Author's Notes: Yes, it took me forever to write this. Yes, I fully intend to finish this fic. No, I have no excuse other than my own utter ineptitude. No, I have no idea how long it'll take me to write the next part. I only offer my sincerest apologies.
Chapter Four: Games We Play
The first thing Zarbon had done after depositing the badly beaten Saiyan at the infirmary was to inform his liege that he had successfully carried out the Tsirunian's instructions. It wasn't simply because of standard operating procedures, which it was, but Zarbon knew better than to keep Frieza waiting for too long. The instant the Saiyan's pod uploaded the coordinates of its destination to the main computer, Frieza made it very clear the blue officer was to do everything in his power to make sure Vegeta knew he was grounded.
While Zarbon had long ceased trying to figure out the reasoning behind his liege's actions (as he'd long figured out that Frieza was stark raving mad but he wasn't about to say that out loud), he couldn't help but feel there was more to it than that. Decades of service under the tyrant lizard had proven to the blue officer that Frieza always had something else in mind. And as he waited for his master to appear in the monitor, he also couldn't help but feel a strange sense of dread looming in the fringe of his consciousness.
"The Saiyan has been made aware of his punishment, Lord Frieza," Zarbon reported as he bowed low to the Tsirunian. "And I have made it very clear that you will not tolerate disobedience."
"Excellent work, Zarbon," the effeminate voice crooned in approval.
"When are we to expect your arrival, oh Gracious one?"
A sharp-nailed finger tapped gingerly against a pale cheek, "Oh, it could be six weeks or six months, you know how I enjoy indulging in my flights of fancy."
"Whenever is convenient for you. Do you require anything else of me, My Lord?" he asked, still bowed at the waist, his plaited emerald hair falling over his shoulder.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I do." For all intents and purposes the Tsirunian sounded pleased. But after years of being Frieza's right hand man, Zarbon knew he should be bracing himself for his own punishment. "It seems our friends on planet Rioglo are causing an uproar and I require your skill to handle them."
Planet Rioglo was home to some of the Planet Trade's more problematic clientele. Extremely wealthy, extremely powerful, and extremely lazy. Every warrior on Frieza's payroll knew that being sent to deal with the Rioglons was more of a punishment than an actual task. The blue officer righted himself, his shock briefly flitting across his handsome features before he regained his composure, "But Lord Frieza, what about the Saiyan?"
"What about Vegeta?" the Tsirunian quirked a brow, the corner of his purple lips curving upward in an amused smirk. "You've informed him of his punishment, haven't you? And the entire base is aware of it, yes?"
"I have carried out your instructions," Zarbon nodded, "I'm simply concerned whether it's wise to leave him here without proper supervision?"
A pale, slender finger waggled chidingly at the blue officer, "Are you saying you doubt me, Zarbon?"
"N-no! Of course not, Lord Frieza! It's just that given Vegeta's current level of power, anyone but myself would be hard-pressed to enforce his punishment," he reasoned.
Painted lips chuckled and pulled into an enigmatic smile, "Oh silly, silly Zarbon, that's exactly why I'm sending you to Rioglo."
There was no arguing with Frieza or his decisions. "As you wish, I shall depart immediately," Zarbon begrudgingly acquiesced, as the option of refusing meant his life was forfeit, decades of loyal servitude be damned.
"Good, I trust I can count you to handle this task with utmost finesse, hmmmm?" The curve of Frieza's lips was nothing but wicked menace, beady eyes tapering into malicious slits, and Zarbon knew his liege was punishing him for failing to figure out what it was about Earth that had interested the Saiyans. Wordlessly, the blue officer nodded his understanding and acceptance of his fate; once again bowing low at the waist, hoping the pale tyrant didn't see the momentary flash of dread in Zarbon's gold eyes.
The monitor switched off, and Zarbon found himself in a very foul mood. As he stalked down the halls from the communication room, he stopped at the path leading towards the infirmary. Perhaps he ought to taunt the Monkey Prince into attacking him again. Knocking the Saiyan around had always done wonders to cheer him up. But when he remembered someone would be waiting for him in his quarters, he decided to indulge in a little escapism before he was sent to the tedious hell that was Rioglo.
Opening the door, a charming smile on his face (one that had sent a great many swooning), the blue officer was nearly taken aback by the grim determination in the blue-haired tech slave's eyes.
"Something on your mind, love?" he asked as he ushered Bulma into his quarters.
She nodded wordlessly, her eyes now downcast, chewing nervously on her lower lip.
