Vegeta heard his wife's retching when he walked into their bedroom and he immediately did an about-face and left. Out in the corridor, his shoulders slumped as he felt a rare pang of guilt and he went back inside and walked over to the bathroom. Cautiously, he rapped a knuckle on the partially closed door. "How do you feel now, woman?"
"Feel?!" came the expected response. "How the hell -urp!- do you think I feel? I -hurk!- feel like shit!"
"That's an improvement," Vegeta said. "Last night you said you wanted to die."
There was the sound of the toilet flushing and then Bulma appeared in the doorway looking haggard and pale. "Still do," she croaked and wandered over to the closet, swaying slightly as she considered her wardrobe.
Vegeta realized what she was doing and crossed his arms. "You don't honestly expect to work in that state."
"I'm Company President. I don't have any choice," she said weakly.
"That place can survive one day without you."
"No, it can't."
She tried pulling on a pair of pantyhose, a challenge even for fit women. At first she had them inside-out and then backwards. By the time she finally had them on the right leg, her fingernails pierced the fine mesh and created a run. She balled it up and threw them away with a sound like a sob and put her hot face in her hands. "That was my last pair. Now I'm going to have to shave my legs. Damn it."
Watching the show from a safe vantage point, the Saiyan gamely tried again, "You are in no shape to work. Go to bed."
"I can't!" she yelled, glaring over at him. Her blue eyes were fever bright and shiny with unspent tears. "I have a meeting with executives of Quantum Dynamics this morning."
"Damn it, Vegeta! I've been raving about those idiots for the last two weeks! Haven't you been listening? Oh, don't answer that. I've been in negotiations with them for months and they've finally agreed to a meeting with me to discuss a possible merger. If I get them, it opens up a portion of the private sector that Capsule Corporation has never managed to penetrate."
Releasing a huff of exasperation, she continued, "It means, Mr. Wizard, more exposure for the company. More exposure means more contracts. More contracts means-"
"-more money." That, at least, was a concept he understood. "These... executives. They're all that stand in your way to this goal?" He appeared suddenly lost in thought at the prospect.
"They know they have something I want. Badly. They've been stringing me along and driving me nuts with the carrot-on-the-stick approach for weeks. This is the first time that they want to actually discuss a potential deal. I have to be there for the meeting."
"I'm sure puking all over the negotiation table will impress them," he said snidely.
She might have shot an expletive back but her stomach lurched and she was racing for the toilet again. Vegeta patiently bided his time until she staggered out of the bathroom and he caught her by the shoulders and steered her towards the bed.
She tried to fight his grip and whirled around to start arguing. The smell of her breath was enough to make him cringe but he bravely held his place. "Don't you get it? I can't postpone this thing. There isn't anyone else who can talk to these bozos except me. I have to go!"
"You are in no shape to go anywhere," he said. To prove his point he poked her in the chest and she fell strengthlessly backwards across the bed. "And you're wrong. There's another who can easily do these negotiations in your place."
Gathering up fistfuls of the rumpled sheets, Bulma weakly wrapped them around her shivering form as she looked up at him in misery. "Oh yeah? And who's that?"
His slight smirk only broadened.
Three levels down in the kitchen, Trunks looked at the clock on the stove and announced, "Mom's late."
"Mom's always late," Bra quipped between spoonfuls of cereal. For a five year-old she ate enough to sustain four pro-football linebackers and yet possessed a slender, almost waif-like build. Traits of her unique lineage.
"Well yeah, that's true," her older brother admitted. He glanced at the clock again. "But this morning's really important. She has a nine o'clock meeting with Massive Dynamic-"
"Quantum Dynamics," she corrected.
His face darkened slightly in annoyance. "Whatever."
"You gotta get the names of other places right. It's your job, isn't it?"
"I'm just an intern. Mom's showing me the ropes from the ground up. I think she expects me to someday run the place or something."
"Really? That's so cool, Trunks!"
Trunks looked at her in disbelief. "Are you kidding? I don't want that! All I want to do is-" Get laid, spend money, and goof off, he almost said and bit down on the words barely in time. They were close as siblings but there was a fourteen-year gap between them and everything he said was immediately parroted to their father. Vegeta made it painfully clear that he would not tolerate either of his children becoming useless bums like his chief-rival Goku. It was just Trunks' poor luck that he was the son of a pair of crazed workaholics and Bra seemed to be following in their footsteps. "I'll make you a promise. If I can't handle being President, I'll step aside and let you take a crack at it."
"Deal!" she shouted, having absolutely no idea what she was agreeing to. She went back to her breakfast with renewed gusto.
