This chapter is brought to you by DarkVoid116, Kanotari, and Dying Grin
Salt in the Wounds
That egotistical bastard had been correct after all. After being forced to abandon Vegeta's dying body, Carth had directed her towards the Capsule Corp. heiress' personal bedroom. After searching fruitlessly for a few minutes, she happened upon what her master desired. Despite cognitively knowing the potential repercussions, her body betrayed her mind and removed the Dragon Radar from its drawer.
Carth didn't want her dilly-dallying, so she was forced to quietly find an exit from the compound which didn't pass by any security cameras - the longer the Brief were unaware of the Dragon Radar's absence, the better. Although, if her suspicions were correct, some of the less occupied members of Gohan's gang would've noticed the sharp dropoff in Vegeta's ki.
Once she was out of the compound safely, she took to the air, opting for a wide, roundabout route to Carth's lair in case she was tracked by any of Gohan's acquaintances. Her maniacal boss apparently didn't want her inadvertently leading uninvited guests to his hideout. Once she was out of sight and had laid a false trail to throw off any pursuers, Carth had her turn left and safely land inside the lair.
Once inside, she was reminded once again of the atrocity she had become. Some of the equipment had been destroyed, but behind the wreckage was a mess of robotic parts.
Carth stood in the middle of the room, looking as smug as ever.
"Thanks for the present, dollface," he said, his trademark smirk plastered across his face. He held out his hand expectantly, and though she tried to resist, Videl obediently placed the Dragon Radar into his cold fingers. She desperately wanted to put him in his place, or at least do something.
"I said, 'thank you,'" he scoffed. "The least you could do is say, 'you're welcome.'" Then he made a face full of mock surprise. "Oh, that's right. You can't."
He pulled a small remote out of his pocket, holding it up for his unwilling servant to see. "You're remote controlled, and you don't even need batteries," the android sneered.
Videl eyed the device. It was a strange concept, that her every move could be controlled by something no bigger than her hand. She felt the strangest sensation as Carth flicked a switch. It was like the feeling of circulation returning to a place it had been cut off. She cautiously opened her jaw, testing it, and was pleasantly surprised that it obeyed her will.
She smiled. "Go to hell, Carth," she spat. That felt so good to say.
"Tsk, tsk," her captor scolded. "That tongue of yours if going to get you in trouble one of these days. We're going to see my boss. Me, I'd just control you again, but the head honcho? Well let's just say you'd be kissing your tongue good bye."
"You're quite a monster, Carth. If he's worse than you then your boss must be the bottom of the barrel of evil," she scoffed.
Videl swore she saw the RabitGrass lieutenant shudder. Was he scared? She almost laughed despite herself. That was a ridiculous thought to even entertain.
"You have no idea what kind of monster you're dealing with," he sighed. "Come on. Let's get going."
"Going? Where?" she wondered aloud.
"Don't ask questions," Carth barked.
It didn't matter, anyway. Videl recognized the location as soon as they drew near: an upscale bistro named Cavo. It was a high-end establishment for clientele with deep pockets and a love of the avant garde. Her father was fascinated by its ever-changing menu, and had brought Videl here many times before. Heck, she had even met the the owner and posed for pictures with her. Why had Carth brought her here of all places?
Now that they had arrived, Videl was so nervous that she could barely think straight, and that was dangerous. She would need her wits about her tonight. She had control of her voice back for the moment, but one wrong word would have Carth discreetly clicking the 'on' button on that damned device. She dug her nails into her palm, letting the rush of pain clear her thoughts. She had more than Carth to worry about. She was a recognizable public figure, but more importantly, now a wanted criminal. She didn't know how Carth did it, how he could just walk around in public without constantly sweating, worrying that someone would recognize him. It was driving her crazy after less than a day of criminal activity. She couldn't help but notice that her haggard appearance and worn clothes stood out like a sore thumb in the restaurant. Carth was no better; he looked like a flamboyant gangster...
Carth held the door open for her like the perfect gentleman. She watched the hostess smile, buying the RabitGrass elite's sickeningly sweet behavior. It made her want to puke.
"Table for me," Carth informed the hostess. Then he turned to Videl. The girl felt a moment of panic; his face was rapidly approaching hers. It was shock alone that kept her from punching him in the face when he rubbed his nose against hers. "And this little darling too," he continued. He topped the performance off by placing a delicate kiss on her forehead.
The hostess was smiling again. "You two are so adorable," she gushed. "I wish I could find someone like that."
'No you don't,' Videl thought, but she played along. She needed to blend in just as much as Carth did. With a forced smile on her face, she wrapped her arms about his. He chuckled softly, then softly said, "Come on, doll."