"Ah, of course, how could I have forgotten?" He smiled, glad that the female recognized a rhetorical question when she heard one, "Your world was just purged and the one responsible is on this very planet-base. I can understand why you'd be upset-"
"Can you really?" she softly asked, peering up at him mournfully. "Were your people made extinct, your homeworld purged to be sold to the highest bidder by a heartless, Saiyan bastard?"
"If you put it that way, I suppose I can't," he frowned, emerald brows knitting together in annoyance. Here he was, trying to extend her his sympathy and what does she do? She throws it back in his face. Even if it was her spirit that had kept him interested in her for so long, he couldn't help but feel slighted. But not too long ago, his spies had reported she was at her breaking point. It was only a matter of time, he decided, before she gave herself to him in the way he had wanted her. It would take just a little longer, until then, he'll continue to treat her gently and with kindness, maybe a little seduction, and throw some lavish gifts into the mix for good measure.
Except he wouldn't have the opportunity to act on his plan thanks to that blasted Saiyan. Vegeta had better try to escape while Zarbon was gone. Otherwise... The blue officer pushed the thought away and briefly wished Frieza had sent Dodoria to investigate Earth instead of him.
"I'm sorry if I spoke out of turn, Zarbon," the whispered apology managed to draw his attention back to Bulma.
"Think nothing of it. I did promise you we would talk about it later. And now that it's later-"
"May I make a request of you?" She suddenly cut in.
He blinked in surprise and raised a curious brow, "What manner of request would this be, love?"
She looked away uncertainly, as if having second thoughts, before steeling herself to look him in the eye and ask, "May I seek revenge on the bastard that ruined my life?"
Well that was certainly not what he had expected. Apparently the Saiyan's arrival didn't sap her of her will. On the contrary, it had strengthened her. Given the sort of dangerous little constructs she was capable of creating, combined with Vegeta's uncanny ability to survive, this promised to be a very entertaining request. What else could he say but "Of course, love, you have my full support."
And the smile she gave him was relieved, and happy, and the tiniest bit deranged. "You promise?"
"You have my word," he nodded, absently deciding to instruct his spies to keep a close eye on both the Saiyan and the Earthling during his absence. "And now let's have no more talk of the savage. I would like to enjoy the rest of my evening with you. Who knows when I'll be able to return from Rioglo."
The first thing Bulma did upon returning to her room after that haranguing second encounter with the Saiyan was to change out of the dress and into something more suitable for sleep. The second thing she did was to finish work on her Ki-gun, because she did not trust the Kami damned Saiyan and would rather not have to meet him again unarmed. The third thing she did, after nearly two hours of non-stop work, was collapse on her bed in an exhausted heap, her finished and improved weapon clutched in her hand.
It wasn't even an hour since she fell unconscious, and it would be several more before dawn's first light, when Bulma woke to an uncomfortable knot in her gut telling her things were going to be eventful here on out. This worried her because nothing good ever came out the Planet Base being eventful because it usually meant someone was going to die. And with that Saiyan around, she wouldn't be surprised if it was her neck on the chopping block. She shuddered at the memory of those dark obsidian eyes, the unabashed hunger she had seen in them when they roved over her form, and worse still that inexplicable heat when he had touched her. She shook her head clear and attempted to go back to sleep when the staccato of knuckles sharply rapping against her door filled her room.
With an annoyed sigh, she pulled her decapsulated Ki-gun behind her back, careful to keep it out of sight as she answered the door. Blue eyes blinked sleepily at the sight of Mastertech Chooco.
"Get dressed, Bulma of Earth," he instructed, "I am to brief you on your new assignment. And you are to begin work at once."
Had this exact same scenario played out a year ago, and had Bulma not been a tech slave at the time, she would have gladly slammed the door in on the Rawin's face. Except this wasn't the first time she would have to forgo sleep to work on something or other, and as she was still enslaved and her world's only hope of salvation, she sure as hell wasn't going to make a fuss.
Perhaps after she manages to make her wish on the planet Namek's set of dragon balls, she'll throw the massive tantrum that she'd been bottling up since Zarbon brought her here. For the time being, she would focus on keeping up the doll-act and figure out how in Kami's name she was supposed to even get to Namek.
"Give me a second," she quietly requested as she closed the door, encapsulating her Ki-gun in one hand, and pulling her coveralls from the hanger with the other. Dressed and with her weapon safely tucked in her pocket, she stepped out of her room. Mastertech Chooco promptly started to drag her out of the building, all the while telling her she had no time to waste.
"What's the emergency?" Bulma asked, struggling to keep up with the avian alien's quick strides.
"There isn't one. Yet," Chooco bluntly responded, "Because you are to dedicate all your efforts in maintaining and upgrading the Training Simulator."
Her brows knitted together, "Okay, but couldn't this have waited in the morning?"