Trunks considered the time again and finally decided enough was enough. He knew his mother was sick with the flu, but he would never hear the end of it if he let her oversleep. He was just starting for the living room door when it swung open from the opposite side. "Finally! I was just going to get- Holy crap!"
Bra's blue eyes widened and her spoon dropped from numb fingers into her bowl- Plop! "Wow, poppa! Look at you!"
Vegeta appeared wearing an immaculate three-piece navy blue suit with a crisp white shirt and a red silk tie. His dress shoes were polished to a satin shine. There was a gold pin on the left lapel displaying the Vegetasei royal family crest. In all, the tailoring was exquisite, like most of his casual clothes, but it was rare when he actually went out of his way to dress up, especially to this extent. Even his hair looked tamed from its usual alien, flamed style.
Jeez, who died? Was Trunks first amazed thought as he eyeballed his father up and down.
"Your mother is staying home today," Vegeta said as he snatched a piece of toast from Bra's over-laden plate and began to eat it over her protests. "I'll take her place at the meeting this morning."
Trunks was trying desperately to process all this new information. "Dad, do you even know anything about..." he glanced over at Bra and she mouthed the correct name, "...Quantum Dynamics?"
"What's to know?" he asked in a bored tone of voice. To Trunks' relief he saw that his father was carrying Bulma's briefcase that had all of the necessary information he would need for the negotiations. Vegeta opened the case (to review the information, Trunks thought) and, to the teenager's horror, upended the contents on the table. He then proceeded to fill the carrying case with leftovers from the fridge.
"Do you want my lunchbox, poppa?" Bra offered, completely unruffled by the display.
Vegeta took one pained look at her bright pink "Hello Kitty" bag and wisely shook his head. "This will do just fine."
"Dad, you've gotta read these notes over!" Trunks shouted, rifling through the myriad charts, stock reports, financial audits, and corporate reviews that had taken the Capsule Corporation research department over a month to collect. He held up a CD and waved it in front of his father's face. "At least review this! It's got all the information you're gonna need about these guys you're meeting!"
Vegeta snatched it out of his hand and used it as a coaster for his coffee mug. "I don't need it. They're corporate fat cats out for money. I've dealt with greedy pricks like-"
"Twenty zeni!" Bra piped up.
Vegeta set his jaw and dug a twenty zeni bill out of his wallet and stuck it into the swear jar next to the stove. He continued as if he hadn't been interrupted, "-I've dealt with idiots like them since I was Bra's age."
"Yeah," Trunks agreed and opened their telepathic link so that the youngest member of the household wouldn't overhear: *And you killed them all, too.* His mother had told him of his father's dark past several years ago and, when asked, Vegeta never sugar-coated the details or denied his actions. Bra was oblivious however, and Trunks intended to keep it that way for as long as possible.
Vegeta looked back at his son with exasperation. *You're as bad as your mother*, he sent back. *No one will be killed. Threatened, maybe. Intimidated, certainly. But there'll be no deaths.*
Trunks dropped his eyes in shame. *Sorry. I just... I worry-*
"So much like your mother," Vegeta sighed. It wasn't an insult, but it wasn't exactly a compliment either. He sat down and dug the newspaper out from underneath the corporate notes and began to read as he nursed his coffee. "You're going to be late for work. Are you still in the mail room?"
"What? I- yeah, I'm still there." Trunks shook his head. "Never mind about that! What about you? You're the one who's gonna be late!"
Vegeta glanced over at the clock. It was quarter to nine and the headquarters portion of Capsule Corporation had moved to the far side of the Western Capital. The domed yellow building they lived in was now primarily used for research and development.
"This is how serious negotiations are supposed to start," he said enigmatically. "Make them sweat." He went back to reading the paper while Trunks gaped at him in disbelief.
An elaborate stretch limo was parked at the curb in front of the Capsule Corporation headquarters building. It had been idling there for quite some time. "It's ten after nine, Mr. Bates," the chauffeur informed the group of five sitting in the cabin.
"That's fine, Jeeves," said Gil Bates, Sr., the chief executive officer of Quantum Dynamics, and then grinned wolfishly to his companions as he added for their benefit, "Let her sweat some more."
"Miles, let's review again," Phil Forbes, their corporate lawyer, turned expectantly to the blond man on his left.
"Bulma Briefs," their research associate, Miles Murphy, began scrolling through the files on his laptop. "Took over the presidency of Capsule Corporation nineteen years ago from her father, the original founder and creator of the Hoi Poi capsules. Since then, the company dramatically changed its product line, allowing it to expand into a worldwide empire; fashion, automotive, space, communication, IT. You name it, Capsule Corporation has their hand in it. It's become an international conglomerate."