The hostess led them to a square table, smack in the middle of the restaurant. As Carth realized where the woman was headed, Videl could feel his arm tensing under her fingers. He patted hands gently, telling her remove them. Though a little puzzled, Videl did as he asked, trying her best to fake looking disappointed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, removing a crisp bill, then approached the hostess.
He leaned in until his mouth was mere centimeters away from her ear. "Say, you wouldn't happen to have somewhere more... private?" he asked, pressing the money into her palm.
The hostess smiled coyly, and then winked. "I have just the place."
This time, the two androids slid into a booth in the corner of the restaurant. The hostess handed them each a menu, and said, "Your server today will be Jenny. She'll be here to take your orders in just a moment. Enjoy your meal."
"Thanks," Carth replied as she walked away.
'Please? Thanks?' Videl scoffed. "Cut the act," she whispered as soon as the hostess was out of earshot.
"That crap keeps me alive," he replied.
"Pity," Videl spat bitterly. She allowed her hatred for Carth to bubble to the surface for a moment, memories of her forceful imprisonment coming to the forefront like a hurricane, whirling through her mind. The pained, betrayed faces of the people of Satan City, the lifeless expression of Vegeta, and the hurt in Gohan's eyes.
Carth reached across the table and took the Satan girl's hands in his own. He smiled placidly. More acting. "This is your last warning," he said, rubbing the back of her hands with his thumbs, "Don't run your mouth. My boss isn't nearly as forgiving as I am."
Videl's smart reply died on her lips; the color had drained out of Carth's face, and he was staring at something behind her. Or someone, apparently.
When Videl looked over her shoulders, she saw a woman who was beautiful by most every standard. She was tall, had a slender, fit figure, brown curly hair, deep blue eyes, much like Videl's own, and carried herself in a very professional manner, her reading glasses situated on the bridge of her nose. This night, she adorned a black skirt which reached almost to her knees, and pitch black high heels.
Videl pursed her lips. There was something very familiar about the woman. The dark-haired woman approached a server with a tray of drinks and tapped her on the shoulder. She said something to the girl, who nodded and smiled. Videl turned back toward Carth. She was willing to bet that that woman had just spoken to Jenny, their server. She was also willing to bet that Jenny would be giving them very ghostlike service today.
Wordlessly, the mysterious woman slipped herself into the booth, seating herself right next to Videl. She didn't even acknowledge another presence at the table. Instead she stared impassively at Carth. Videl watched the android set his jaw and meet her gaze, though she could see a hint of fear in his eyes. The raven-haired teen almost couldn't believe it. This was the person Carth was afraid of? Videl almost laughed as she remembered where she had seen the other woman before; she owned this restaurant. Carth was terrified of a restaurant owner. What was she going to do? Give him food poisoning?
"Hi," she said sweetly. "I think we've met once before. You're the owner here, right?"
The woman ignored her, narrowing her eyes at Carth.
Carth sighed. "Videl, meet Vermilla White."
"Nice to meet you," the teen said politely. Her politeness was not returned.
Vermilla's blue eyes continued to bore into Carth's chocolate ones in an aggressive staring contest. The entrepreneur didn't so much as blink, keeping her cold, calculating gaze locked on the android in the opposite booth. Videl felt a twinge of worry when Carth looked away. She might not know who this Vermilla character was, but if she was important enough in RabitGrass to instill fear into the sinister android seated next to her, she was clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Silence reigned, only punctuated by the rustle of clothing as Carth wiped beads of sweat from his forehead. Videl's fear began to fade as conversation eluded them for five... ten... fifteen minutes. The booths around them began to clear out, one by one, until the restaurant stood empty.
As the door closed behind the last satisfied customers, Vermilla finally spoke. "You're late." Her voice was soft and controlled, but still held a menacing aspect to it. It was clear she was not to be crossed under any circumstances.
Videl watched quietly as the man who had always acted arrogant and confident under any circumstance stumbled a little, fear on his face. If it weren't for the fact she was also somewhat intimidated by Vermilla, she would've smiled victoriously.
"I... we..." he stammered, trying to get his tongue under control. "Traffic."
"Frankly, I don't care what silly excuse you concoct," the woman hissed. It was a disturbing contrast to the placid smile on her face.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
'Sorry?' Videl wondered. First 'please,' then 'thanks.' Carth really was off tonight.
Vermilla clasped her hands in front of her. It reminded Videl of her elementary school principal. At last the businesswoman spoke. "You shouldn't have put us out in the open like that, Mr. Ehrhardt. It was foolish and is simply further evidence you are immature and ill-equipped for a promotion within the organization."
Okay, now Videl was thoroughly confused. What were they talking about?
Carth scoffed. "We have to flaunt what we've got, show off our power, make th- "
"I don't want to hear about power," Vermilla interjected with a sneer. "We have all the power we need of it thanks to our biological enhancements. What I wanted was for you to be discreet and stay under the radar with Ms. Satan. Due to your unplanned little stunt, there were whispers when you two entered my fine establishment. I don't like whispers."