"No," Chooco snapped, unusually testy. "I would have informed you of this last night, but Zarbon would have torn my head off if I interrupted your evening with him." He ignored the sharp downturn of Bulma's mouth to continue, "Since you handled most of the Training Simulator's upgrades and programming, you have the unfortunate honor of being its sole caretaker for the duration of the Saiyan's stay on this Planet Base."
"Okay but why do you sound like you're going to die?"
"Because, Bulma of Earth, the Saiyan is not a very patient man. And he expects what is now his Training Simulator to be ready for him before the morning meal has been served. And since no one has touched it since he nearly dismantled-"
"Whoa, back up," Bulma sharply cut in, digging her heels into the ground as she tried to wrench herself free from Chooco's grip. "Are you telling me I'm supposed to cater to the whims of the asshole that purged my world?"
"Only as far as the Training Simulator is concerned," Chooco warbled, "I am aware of your grief and what it feels like to have your master and the destroyer of your world be one and the same. But I am also aware that if the Saiyan is displeased in any way, he will make things very, very, very unpleasant for everyone on this Planet Base."
"And if he decides to start with me?" Her voice was soft, but edged in mounting fury and betrayal.
"I have informed him that you are the only individual capable of handling his demands. Saiyans are notorious for their constant quest for power, he might hesitate to harm you if it means risking the Training Simulator," Chooco assured her, though he failed to mention to Bulma that no names were mentioned at the time. And even if he had, mentioned her name that is, it would have done nothing to calm her down.
Sensing that she was on the verge of lashing out, the Mastertech decided that her rage-fueled actions would be better spent on repairs. He began to tug at her again, managing to bring them both to the Training Simulator that had seen better days. "You do not have much time. I've made a preliminary assessment of the damages and you have a long night ahead of you."
"Let me guess, you aren't even going to help me with the repairs, are you?" She sighed, already feeling the beginnings of a headache from the sheer amount of work in store. Shit, the Saiyan really did a number on the bots. And the panels. And the shields. And, oh whom was she kidding, the entire fucking room needed an overhaul! "Is there anything here that can be salvaged?" she groaned, kneeling down to inspect the remnants of a gutted battledroid.
"I will speak with the logistics department. They should give all your inventory requests their top priority," Chooco offered, "And grant you access to some of the restricted equipment and materials for anything else that you might need," He added, giving Bulma a look of warning that she shouldn't think about abusing her privilege.
She ignored the undertone of caution in the Rawin's words as she went about jotting down the parts she would need. The Mastertech said nothing more and left a very unhappy Bulma to her work. Who could blame her? Not only was she being forced to serve the murdering bastard, she would be making him stronger. A small part of her was tempted to sabotage his efforts, she had informed him she was going to make his life a living hell after all. But as she continued to write down the replacement parts for the room, it occurred to her how she could turn this situation around to her benefit.
A small smile managed to flit across her face as a plan began to form. She had to be careful, however. She couldn't risk alerting anyone of what she was planning. Not Miint, not Chooco, not Zarbon, least of all the Saiyan (whose name she didn't know but she suspected she would soon enough).
When Vegeta learned of Zarbon's departure for planet Rioglo his first impulse was to head for the docking bay and blast off to planet Namek. It was only the nervous glances the lower ranked, and pathetically less powerful, Soldiers exchanged that reminded the Saiyan of his punishment. He chuckled to himself, flashing the other mercenaries on the Tsirunian's payroll a cruel grin, taunting them to even try to stop him. It was Cui who elbowed his way out of the cluster of terrified subordinates, planting himself firmly in Vegeta's way.
"And just where do you think you're going? Master Frieza gave strict orders to keep you detained," the purple alien demanded with a sneer.
"I'm simply taking the long way to the Training Complex," Vegeta explained amicably, the absence of the blue-skinned officer had greatly improved his mood that morning. And if luck was on his side, Cui would show him a remarkable display of stupidity and try to attack him, thus giving the Saiyan a very valid excuse to end his so-called rival.
"Careful, I hear too much training stunts your growth," snickered Cui as he backed off with no visible sign of discomfort. The oily grin on his thick lips made Vegeta's tail wind tighter around his waist and his fists itch to punch a hole clean through the other mercenary's chest.
Patience, Vegeta growled to himself as he shouldered past the sharpshooting instructor with enough force to send Cui to the floor. He ignored the strings of curses the felled alien hurled at him and the daggers glared into his back, filing this incident away with all the other moments of humiliation he had suffered at the hands of Frieza and his underlings. There will be a reckoning, he vowed, as soon as he figured out a way to get to Namek without giving the tyrant lizard the coordinates.
