"Bulma?!" Dr. Briefs exclaimed. "Bulma, no! What are you doing here?"
Angry didn't begin to cover how she felt when she watched the mammoth alien escort her father out of the hangar. What did they do, she wondered, run him through a giant shredder? His face was swollen on the right side and his left eye was so puffy that she couldn't even see the line where his lower lid and upper lid met. His normally fine hair had a thick layer of crust matted between the strands which morphed into a river of goo running down his face and dripped onto his lab coat. No—angry was by far an insufficient way of describing how she felt.
"I came to bring you home," she said in an arctic tone, her eyes boring into the grip the giant alien had on her father. His fingers were the size of champagne flutes and looked like they were digging pretty deep into his fragile shoulder. "You want loosen your hold a little bit, big guy? You're going to crush his collar bone."
Nappa was not amused, and, needless to say, he did not loosen his hold on the doctor.
But Doctor Briefs hardly seemed to notice. So appalled was he at the thought of his only daughter standing before these aliens that the pain was nothing more than background noise to him, static. "You… You can't… I mean to say, you didn't come alone, did you?"
He cast a hopeful glance around the tree line then stared meaningfully back to his daughter.
Her lips pulled down into a grim line. His unasked question might as well have been shouted through a megaphone. Did you bring Goku, Krillin, Yamcha… maybe even Tien or Master Roshi?
"It's just me. I didn't think there would be enough time to…" she trailed off. Was it wise to mention that she had extraordinary friends? Friends who would no doubt show up any time now and mop the floor with their skulls? Probably not. She didn't want them to be expecting their appearance. She needed to keep quiet so that at the very least, Goku and the others would have the element of surprise on their side. "… to stop anywhere else."
Raditz narrowed his eyes at their exchange. Clearly those two were speaking in some sort of code, but he'd worry about that later. He had bigger fish to fry. He needed to put his brilliant, probably-but-hopefully-not fruitless plan into motion. But such a plan required delicacy—something that didn't exactly come natural to a Saiyan. "I propose a trade."
"A what?" Nappa and Doctor Briefs chorused.
"A trade. We'll let your father go, unharmed—every single strand of hair intact—if you agree to take his place here."
"No way!" Nappa and the doctor said in unison.
"Have you lost your mind?" Nappa growled, yanking Doctor Briefs back a good three feet. He wasn't keen on the idea of dealing with Vegeta when he woke up that night to find, not the genus they'd delivered that morning, but a skinny, loud mouthed woman instead.
Raditz pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. He never could figure out how Nappa managed to outrank him. Sure, the man had brawn but he was seriously lacking in the brain department. "Excuse us," he said, prying Nappa's fingers from the doctor. "My colleague and I need to discuss. Don't move, now. We're a lot faster than we look and it would be a shame to have to kill the pair of you."
Bulma stared, unsure of what her next move should be. The aliens were putting a decent amount of distance between them. Maybe they could run for it? Doubtful. From what her mom had said, these guys weren't lying. They'd probably swoop down on them like vultures if she tried to run and that made this whole mission a miserable failure.
"I can't believe you came out here," Dr. Briefs scolded and crossed his arms over his chest. There hadn't been many occasions in Bulma's life when her father had shown traces of being honestly disappointed in her—but this was one of them. "These guys are strong, monstrous! And their leader… well he really is a monster! Some sort of creature! With fangs and claws and a long snout! You need to get out of here."
"I'm not leaving without you," she said simply and moseyed over to the ship. It really was an incredible design—large and aerodynamic at the same time, like a pointed oval with sleep wings jutting out of either side. She pressed hard against one of the panels and watched in awe as the metal molded around her hand like putty. "I bet this strange material is what saved the ship. A crash like this? At their speed and altitude? The ship should have been incinerated on impact."
"Yes, I imagine so—but wait, Bulma! Don't change the subject. This is serious! These guys are—"
"Strong. I know. I heard you the first time. But they can't be any stronger than Goku, can they? And Yamcha's gone to get him already."