The eerie calmness the businesswoman oozed simply gave the teenage girl a bad feeling. She was a homey woman who was seemed gorgeous and kind on first glance, but now Videl could see that dark, mean-spirited side.
Carth mumbled something that Videl couldn't quite hear. Ms. White, however, narrowed her eyes. Whatever Carth said certainly hadn't pleased her.
"Whispers are good," he said again, a little louder this time. The android took a deep breath, filling his lungs, then exhaled slowly. "Whispers sow fear," he continued, more confident now, "and fear is a powerful tool."
"Fear, Mr. Erhardt, must be a subtle tool. The world feared Commander Red, and look where he ended up: in a shallow grave. People feared him too much, and fear is the reason he is dead. I will not repeat history, Mr. Erhardt. You will conduct yourself with care or you will learn to properly fear me."
Commander Red? Where had Videl heard that name? It sounded extremely familiar, like it'd cluttered her history textbooks throughout middle school and high school.
"Commander Red died because he was an idiot. He got a whole bunch of loyal people killed so he could be a little taller."
"Enough!" Vermilla snapped.
Carth jumped, breathing heavily.
Vermilla found it funny. "Moving right along," she continued with a self-satisfied smile. "What did you find out about the Dragon Balls in your research Carth?" She clicked her fingernails against the wooden tabletop impatiently, waiting for her subordinate to answer.
"The kid doesn't know anything," he answered softly.
"You mean to tell me that after a full year of research, the only thing you have to tell me is that Son Gohan doesn't know where the Dragon Balls are?"
"You couldn't even find me the location of a single Dragon Ball?" she snapped.
Videl's eyes flicked to Carth's pocket. He was lying. He had the Dragon Radar in his pocket. He could find every single one of the Dragon Balls. Why had she risked her hide, and been forced to betray her friends and their families, if he wasn't going to surrender the Dragon Radar? Wasn't that the plan?
"I am very disappointed in you, Carth. I don't want to see you here until after you have all seven of these orbs to deliver to me. Here," she offered, sliding a napkin with an address on it, "is the address you will meet Tavo and Wren at. They will help you look for these Dragon Balls. Ask around, search the old lab, but find them."
"Yes, ma'am," Carth sighed. He sounded so tired, like it was going to be a chore, a long impossible search. Damn... he was a good actor.
"Oh and Mr. Erhardt," Vermilla added. "If I see you again without the Dragon Balls, you can consider your life forfeit."
Carth ground his teeth together. He had more to say, that much was clear, but he pressed his palms to the table and lifted his body out of the booth. He paused for a moment, allowing himself a small smirk. "Pleasure as always... Coco."
After making sure everything was fine on the Lookout, Piccolo set off to Capsule Corporation. He wanted to see the recently unveiled events with his own eyes. His white cape fluttered in the air like a demented albino bat, the wind whistled through his ears and his sensitive hearing picked up the sound of voices as he passed over a village far below.
Videl's lack of ki was unsettling to say the least; her personality change, more so. Piccolo just had to hope that Gohan would keep a level head through this unexpected turn of last thing they needed was one of the strongest warriors on the planet going on a rampage.
It had been an idle conversation topic the last few years at Bulma's social gathering of the Z-fighters who was stronger, Vegeta or Gohan? Piccolo hoped they never had to find out. Some of them had began to question Gohan's mental state after living the life of a recluse for so long and wondered, if worst came to worst, would they would they be able to stop him. The truth was that nobody knew, and it always created a tense atmosphere. There was a reason Bulma had banned the topic at future parties.
Thinking of the two Saiyans made Piccolo absent-mindedly check their ki. His surprise almost made him halt mid-air. Gohan's ki was massive. He had powered up to, at the very least, the Super Saiyan level. Vegeta's ki, on the other hand, was rapidly fading. Piccolo knew exactly what that meant: Vegeta was dying. Damn, damn, damn! He blasted forward, going full speed to his destination. He should be at West City in a minute, tops. He had to think rationally. Vegeta's life was on the line. He removed his weighted cape and turban, letting them fall to the ground below. They would only slow him down, and time was of the essence.
A familiar glowing skyline appeared on the horizon of the night sky: West City. Piccolo felt a brief moment of resistance, cursing as he was thrown off course. He had just realized that he had ploughed through something when he heard a yelp behind him, and turned in midair and greeted the other man. "Krillin."
The short man glared at him, rubbing his shoulder. "Jeez, give a guy some warning!"
Piccolo growled. He didn't have time for this. He grabbed the smaller man by the shoulders and pointed him toward Capsule Corp. "Start flying," he ordered.