In the meantime, he would vent his frustration in the training simulator he had claimed for himself yesterday. He walked through the automated door as it slid open, expecting everything to be ready for him, and was greeted by a volley of laser fire. Deftly, he dodged each one, sneering in open contempt before returning the favor at the wall-mounted weapons. Onyx eyes widened in surprise as his own Ki-blasts ricocheted back at him, the faint shimmer surrounding the smoking muzzles the only indication how such a feat could occur. He allowed a small, appreciative smirk to grace his lips before he decided to take things more seriously.
And so it went, for two straight weeks, Vegeta immersed himself in his training, stopping only when both he and the chamber could physically no longer continue. He isolated himself from the rest of the mercenaries, ignoring the annoying whispers that questioned who was the most powerful warrior on the planet base with Zarbon gone, while keeping his ears open for any news of Frieza's arrival. The old lizard said he'd personally see to the Saiyan's punishment, but he was certainly taking his sweet time. Not that Vegeta was complaining; it did give him the opportunity to formulate his plan undisturbed.
Or so he thought.
It was in the beginning of the third week did Vegeta have the displeasure of his first interruption. There were some new recruits that were stationed on the planet base, and like most rookies, they were arrogant, brash, overconfident, and far too full of themselves to even consider why less than a handful of the warriors didn't flee at the sight of the Saiyan.
He had been in the middle of a warm up when the alarms sounded, indicating someone was trying to gain access during a session. Vegeta snarled curses beneath his breath as the safety measures activated and the simulator reset its program. He made a note to instruct the tech slave (whom he just realized he had yet to even meet in person) to remove that annoying feature from the system as three very large, very muscular bovine-like aliens strut into his Training Simulator.
"We heard you got the best fighting room on the base," one of the oxen new-comer sporting a spiked mane began, "And we want in on it."
"Ain't fair you get all the fun," the shaven one chimed in while the third alien wordlessly nodded.
Vegeta narrowed his eyes at the trio, analyzing their Ki, and finding them as disappointing as the Earthling warriors. But then again, he did need to hone his Ki-sensing skills. This would be a good way to practice that useful trick.
"Tech slave," the Saiyan Prince barked, "Restart the warm up program."
"Didn't expect the almighty Vegeta needed a warm up bout," one of them snorted in amusement.
Vegeta simply smirked as he relaxed his stance, leaving it open, practically unguarded. The soft beeps of a Scouter reading his power level reached his ears, and he inwardly grinned that the devices would only show his suppressed Ki.
The trio sneered at the figure that flashed on the small screen, "Guess Saiyans are only tough when they're in groups."
"Hey, is it true what they say? That you'd be some kinduva royalty if your planet ain't all blown up? I guess that don't mean shit to Lord Frieza, huh?"
Vegeta clenched his teeth, fighting the urge to rend the mouthy, uninvited interlopers the way he routinely does the cloaked automatons that were silently rising up from the floor just behind the trio. Their Scouters alerted them too late of the invisible machines that began to bombard anything within their line of sight with a hail of energy blasts.
The room instantly filled with the sound of startled grunts, of hooves scraping against steel, of power exploding against reinforced walls, piercing through armor, fur, and flesh, leaving wounds that would bleed, and burn, and if left unattended eventually kill.
Unlike the three injured rookies, Vegeta was completely unscathed and all he had done was simply sidestepped or angled his head and body by small increments. Normally, he would have done away with the battledroids even before they completely emerged, but he needed moving targets to lock onto. It took Vegeta more time than he would have liked before he managed to identify and differentiate the three signatures.
And when he was able to make out even the tech slave's tiny, insignificant Ki all the way in the control room, he knew it wouldn't be long before this ability would become second nature to him.
The last of the rookies fell to the floor, alive, conscious, and it was obvious they had seen better days. To their credit, they suffered their injuries in silence. Or was it because they'd been too sapped of strength to even groan?
"And you call yourselves mercenaries," Vegeta scoffed before proceeding to dismantle the battledroids with casual ease.
The drone of a synthesized voice sounded out of the speakers, "System warm up: Complete. Regimen analysis: Complete. Initiating: Danger Level Five."
Vegeta snorted in annoyance, "You three set my usual danger level down by two." A wicked grin suddenly split across his face, "I suppose we'd be even if I set your number down by two as well."
Maniacal laughter rang against the walls as the three rookies suddenly found the strength to make a break for the door, once again setting off the alarm, and causing the Simulator to reset itself back to warm up mode.
