere. Well, it's too late! We've found you out, and it's only a matter of time now before Vegita gets here and destroys you!"

"Little wretch!" Gero spat, fingering his dented nose and glowering at her. "How dare you interfere? You shall pay dearly for this!"

Bulma didn't hesitate this time. Immediately she slowed time, and she was none too soon. Gero made a rapid lunge at her, and she only narrowly darted out of his way in time to avoid the punch he had aimed at her face. He quickly whirled around to catch her in the back of the head with the ball of his foot, but she leaped over it and planted her hands upon his leg as she swung her body upwards. She swept one leg through the air to counterbalance her next move, and then she snapped the other leg around, savagely kicking the side of his face. She pushed off of him just in time to avoid having her leg seized by his grabbing hands, and she did several handsprings as she darted away from him. She bolstered herself as solidly as she could as he charged at her, and she quickly resumed time's flow and formed another tokidan.

That had been a grave mistake. She had misjudged his speed terribly, and she hadn't left herself nearly enough room to act. She had only enough time to form the small ball of slowed space-time before he was upon her. With a savage yell, he kicked her viciously in the side, sending her crashing into a nearby tree and uprooting it completely as she bounced off of its trunk, her collision making a terrific cracking sound as it crunched the wood of the falling tree. She fell to the ground, but she barely had time to gasp before he had pounced on her, and immediately he landed a fierce stomp onto her chest, shattering her ribs as though they were matchsticks. Bulma's eyes opened wide, and she tried to scream, but he had forced all the air from her lungs.

Realizing that he had at last incapacitated her, Gero kicked one foot underneath her side before neatly tossing her up into the air with it, seizing her neck in one hand as it came up to be level with his shoulder. "I suppose I'll have to settle for draining your chi instead," he said with a smug grin. "You've blown my chances with the Namek, but at least I'll have the satisfaction of making sure you meet a sticky end before I have to deal with that annoying Vegita. Come along, my dear! We're going for a ride!" Before Piccolo or the others had recovered themselves enough to come to her aid, Gero bolted into the trees, dragging Bulma behind him by the simple hold he had on her neck.

As they raced through the forest, Bulma could feel - among other discomforts relating to her injuries and being jostled so violently in his flight - the agonizing, searing sensation of being drained of her energy through his grip on her neck. She wanted desperately to fight him, or to at least slow him down, but as it was, she was already loopy and weakened from her injuries. Damn it all... if only she'd stopped to consider her actions before attacking him. She should have gone and retrieved Vegita instead of trying to stall Gero like this.

"You don't have much left," Gero chuckled at her as he felt her strength flicker and dwindle feebly in its dying gasps. "I think I'll make a show for the others as I dispose of you properly!" He leaped up high above the tops of the trees and tossed her into the air above him like a rag doll. "Farewell, foolish girl!" he laughed cruelly, firing a devastating blast at her. He grinned evilly as he watched his deadly beam streak through the air at his helpless victim. His grin was premature, however, and he realized this very fact when a dark streak intercepted the path of his beam just before it was to connect with its target. Instead of obliterating the girl, the blast continued on harmlessly into the sky, and Gero let out a snarl of anger as he realized that he'd been thwarted, and she'd been rescued by someone. He turned to face this new adversary and was surprised to find that it wasn't Vegita who had delivered her from her doom. Rather, it was a new face – a young boy wearing a denim jacket and dark clothing. He had a sword strapped to his back, but even more noteworthy was the presence of the Capsule Corporation emblem on his jacket. His power felt insignificant, but that could mean anything, with most capable fighters' ability to mask their true strength. The boy was cradling her limp body in his arms, but he wasn't looking at her. He was staring at him, and the look on his face was both astonished and angry.

"I don't know what connection you have to that girl or to the Capsule Corporation," Gero yelled up at him, "but it makes no difference in the end! Your efforts were remarkably swift, but they were in vain, nonetheless. You may have spared her from my blast, but you've only prolonged her suffering! She will still die from her injuries, and I will still destroy you, along with the rest of that infernal corporation and its allies!"

"I don't know who you are, old man," the boy called out to him, "but I won't forgive you for this! When I've seen to it that Mother has healed, I'll come after you, and I will destroy you!" With that, the boy was off like a bolt of lightning, so far away in the blink of an eye that it was as if he hadn't been there at all.