"What? Where? Why?" Krillin stammered as he tried to keep pace with the alien.
"Check Vegeta's ki."
Krillin visibly paled. "Oh."
The two continued to fly for a few brief seconds until they reached Capsule Corporation. Piccolo knew they didn't have enough time to ring the doorbell but, luckily, he spotted an open window. Good. He didn't want to have to blast a hole in the wall and set off all the alarms.
By some stroke of luck they made it in without setting anything off, a fact that Krillin proclaimed to several various deities was a miracle. They found themselves in the master bedroom. The once extravagant room looked as though it had survived a hurricane. The closet doors hung at odd angles and the clothes inside lay on the floor. The dresser drawers lay on top of the pile, emptied as well. The bed had been stripped to the mattress, then ripped open, filling the room with bits of goose down. Someone was looking for something.
Piccolo bared his teeth. He wanted to know who ransacked the place; he was sure it was important. Vegeta, however, was more important. He tested the bedroom door. It was stuck shut. A quick glance revealed a bobby pin wedged in the lock. Whoever had wrecked the room must have wanted privacy. He nodded; there was no other option. Deaf to Krillin's pleas, he kicked it open.
They sprinted down the maze of hallways and corridors, trying to get closer to the dying Saiyan royal. Krillin led the way; he knew the place better. As they got closer and closer a burning question plagued Piccolo's thoughts, how had this happened in Vegeta's own home? "He should be just around the next corner," he called over his shoulder to Krillin, taking the lead. He didn't need the monk's directions any more. The trail of blood lead the way.
Piccolo turned the corner, Krillin right on his heels, and saw something that wouldn't have looked out of place in a horror movie. As a warrior and being a part of a race that could regrow limbs Piccolo wasn't by nature a squeamish person. Not even he could hide his horror at the scene in front of him. It was nearly impossible to tell that the hallway used to be white instead of red , the ceiling the only giveaway. Vegeta was laying face down in a puddle of blood, his skin a sickly white. Through the gaping hole in his back, the rescuers could see the bottom of Vegeta's lungs expanding and contracting as the Saiyan gasped for breath. But that wasn't the worst part, no. Two words were sloppily written in blood on the wall, and from the trail of blood, it seemed Vegeta had been the writer.
Piccolo had a sinking feeling in his gut. He had a strong suspicion as to who the girl was and what Vegeta had meant by radar. "Krillin," the Namek asked softly, "Where do they keep the Dragon Radar?"
"I think Bulma keeps it in her nightstand," the monk replied with a worried frown. "Why?"
"Grab Vegeta," Piccolo ordered. "He can rest in the bed while we search."
"Rest?! We have to get him to Dr. Brief!" Krillin insisted.
"Just do it!" Piccolo snapped. He paused for a moment, his eyebrows knitting into a grimace. Somewhere in his mind, Vegeta's survival had stopped being top priority. His eyes widened as he realized that he didn't believe the Saiyan could survive. When had he begun to think that?
The ransacked bedroom made sense now. Videl must have searched it for the radar; did she find it?
Krillin sighed heavily, but he did as Piccolo asked. The monk had learned to listen to his Namek friend on the rare occasions when the extraterrestrial lost his cool. Gingerly, he scooped Vegeta up. The Saiyan moaned in pain as the gentle motion caused more blood to gush forth from his wound.
"Keep up Krillin," Piccolo snapped, reaching the end of his tether.
The rest of the hurried journey was spent in silence, besides the occasional grunt from Krillin and mumbled curse. They soon reached the door leading into the master bedroom, it was wide open.
"I really hope Bulma keeps a Senzu around here somewhere," Krillin muttered.
Piccolo didn't dignify the grumbling with an answer. He was too busy searching his memories. He had seen the nightstand's drawer, hadn't he? That's right! They were in the closet, on top of the pile of clothes. He raced over to the heap of garments and hangers and began digging around. Tissues, no. Book, no. Blouse, also no. Please be here somewhere. The radar had to be here somewhere. His fingers closed around a tiny, squishy thing the size of his fingertip. He pulled it out of the pile.
Krillin was placing the dying Vegeta on the bed when Piccolo's fingers closed around a tiny, squishy thing the size of his fingertip. He pulled it out of the pile.
"You found it!" Krillin sighed, relieved, as the Namek handed the healing legume over. The bald man leaned down and opened Vegeta's mouth, dropping the bean inside. Vegeta must have recognized the acrid flavor, for he began chewing slowly. He swallowed with effort, letting a pained moan pass through his lips.
Krillin waited for a moment, looking for some sign that the magical bean was working. He stared intently at the gaping chest wound, willing it to close, but nothing seemed to be happening. He squinted at the wound. From the new perspective, the wound looked a little smaller... maybe. Why wasn't the Senzu working? Weren't they supposed to be instantaneous?