Bulma stared at the screens displaying the Saiyan's progress, her face awash in a mixture of horror and awe as she studied the charts and compared the end results of each day. It had been barely three months since the Saiyan claimed the Training Simulator she'd built but he was tearing through the difficulty levels with ease. Not only was he constantly getting stronger, she was helping him. Not that she had a choice in the matter but it didn't ease the guilt or disgust or the utter loathing she felt for him every time the training cameras managed to catch a glimpse of him. She shuddered at the twisted sneer, one showing utter joy in destruction, so seemingly permanent on his countenance, and tried instead to focus on her plan.
She studied her notes, and out of habit, her hand absently brushed on the encapsulated Ki-gun she'd finally finished. She knew no one would ever dare disturb her while she was within the control room, not after the Saiyan had shown those rookies and everyone else on the base just what he was capable. But she couldn't afford to let her guard down. Not here. Not now. Not when she was so, so close to completing the hardest part of her plan, ironically, thanks to the alien currently demolishing the first wave of new automatons she'd designed. If he hadn't the single-minded dedication he was displaying in his training, it would have been much longer before she could justify ordering hyper-engine parts. And much longer before she could use him as an excuse to use the scrapped spaceships.
Blue eyes suddenly darted back to the monitors when the sound of someone attempting to enter the Training Simulator. Her brows knitted together, who would be stupid enough? Immediately the chamber went into reset, and she couldn't help but smirk at the irritated snarl pulling at the Saiyan's lips. She tensed when in entered Cui, one hand encapsulating her work-area, the other switching the speakers on in order to listen in on their conversation.
"-ying you a visit, Vegeta."
"Then get out and stop wasting my time," Vegeta snapped.
"I just need to check up on a certain someone, Zarbon's orders," Cui explained smugly, adjusting his Scouter until he was staring straight at Bulma. "Hey, little blue whore, his Monkey Highness here ain't running you ragged that you're uglier than you normally are, is he?"
She knew he was just trying to get a rise out of her, but all the same, Bulma found she had a few things to say to the sharpshooting instructor. Her voice was calm and even, not the least bit indicative of her cruel grin when she switched the microphone on just long enough to say, "You should probably be more concerned about the droids behind you, Cui." It was definitely satisfying to see him try and fail to avoid the first hail of pinpoint-accurate laser-fire.
When the rest of the session became reminiscent of the three rookies', Bulma decapsulated her work-area to continue finishing her work. She calculated and drafted and computed, just barely aware of the carnage in the training area. When every number added up and the figures revealed were more than promising, she realized she was ready to begin the third and final phase of her plan! Her tiny moment of elation was cut short when she heard Vegeta growl, "You step foot in here again, Cui, and I will end you." She strained to listen for the other alien's response, caught the hum of the Training Simulator's door sliding open, and then there was only silence. Normally, dead air meant the Saiyan had collapsed from exhaustion, but it was still too early in the day for that to happen. Fatigue and body damage only set in after hours, sometimes days, of rigorous training.
"Tech slave," Vegeta barked, his ever impatient and demanding behavior amplified by the control room's speakers. With a roll of her eyes, Bulma waited for him to continue, wondering what he wanted improved or upgraded this time. Seconds passed, and now the Saiyan snarled with teeth bared, "I said, Tech slave!"
The Earthling activated the microphone a second time, "Yes?" she tried to keep herself from sounding terse, but it was difficult with Vegeta. She was poised to jot down his demands, glad she didn't have to speak with him face to face up until he ordered her to: "Use the communication screen."
Bulma blinked, once more encapsulating her work-area, suddenly needing a deep breath before she could activate the monitors. "Yes?" She repeated, trying to show as little emotion as she could, trying not to squirm while those dark eyes studied her through the screen. She posed the question, "Is there anything you needed modified or upgraded for the next session?"
A wolfish smile graced his lips, and though Bulma felt a cold chill shoot up her spine, to her credit, she managed to only clench her fists tight.
"And here I thought you were going to make my life a living hell," he taunted.
If he'd told her that three months ago, with her plan still in its early stages and her goal seeming so far away, Bulma might have snapped. She might have lost her temper and made very graphic threats while using very coarse language. But she was halfway to saving her world, she couldn't afford to start all over again all because she couldn't control herself. Or her mouth. All she would allow herself to choke out through grit teeth was, "I thought you were doing a pretty fine job of it yourself."
He laughed at her, arms folding across his bare chest, "All I hear is an excuse."
The smile she gave him was so sweet it could only be false, "Contrary to what you may think, the universe does not, in fact, revolve around you," her eyes tapered as she takes note at just how much the Saiyan bristled at her defiance, "Your precious Training Room is only on my list of priorities because I take pride in my creations. Now if you're done wasting time, I have modifications to debug and data to analyze, oh Prince of Nothing."