Gero had only briefly registered a spike in his power sensor, but its intensity made him pale with shock. That boy was a behemoth of strength! He almost seemed on par with Vegita! This was very bad. He was going to have to wake up Eighteen and Seventeen after all. Damn it all... he had hoped against hope that he could avoid involving those willful brats in this. He wondered if they'd actually obey him for once and destroy these pests before they rebelled against him. He had no other options left. Vegita was already making his way across the mountains toward him. It was now or never.

It only took Trunks seconds to bring Bulma to where Piccolo, Kuririn, and the others had gathered, but that didn't matter much; he was frantic with anxiety. If she died here, what would happen to the future? What had he done? He landed in the midst of the confused group, and he immediately demanded to know if anyone had any Sensu beans.

"What the?!" Tenshinhan gasped. "It's that kid from the future!"

"And he's got Bulma with him!" Kuririn gasped. "Hang on, kid; I've got some right here! Let's hurry, before we're too late!"

Weak with relief, Trunks immediately rushed to Kuririn's side, and he tried to keep his arms from shaking too badly as the monk carefully poked the life-giving curative into Bulma's open mouth. They all waited patiently to see if they had been in time to save her. Bulma was nearly past the brink; she was so weak now that they could barely sense her chi at all.

Although she was now unconscious, Bulma's throat was gulping uncontrollably in its efforts to clear a path through her blood-filled bronchial tubes to let in some much-needed air. She swallowed the Sensu whole, and within moments, she came careening back to her senses, gasping as her shattered bones knit themselves in mere moments, and her lungs filled rapidly with blessed oxygen. She gave a start and her eyes popped open, and she stared up in surprise at the one in whose arms she was now reclining.

"It's you!" she exclaimed, realizing at last that it was the person whom she had sensed earlier, and forgetting all else. "You're the one who came to warn us! The super Saiyan from the future!"

"Thank Kami," he sighed, setting Bulma down onto her feet and shaking his head. "I thought for sure I had come too late. How in the world did Father ever let this happen to you?"

"Huh?" Bulma asked in surprise. "Father? You mean your father? Is he here too?"

"Tell her who you are, Trunks," Piccolo muttered in an irritated growl, "but do it quickly. Gero has shot back down into the trees, and he's headed for his lab to wake up the other two jinzouningen, no doubt. Kuririn, you go see if you can find where he is. Gohan, you go with him. I've been weakened too much to be much use to you now."

"Right, Piccolo," Kuririn replied. "Here. Eat this if you wanna. You'll probably need it eventually anyway if you can't fight." He tossed him a Sensu bean before he and Gohan took off toward the place where they'd all seen Gero dip down into the trees on the adjacent mountain.

"Wait a minute," Bulma demanded. "What did you say his name was, Piccolo?"

"My name is Trunks," the boy answered for him, lowering his eyes and shuffling uncomfortably. "I suppose Son Goku must have told him who I was. At least he didn't tell you."

"Trunks?" Bulma gasped. "But that doesn't make any sense! That name couldn't possibly be so commonly used!"

"It isn't," the boy said with a sheepish grin. "I've certainly never met another person with that name, and it usually gets me a few strange looks when I introduce myself."

"You mean to tell me that you're... you're..."

"He's a weakling," Vegita snorted as he landed beside them, nearly scaring Bulma half to death. "Anyone who'd let that pitiful mechanical junk heap get the better of him can't be anything but!"

"Vegita!" Bulma exclaimed, gripping his arm and pointing at Trunks with wide, astonished eyes. "This boy is our son!"

"What the devil are you babbling about now, woman?" Vegita snapped at her, glaring at Trunks as though this was all his fault. "Have you scrambled your brains? Our son shouldn't even be able to walk yet!"

"No, I mean he's our son from the future!" Bulma snapped back. "Use your head, you twit! He's from the future, and his name is Trunks! He's a super Saiyan! He's... he's future Trunks!"

For the briefest of moments, Vegita looked as though he'd just been punched in the gut. He stared at Trunks with unqualified disbelief, but remarkably, his composure wasn't gone for long. "Feh. I don't have time for this," he growled, shaking Bulma's hand off of his arm and stalking away from them. "That old coward was here, wasn't he? I saw him with my own eyes when he attacked you out there. I've no interest in jawing with you cretins when I could be destroying that mechanical menace!" Without another word, he took to the air and shot out toward the place where Gero had disappeared.