"All of that on her own?" asked the fourth member of the group, Austin Parker, the chief accountant.
"She's a genius, there's no doubt. The amount of patents churned out by her research staff tripled after she took power. Some really interesting stuff, too. She came up with an exhaust refit that allowed the company to corner the automotive market-"
"Blah, blah, blah, we all know she's smart," Bates muttered in disgust, "Hell, the whole damn planet knows it. I don't care about that. What's her profile?"
"Classic, driven Type A personality. Loyal to her company and staff but she's equally committed to her family. Trunks, her nineteen year-old son, is currently interning at the company. Being groomed for the throne, so to speak. Bra, her five year-old daughter-"
"Holy crap, what is it with these names?" sniggered the fifth member of the group, Martin Klass.
"It's a family eccentricity to be sure," sighed Miles. "The daughter just started private school and has already been bumped up to the second grade. Her husband is Prince Vegeta-"
"Prince?" Bates interrupted, looking interested for the first time. "Seriously?"
"His claim. It's never been authenticated, not that I looked very hard. He's a martial artist. Doesn't appear to have anything to do with the company."
"Martial arts," Klass scoffed. "Riiight. Bet I could show him a few moves." He was Gil Bates' bodyguard and all-around bagman; the person who generally handled the dirty jobs and made them 'disappear'. He was also the 6 foot, 8 inch intimidation factor that became a key figure during troublesome negotiations with stubborn bureaucrats.
The chauffeur cut in with, "Nine-twenty, Mr. Bates."
Bates ignored him. "Recommendation?" he asked Miles.
"She's emotional. Highly so. It won't be hard to get her agitated. I say get her entirely off guard, let Klass have a few, uhm, words with her, and then make your demands. She'll cave."
"Hell, Miles, we don't want her walking out!" Parker snapped. "We need this merger. I've fudged the books to make Quantum Dynamics look viable but it's sinking fast and we all know it."
"What we need," Bates cut in with a hard glare to them both, "is the highest possible offer we can get out of her. She wants our company as bad as we want her money. I'm not just handing it over. She can afford it and I want her to pay!"
"Sir-" the chauffeur began.
"All right," Bates said, motioning for Jeeves to get out and open the door for them. "It's show time, boys."
Once they announced themselves to the reception desk, they were directed to an elevator that took them to the top floor of the building and then led swiftly into private boardroom deliberately set apart from the usual brisk chaos that made up Capsule Corp.'s daily routine. It was prepared for the meeting and equipped with state-of-the-art presentation software, teleconferencing equipment and well-stocked with various gourmet coffee decanters, juice, water, and a mountain of pastries.
Bates and his group admired the room but couldn't help notice one very important thing:
They were the only ones here.
Bulma's secretary knocked once on the door and stepped inside to announce; "Ms. Briefs offers her apologies but is running late. She will be here shortly."
"Unacceptable!" Bates shouted even as the secretary darted back out of sight. He shot an angry glare at Miles.
"It's out of character," was his only answer for the break in routine. "She always arrives a half hour early for meetings."
Bates settled his bulk down into the nearest chair. "She'll pay for this. Nobody makes me wait. Nobody in this entire world. When I see her-"
"Bulma isn't coming," announced a stern voice from the back of the room.
Heads turned. Standing beside the open window was a lone figure in a three piece suit and a briefcase. He was short, with a severe widow's peak, and had intense raven-black eyes. Miles Murphy recognized him immediately. "Prince Vegeta."
"You know me. Good. I can't stand introductions," he said and walked to the front of the room, setting the briefcase on the table. He shrugged out of his coat and laid it carefully on the backrest of the head boardroom chair. "As I've said, Bulma won't be here. I'm going to handle these negotiations in her place."
"Unacceptable!" Bates said for the second time as he rose to his feet. "I've been in exclusive talks with Bulma-"
"You will refer to her as President Briefs," Vegeta cut in sharply. "I will even permit 'Ms. Briefs' as a token act of civility. Unless you're fucking her, you don't get to refer to her by her first name. Understand?"
Jaws dropped all around. To say that Gil Bates' face colored was an understatement, his complexion turned positively crimson all the way down to his shirt collar. He sputtered briefly and then turned towards the door, "I'm the chief executive officer of Quantum Dynamics! I've dealt with bigger corporations than you and I don't have to put up with this bulls-"
"Sit your ass back down."
