Disclaimers: Dragon Ball Z and its characters belong to Akira Toriyama.
Author's Notes: B/V AU's are my guilty pleasure. Written for the Spectrum Challenge in Maddie-san's LJ writing community (community[dot]livejournal[dot]com/bulmavegeta). Inspired by Infinite Pen's "Technical Difficulties" and every single DBZ fic lisalu ever finished.
Chapter One: Momentary Reprieve
It had been barely two months since the Saiyan Radditz came to retrieve his brother Son Goku and complete the mission of purging Chikyuu. The large man was defeated at the cost of Son Goku's life, and it only earned the blue planet a reprieve. Thanks to the Nameksei-jin's gloating, Radditz had learned of the Dragon Balls, and with his last breath he informed his two partners.
His two partners who were much more powerful than he was. His two partners who would be arriving in less than a year.
This sent the Z-Senshi into a mad frenzy of training and preparation with Kami's guidance. Bulma did her best to help, collecting the Dragon Balls to wish Goku back to life, only to be informed they would have to hold it off until he finished his training in Hell. She found it weird, but decided not to question the will of their deity.
"I'll leave them in your care, then," Bulma waved to the residents of Kame House as she decapsulated an air-car.
"Wait! Where are you going?" Roshi asked.
She ignored the very obvious reason for the old man's disappointment, choosing instead to answer, "I'm heading to my lab at home. I found something in the Scouter-thing that might be useful."
While fiddling with the device, she had managed to extract what appeared to be the schematics of a hand cannon. Not that she didn't have any trust in her friends or their ridiculous power levels, but no one knew the exact location those two Saiyans would arrive. What if they came to Kame House? Or worse, Capsule Corporation? Bulma didn't think she or any of the ordinary Chikyuu-jins stood a chance but she wasn't about to just roll over and let them kill her.
Bulma Briefs planned to go out kicking and screaming.
Arriving at her home, she briefly greeted her parents before heading straight to her workshop. There, she spent the next two weeks in a tireless routine of building, dismantling, and testing, pausing only to eat, bathe, and sleep (in that order). She was determined to create a working prototype within the month and when the blue-haired inventor set her mind to something, there was no shaking her resolve.
According to the schematics, the weapon was meant to fire a beam that would obliterate anything in its path, which she had managed to achieve after numerous recalculations and adjustments. Her first attempt had punched a boulder-sized hole in the firing range walls. But Bulma only figured out just how destructive the hand cannon was when she heard the concerned cries of her friends. She ran out to meet them and was surprised at the panic in their eyes, not knowing they had sensed the power that surged so close to her home from Kami's palace.
"We felt a Ki blast, you alright, babe?" Yamcha asked, his scarred face pale with worry, studying her for any signs of injury before noticing the strange construct she held in her arms.
Bulma nodded while her face broke out into a proud smile. She proceeded to show her invention to friends, conveniently forgetting to mention the alien origin of the device while she demonstrated how it worked, twisting the dial to its lowest setting so that it only made a fist-sized hole.
"So this is how you prepare for the Saiyans, huh?" Krillin whistled, visibly impressed with her invention.
"Hey, I can't let you guys do all the work."
"You do when it involves keeping house," the monk teased.
Bulma let out an indignant huff at the laughter but it wasn't long until a smile crept across her face. The looming threat of the alien invaders had created a suffocating tension for the heiress. It felt so wonderful to hear her friends laugh. She couldn't hide her disappointment that they wouldn't stay for dinner. Despite her furrowed brows and the pout on her lips she understood their training took precedence.
"I'll fire the cannon three times on its lowest setting to let you guys know I'll be doing tests on its power level," she told them as they prepared to leave.
"Sounds good, babe," Yamcha smiled suddenly pulling her into a ferocious hug. Bulma threw herself into the embrace, her own arms curling as tight around her boyfriend as she could. Reluctantly they let go and she waved to them as they took to the sky, heading back to the deity's palace to continue their training. It would be months until they saw each other again. For now, she had her work to keep her busy.