She glanced back at the aliens, trying to size them up compared to Goku. The big one… well… alright he was large. But, like they always say, the larger they are, the harder they fall. The other one… hmm.. now that she really looked at him, he had a lot of similarities to her longtime friend. They were about the same size, give or take a few inches, Their builds were nearly identical, they could have even had the same facial features. It was hard to tell though because Goku always looked so happy and this guy… didn't.
"Hmm… that's strange."
"What is?" Doctor Briefs asked, an edge of grouchiness still leaking into his voice.
"That one. He looks a lot like Goku, huh? They even have tails like Goku did when he was a kid." She traced her bottom lip with her fingers—a soothing habit of hers whenever she was giving something serious thought. "But Goku couldn't have anything to do with these guys. They're aliens and Goku's from Earth."
Doctor Briefs furrowed his brows and squinted his remaining good eye at Raditz. "Are you sure? That Goku's from Earth, I mean? He does seem to have a lot in common with these guys: inhuman strength, the tail, he even has the same kind of coarse, spikey hair."
"That's ridiculous. I've known him since he was a kid. He never mentioned anything about being from outer space."
"But has he ever mentioned anything about not being from outer space? I mean, have you ever seen a birth certificate or anything?"
"Well, no," she conceded. "But it's not common practice to ask for proof of humanity whenever you meet someone either."
A moment hung between them, where they both considered the possibility of Goku ever resorting to the crude displays of strength and power that these aliens seemed to thrive on.
"No way," the said together.
"What are you doing?" Nappa hissed. "A trade? You know you don't have the authority to make that call. You have to run it by Vegeta first!"
"Well he's indisposed at the moment, isn't he?" Raditz whispered back. "Hear me out on this one. Just look at that woman."
"That's what this is about?" a vein throbbed on top of his clean shaven head and he bared his teeth, giving him the look of a mad man. "If you want her then take her. She's got a power level of seven for God's sake. It's not like she'll put up much of a fight. But we need that old man! We need to at least get the satellite up and working or else…"
He didn't have to finish his sentence. Raditz knew exactly what he would be thinking of: Naomi and their unborn child. And what Frieza was capable and probable of doing to them if they didn't get a transmission out soon.
"I don't want her for me. I was thinking we could… you know… see what Vegeta thought of her. Maybe she could be the one."
"You know… maybe she could end the curse."
Nappa turned the idea over in his head, then glanced back at the blue-haired woman. She was pretty, he'd give her that much, but he was still hesitant about making a trade. "Why can't we just keep them both? Two hostages?"
"Because, we need her to want to be here. We need her to think that by being here she is doing something good. If we keep the old man here then that's where all of her focus will be—with the well-being of her father. We need him to be somewhere else, somewhere safe and alive and we need her to think that it's because of her that he's okay."
"I don't know," Nappa shook his head. Raditz idea wasn't a bad one, but it wasn't a great one either. "Vegeta's been offered hundreds of beautiful women—some that were much better looking—and he's turned them all away. What makes her so special?"
"I don't know," Raditz said truthfully. "She's unique for one thing. I don't think we've run across her coloring in all our years of travel. But it's more than that. There's something about her, in the way she stands up for her loved ones. You saw. She didn't even tremble when she confronted us. She's got guts, and I think that's something Vegeta will find very… interesting."
"Yeah, or highly annoying. She may not make it through the night if she mouths off to him like that. Then what would we do?"
"Then we'd call the whole idea a failure and bring the old man back. That's the beauty of it all. Even if everything she said is a lie and she's not a scientist, by keeping her father alive we can still bring him back for repairs if we need to. We've got a lock on his ki now. There's nowhere on the planet for him to hide."
Nappa heaved a giant sigh. There was something about this plan of his that was falling flat. Something potentially disastrous that he couldn't quite put his finger on. He glared for one long moment at the scientist and his daughter, both of which who had returned to admiring the ship, then cut his eyes back to Raditz. "Fine, we'll try it, but when Vegeta goes on a rampage I expect you to take full responsibility for this."