Bates' hand wavered over the door knob. He looked over his shoulder at the husband of Capsule Corporation's president. "What did you say?" he choked out. Beside him Martin Klass began clenching and unclenching his massive hands as if throttling an imaginary opponent.
Vegeta stared back at him with half-lidded eyes. He leaned against the heavy boardroom table and crossed his arms as he said, "Don't fool yourself. You've never dealt with a company as large as this one and we both know it. If you seriously want to talk, I'm here to listen but understand this: There are no second chances. If you walk out that door, you won't be coming back."
Shit! He's serious, Bates realized, staring back into those cold eyes. They were the eyes of a predator; emotionless, without compromise or compassion. The executive knew those eyes well; he saw them every single time he looked into a mirror.
Slowly, he backed away from the door and tried desperately to regain his composure. "I need to confer with my associates."
Vegeta nodded but didn't move from his casual position. "You have ten minutes."
In the back of the boardroom Miles was cringing under his group's stares and whispered curses as he stared bleakly down at his laptop.
"I want to know everything about that son of a bitch, you hear me?" Bates hissed into his ear. "We'll break at eleven-thirty and by then you damn well better have a profile I can use. I'm running blind right now!"
"I can't believe you didn't research this guy," Forbes said, running his hand back and forth through his thinning hair.
Miles had his hands splayed in surrender. "You told me to focus on Ms. Briefs. The husband's a ghost. He hardly ever leaves the research building!"
"Martial artist," Klass snorted, glaring over at the small man. Vegeta was standing at the window apparently considering the view. "He can barely reach up and touch my nose. You want me to-"
"No!" Forbes snapped. "The usual strategy isn't going to work with him. You stand down and keep your big mouth shut."
"Go!" Bates snarled at Miles, inclining his head to the door. The researcher wasted no time leaving so that he could set up somewhere private and do a thorough investigation into this sudden anomaly they were faced with. Right from the start Miles had had a bad feeling, and the day was just getting started.
"We're ready to begin," Bates finally announced.
Vegeta moved away from the window to face them. "It's about damned time."
Trunks hated the mail cart. It had a loose front wheel that made a distinct squeak only his sensitive hybrid hearing seemed to pick up: Scree-scree-scree! When his mother had 'informed' him that he would be interning at Capsule Corporation, he had figured he would be playing as her second-in-command and enjoying the sumptuous comforts of her huge head office. He knew from past experience that the leather couch in her palatial suite was extremely comfortable and could easily fit two energetic bodies looking for a discrete nooner when she was away to a meeting. Little did he know he was destined to start from the bottom-up. The purpose of the lowly appointment was to learn the layout of the building and department locations as well as key members of staff. It actually made sense, but he sure didn't have to like it.
As he wheeled the rickety mail cart down the hall, he took note of the time and was amazed that the building was still standing. Eleven o'clock. That meant either the meeting with Quantum Dynamics had broken apart scarcely before it had begun-
-or, even more shocking, it was still going on.
It was usually much later in the day when Trunks made his rounds on the top floor but today he was going to make an exception. He got off the elevator and began dropping interoffice memos and documents into their respective slots, working his way over to the boardroom area and trying not to be too obvious about it. By the time he reached his destination he realized he wasn't the only one trying to catch glimpses of the meeting through the partially closed blinds. Most of the office staff were obviously disturbed by Vegeta's presence and there was barely any work being conducted. Everyone seemed to be holding their collective breath.
Trunks made it over to Bulma's secretary's desk to the woman who had been with the company longer than the teenager had been alive. "Hey Penny. How's it going in there?"
Her shoulders were squared up practically to her ears with tension. "If I'd known he was coming here, I would've called in sick," she stage-whispered. She had always been deathly scared of Bulma's husband and the fact that he was here alone was completely nerve-wracking.
Trunks nodded in complete understanding. "I know he can be a bit... rough-"
"That's not what I mean. He hasn't said a word to me. He hasn't left the boardroom. They've been at it for almost two hours straight and I haven't even heard him raise his voice. It-it's freaking me out!"
So it wasn't just the clothes, Trunks realized with surprise as he wandered over for a closer look. His father was actually taking this whole affair seriously and keeping his power, and trademark short temper, in check. He could understand Penny's fear; it was completely out of character for the Saiyan prince.
Through gaps in the blinds, Trunks could see that there were four representatives from Quantum Dynamics making their pitch. One was conducting some sort of holographic walk-through of the company while another did all the talking. Another was periodically sliding information sheets across the desk. Several seats down sat a huge behemoth of a man who only seemed to be scowling throughout the presentation.