After two weeks since the first successful test-fire, Bulma made some adjustments to the hand cannon. It was sleeker than the original design, sizable enough to give someone a nasty bruise if she wielded it like a club, but light enough that its weight didn't threaten to pull her arm off. The young woman gave the hand cannon the last few finishing touches before slipping it onto her hand. The only question left was had she successfully increased its power?
She was fiddling with the settings when she heard someone calling her.
"Bulma? Bulma sweetheart?" It was the soft, lilting voice of her mother over the intercom. "Are you still busy with your little project?"
"I'm almost done here, Momma!" She answered in excitement. "I just need to decide on some stuff."
"That's lovely, dear. I just thought you might want to know we have guests," Bunni chirped happily.
Bulma didn't give it a second thought. Her mother loved being the dutiful hostess so it wasn't unusual to have people over. "Momma, do you know where Poppa is? I wanted to ask him about something."
"He's in the gardens, I think. Bulma, do say hello to our guests. One of them is quite handsome, oh if I were only ten years younger," Bunni sighed wistfully.
The blue-haired heiress rolled her eyes, but she never could refuse her mother anything. No matter how mundane the request. "Fine, but I can't stay!"
"Do freshen up a bit, sweetheart. You'll thank me for it later."
With a sigh, Bulma did as her mother asked. Cool water washed away the dirt and soot from her skin and her fingers combed through her aqua locks that now ended just at her chin. She shrugged off her grime-stained work clothes, slipped on a white sundress, and draped a clean lab coat over her arm and the hand cannon. No sense in frightening her mother's guests with dangerous weapons. But if they proved annoying, well, she twisted the dial so that it pointed to low.
Sandal-clad feet padded down the hallway when a smooth, sultry voice politely declined Bunni's enthusiastic offer of brownies drifted in from the kitchen. If that voice matched its owner's appearance maybe Bulma will thank her mother for insisting she greet their guests. Holding the hand cannon behind her back, a dazzling smile on her lips, Bulma stepped into the kitchen. And froze at the sight of their guests.
Their guests who were wearing battle armor and Scouters. The very same design of battle armor and Scouter as Radditz's.
"Bulma! There you are! See, I told you, Mister Zarbon. My little Bulma is a good girl and listens to her Momma," Bunni beamed. "Come sit down, sweetheart. I was just offering Mister Zarbon and his friends-"
"They're my subordinates," the blue-skinned man graciously corrected as he gestured to the two amphibious aliens that flanked him.
"-Something to eat. They're on a very important mission," Bunni declared in a stage whisper, "The poor dears were running low on food! So I told them they were free to take whatever they wanted from our pantries. And that-Bulma? Are you alright, sweetie? You look a little flushed."
The young woman swallowed thickly, willing her legs not to buckle from fear when she met the bright, golden gaze of the man her mother called Zarbon. Despite the benign smile on the handsome alien's lips, Bulma couldn't help but feel a cold dread grow in the pit of her stomach. "I-I'm fine, Momma. I think Poppa wanted to see you. He had something important to tell you. Don't worry, I'll keep our guests entertained."
Bunni, misunderstanding the unblinking stare between her daughter and Zarbon, gave Bulma a conspiratory wink as she excused herself to go to her husband who had obviously not been looking for her.
The blue-haired inventor began the tedium of small talk with as much grace and poise as her mother. Despite the instinctive desire to make a mad dash for the door while screaming at the top of her lungs, being in her own home helped her maintain some level of composure. Judging by the knowing smirk on the blue-skinned man, he knew what was going on in her mind. Bulma waited until her mother was out of earshot before remarking, "You don't look Saiyan."
Zarbon's eyes hardened, as if affronted by her suggestion, but he continued to smile. "That's because I'm not, love."
"Then why are you here on Chikyuu?"
"As I informed your mother, we were running low on food. For once, I am glad for the Monkey's incompetence. If he had successfully purged this planet, we would have likely starved."
"Then, then you're not here to purge Chikyuu?" Bulma held her breath, trying not to sound too hopeful.