"Fine," he said and the pair of them approached the scientists once again.
Bulma clutched onto her father's arm as they descended upon them.
"Tell me, woman," Raditz began, stopping mere inches in front of her. His warm breath hit her cheeks with every word he spoke. Part of her ached to punch the arrogant alien square in the face, but she had a feeling—and a strong one at that—that such a move would be counter-productive. "Do you possess the knowledge and skills required to repair our ship?"
Her heart leapt. "R-repair the ship?" she stuttered out. They wanted her to fix their ship? It was too good to be true! Not only did that mean that these beings were trying to leave their planet, but it also meant that she got to play with alien technology! From the looks of it, these guys were light years ahead of what she and her team had been able to accomplish at Capsule Corp. To be handed the opportunity to poke around in their circuits was like a dream come true! "Yes. I can do that."
"Our offer still stands then. You in exchange for the old man's freedom."
"Absolutely not!" Doctor Briefs shouted at the same time that Bulma said, "Done."
"It's settled then," Raditz grinned, ignoring the doctor as he dove into a fit of protests. "I'll just give you a life home then."
He moved to grab Doctor Briefs, but Bulma grabbed her father first and pulled him into a bone shattering embrace. In a voice so low she worried whether or not her old man would hear her at all, she whispered, "I'll be okay. I love you."
Then Raditz wrenched him from her arms, and blasted off into the sky, carrying her terrified father with him.
"Goku? Goku!" Yamcha plowed through the door of the Son home and his heart immediately crashed through his stomach and puddled into his feet. "No one's here!" he shouted.
On any other day, a trip to Goku's house was damn near predictable. Chichi would be in the kitchen, rattling pots, or pouring over their son, Goku could be found training or eating—or on the rare occasion, both—and little Gohan would be napping or studying. It was typical of his luck to find the place bare when he really needed them to be home.
"Just perfect," he grumbled, sprinting from room to room, checking for any minute sign that they'd been home lately or that they would be back soon. He could have cried when he reached Gohan's room and found that his desk—which was normally towering with books—had been cleared off completely. "Ugth! What did they do? Go on a vacation or something?"
Panic was closing in on him like rogue waves. He could feel his blood begin to pulse through his veins… faster, faster. It rushed behind his ears, giving more credence to his panic. Bulma was out there alone. She probably already made it to the aliens and there he was, standing in the middle of an empty house like an idiot—at a loss for what to do because his one surefire plan happened to be out for the day.
God, I should have gone with her. Her moaned to himself. Why does she have to be so fucking stubborn? Why couldn't she just listen to me and stay home? She could be hurt! Or worse…
"Okay Yamcha," he chanted to himself. "Calm down. Focus."
He closed his eyes and did a quick scan of the property, thinking that perhaps Goku and his family went for a walk. That wasn't outside of their character. They were all in love with the mountains and the outdoors. Maybe they just decided to have a picnic or something.
But his search came up empty. As a matter of fact, the only ki signatures he could pick up on belonged to the aliens on the far end of the mountains. He let out another irritated grunt and broadened his search, aiming it towards Master Roshi's island. That was one of the few places that the Son's went. Maybe they wanted to visit the Turtle Hermit.
Nothing. But he wasn't picking up on Krillin or Master Roshi either and they were pretty much guaranteed to be there. It was possible that they were simply too far away to sense while maintaining their normal power levels.
"It's not much to go on, but it's all I got."
"Raditz," Vegeta called. The back of his throat stung, as if some imaginary fingers had been jammed into his mouth and they'd spent the entire day clawing at the soft flesh of his esophagus. His head throbbed and the muscles in his biceps and thighs were unmistakably torn.
He was used to waking to find himself a little beaten up, but it looked like the beast outdid himself this time. His entire body ached, as if he's been straining against his chains all day long, ripping and tearing his body the whole time.
What did I do?