She switched the monitor off with a vicious press of the button, hoping that he would get the message and leave her be for the remainder of her stay. Which, giving the figures another glance, would be less than a month. One month, she sighed, making a mental prayer to Kami to give her strength and patience and for no more interruptions.
Unfortunately, Kami was dead and even if he was alive, Earth's deity could do little to the surly, temperamental Saiyan who was once again snarling at her to activate the communication screen. She cursed beneath her breath before complying with a neutral, "Yes?"
"Listen here, you stupid bitch," his growl was low, barely audible, "If you besmirch my lineage again, I assure you it will not end well." Even though Bulma fully expected the slur and was becoming accustomed to the Saiyan's temper, there was something different about the black rage coloring his tone. Whatever it was, it was unlike anything she'd ever heard from him before. The intensity in those obsidian eyes promised a long, torturous existence, and though it terrified the blue-haired genius she could not bring herself to look away.
It was only when Vegeta disabled the monitor with a fist through the controls did Bulma realize the jack-hammering pace of her heart and that she'd been holding her breath. Her brow was beaded in cold sweat, minor tremors quaked her hands, and her mind remained blank for several long moments. She shook her head, filled her lungs with a sharp intake of air, and forced herself to focus on the final phase of her plan.
As the days rolled by, Vegeta found his plan of sneaking to planet Namek without Frieza's knowledge become less and less likely to succeed. None of the free-man techs were willing to betray the lizard tyrant and none of the tech slaves were skilled enough. Save, that is, for one. But Vegeta would rather die than resort to asking the Earthling tech slave for her help. However, that didn't mean he was above tricking her into helping him. He wasn't going to give up his quest for immortality. He will be free of Frieza's clutches, one way or the other! Today was the day he would find out if the tech slave could give him what he needed.
"Tech slave!" he barked, obsidian eyes darting to the newly repaired communication screen.
When monitor blinked on, the aqua-haired woman's face appeared. And with all the frankness Vegeta could muster he observed, "You look more hideous than usual."
Unlike his other insults, this one had merit. She looked like she hadn't slept in days, her skin was sallow, her hair was an oily, stringy mess, and there were dark circles under her eyes. Her mouth curled in derision, "Tell me something I don't know."
Vegeta smirked as he obliged her rhetorical question with "You're incompetent and useless,"
He watched her jaw clench in anger, eyes screwing shut as she breathed in through her nostrils in an attempt to retain her composure before asking him, "What do you want?"
"I want to know the status of that upgrade I requested."
"A request is different from a threat," she stated in a low, even tone, "But if you must know, I was in the process of finishing the last batch of tests."
"If you had half the talent you keep boasting about, you would have been done sooner."
"I would have finished sooner if you just stopped interrupting me every ten Kami damned minutes." She glared, folding her arms across her chest in a visible attempt to keep her temper in check.
There was something strangely satisfying in needling this particular tech slave. Something in the way her blue eyes burned bright with rage thrilled him, made him feel like he was facing off with a powerful opponent for the first time. The way she handled herself whenever she defended the quality of her creations was almost regal, her cutting words dignified, as if she'd been born from a royal house instead of some backwater planet on the purge-list.
He found himself engaging her in these verbal spars more and more often. And each time, he came to discover just how keen her wit was. As long as the woman didn't insult the subject of his people's honor, the Saiyan prince actually found her interesting.
Old Gods, there were even moments Vegeta wished she had some ounce of fighting power so he could see how she would perform in a battle. Would she favor an elegant technique or did her temper suggest a more brutal, feral style? But when he realized he was having these thoughts, he quickly pushed them to the back of his mind. He couldn't afford distractions and she was proving to be one of the biggest distractions he'd ever encountered. And for that, he would make her death as slow and torturous as possible.
For now, he would grant her mercy and allow her to continue serving his needs.
"All I keep hearing are excuses," Vegeta chided, mimicking her stance while jutting his chin at her just so, making his own mockery all the more pronounced. "Really, woman, the only way I can see how you'd take such pride in your work is if your standards are exceptionally low."
Blue eyes simply stared right through him, "If you're quite done wasting our time-" she sounded bored as she glanced over her shoulder to look at something off-screen, "-your little "request's" final test results indicate I can boot it up right now."
"Do it," he ordered as he turned his back to her.
"You're welcome," she snarled and turned off the monitor.
The room began to thrum as the walls and floors rearranged themselves for a new session.
When the first laser pistol emerged from a hidden panel, Vegeta frowned in disappointment. He shot a small beam of Ki at the weapon to test whether or not a Ki-deflecting shield had been raised. He was startled to find the beam passing through the pistol without destroying it but the moment passed quickly and he was once again on the alert, managing to dodge a hail of missiles that shot out of a blank section of the wall.