"No, that is not my mission. But now that you mention it, we might as well since we're already here," he chuckled, the gem on his forehead glinting when it caught the ray of sunlight as his shoulders rose and fell in a shrug, "But that won't be for another few hours. Let's not spoil this pleasant moment with talk of your planet's destruction. Your mother mentioned you were working on a little project. I can't help but be curious what it is, given your attire."
Bulma felt her face flush in indignant anger, through the fabric of her lab coat she twisted the knob to the hand cannon's highest setting and felt it thrum with power. She had no idea what she was doing other than that there was nothing logical about her actions.
"Actually, Zarbon, I-" she just found she had pulled her arm forward, aimed it at the alien seated between his men, "-Can show you." and with no hesitation, pulled the trigger.
The beam that burst through the hand cannon swelled to the size of a small boulder, gouging a path along the kitchen's tiled floor, splintering the table and obliterating the dinnerware before it engulfed its targets. Wicked recoil slammed against Bulma's entire body, sharply hurtling her backwards without a chance to blink or brace herself for the strong fingers that clenched painfully tight around her shoulders, grounding her in place. Two scorched forms trembled violently on their feet before they pitched forward to the floor, their lifeless bodies still twitching from the aftershock of the blast.
Bile threatened to rise in the back of her throat when the stench of burnt flesh assaulted her senses. But it was beaten down when she broke into a cold sweat, slowly glancing up to see the malice in Zarbon's smiling face. She didn't even know when he dodged the blast. She never took her eyes off him, and the next thing she knew he was behind her.
"What a vulgar little toy you have here," Zarbon chided, snatching the hand cannon from her so quickly it practically materialized in the blue-skinned man's possession. "Did you really build this?" He murmured, studying her with a keen interest that left her unable to speak or move beyond a quick nod.
"This actually managed to kill my lackeys. But that is why they're just that. Lackeys," he chuckled, his lips curling into a sneer while he crushed the weapon with the distracted ease of crumpling paper. "You've put Radditz's Scouter to better use in the span of a few months than that barbarian ever did his entire life. You, love, have far too much potential for me to destroy."
"You're going to have to, because I won't go without a fight!" She snapped. There was nothing false in her claim or bravado. "And that blast will have alerted my friends. They'll come here and stop you from purging Chikyuu!"
"Friends?" Zarbon smirked, a hand absently tapping at his Scouter. He turned his head this way and that before finally managing to locate the Z-Senshi. "Their energy readings hardly measure up to Radditz's, and believe me, love, I am far more powerful."
"That's just what Radditz said," Bulma snarled, feeling braver now that her friends were on their way. "And they managed to kill him."
"Radditz was an overconfident monkey who never managed to lay a finger on me. And while your friends will fare no better, I have better things to do than play with vermin. That is usually what my lackeys are for," Zarbon sighed at the inconvenience. "And since you've disposed of them, I should think it would only be fair that you replace them in their service to me," he purred, caressing Bulma's cheek with the back of his hand.
She went rigid at his touch but managed to stammer, "I-I can't- won't fight my friends!"
"Your Ki level is so laughably low I wouldn't even dream of it. No, you'll be far more useful and far more entertaining as something else."
"As what?" She asked, her face ashen while unconsciously backing away.
"Primarily as a tech slave, which entails engineering or mechanical duties. We have a surplus on brawn but a severe lack in brains," the alien man calmly explained, arms folded behind his cape, the deadly grace in his steps as he stalked towards her betraying the beatific smile on his lips. "You'll be spared from the Pleasure Quarters if you come with me willingly."
"I'd rather die first, you sick son of a bitch!" She hissed.
"Now that you mention it, you most likely will if I do put you in the Pleasure Quarters. It'll be a waste of your mind as much as your body," he seemed to reconsider his decision for a moment, then his gold eyes glittered, "How about this? Come with me willingly and I swear that none of my men will ever lay a finger on your precious Chikyuu."