"Piccolo," the other fighter called out, "something on his chest is hindering the Senzu."
As he approached the bed, Piccolo saw that Krillin had torn off the bloody remains of Vegeta's tank top. Krillin's earlier words became clear; there was some sort of translucent, sticky substance on the chiseled chest. The Senzu Bean had made the hole smaller and stopped the bleeding, but the wound hadn't completely healed. Piccolo had never seen a Senzu fail before, but he had a hunch that the reason lay with the mysterious goop on the prince's chest. He stuck a pointed fingernail in the gel, trying to scoop some up for further examination. It wouldn't budge.
"I tried to scrape it off, but it wouldn't even budge with my full strength," Krillin added, nervously.
"We've got bigger problems," Piccolo explained. "I can't find the Dragon Radar. Videl must have taken it, and considering the incident at Satan City and now this," he said, gesturing to Vegeta's extensive injuries, "it is safe to assume that she will not be using it responsibly." He finished on a solemn note before taking a large sigh and ploughing on. "And considering that she was able to defeat Vegeta, she has the potential to be a risk as deadly as Frieza or Cell."
Krillin was quiet for a moment, but he nodded in agreement. There was a tense moment of silence before the ex-monk spoke. "Poor Gohan."
Piccolo agreed; the kid was going to be crushed. "We tell Bulma first. Then we contact Yamcha, Tien... all our allies. We're going to gather the Dragon Balls before Videl does."
The two left the room, with heavy minds and hearts, wondering how high the body count would rise before the nightmare was over.
Guilt weighed heavily on his heart, even despite the immense rage he still felt. Many things were starting to fall into place - her lack of ki, her attitude towards him, the fact that she murdered innocent civilians.
If Carth knew what was best for him, he would avoid Gohan at any cost. After dispatching of Dr. Brief for his serious indiscretions, the Super Saiyan would gladly take any opportunity to rip that RabitGrass elite limb by limb.
"Man, Bulma is going to be pissed," he spoke aloud to himself. He felt bad about Dr. Brief to an extent, but if the last seven years had taught him anything, it was that ties to the outside world usually result in hurt, in emotional scarring. He tried to justify his actions to himself, reminding himself that Dr. Brief wasn't exempt from the rules everybody else abided to. "If it were Vegeta or Krillin that betrayed me like that, it wouldn't be any different. I'd really only give a pass to Bulma, Videl, Goten, and Trunks."
Despite himself, he found his teal eyes bristling with unshed tears, his emotions varying wildly like a roller coaster. Sparks of electricity swirled around him, whipping with the wind.
"How could I let my rage get the better of me? I need to calm my emotions," Gohan admitted, powering down.
Immediately, more guilt rose to the pit of his stomach. He killed a man. Despite that man's faults and mistakes, he still killed a person who he considered an acquaintance, a borderline friend. His brother's adoptive grandfather, at that. With his eyes back to their natural charcoal color and his sense sharpened by his new, rational state of mind, he continued flying.
"I need to find Carth, and soon. I have to rescue Videl," he stated firmly, ignoring those internal cries that reminded him some people considered talking to oneself a sign of insanity.
Looking down at the pale face and limp, clearly deceased body in his arms, the half-Saiyan was reminded of the pending confrontation. There was no feasible way to hide the state of the old doctor, what with his chest containing a gaping hole and all. Bulma would immediately recognize that her father was dead, and the blood on his clothes would be a dead giveaway he was at least present at the time of the murder.
Should he be honest? Admit Dr. Brief stained the most famous surname in the world and was somewhat willingly in league with RabitGrass? That was was involved with transforming Videl into a cybernetic abomination?
Or should he say to fuck with it all and lie? Blame it on Carth, say the diabolical, insane villain blasted a hole through Dr. Brief before he could stop him?
Did he have the heart to look his brother's mother-figure dead in the eye and tell a blatant lie? That was the question Gohan was left to contemplate as he zipped through the cold air en route to the dome headquarters of the world's largest corporation.
The grassy fields that sped by beneath him didn't quite fit the gloomy sense of foreboding Gohan had. This was going to be awful. "Man, I'm never going to be able to make this up to her."
Soon enough, the skyline of West City, headlined by the gigantic house built by the man in his arms, began to creep up onto the edge of the horizon. Its skyscrapers, office buildings, and beautiful scenery helped Gohan steel his nerves. What was the worst that could happen, anyway?
"I don't even want to fucking entertain those scenarios," Gohan cursed aloud. "Every time someone says that, something horrible happens."