"Bull-headed idiot," Bulma muttered angrily, shaking her head at him. "Well, I can see now why you couldn't tell us who you were, er... Trunks," she said, finding the name difficult to use on someone who seemed so unlike her pudgy little baby. "In any event, I'm glad you're here. Gero is going to try to awaken two more jinzouningen, and it'll be great to have another super Saiyan on our side, now that Goku has fallen ill and all."

"Please, tell me what's going on," Trunks begged her. "Everything's all wrong! I passed by what looked like a battlefield earlier, and I found the remains of what must have been a jinzouningen, but it wasn't one of the ones I know from my time! That man who attacked you – that was really Dr. Gero?"

"Yes, it was," she said, arching an eyebrow at his claim about Nineteen. "You mean you've never seen him before either?"

"No," he replied. "The two jinzouningen I know aren't anything like either of them. They both look like teenagers, and one is a blond girl, and the other is a black-haired boy. They're incredibly powerful, but they look like normal teenagers. The only thing that sets them apart as far as appearance are those eyes... I'll never forget those terribly cold and heartless eyes of theirs."

"Maybe it's not such a bad thing that you neglected to tell Son what the jinzouningen you know look like," Piccolo grunted, cricking his neck as his Sensu bean restored his strength. "It seems several things you told us have been a little skewed. Son didn't come down with any symptoms of his illness until our fight today, for one thing. Either your estimates were a little off, or something strange is going on here."

"I know; it's all so mixed up," Trunks replied, gritting his teeth. "Mother told me that since the jinzouningen in our time were still around, it could mean that you lost the battle here even with Son Goku. However, I'm beginning to think that something else is going on."

"Well, in any event, we don't have time to worry about it now," Tenshinhan broke in. "Kuririn's power is spiking. I think that means that he's found Gero. Come on; we have to go to where he is and lend a hand."

"I'm going to do more than lend a hand," Bulma growled angrily. "I have a bit of a score to settle with that psycho. I hope you don't resent this, Trunks, but I need to borrow your sword for a few minutes. I'll meet you guys up ahead." Before anyone could reply, she stopped time and drew the sword from its sheath on Trunks' back. She then made a beeline for the place where she could sense Kuririn's chi. She only hoped she'd be in time to make a difference.

Minutes later, she had found Kuririn, and Gohan was with him, too. They were standing on an outcropping of rock on one side of a wide gorge. Kuririn was hovering in the air, and he was glowing slightly. His eyes were closed and his fists were clenched, but his expression was one of deep concentration, not pain or anxiety. Gohan was standing beside him, and he was staring fiercely at something across the gorge. Bulma turned to see what he was staring at, and she found to her surprise that there was a small cave over there, and Gero was just barely visible inside. Two large, metal doors were halfway open in front of him. Apparently that was the entrance to his lab. The doors were exactly the same color as the surrounding rock, and if Gohan hadn't been staring at them so fiercely, she might have overlooked the entrance a second time. She felt a little stupid, even if it was well-hidden. Well, it was time to rectify that, as well as all the other mistakes she'd made with Gero. This time, she was taking no chances.

"This ends now," Bulma growled, making a beeline for that cave. She landed on the rock beside Gero, and she brandished Trunks' sword menacingly. She tried to determine just how she was going to do this. Should she cut off his head? Maybe she should try stabbing him first. She glanced inside the cave as she debated the issue with herself, and all at once her attention was drawn to the lighted room inside. This was his lab. It was sure to hold all kinds of secrets about his work, as well as any flaws or weaknesses he might have. Maybe she should have a look around before she killed him. Yeah, that was a good idea, she decided.

She walked inside and looked around, staring with interest at all the equipment and blueprints which were lying all over the place. The man wasn't very organized at all... how strangely like her father. She immediately shook her head and gritted her teeth. There was no way she was going to think things like that! Gero was in no way like her dad, and she hated him. The fact that he was a slob didn't change that.

"These must be where he keeps the other jinzouningen," she mused aloud as she turned around and saw three upright pods against the wall. Each one had a small, blue porthole showing its contents, and each one had a number on the front. One of them was open, and it was the one marked with the number nineteen.