Leaning back in the head boardroom chair, Vegeta appeared to be listening to what they had to say. It was hard to tell what he was thinking; his face was guarded and neutral. He suddenly sat up and opened his briefcase and the executives stopped what they were doing and stared at him with hopeful expectation. They blinked when they watched him pull out a sandwich and start eating. "I didn't have my usual breakfast," Trunks' sensitive hearing picked up. "Continue."
He's enjoying himself, the teen realized with a slight smile as he watched the harried executives try to pick up where they left off.
Trunks often made the rash assumption (as everyone else did) that all his father knew how to do was purge planets and kill. It was during rare moments like these he realized there had probably been other diversions to occupy his father's time while in Frieza's intergalactic army. Vegeta appeared to be well-schooled in diplomacy and mediation, and he looked extremely comfortable in the role.
I guess a guy can't train and battle all the time. Not even him, Trunks thought. I wonder if mom knows about this side of him? The fact that she wasn't here checking up on him, diarrhea and vomiting aside, answered his question. She knew all right.
"I'll be damned," he muttered, shaking his head and laughing. He went back to Penny's desk and said, "You can relax. Everything's going to be all right."
She eyed him doubtfully. "You sure, Trunks?"
"Positive," he said and went about his rounds with a rare skip in his step.
At eleven-thirty on the dot, Gil Bates rose from his chair and announced, "I think it's time that we all took a break-"
"That's not your call to make," Vegeta interrupted coldly, fixing him with a level glare that lasted for several seconds before he, too, got to his feet. "But I'll acquiesce to the suggestion. We'll meet back here at one o'clock. That should give you plenty of time to confer with your associate and find out how much information he's managed to gather on me."
Bates had been hurrying towards the door and now his, as well as his three partners, looked around at him in shock. Vegeta betrayed a slight smirk at their surprise and his black eyes zeroed in on Martin Klass's blue ones. "And I can do a lot more than just touch your nose, fugly. Believe it."
"Shit! He heard me?" Klass muttered.
"Shut up!" Parker hissed back.
Vegeta put on his coat and walked to the back of the room. "One o'clock" he repeated and then jumped out of the window. He did a deliberate fly-by past their dumbstruck faces.
"Downstairs. Now." Bates managed to say.
Once back in the relative safety of their limousine, the Quantum Dynamics executives all rounded on Miles Murphy who was still digging for information in cyberspace. "I'll give you what I've got. Now remember I only had two hours-"
"Just give it to me," Bates said, struggling with his temper.
Organizing his notes, the researcher cleared his throat and began. "I told you before that this guy was a ghost. That's not an exaggeration. Prior to 764 A.D. there are no records that this guy ever existed. It's like he materialized out of thin air."
"Thin air... funny you should mention that- " Martin grunted.
"Would you shut up?!" Parker said.
"B-but you all saw it! He flew!"
Bates never stopped looking at Miles. "We're not just dealing with some martial artist, are we?"
"No sir. His first public appearance on record was at the Cell Games. He was a combatant alongside of the rest of the Earth's Special Forces."
"He's a member of those guys?" Martin asked in disbelief.
Miles shook his head. "He's not listed in the official roster. It appears to be a loose association more credited to Bulma Briefs' close familiarity to the members than anything else. However, in every single major combat situation this planet has ever faced, he's been sighted among their ranks. He's not a member because he's in a league of his own."
Parker scowled at him. "What the hell does that mean?"
"It means he blows the big things up and lets the weaker fighters pick up the pieces. I don't have an abilities list but the fact that he survived the Cell Games as well as that business at the 25th World Tournament suggests he's one of the most powerful people on the planet."
"And you insulted him. Nice going, numbnuts," Phil Forbes said, glaring daggers at a pale-faced Martin Klass.
"There's more," Miles said.
"His high status with Capsule Corporation is not credited simply to marriage. Remember the surge of patents that took place after Bulma took power? Most of those are his. He works by contract for the Research and Development division."
"So they're a team. That explains a lot," Bates said, looking resentfully out of the window. He had wondered how Bulma had managed to take her father's little company and transform it into an international entity without rival. Now he knew. "Any recommendations on how to deal with him?"
At this point Miles' expression became downright grim. "His personality profile is actually similar to Ms. Briefs'; Vain, arrogant, and prideful. He's very protective of his family as evidenced when you," he looked at his superior, "referred to the President by her first name. I fiercely recommend against bringing up the names of either of their children. The consequences might be extreme. I came across a rumor that Ms. Briefs was once blackmailed and he killed the perpetrator. It's unsubstantiated, of course but..." He let the statement hang in the air.