As Gohan sped through the air, he decided that the easiest way to hide Dr. Brief's body would be to put it in the garden, out of sight. It might seem suspicious - he reckoned Bulma would assume he had something to hide when she discovered that he concealed the doctor's death any longer than necessary. His thought process seemed sound, so Gohan slipped inside the compound silently, masking his ki, and went as fast as he could towards the outdoor sanctuary. Of course, as fast as he could go was actually invisible to the naked eye.
"Man, this is such a mess," the dark-haired teen admonished. He left the doctor's corpse on a bench, in a sleeping pose, and set off to find Bulma. Extending his ki senses, the Son teen found her energy signature located in one of her laboratories. It was a short walk from where he was, so Gohan walked through the doors and into the hallway, quickly finding Bulma.
"Hey, Bulma," he greeted. He'd resolved to keep his nerves in check and deal with her anger as it came. He knew she'd be furious, so it served him best to take things in stride and act collected despite his guilt and grief.
"Hi, Gohan," she replied. "How did it go? More importantly, where did you go?" Her sickeningly sweet smile made him want to puke his guts out. She was so innocent in this situation, and most certainly did not deserve the sadness his actions would bring on.
He still hadn't decided which route to take. To lie or to be honest? To keep his friendship with the heiress intact or to permanently burn that bridge? Which was better? Obviously the latter, but would their friendship be able to stand on false legs?
"I went to my grandpa's grave. I just needed some time to myself," he said, deciding to tell the truth at first.
"Okay, that sounds smart. Vegeta went in to talk to Videl a little while ago," she explained, "and I just needed to get away from all this trouble for a few minutes and tinker with an invention. Hopefully my father should be back from wherever he ventured off to soon," she finished, causing a wave of new guilt to crash into Gohan's soul.
"Some other stuff happened," the demi-Saiyan cautiously began. Now was the moment of truth. Which option should he choose? Should he tell her that he murdered her father in cold blood, because of his poor decisions?
Before he had an opportunity to expand upon his vague, mysterious declaration, two young Saiyans burst into the room.
"Mom!" Trunks started, seemingly out of breath. "Something's wrong with grandpa! He's asleep!"
The Brief heiress quirked an eyebrow at that statement. "Oh, my dad is back? I guess he fell asleep after returning. What's the big deal about that?"
Now it was Goten's turn to speak, although when he rose his head to meet Bulma's questioning gaze, his red puffy eyes made the two adults falter. "We can't wake him up! His face is so white too!" he young Son boy cried out. Tears began streaming down his face. "I'm so scared, Mommy."
Gohan visibly flinched when his younger sibling referred to his father's old friend as 'Mommy' yet again, but had more pressing matters to attend to. "Where did your dad go off to, anyway, Bulma?" he asked, trying to keep his voice even. If it wavered at all, the woman would be perceptive enough to pick up on his deception.
"After Videl was kidnapped he said he had some business to attend to, and that my mom was with him already. She came back a little while ago though, and said he told her he would be back a little bit later on." The warrior could tell her voice was quivering and breaking; she was on the verge of tears, probably assuming the worst.
"Goten, Trunks," Gohan addressed them with a soft, comforting voice, "why don't you two go play? Bulma and I will go wake up your grandpa."
The two children went off in search of something fun to do, Goten rubbing the tears out of his eyes as they went.
The two adults made their way towards the observatory, a small pep in their step. Bulma was out in front, nervousness radiating off her in spades. He felt bad, but if he had any chance of salvaging this friendship, he needed to keep his emotions in check, and that included not getting angry at her reaction. It was inevitable at this point; the two half-Saiyan children had inadvertently taken away his decision on how to approach Bulma.
As soon as they reached the garden, all the color drained from his companion's face. She stood rigid, still as a tree. It was almost as if a sorcerer had frozen her to the spot with a spell. Slowly, tears began slipping from her face. "Dad," she whispered, helplessly.
Gohan watched in anguish as she miserably wailed. The last time he regretted the heightened emotions of his Super Saiyan state was the Cell Games, when his arrogance cost his father his life. Now, his anger had cost Dr. Brief his life. Sure, the two situations were not the exact same, what with one person who died being a hero and one being a traitor. The end result of grieving loved ones was the same, though.
"He's," Bulma began between sobs, "definitely dead." Tears streaming down her face, she turned towards Gohan accusingly. Before she spoke, she wiped some tears away with her sleeve, hoping to speak clearly. "What did you know about this, kid?"
His first reaction was to snap back at her and get mad at the accusation to save some face, but then he remembered he'd told her that other stuff had happened while he was away. The logical conclusion she would reach was he had knowledge of the doctor's situation. He had no way out of this now. And so he told her.
"To be honest, Bulma," he started, ignoring her look of betrayal that he didn't deny knowledge of the death, "I used an old inventor's device to find the guy who took Videl. He wasn't there, but your father was, and he admitted to kidnapping Videl. I lost my temper and killed him."