Blue eyes blinked in disbelief. Did she hear him correctly? Was Zarbon promising her the safety of her planet in exchange for her service as a mechanic? It sounded too good to be true. It probably was. Bulma wasn't sure she could make the sacrifice. She wasn't that magnanimous a person. She was a genius, yes, but she was also spoiled and selfish and was not very good at following orders she did not like or approve of.
"You don't have much time to decide, love. I doubt you'll be in any state of mind to be of use after I've slaughtered your friends right before your eyes," he said conversationally, eyes trained at something in the distance that Bulma couldn't see. "And I would hate to have to upset your lovely Mother after all she's done."
Bulma was about to scream that he better leave her family alone. But hearing the approaching footsteps of her mother and seeing the predatory gleam in Zarbon's eyes, the young woman steeled herself and answered. "Okay."
"Smart decision, love. Say farewell to your parents, pack some mementos if you like, but do have the grace not to tell them of our arrangement," he warned none too kindly.
Bulma nodded wordlessly, feeling like she just sold her soul to the Devil.
Messages sent from one squad member to another were normally considered inconsequential as nine times out of ten the logs were little more than friendly banter between comrades or heated insults between rivals or battleplans requiring precision and split-second timing or the ever-popular fire at anything that moved. But when a heavily encrypted message was sent from a squad that was never known for its unwavering loyalty to its Tsiru-jin master, well, it was only natural the old lizard would be curious.
One wasted month and three dead encoders later, the only thing they managed to piece together was that it involved Chikyuu. Their records showed an infant Saiyan had been sent to handle the little mudball. It did not come as too much of a surprise to Frieza that the planet had not been successfully purged. Perhaps the monkeys were simply too ashamed to admit that one of their own had failed, Saiyan pride was something of a notoriety in the space-faring parts of the universe.
All the same, Zarbon was sent to this backwater planet to investigate. If it turned out there was nothing of interest, then he was free to do whatever he wanted. Even further wound the Saiyans and their pride by purging the planet for them.
The blue-skinned alien wasn't able to garner anything useful from the first handful of natives he and his men interrogated and subsequently killed. He decided to search for Radditz's Scouter. Or rather, the individual who currently possessed the device. Whoever had it managed to access the archives and downloaded the schematics of a rejected hand cannon. No one on the Tsiru-jin's payroll ever managed to find a way to stabilize the damn thing, and after countless failed attempts and disintigrated techs, it was deemed a waste of time and resources.
Zarbon just wanted to see if the hapless fool had tried to recreate it and whether there would be anything of him left. He was pleasantly surprised to have a Chikyuu-jin female welcome him and his men into her home and treat him as if he was royalty. Perhaps this little mudball had some saving grace.
Enjoying having his ego stroked, Zarbon humored his hostess and instructed his men to stand down. They'll be given the chance to annhialate the residents after he's grown bored of being fussed over. He fought the urge to roll his eyes as the Chikyuu-jin prattled on and on about her offspring. He highly doubted the planet was capable of producing the kind of genius and beauty the flaxen-haired woman claimed her daughter Bulma possessed.
And then he actually saw the aforementioned daughter.
With cream skin and hair the color of clear skies, her appearance certainly merited praise. He saw the flash of recognition in those blue eyes when their gaze met and had to hold back a chuckle at the young woman's attempt at hiding her discomfort. His interest was further piqued when she sent her mother away, leaving her all alone and at their mercy.
That wasn't a very smart thing to do, in Zarbon's opinion. His Scouter showed her power level was only in the double digits and though her voice was even as she conversed with him about the weather and asked how he found her mother's food, he could tell she would much rather be far, far away. She seemed to know who he was and what he was capable of, and still she stayed, even going so far as to protect her family by keeping their focus on her. She was certainly showing more spine than the other inhabitants.
Zarbon found he liked that about her. But it wouldn't have been enough for him to stay his hand when she insulted him with that accusation of being a Saiyan. He spared her life because she actually knew about the Saiyans. She must have come into contact with Radditz but would she know what it was the other two were coming to Chikyuu for? He answered her questions with casual threats, magnified her fear for herself and her planet, tried to goad her into anger and make her careless enough to reveal anything she might know about the Saiyans. It was his suggestive comment about her project that got her truly riled up. And he would have prodded this point of contention further had he not felt a sharp spike of power.