"I suppose his other jinzouningen are seventeen and eighteen," she mused aloud, walking over to the pods and staring through the translucent portholes at the shadowy figures inside. "Well, he won't get a chance to wake them up. I'll see to that."

Bulma searched all through the blueprints and schematics she could find in the untidy, cramped room, but she saw nothing that looked even remotely helpful. If she was going to find anything out, she was going to have to find it out from Gero, and she figured she had about a snowball's chance in hell of that.

All at once, a tempting idea occurred to her. She could always try to force the information out of him. As long as these jinzouningen existed, they were a threat, and until she learned how to properly dismantle them by looking at the schematics of their construction, she couldn't be sure that mere force would be enough to destroy them. There was no guarantee that even Vegita could handle it, considering the fact that Trunks himself had been unable to defeat them in his time. It would be better to be on the safe side and have some good old-fashioned technical sense on their side. She had an idea of how she wanted to do this, but she wasn't sure exactly how it would play out. It would be better to have the boys here to back her up, but she didn't have enough time to fill them in on the details before he woke up his creations. It was either now or never.

Setting her jaw, she walked over next to jinzouningen Seventeen's pod and hid behind it, out of Gero's view. She let time flow at a snail's pace, and she waited patiently as he walked inside the lab and grabbed a remote control from a little niche on the wall. The doors swung shut behind them, and then they were alone. He was inside, and he was heading for the pods. Now was the time.

Bulma stopped time again, and she walked over to him and studied him for a few moments. What would be the best way to do this? After a few moments' careful consideration, she made her decision. She raised Gero's left arm – the one with the controller in it – and as it hung suspended in stopped time, she stepped back a pace. With one deft swipe of the blade, she sliced his hand off completely. As the severed hand hung eerily in the air beside his slightly lowered arm, she took a few steps back and brandished the sword menacingly at him. Here went nothing.

Bulma allowed time to resume its course, and she watched as Gero gave a start and gasped in surprise. His hand fell with a clatter onto the cold, tile floor, and he looked up in surprise to see Bulma in his lab, brandishing a sword at him and glaring at him with eyes full of hatred and fury.

"How the devil did you find this place?" he exclaimed. "Why the devil aren't you dead? Has the entire world gone mad?!"

"No more questions from you," she replied coldly. "The next words out of your mouth had better be the location of the schematics for jinzouningen Seventeen and Eighteen, or the next part I cut off of you won't be so trivial."

Gero backed away from her a couple of paces, and all at once Bulma saw something in his face that she hadn't really expected – a look of unrestrained fear. "Why do you want those?" he demanded. "You can't just expect me to simply hand my life's work over to the likes of you!"

Encouraged by the positive effect her threats were having on him, Bulma took a step forward. "I intend to dismantle these abominations as soon as I've finished with you," she replied icily. "If you wake them up they'll only kill you anyway, if what the future has told us really will come to pass. You and Nineteen were not the jinzouningen we were expecting. Seventeen and Eighteen are; I can see that now. At least if you give me the schematics to these two monsters, I can destroy them properly and keep them from rampaging throughout the world, killing everyone and everything, including you. You deluded fool; you've been so eaten up with the idea of revenge that you've created your own Frankenstein's monsters, and once they turn on you, no one will be safe. If you give me the schematics and agree to stop this madness, you just might leave this place with your life. If not, my next slice will be fatal, and I'll find their blueprints myself sooner or later. The choice is yours, Doctor. Choose wisely."

Gero glanced furtively at the two pods containing his jinzouningen, and then he glared back at Bulma. Finally, with an angry sigh, he let his shoulders sag and he shook his head. "Ten years," he muttered. "Ten years I've toiled on these two. They are my magnum opus. I hope you realize that the technology in their design is the kind of genius that this world could truly benefit from. Imagine it – with technology like this, people can live forever! By simply transplanting the brain of a person into an artificial body, he can live a thousand lifetimes! Are you really so willing to destroy such vast potential?"

Bulma sneered. "I'm not so afraid of death that I'd try to cheat it for that long," she chuckled. "I've already told you before that I've seen the afterlife, and believe me; I'm in no hurry to go back, but when that time does come, I'm not going to panic. What's waiting for me there isn't the end of the world. I can't say the same for you, though. If you were to die today, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't like what you found there.