He laid out what happened as a series of events, as facts, in order to make her rational-thinking mind see his side of the story as best she could. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
"You're lying!" she screeched through gritted teeth. "I don't care what you think he did, he would never! How dare you slander his name!" Her outburst finished, she slumped her shoulders, resigned to the fact her father was gone.
"You know kid," she started up again, "despite all of it, everything you've done, all your troubles, I've been supportive," she reprimanded, glaring hatefully at Gohan. "I've always been on your side."
"Can you sense him Piccolo?" Krillin asked, his eyes wide and anxious.
"No," the extraterrestrial snapped. "If you can't, then I can't."
Krillin sighed, leaning against the wall in thought. Piccolo did the same. Dr. Brief's ki didn't seem to exist and both warriors didn't think it was a coincidence.
"We should go to Bulma," Krillin broke out after yet another lengthy silence. "She needs to know about Vegeta and she might know something about Dr. Brief."
Piccolo nodded and turned on his heels, striding down another hallway. He was getting sick of the maze of hallways that formed Capsule Corporation. He felt out Earth's resident powerhouses only to discover that Gohan was with Bulma. The mischievous duo of Trunks and Goten were only a hallway away, a fact confirmed when his ears picked up the sound of footsteps approaching.
Presently the two kids turned the corner, Goten pouting and Trunks scowling. Both of their eyes widened when they saw Piccolo and Krillin standing there, Goten's in wonder and Trunks's in shock and disgust. Goten was the first to break the silence. "Why are you guys covered in ketchup?" the boy exclaimed with a grin. "It makes you look silly."
Trunks looked at them warily, seeing the red stains that covered them for what they were: blood. "Not ketchup Goten," the lavender haired boy mumbled, but refused to elaborate when Goten asked what it really was.
Goten grew tired of pestering his brother and announced that he was gonna ask Dad. That single word spurred Piccolo into action. He put his left arm across the space between him and Krillin, blocking the entrance. "Your Dad is... resting." He hated the words as soon as they left his mouth. "Leave him be."
Trunks cerulean eyes widened, darting from the blood on them then back to Piccolo, putting two and two together. He took a step back in shock.
Krillin sighed. "Where is your Grandad guys?"
Goten frowned as if recalling something puzzling. "It's super duper weird," the innocent boy grumbled. "Grandad wouldn't wake up."
Piccolo heard Krillin audibly gasp beside him. "Garden," Trunks said, answering their silent question. "He's in the garden."
The Namek searched out Bulma and Gohan again, sensing their presences together on the far side of the building. Piccolo felt a sinking feeling in his gut. He could only see one reason for his old pupil presence, and it wasn't good. He didn't want to believe that the inventor of the DynoCaps was dead but all evidence pointed to that, the truth would be revealed in a moment. They braced themselves and opened the doors to the garden.
Time seemed to slow down as the door swung shut behind them. There was Bulma kneeling on the ground and on her other side was Gohan standing perfectly still, his face was unreadable but to Piccolo he looked guilty… and in between them was the body.
Piccolo had no clue how to announce their presence, so he simply increased his power. Gohan looked up sharply at his old mentor and, after a tense moment, nodded at him. Bulma turned, startled by the alien's footsteps. Her face was streaked with tears.
The Namek had no time to handle the situation with any tact. "We've got problems," he explained. "Videl stole the Dragon Radar."
There was a moment of silence as everyone processed the information, but it didn't last. Gohan roared with rage, and blasted off without so much as an explanation, smashing a hole through the ceiling as he soared out of sight.
Piccolo cursed and turned to Krillin. "Inform Bulma about Vegeta," he ordered before he flew after the world's saviour. "Gohan!" he called as he chased down the world's savior. "We have to talk!"
The tension in the room was thick as Krillin turned to the heiress and sighed.
"What about Vegeta?" Bulma asked softly. Her voice was raw, wracked by grief and anger. Her eyes were red and puffy, tear lines marred her face. She had only just discovered her father's fate. This news... it was just too cruel.
Krillin took another breath. "Bulma, I'm so sorry," he said, "Vegeta was attacked."
Bulma's hand flew to her mouth, and her eyes widened in shock. "Is he okay?" she murmured.
The bald man nodded. "He's in the master bedroom."
Bulma hurried past him. Krillin could see the tears forming in her eyes. She was fighting to keep it together. He wished he could help, but there was only one thing that could console her now: talking to Vegeta.
The warrior sat down on the grass, mentally exhausted from the night's events. He looked up at the hole in the ceiling, where could see the twinkling stars in the night sky. They were so beautiful, so peaceful. It was such a contrast to the events of the day. Krillin kicked at the ground, sighing. He had wasted enough time. The monk stood up and dusted off his pants before following Bulma. He had a long night ahead of him.
