Chapter 1: —1— “Make fists with your toes.”
The elevator pinged as it reached the 30th floor. The doors opened, and Vegeta was assaulted by the sounds of festivities: talking, laughter, glasses tinking, and Christmas music playing in the background. Everything he loathed about the holidays. He suppressed the urge to press the door-close button and sink 30 stories back to seclusion.
But he hated retreating.
Gritting his teeth and adjusting the duffle over his shoulder, he stepped out of the elevator and into the party. It was a swanky event, men and women dressed in high-end fashion sipping champagne from delicate flute glasses embossed with the Capsule Corporation logo. A giant Christmas tree with an obnoxious amount of presents underneath took up the main stage of the room. A few of the guests were draped in tinsel or sported elf ears and reindeer antlers. Everyone looked far too happy. Wasn’t this supposed to be a place of business? He scanned the room, checking the layout and exits out of force of habit.
“Merry Christmas!” A complete stranger stumbled drunkenly into him and tried to use his arm for support. Vegeta easily side-stepped him, letting the fool trip over his own feet and plow head-first into a nearby group of people.
Why the fuck had he agreed to come here again?
He turned and saw a familiar face. Dr Briefs waved jovially in his direction from across the room. The old man looked as he always did, wearing the most nondescript polo and trousers with a white lab coat thrown over, a cigarette poking out from beneath his unruly mustache. Vegeta moved through the throng of people to meet him.
“Glad you could make it,” Dr Briefs greeted. “Can I get you something, some appetizers? They’re pretty good.”
“Is Bulma here?”
Dr Briefs chuckled. “Straight to the point as always. Yes, yes. She’s in her office finishing up some work I think. Shall we?”
Vegeta nodded and Dr Briefs led the way. Though not quietly.
“Have you been well? Still training by the looks of it.” Vegeta grunted a noncommittal sound that Dr Briefs took for confirmation. “You should visit more. I’m planning to build a health facility here for all the employees, you know. You’d be more than welcome to use it. It would make it easier to visit your boy. And not that she says it, but I know Bulma would like to have you around more too.”
Vegeta felt his mouth pull down, his chest tightening painfully. “If she doesn’t say it, then you’re only speculating. Speculation is for fools.”
Dr Briefs laughed, not the least bit offended. “I know my own daughter. I know that look she gets whenever your name arises.”
Vegeta glanced about, fishing for a change of topic. “Panchy’s not here?”
“Back home with Trunks and preparing a feast for tomorrow. You know how she is about hosting. She’ll be expecting you. You’re coming, right?”
“You got a place to stay, son?”
He shrugged. “I’ll look for a hotel.”
“On Christmas Eve? Nonsense. You know we’ve got rooms to spare. Stay with us, I won’t take no for an answer.”
Vegeta didn’t try to argue, in all honesty relieved for the offer.
They left the party and entered the office spaces. Dr Briefs came to stop and pointed down the hall. “Down the end and to the left. It’s the biggest office after mine. You can’t miss it.”
Vegeta gave a small nod and started to leave.
He paused and glanced over his shoulder.
“She’s doing really well here. Got a head for the business. Tough as nails. If you’re waiting for her to break down first in this little standoff you two have going on, well…”
Vegeta felt his expression sour and he left before he could say anything unpleasant. Dr Briefs was one of the few people he respected; he didn’t care to lash out at the man just now.
He headed down the hall and there, to the left, was a very large office with Bulma written on the half-closed door above COO. Second-in-command already? Dr Briefs hadn’t been lying about her business acumen. One could argue for nepotism, but Vegeta knew Bulma. She would have worked hard to earn the position fairly.
As he approached, he saw her in the partially-open doorway. His palms began to sweat, his right hand tightening on his bag’s strap. He slowed his pace, drinking in the sight of her after so many months apart.
She really was one of the prettiest women he had ever laid eyes on She knew it, too. In fact, that was part of her appeal. After all, a woman would have to be headstrong to put up with him for any length of time.
Tonight she wore a shimmery red dress, cut off at the shoulders, that hugged her lithe physique, a little silver ribbon tied about her waist like a present waiting to be unwrapped. No doubt inspired by the holiday season. His eyes trailed down her pale legs, the beginning of a smirk tugging on his lips when she saw her in silver sneakers. It was good to see some things never changed.
She hadn’t seen him yet, looking away at something else in her office. He had nearly reached the door when he heard a voice. Male. He stopped and peered deeper into the room.