Bates grasped the meaning and so did the others. There wasn't a successful company in the world that didn't dig a few unmarked graves along the way to prosperity; literally and figuratively. For Quantum Dynamics that nefarious task had been assigned to Klass and his performance to date had been impressive. By accident or design, Bulma had found her own bagman and he had the power, wealth and intelligence to get away with what he did in the shadows. Bates had hoped to saunter in and overpower Bulma with offers, charm and, if that didn't work, some alone time with Klass. The husband's appearance had turned the tables. Bates rubbed his forehead with a handkerchief and it came away damp.
Miles saw the rare gesture of indecision on his boss's face but plunged on. "The entire Capsule Corporation staff is deathly scared of the guy, except maybe for those in R&D. Those guys are crazy. Everyone's signed a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of employment. Whatever they know about him, whatever dark secret that existed prior to his appearance twenty-one years ago, they're not talking."
Visibly hesitating, Miles averted his eyes and said in a low voice, "I don't think he's from this planet."
Martin threw his massive arms up in a gesture of surrender and slumped down into his seat. For once in his life, he was lost for words.
"Great," Forbes said again.
Parker couldn't believe the others' acceptance to the news. "Are you kidding me? An alien?! That's the best you could come up with?"
"Earth has been invaded on and off by hostile threats for almost sixty years. It's a matter of record. Have you ever seen the members of the Earth's Special Forces? There's not a human-looking one in the bunch! You asked for my opinion and I gave it to you. For a fact: Prince Vegeta a no-nonsense hard case. He won't react to coercion or intimidation. With all due respect, gentlemen, we will be lucky to get any serious offer for Quantum Dynamics at this point in time."
There was a hard thump! as Bates slammed his fist against the upholstered door. "Damn it! We strung Bulma along to whet her interest in our company but we drew it out too bloody long!"
"It was my recommendation, sir. I shoulder the blame," Miles offered.
Bates rounded on him with bared teeth. "You're damned right you do! When we get back to the office, you'll clean out your desk. You're fired!"
"What are we going to do?" Forbes asked, trying to get them back on track. "Walk out of the meeting and go look for another buyer?"
Parker was agitated at the suggestion. "It's too late for that. I can't cook the books for much longer. It's a miracle that Capsule Corporation's accounting department hasn't spotted the discrepancies in what I gave them. I don't need to tell you what will happen to our stock options when word gets out that our own President hightailed it to Mexico with his huge, self-imposed bonus. We're on borrowed time."
While they argued back and forth, Martin Klass slouched further down in his seat and regarded the civilian traffic moving swiftly along the sidewalk. They were parked across the street from Capsule Corporation but this was still the business district and everyone on their lunch break was dressed in corporate attire. Dresses, pant suits, business suits-
-a three piece navy blue suit with a red power tie. "Uh... Gil," the bodyguard interrupted. "This limo's sound-proofed, right?"
Bates shot him a distracted glance. "Yes, of course and the windows are all one-way, bullet-proof glass. Why?"
"'Cause I swear we're being watched," Martin finished in a strained voice, jabbing his finger against the polarized glass.
Everyone in the car leaned over and, sure enough, Vegeta was standing across the street from them with his hands in the pockets of his tailored slacks. He appeared to be staring at the limousine for no reason that any of them could fathom. Hesitantly, Miles offered an experimental wave and Vegeta immediately returned it. There could be no doubt.
"Holy shit," Parker said in a sickly voice.
Vegeta tapped the wrist of his left hand, as if gesturing to a watch, and then took to the air. A few of the commuters on the busy sidewalk looked up in surprise but it was short-lived and everyone went back to their own affairs as if seeing this sight every day. Given Capsule Corp.'s reputation for the unusual, it was probably likely.
"I think our lunch break is over," Forbes said, adding a groan.
All traces of patience were gone from Vegeta's face when the five men walked back into the boardroom. "You have insulted me personally and you've insulted this company with your ignorance. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just boot your collective asses out to the curb right now," he snarled.
Struggling with his composure, Bates reasoned, "I believe we can come to an equitable settlement that will favor both parties."
"Do you now," the Saiyan sneered, clearly unconvinced. "I would suggest that you take a moment to come up with a reasonable asking price that might entice me. Be advised that I've notified the accounting department to go over your figures more closely. It's now just a matter of time who will placate me first." While the bigwigs scrambled to crunch numbers, Vegeta glanced over at Miles Murphy. "You're good. Want a job?"
Miles blinked in surprise and then looked at Bates and remembered the exchange in the limousine. "Yes sir," he admitted.