He couldn't tell whether his request had been accomplished. Not until he slipped on a Scouter for the first time in months and activated it. When the eyepiece gave no readings nor any indications of the cloaked objects within the Training Simulator, Vegeta knew he could push into the next part of his plan.
Automatons suddenly dropped down from the ceiling and while these two appeared on the Scouter, they did not look like the automatons but rather like the rookie mercenaries who'd dared interrupt his training. It seemed the tech slave managed to push his plan even further, much to the Saiyan's delight.
"These are a welcomed distraction to your usual mundane creations," Vegeta smirked, taking great pleasure in ripping the droids apart. His smirk widened when the images the droids now sported were of Zarbon and Cui. While he would have preferred to tear into the real individuals, this was an adequate way to pass the time.
"You made me bust my ass for a specially calibrated cloaking mechanism just because you wanted a distraction!?" the woman's voice suddenly rang throughout the simulator.
The Saiyan prince purposely turned towards one of the cameras built into the chamber, making sure the tech slave saw the smug, triumphant sneer on his face when he answered, "Yes."
He allowed himself an amused chuckle when he sensed her Ki flare in rage. It was really more of a spark than a flare, he had to purposely lock onto her negligibly tiny Ki to have even noticed any increase. But that was enough of a warm up, it was time for him to throw himself back into training. This session proved far more satisfying than the others despite the relative ease.
It was one thing to destroy faceless machines, it was another when they took on the form of real people. He had the pleasure of killing Radditz and the Earthling Namekian and even the traitorous Kakarot. It was a shame, he noted, that they didn't bleed. He'll see to it that the tech slave remedied that.
Vegeta turned on his heel, about to bury his fist through another cloaked droid when he saw it was the tech slave. Oh this was rich, was she trying to get back at him? Didn't she realize she was giving him more reason to destroy it? The oil-stained coveralls she was wearing suddenly shifted into a sundress that revealed much of her creamy skin and the attractive swell of her breasts. The grim countenance she initially displayed turned into a radiant, joyful smile, as if she was greeting an old comrade. But the sudden blush deepening on the apples of her cheeks suggested she was reuniting with an old lover.
He stood stock-still, transfixed more by the warmth in her open smile and less by the gauzy fabric of her dress. He had never seen her look at him, or at anyone else, in such a manner before. In that instant he forgot where he was. Until pain, sharp and intense, tore through him as a bolt of artificial Ki shot through his shield and into his shoulder, jarring him back to reality. Snarling, he released a string of blasts, matching each beam with two of his own that jammed into muzzles, bursting mechanisms from within, and igniting a series of explosions that rocked the Training Complex.
When the dust had settled and the ringing in his ears stopped, Vegeta heard the faint hiss of the intercom switching on, then the clipped voice of the Earthling tech slave asking, "That distracting enough for you?"
With one last twist of her wrench and a throaty grunt, Bulma finally finished constructing her spaceship. She stepped back, wiping her brow with the back of her hand before grinning while she admired her craft. It was smaller than the massive ship of an officer but it was larger than the one-man pods. It was big enough to comfortably fit up to three individuals and the necessary supplies for the trip to planet Namek.
Affectionately, she reached out with a gloved hand to stroke the Capsule Corporation logo she had haphazardly painted on once the hull was complete. The logo lacked her usual precision but she was pressed for time, Miint had confirmed the journey from this Planet Base to Planet Namek took at least two weeks. After almost five months since Kami informed her of Earth's fate, Bulma didn't have the luxury of time. She didn't know how long it would be before Zarbon returned either. She leaned forward to rest her forehead against the metal surface, taking deep, calming breaths as she tried to forget the events three nights ago.
She should have taken better precautions while she was in the Training Simulator. Yes, most of the people on the base knew better than to disturb her when she was "supposedly" repairing the room for the Saiyan, but then again, Cui was not most people. She had just finished installing the hyper-engine on top the maintenance work on the Saiyan's cloaking device and was the process of modifying her spaceship's cloaking mechanism to have the same effect as the Training Simulator's when she heard the door slide open. She encapsulated the ship too late because the next thing she knew, she was pinned facedown on the metal floor.
"I knew you were up to something!" Cui cackled triumphantly, his gloved hand clamped tight on her nape.
Bulma couldn't reach for her Ki-gun, the sharpshooting instructor had his foot pressing down on her wrist, and she obviously didn't have the strength to pull free. The purple alien put more weight on her wrist, threatening to snap delicate, Earthling bone. Her stomach knotted at what she was about to do.