A tall man with a roguish scar on his cheek, dressed in a tacky yellow suit and a Santa hat, was leaning against her desk. “C’mon, Bulma. Just one drink after the party. What’ll it kill you?”
“Yamcha, it’s Christmas Eve. I have a little boy to get home to, presents to wrap, stockings to stuff, and I’m… kind of expecting someone.”
“Expecting? You didn’t tell me you were seeing anyone.”
“It’s… not like that, exactly.”
“Look, forget the guy whoever he is. How important can he be if he’s not here? Just one glass of eggnog. We can have it at your place, so you won’t have to feel bad about your boy.”
Vegeta had heard enough. He pushed open the door and let it hit the wall. Bulma and Yamcha both startled. The man took a threatening step forward.
“Hey pal, we’re having a conversa—”
The sound of his name on her voice made him forget the other man. His whole focus narrowed-in on her and how her face lit up to see him. Him. Something hopeful ignited in his heart.
“I was really hoping you would come.” She stepped over and placed her hands on his chest, leaning up the two inches between them to lightly kiss his cheek. His face grew hot, his fingers itching to touch her, but just as he worked up the courage to clasp her waist she stepped away and the moment was gone.
“Vegeta, this is Yamcha. He works in the sales division. Yamcha, this is Vegeta. He’s ex-military. Trunks’ father.”
Vegeta watched with dark delight as Yamcha processed that little bombshell, the light dying in his eyes. Yamcha glanced to the mantle at a photo of Bulma and the baby, Vegeta half-obscured in the picture’s background.
“Oh… Ex-military, huh?” he asked lamely, pointedly brushing over the romantic connection.
Vegeta smirked and hammered in another nail to Yamcha’s coffin. “Eleven years, special forces.” He made sure the look he gave Yamcha spoke of his ability to properly hide a body so that it would never be found. “Saiyan squad.”
“How nice,” Yamcha replied weakly, deflated.
With that peacock plucked, Vegeta turned his attention back to Bulma. “Is there someplace I can freshen up?”
She nodded and directed his attention to an adjacent door. “The bathroom’s just in there.”
He walked right past Yamcha and made sure his duffle checked him in the shoulder on the way past.
“Shoes!” she called after him.
He grunted and toed off his boots before entering the bathroom as Bulma ushered Yamcha out. She came back shortly after, leaning her hip in the doorway.
“You could have been nicer. Yamcha’s harmless.”
“Tch.” He removed his bomber jacket and top, stripping down to just his A-shirt and slacks. She didn’t look away, admiring the view. He cupped his hands under the faucet’s warm running water and splashed it over his face, letting her ogle his old military scars to her heart’s content. When he came up, he glared at her reflection in the mirror. “He’s got his eyes on you.”
“He’s got his eyes on anyone he thinks he has a chance with.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” He patted his face dry on a hand towel.
“Am I supposed to make you feel better?”
He gave her a disgruntled look that she disarmed with a smile and a soft laugh. “It’s really good to see you again. I’ve missed this.”
He raised a brow. “Fighting?”
“Bantering,” she corrected.
The corner of his mouth turned up. As much as it drove him insane, he had missed it too. Missed her.
She wet her lips and looked away. “Where are you staying?”
“Your father insisted I stay at the house.”
“Of course he did.” When he glanced to see if she was okay with that, Bulma hurried to add, “No, I’m glad he did. It will be nice having you close. For Trunks…” She reached out, her fingers alighting on his wrist. “For me.”
Fire raced up his arm at her touch. He stared at her, trying to read her thoughts. Most days she wore her heart on her sleeve. But there were times like this when he was less than certain of her motivations. Less sure of himself. A question hovered on the tip of his tongue, a need he dare not voice. He looked into her eyes and his courage failed him. He retracted his arm to finish washing up. “The boy’s a babe. He won’t remember me.”
“That’s not true,” she countered.
She huffed, rolling her eyes and pushing away from the door. “I mean, that’s not the point. He’s your son. Don’t you want to get to know him? You haven’t seen him in months. Do you even know what he looks like when he smiles? Or what his favorite food is? Or mine for that matter?”
He stared at her blankly, fighting back the unease of not knowing the answers.
It didn’t matter, she could read it on his face. Her eyes grew sad. “C’mon, Vegeta, you know this. What did I always used to make for breakfast on Sundays?”
He cast his mind back. “Omelets.” She had loaded them up with meats and vegetables and piled them high on his plate. He had liked Sundays. Before.