"What the hell-?" Bates said incredulously.
"Sorry Gil, but you fired me," the researcher said, adding a lame shrug.
"Go report to Personnel," Vegeta said, pointing to the door. As he watched Miles leave the boardroom, he had to submerge his surprise and admiration. The young human had accomplished in two hours what most freelance journalists hadn't been able to accomplish in a month; discover Vegeta's ambitions and origins. The Saiyan wanted him within the ranks of Capsule Corp. where the non-disclosure gag order would keep the man quiet and under his close eye. Humans weren't the only ones who believed in the saying 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. Frieza had taught him that hard and fast rule...
...And so much more.
He grappled with the old memories and was relieved when Bates offered him a folded piece of paper so that he could get back to the task at hand. He considered the offer for all of two seconds and then pulled out a pen, made a mark on the paper and handed it back.
Looking at the scribble, Bates glanced at him as if he wasn't sure if he was on the receiving end of a particularly bad joke. "All you did was remove a zero," he managed to say.
"And that's Capsule Corp.'s starting offer unless you can prove to me, with actual figures, your company is worth more," Vegeta said, crossing his arms and glaring at him with his predator's eyes. "I'm waiting to hear it."
Bates' mouth worked but no sound came out. For perhaps the first time in his long life, he was genuinely at a loss.
Less than an hour later, Trunks sensed his father's ki on the roof of the headquarters building and went up to offer his congratulations. The floor was buzzing with the successful outcome of the meeting with Quantum Dynamics, bought for one tenth of the original asking price no less, and the fact that it had all been accomplished without tantrums, casualties, or property damage. The teenager stepped out of the emergency exit and began clapping when he spotted his father standing near the north corner. "Way to go, dad!"
Vegeta was considering the city view and only offered the youth a grunt of acknowledgment. He should have been pleased with the victory but he only looked troubled. Trunks recognized that brooding expression immediately. "What's wrong?"
"I'll say!" the teen said with a laugh. "You sure handled those corporate hotshots. Everyone's talking about it. I guess you've done this sort of thing before, huh? When you were in space?"
Vegeta's left eyebrow twitched. "Not exactly." Rather than be drawn into a discussion he didn't want to participate in, he faced his son directly. "Go home and tell your mother the news. The final papers will be couriered to her this afternoon. It's entirely up to her to make the final decision whether she wants to accept the offer."
Trunks' blue eyes widened in surprise. "I can leave work early? Are you serious?"
"Go," Vegeta said, adding an impatient nod skywards.
Not questioning his good fortune, Trunks took to the air and sped a direct course home. Vegeta watched him until he was out of sight and then turned his dark gaze back to the cityscape.
"I'm going to break my promise to you, boy," he said under his breath.
Across town, Martin Klass swiped the keycard to his hotel suite and walked inside. He barely had enough time to take a shower and pack before joining up with the group at the airport. Talk about leaving a city with your tail between your legs. Martin was frustrated and disappointed that he'd been rendered so useless in this meeting. Once Quantum Dynamics got restructured under the Capsule Corp. empire, he wondered if he would even have a job. Finding normal work was hard for a guy who broke kneecaps for a living.
The doors to the balcony were wide open and Martin went over to close them. He had barely gotten one hand on the handle when a fist appeared out of nowhere and nailed him squarely in the solar plexus, driving him backwards. He fell to one knee trying to catch his breath while Vegeta walked inside the suite and quickly closed the balcony doors behind him, followed by the heavy curtains.
"What the hell-?" Martin coughed.
"Your purpose in this meeting was to intimidate Bulma," Vegeta stated coldly. "There's no other explanation for your presence today."
"You don't know what you're talking about-"
"Of course I know!" the Saiyan exploded. "I know because I had to do the exact same thing at every negotiation I was ordered to attend. I intimidated, I coerced and, when that didn't work, I killed. That's your job, isn't it?"
Realizing that he was in over his head, Martin raised his hands to try and stall for time. "I-I ... L-look, fella. I was just supposed to scare the woman a little. I wasn't going to hurt her-"
"Why would your colleague make the recommendation against bringing up the names of my son and daughter? What else were you prepared to do?!" he screamed in fury.
In desperation, Martin pulled out his concealed revolver. With a burst of speed, Vegeta moved in and knocked it out of his hand, breaking the thug's wrist at the same time. Just as Martin pulled in breath for a scream, a blow to the larynx crumpled his voice box. The scream came out as a choked rattle of sound.