The blue-skinned officer propelled himself out of his seat, somersaulting elegantly in the air at a speed too fast for the Chikyuu-jin's eyes to follow. He silently landed behind the young woman both to steady her from the cannon's recoil and to trap her. The two soldiers Zarbon brought with him weren't as quick on the uptake, falling victim to the enormous Ki blast Bulma had fired fully intending to kill him.
He stared down at the frail beauty in a new light. She was the one who downloaded the schematic. And successfully made something based on it that didn't kill her but her target. Well, not her actual target. Zarbon would never fall victim to such a paltry toy. But in the hands of a trained soldier, the results would be very profitable and very lethal. As Zarbon crushed the hand cannon, he decided even if she had no inkling of the Saiyans and their motives, she would still be a valuable asset if he took her alive.
The steel in her eyes made it very clear that taking her by force would only result in her death. But Frieza sent Zarbon alone because the blue-skinned officer knew other forms of coercion. He swore to her that his men would not purge her planet if she went with him. And as he expected, she agreed. Golden eyes tapered into jovial slits as the blue-haired Chikyuu-jin disappeared through the doorway to bid farewell to her family and make the necessary preparation for their journey.
Zarbon drummed his fingers impatiently on the remnants of the kitchen counter. He had disposed of the corpses with a controlled blast of Ki, incinerating them into ash more out of boredom than wanting to spare anyone's feelings. His Scouter gave a small beep, indicating that the ship's autopilot was ready for take-off, and he wondered if the blue-haired girl's friends would arrive on time to see him whisk her away. A cruel smirk played on his lips at the thought of causing them pain without having to exert himself.
Bulma returned shortly, clothed in grim black, a small satchel slung around her hips with her parents trailing after her. The elderly man smoking a cigarette looked somber as he held his daughter's hand until Zarbon glared pointedly at him to let go. The addle-brained mother was shoving a basket of food at the blue-skinned officer, insisting that they needed more food since her daughter would be traveling with them on an adventure. Zarbon accepted the container but had no intention of eating any of the morsels packed inside.
"Did you say all you needed to say, love?" Zarbon asked as he led Bulma into the ship. He saw the trembling of her lower lip and a corner of his mouth twitched into a smirk. Tears already? He'll break her spirit easily enough. And when that time comes, she'll be unable to deny him anything, answers, inventions, even her body if the mood struck him.
Mutely, she nodded, rapidly blinking away the tears she struggled to control. They strapped themselves into their seats while the autopilot handled the rest. Their ascent into space was a smooth one. The ship easily broke free of Chikyuu's atmosphere and was hurtling for the coordinates Zarbon had typed in beforehand. Bulma sat motionless by the window, watching the blue planet she could no longer call home grow smaller and smaller by the second until she couldn't even tell which pin-prick of light it was in the vast cosmos.
Zarbon draped an arm across her shoulder, drawing her to his muscular chest, unable to feel the damp of her cheeks through his armor. "There, there, love. I gave you my word that as long as you do a good job with the techs, and play nice with me, my men will never harm Chikyuu, didn't I?"
Again a silent nod.
"Then stop your crying, my sweet," he ordered softly, "Why don't tell me about your friends."
She stared at him in suspicion. "You're asking me to tell you what they can and can't do in fights, aren't you?"
Zarbon shook his head, his long, green braid swaying behind him. "No, you don't seem capable of following high speed movements. We have about a week to until we reach your new home. I simply thought we could pass the time with civilized conversation. My lackeys were hardly what you would call intellectually stimulating."
He eyed her carefully from behind the charming smile that lit his face. Perhaps she might not be as easily fooled as he first thought. But he had time. About as much as Chikyuu did. And Zarbon fully intended to keep his promise to Bulma.
His men would not touch the blue planet.
Zarbon just conveniently forgot to mention to the blue-haired woman (who was asking him whether they had a library on the ship) that the Saiyans weren't his men.