Through the throbbing of his mind, he tried to clear the fog that shrouded over the day. As always, he caught glimpses of what all happened in the moments before he turned. He saw the scientist Nappa and Raditz had brought back, saw that he had to threaten the old man into compliance. He felt the cold shiver of approval run up his spine when the scientist stared at him with that look—the look of absolute horror, the look that showed his understanding of a sure death if he were to displease Vegeta.
But then his view shifted. A thin layer of red descended over him, covering everything in his sight, blurring in and out of focus. He saw his fingers stretch and grow, felt his canines pull down and the poisonous sting of his pupils losing their shape, tearing into slits. His mouth and nose elongated into a pronounced snout, his knees jutted out, forming a nearly ninety degree angle between his calves and thighs. He remembered running back onto the ship, through the corridors, into the west wing. Growls ripped out of him as he reached his shackles—the shackles that had been specially made from the metal that Frieza coveted so much. He saw that he had just gotten one wrist snapped in before the door opened and Raditz entered… he lunged.
"Raditz," he croaked out again, raising his voice painfully.
He was met with silence.
For one horrible moment he feared that the beast had seriously injured his fellow Saiyan, but the thought was quickly put to rest when he realized how unlikely that was. If the beast had gotten to Raditz, then he probably wouldn't have woken up with his shackles locked in place. He would have been roaming the wilderness most likely with bits of the native species stuck in between his teeth.
The door to the left beeped and Raditz came in. As always, he carried with him a fresh set of armor and a ring of keys. He balanced it all awkwardly in his right hand because his left arm was bandaged and cradled in a sling.
"Good evening, sire."
Vegeta nodded and massaged his now free wrist. The cuffs had rubbed his skin raw again. "I take it the power is still out," he gestured to Raditz's sling. Such an archaic form of medicine could only mean they were still running off backup generators, which meant the rejuvenation tanks were out of order.
"It's been restored in the command deck and the east hangar, but we thought it would be best to have the scientist focus on the satellites first."
"Very well. It's good to know the old man is competent at least."
"The old man," he repeated. "Sire, about that…"
"Not now," Vegeta said with a wave of his hand. Raditz marveled at how exactly the motion matched the way Bulma dismissed him earlier that day. "I need to go check on his progress. We need to get out a transmission before sunrise."
"Yes, but sire—"
Vegeta strode past him, pulling his armor into place and wondering about how efficient the old man would be when it came to long distance frequencies. From what little he'd seen of the planet, it didn't seem like the inhabitants had worked out even the basics of space and time, much less the required technologies for maintaining communications.
"Will you stop your blathering, Raditz? I've got a headache and my body is shot. As soon as we're able to transmit, the old man needs to get power to the medical deck."
"Of course, it's just that—"
Dear God, Raditz had never fully appreciated the quick, business-like pace of Vegeta's walk, even when the prince was injured. He had hoped for a chance to explain before he found the woman, but the speed of his step was unnerving. It was almost as if the prince knew something was afoot.
The faster Vegeta walked, the more Raditz stuttered over his words. The more Raditz stuttered over his words, the faster Vegeta walked.
"Raditz! What the hell are carrying on about? Spit it out!"
Too late. Vegeta stopped in front of the server room and punched the button on the side. The door slid open and there sat Bulma, elbow deep in metal and circuits. She pushed a strand of hair out of her face and set to work with a wrench, bolting down something that looked rather complicated.
It was a rare thing to see Vegeta come up short, but that's exactly what he did. Raditz could practically see the wheels in his head cranking, trying to convince himself that it had been an old man that he'd seen yesterday, that he wasn't losing his mind.
At a loss for anything to say, Vegeta bellowed, "What the fuck?!" making both Bulma and Raditz jump.
"Right. As I was trying to say before…" Raditz began and commenced to stuttering and tripping over his words once again.