Krillin left the forgotten body of the doctor in the garden behind. The automatic lights shut off behind him, plunging the corpse and the room into darkness.
Videl wanted to fight against her feet as Carth willed them forward, but she had too many questions for Carth. She was shocked that she had met Coco before, and even more shocked that Vermilla had seemed like a perfectly normal person during those early encounters. Carth, Bahia, and every other criminal Videl had met had given her a bad feeling, like she was about to be sick to her stomach. Vermilla - no, Coco - had seemed perfectly ordinary. It made Videl wonder how many others had slipped under her radar. And then there was Carth. He had been Coco's loyal lapdog for so long. Why would he choose to lie to her now? Why would he keep the Dragon Radar to himself?
Her feet stopped, and she looked up. She stood outside a coffee shop. The wind whipped around her ankles; no wonder everyone was sitting inside. They were the only two people on the patio. The smell of coffee reached her nostrils. It was then that she realized she hadn't eaten anything since Capsule Corp. that morning. She should be starving. It must be another lovely side effect of her recent surgery. "Can I get something to drink?" Videl asked, hoping that drinking something might make her feel a little human.
"No," Carth replied. He gestured to a metal chair, pulling it away from the table. "Sit," he ordered.
Videl obeyed with a sigh. At least he only wanted her to sit down this time. Carth reached for the umbrella in the middle of the table. Despite the darkness and the wind, he put it up. Videl could feel the umbrella shaking the table every time a gust of wind surged by. "The wind is going to rip that right off the table," Videl said, wondering why Carth would be so foolish. She reached toward the umbrella to close it.
Carth's hand interrupted her, smacking her fingers away. "No touching."
She wrinkled her eyebrows at him.
"You'll mess up the signal," he explained.
Signal? So they were meeting someone, then. It made sense. Why else would someone who didn't need to eat visit a place that sold food?
As if on cue, a skinny waitress with a long, red ponytail approached their table. "Did someone order a large white chocolate mocha, soy milk, with extra whip?" she asked, holding out a steaming cup of coffee.
"Yeah," Carth said, taking the sugary drink. "It's for my boss."
Her eyes widened in response. "I thought that was you," she said with a scowl. "How is our benevolent dictator?"
"I'll tell her you said hi, Wren," Carth said with a smirk.
"On second thought," the woman said, "Leave me out of it. Why are you here, Carth? Last I heard, you were holed up in a cave somewhere. It hasn't done any wonders for your complexion."
"Says the girl so pale she makes vampires jealous," Carth scoffed. "Coco has work for you and your dog. Where is he, anyway? Chasing cars?"
"I'd say he's more interested in laser pointers," Wren quipped back, pointing to a miniscule dot on the table. The little red light moved ever so slightly, never deviating more than a millimeter from Carth's hand.
"Tell him I have something for him to sink his teeth into," Carth ordered.
The redheaded girl rolled her eyes and put brought her watch up to her mouth. "We got a suicide mission, finally," she sighed. "Get down here. Don't wanna keep Death waiting."
The red dot disappeared, and thirty seconds later, a man joined them. Videl suddenly understood why Carth thought the newcomer resembled a dog. He was furry, for lack of a better description. His face and neck were covered by a thick black beard, and his arms were blanketed with hair to match. "Carth," he growled.
"Fido," the android returned. "I need you to fetch something for me."
"No." The hulking man-beast crossed his arms over his bulging chest, baring his teeth to add to his menacing appearance.
"Let me rephrase that," Carth continued. "Coco needs you to fetch something for me. Boss's orders."
"Fine," he growled, though he didn't look pleased.
"What are we after?" Wren asked.
"Seven orange balls," Carth explained simply.
The waitress smirked. "Balls? Never figured that's what you of all people would be chasing."
"I really couldn't care less about them," Carth said, examining his fingernails. "Our boss, however, thinks differently."
"Well, Tavo," the red-haired operative said, leaning on her partner's shoulder, "looks like we're already doomed to fail. We don't have anything to go on."
"They're orange. About yay-big," the android interrupted, holding his hands about eight centimeters apart, "Glassy. Have stars in 'em. Go by the name of Dragon Balls."
"Yes, but why does Coco want them?" Wren snapped. "Last time I checked, he wasn't an interior decorator. There has to be something about them."
Carth shrugged. "I try to keep my conversations with the boss short. Gives me a better chance of surviving."
"Where?" Tavo growled.
"That's your job. Find out," Carth ordered.
He snatched up the cup of coffee, considering it carefully and saying, "You know, I think I'll take this to go." He snapped his fingers, like a master summoning his dog. With a heavy sigh, Videl followed the RabitGrass commander.
"Oh, and Wren," he called over his shoulder as they walked away into the night. "Do let me know if you find any."
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