"What do you think Zarbon will say after he learns you attacked me?" As much as she hated to use Zarbon's name to protect herself, Cui wasn't giving her much of a choice. But then, the purple alien answered and all color drained from her face.
"Zarbon probably promote me for obeying him so well. He did tell me to keep a close eye on you," he sneered. "And I'm sure he and Master Frieza will very interested in that little trick of yours. How did you make that huge spaceship disappear like that?"
"I'm not telling you shit, you thick-lipped freak!" Bulma snarled, struggling in vain against his grip.
"Aww, now you've gone and hurt my feelings." He frowned, narrowing his beady eyes at her. "Looks like Zarbon's last lesson wasn't enough to teach you manners."
"You don't hit half as hard as he does." Bulma put on a brave front, but her body had instinctively begun trembling at the memory. "But you're three times uglier so I'll give you that."
A deep, velvety voice suddenly rumbled, "He's also five times as stupid."
There was a sharp displacement of air, and the oppressing weight on the back of her neck and wrist lifted. Cui's squeals for mercy rang throughout the room. By the time she got to her knees, thick, violet blood rained down on her as the purple alien exploded from nothing more than Vegeta focusing his overwhelming Ki.
While she waited for the pounding in her ears to stop, she stared up at the Saiyan, mouth slightly agape. She was half worried from the brutal display, half confused from the mechanics behind Cui's death, and completely shocked that Vegeta had saved her. Why had he come back? And how did he even know what Cui was up to? Did he know what she was up to?
The Saiyan studied her wordlessly and without emotion. The lack of mockery and insults from Vegeta unnerved her. He never let an opportunity to cut her down pass him by. And yet here they were, simply staring at each other. All traces of his emotions were hidden behind an unreadable mask while Bulma let her hair fall into her eyes.
"Don't think this means anything, tech slave. I warned him what would happen to him if I found him in here," Vegeta growled. "You're lucky I remembered I had another upgrade for you to make."
Bulma nodded wordlessly at him, keeping her eyes downcast as she listened to his latest demands. She was visibly shaken up by the attack and by what Cui had said. Zarbon had ordered Cui to keep a close eye on her? Were there more warriors acting as the emerald-skinned officer's eyes and ears?
"Woman, are you even listening?" Vegeta pressed.
Bulma was not in the mood for an argument. She only needed to make a few more adjustments to her spaceship and learn the fastest route to planet Namek before she can finally get away from this accursed Planet Base, and Zarbon, and this ungrateful, overbearing, insufferable Saiyan! "Yes, you want the next batch of Ki-shields to also act like the cloaking device," she repeated mechanically.
"Good." He sounded satisfied with her answer and began to leave.
Just as the door slid open, Bulma whispered, "Thank you." She didn't bother to look if he heard it. The realization of just how close she came to losing everything hit her with an audible crash and she crumpled forward into a sobbing heap.
"It won't be long now," Bulma whispered as she encapsulated the spaceship, pocketing the resulting capsule together with her Ki-gun. "I'll make everything right again." She headed for the Training Simulator's control room. She slipped on a modified Scouter, one that was cut off from the networks and had the same properties as the cloaking device she designed for the Saiyan. She activated the small device, and entered a special program into the control room's main computer. Upon successfully installing the program, a timer flashed on her Scouter. With the cloaking device on, she managed to easily slip into the Planet Base's launch area.
The guards stationed by the gates never realized she was there. All they heard was a soft pop as she decapsulated the Ki-gun and the sharp jolt of energy knocked them both out. With them unconscious, there was no one to hear the louder burst from the spaceship, and with the craft's own cloaking shield activated, not even the surveillance cameras detected her.
Once settled inside, she checked the timer on her modified Scouter. There was no room for error. She only had one shot at this and if she missed it... she shook her head clear of that thought, blue eyes fixing on the timer. She made one last inspection of her supplies before closing the spacecraft's door. In anxious silence, Bulma wait for the digits on the ship's screen hit to zero before she pressed a switch on the control panel.
The ship's engines roared to life and catapulted her into space at the exact moment a massive explosion rocked the Planet Base. Her mouth split into a wild-eyed grin as the image on the screen revealing the image of the Training Complex erupting into more explosions. With the planet base's personnel rushing to contain the fire, no one noticed Bulma's craft breaking through the atmosphere and disappearing into space.
Bulma leaned back in her seat, finally releasing the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding since the launch, lids slowly closing in triumph. Blue eyes suddenly shot open as her entire body went rigid. Because strong hands had clamped down on her shoulders, and a deep velvety voice whispered into the shell of her ear, "Now that was a distraction."