Vegeta circled him like a hungry lion that smells blood in the air. "I take Bulma and my children's safety very seriously. No one threatens them and expects to live." He knelt down and grabbed Martin's shirt collar, hoisting him up so that they were face to face. "I'm going to kill you," he said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Martin tried desperately to pull away from that grip of steel. "Pluh-please don't-" He mouthed those words over and over.
Vegeta shook his head. "You can't reason with me. You can't bribe, you can't beg. This is what I'm trained to do. Of all people, you should understand that best. You threatened my family and now you're going to pay the price. The only downside is that I can't use any ki or the others would sense it."
For the first time since they had met, Vegeta offered him a cold grin of satisfaction. "Fortunately, I don't need any powers for this," he said and drew his free hand back into a tight fist.
Late that night, Vegeta restlessly prowled the living quarters of the yellow-domed building he had come to accept as his home. He stopped beside the closed door to Trunks' room and gently strummed the chords of their rapport. The teenager was in a deep, contented sleep. Across the hall, the Saiyan opened the door to his daughter's room and peered inside, his eyes quickly adjusting to the gloom. Bra was cocooned in her sheets and comforter, her sea-foamed colored hair spilled across the pillow. She was sleeping peacefully.
Leaning against the doorjamb, Vegeta struggled with his emotions as he watched his daughter. The surge of intense possessiveness eclipsed everything he had ever known or felt before. This was his family. His! They gave his life a purpose, a direction, and he realized today what lengths he would go to preserve that very rare gift. He would do it again without hesitation or remorse.
He stood like that and protectively watched over her for a very long time.
Bulma felt the bed settle and cracked her eyes open to look at the readout on the clock on the night stand. It was two in the morning. "Uhm... It's about time you got back. Where the hell were you?"
"I wanted to make up for the lost time training," Vegeta lied. He eyed his wife in the darkness. "You sound more like your usual self."
"I'm much better, thank you for noticing. It must have been a twenty-four hour bug," she said, turning on the light. "So, how did you find playing President for a day?"
"Damned exhausting," he admitted. "I don't know how you stand it."
"Ah, you get used to it."
"Deny it all you want, you're a natural at it. My cell phone's been ringing off the hook all afternoon. Trunks couldn't praise you enough about how cool and collected you acted throughout the meeting. Even Penny's complimented you," she said with a mocking smile. "I ended up signing the contract but only after a little finagling with Gil Bates to add some prime real estate, considering the grief he put Capsule Corp. through with the fake books. Hell, this wasn't so much as a merger as a hostile take-over. I'm pleased to see that Princely charm of yours finally came to some good use."
Normally, he would be baited by the casual dismissal of his royal lineage but he only observed her closely, his eyes dark and mysterious.
When his examination continued, she looked at him with concern. "What is it?"
"I had no idea that your position of authority makes you a potential target," he said after some pause.
"Oh please! I can take care of myself, Vegeta. I've been gallivanting around the planet since I was a teenager-"
He had heard quite enough of her quaint adventures and didn't want to veer off-topic. "I'm not talking about that. You are in a position of power and that attracts threats. Threats mean danger to you and Trunks and Bra. It... concerns me."
It worries you, Bulma translated in her mind. She wasn't sure where this was coming from; perhaps his one day at Capsule Corp. had opened his eyes and showed him just how demanding a powerless, little human's life could actually be. "The company has a highly skilled security division. Trunks can more than take care of himself. You've started training Bra. When we're home, you're here. So how can any of us be in danger?"
"It just concerns me, that's all," he said morosely, knowing that there was no resolving the issue.
"It's been a long day," she said, kissing him on the cheek and then rolling over to turn off the light. "We'll talk more about it tomorrow."
She settled into her pillow and was drifting off to sleep when he suddenly pressed up against her, wrapping an arm protectively around her waist. "Vegeta...?"
"What?" he murmured, as he settled as close to her as he could get. This degree of contact, without the requisite intimacy, was unusual and Bulma was shocked by the rare behaviour. "Are you all right?"
"Fine. Go to sleep."
She grasped his hand with her own and then betrayed a bewildered laugh. "I think I'm going to let you take the reins of the company more often."
Behind her, she heard the barely audible response, "Over my dead body."
"Always the tough guy," she whispered and fell asleep with a smile on her face.
Oh woman, you have no idea, Vegeta thought as he listened to her breathing smoothen out. He settled his forehead against the nape of her neck, inhaling her scent and closed his eyes in contentment.
If you've enjoyed this story and would like to see more like it, please feel free to buy me a coffee so I can stay up later and write some new material for you. No pressure and thanks in advance. Cheers! "Ko-dash-fi-dot-com/darkeangelus"