"Now," she said, pointing the sword at him and tensing her muscles. "Quit stalling, Doctor. Where are the schematics?"

Gero scowled at her. "They're over there," he said, pointing to the opposite side of the room. "They're back there, in a hidden compartment behind my molecular destabilizer."

Bulma turned to see where he was pointing, and in doing so, she made a ridiculously stupid error. In the split second that her focus was turned from him, Gero darted forward and gave her a savage punch to the side of her face. Both the sword and Bulma went crashing into the opposite wall, and as she began to fall forward, Gero was right in her face. He gripped the front of her face in his right hand and slammed her head into the wall, stunning her with the blow. He let her fall to the floor at his feet, and as she stirred sluggishly, he shot a sinister chuckle at her.

"You naïve simpleton," he said with a pitying shake of his head. "Did you honestly think you could scare me with something so childish as a sword? The very idea that a nothing like you could ever evoke fear in someone like me is so laughable it's insulting. Still, the fact that you managed to find my lab and sneak inside - not to mention cut off my hand - is certainly something worth complimenting. To show you how impressed I am by your achievement, I'm going to grant your request, albeit more empirically than you might prefer. Rather than bore you with flat schematics, I'll allow you to witness the awakening of my creations for yourself, so that you may marvel at the genius of their design. Of course, you won't have much time to marvel, as the first task I intend to give them is to dismember you."

"B-bastard," Bulma spat at him, gripping her forehead in one hand as she tried to stop the world from spinning. "They'll kill you as soon as they're awake. At least I'll get to see that!"

"Peh," he scoffed at her, walking over to where his hand and his controller had fallen. He bent over and picked up the controller with his remaining hand. "I've perfected their design already. There'll be no more disobedience from these two, and even if there is, I've got the situation well in hand." He held up the controller for her to see, and he sneered at her. Then he walked over to the pod marked with the number seventeen, and he pressed a button on the controller.

The pod let out a beeping sound, and then the front half of it slowly began to swing upward from the hinge at the top. As Bulma began to regain her ability to move, she stared in horror at Gero, who pressed a button on the controller again, causing the second pod to open as well. Seconds later, both were open, and she could see the two creatures inside. Eighteen was an attractive, blond young girl, and Seventeen was an equally attractive, black-haired young boy. It was as Trunks had said. These were the real threat he had warned them about.

The two jinzouningen opened their eyes and climbed out of their pods, all while Gero shot a grin of triumph first at Bulma, and then at them. "Jinzouningen Seventeen," he addressed the boy. Then he turned to the girl. "Jinzouningen Eighteen."

The two turned to look at Gero, and after a pause, they spoke. "Ah, Dr. Gero," Seventeen said in a calm, courteous voice. "How are you today?"

"Hello, Doctor," Eighteen said, her voice just as calm and polite. "How nice to see you again."

"Good, good!" Gero cried, beaming at them both before smirking evilly at Bulma. "How fine to see you both functioning so well! It appears that my repairs have worked well on you both. Now then; I'm afraid I must cut our pleasantries short. I have an uninvited guest I'd like for you to dispose of for me," he said, nodding at Bulma and smirking at them. For the first time, the two new jinzouningen turned around, and their gaze fell on Bulma. She felt a chill run through her as she realized what Trunks had been talking about when he had mentioned those eyes. They truly were cold and heartless.

"You see," Gero said, strolling forward past them and folding his hands behind his back, "she is one of several pesky insects who are threatening to destroy me. Naturally, they don't really have the power to do so, but I thought you both might enjoy a little exercise after such a long period of down-time. Once you've disposed of her, I'll expect you to take care of the others, who are waiting outside the lab as we speak."

"I gave you several chances," Bulma snarled at him, balling her hands into fists as she focused her chi. "I can see now that you're not even worth the parts you've been built from. This is the end, Gero!" In an instant, she had stopped time. Grunting painfully, she pushed herself upright and glanced around for Trunks' sword. She found it lodged in a dusty, inactive machine off in the corner, and she pulled it out with a grim scowl. She wasn't giving Gero any more chances. She knew what she had to do.

With slow, purposeful steps, Bulma walked over to Dr. Gero. Without a moment's hesitation, she drew back the sword, gathered her strength, and in one, clean swipe, she sliced off his head at the neck.