Bulma stood, eyeing the newcomer wearily. Judging from the way Raditz hurried to explain himself, she gathered that this alien—Saiyans as they called themselves—was the leader. Funny, he doesn't look like a monster to me, she thought, recalling her father's words. He did look a little unusual. His skin was just a shade or two darker than what she would consider normal and his hair seemed to defy gravity. Maybe their planet is closer to their sun.
"We made a trade," she said simply, getting both tired and annoyed of hearing Raditz quail. "I took my father's place here and your boys promised he could leave, unharmed."
"You what!?" Vegeta rounded on Raditz. "You decided to bring in a little girl over a genuine scientist?! What the hell's the matter with you?"
"Hey," Bulma protested.
But Vegeta didn't notice and he continued to lay into his henchman. "What the fuck were you thinking? Clearly the old man was a better bet for getting our shit up and working! What do you think she's going to be able to do? Decorate?"
"Excuse me!" Bulma said indignantly.
"You are going to go back. RIGHT NOW! Get that old man back here! And get that woman out of my sight!"
Vegeta stopped his rant immediately and Raditz stood rooted to the spot, staring dumbfounded at Bulma, whose arm was still outstretched from hurling the wrench. It had nailed Vegeta square in the back of the head then ricocheted off of him and spun on the floor.
"Did you just… throw that wrench at me… woman?" He spoke slow, deliberate, each word seemingly forcing its way through clenched teeth. The veins in his head and eyeballs throbbed, threatening to pop.
"Yes!" Bulma said, raising herself to her full height, which was still a couple of inches shorter than Vegeta. "We made a deal!" She said, pointing an accusing finger towards Raditz. "You said my father could go free if I stayed to fix your ship. I've been working all day! Listening to you and fucking Bigfoot out there bragging about how honorable Saiyans are, and now you're going back on your word?! I don't think so!"
The door beeped again and Nappa entered, his eyes locked in wide circles, staring at Bulma as she continued her rant.
"And in case it's escaped your notice," she said, turning on Vegeta and jabbing him hard in the chest, "I've been making progress! Some sections of your ship have power and I've almost got your satellites up! Which you would have known if you didn't spend the whole day snoozing or doing God knows what else!"
She blinked when Vegeta moved to grab her hands. He was so fast! Her mom hadn't been exaggerating. She hardly saw the blur of his arms before her hands were trapped in one of his and the fingers of his other hand wrapped almost completely around her throat.
"Mind. Your. Tongue. Woman," he seethed. "Throw a wrench at me? I should break your arms right now."
"I wouldn't if I were you," Bulma choked, glaring glacially at the prince. "I'm the only person on this planet who can get you up and running."
"Oh really? Funny, I recall having an old man in here yesterday. I believe you call him Dad."
Bulma gave a weak laugh and thought of a lie off the top of her head. "His area of expertise is Earth Sciences. He studies plants and animals. He can't help you with this. You. Need. Me."
They stared each other down for a solid minute, each waiting for the other to blink.
He adjusted his fingers on her neck, giving serious thought to crushing it then and there and being rid of her once and for all. What a stupid woman! He thought. How dare she show such insolence! But standing there, holding her face within inches of his own, he couldn't help but notice some of her other attributes: clear skin, big fiery eyes, pouty lips… and such a temper.
"Fine," he smirked and dropped her onto the floor. "But you better pray you're as smart as you say, woman."
He turned on his heel and marched out of the server room, leaving Bulma glaring after him and Raditz and Nappa staring at her with something close to respect.
Then Nappa gave himself a shake and asked, "Did you call be Bigfoot?"
Author's Notes—Hope you all enjoyed Chapter Four. Again, thanks for all the Reviews and faves. It's nice to hear what everyone thinks and they keep me going on this fic. Judging from some of your comments, I'm gathering that people thought this was going to be an exact replica of Beauty and the Beast but with DBZ characters. Let me clear that up now… No. This story just has that Beauty in the Beast type parody. Only a few things here and there will be like the Fairytale version… you know, the rose, the west wing, blah blah blah. But that is only a small part of it. The actual Fic gets far far far away from the fairytale. -G