Her shoulders slumped. “That’s what I made you because you didn’t care for my strawberry pancakes.”
“So you like pancakes?”
She sighed and rubbed her arm. “You don’t get it, do you?”
“Get what?” he snapped, growing defensive.
“Spending time with your family. Creating memories. Giving a damn. Being reliable, for all of us. One day Trunks will remember, and what he’ll remember is that you weren’t ever there.”
Vegeta snorted. “Oh that’s precious. What about you? You’re still at work on Christmas Eve while your mother plays babysitter. How many all-nighters did you have to pull to get COO this quickly? How often are you ever home being the perfect parent?”
“Well one of us has to earn a living, you big—!”
“Bulma I’m, oh…” a woman popped her head into the office. “Sorry, b-but, it’s time for the speech.”
Bulma sighed and looked away. “Thank you. I’ll be there in a second.”
The woman left and silence descended over them both. Bulma pressed her lips together, frustrated. He could empathize, feeling the same. His fingers curled against the bathroom counter, not knowing what to say or do.
“I have to go.” She got up and left without looking back.
Vegeta clenched his jaw. He looked at himself in the mirror before smacking his fist on the wall in frustration. “Idiot.”
There was no point feeling sorry for himself. He opened up his duffle to find a change of clothes, and saw the small gift-wrapped box. His gut dropped at the thought of trying to give it to her now. Shoving it aside, he dug about for a shirt.
The air shattered with machine gun fire. Vegeta dropped down, his hand reaching for a new target: his firearm. More thunderous gunshots filled the air along with screams. He dashed to the edge of the door to peek out.
What the fuck was going on? Where was Bulma?
Party goers ran screaming as dark-clad men with machine guns shoved them together, shooting up into the air. Two men moved from office to office, pulling out stragglers. He only had seconds to act, but he still couldn’t spot Bulma.
Vegeta calculated his odds. They didn’t look good. Outmanned, outgunned, there were too many people who could get caught in the crossfire if he went in gun blazing. Bulma being one of them.
The stairwell was nearby. When the gunmen peeked into the next office, Vegeta dashed out and slipped through the exit, hurrying up the stairs to find a safe place to assess the situation and figure out how to rescue Bulma.
AN: I think I'm suffering from a Goku-sized bump to the head, because I decided to try and write this AU with only days left before Christmas. Let's see if I can actually finish it in time. Eep!
Chapter 2: —2— “I could talk about industrialization and men’s fashion all day.”
The silence after the machine guns had stopped firing echoed with dreadful resonance. Bulma looked around the room trying to spot Vegeta, but his familiar wick of dark hair was absent from the crowd. Her father held her comfortingly, her own fingers clinging in his shirt. She could admit it, at least to herself: she was scared. The armed men looked like they meant business. Bulma had been around enough military men in her life to know that. They collected everyone’s personal devices into a trash bag and completed a final sweep of the room.
“Stay calm. We’re gonna be fine, we’re gonna be okay,” Yamcha whispered in a panicked voice nearby, trying to reassure himself more than anyone else.
“Ladies and Gentleman!”
The last of the screaming and sobbing died down until there was absolute quiet. Everyone looked at the man speaking. He was short and slender, not especially imposing in size but something about his eyes and the way he held himself — the way half a dozen armed men carried out his orders — commanded attention. His hair was severely undercut, slicked back, and dyed a dark purple. He wore an ash-black tailored suit with a maroon red tie that brought images of dripping blood to mind. As his eyes scanned the room, Bulma felt a chill of dread pass over her as if Death himself had just measured her life.
“Allow me to dispense with introductions. I am Frieza, your unexpected host for the evening. Do be so kind as to follow all instructions given and you might be able to walk out of here rather than be carried out. In pieces.” He smiled, his eyes crinkling cruelly. It was an unpleasant expression which made her gut wriggle with revulsion. A few whimpers of fear met this statement but were quickly quashed as this Frieza raised a hand to continue.
“Now, due to Capsule Corporation’s excessive monopolization and greed, I am about to teach them a lesson in the real use of power. You will all bear witness… So without further ado, where is Dr Briefs?”
Bulma tightened her hold on her father. “Don’t,” she whispered.
Frieza started walking leisurely through the crowd of Capsule Corp employees, eying each one of them from head to toe. “Dr Briefs. Born in 692. Graduated from West City’s College of Science and Engineering with a doctorate in physical science. Founder and CEO of Capsule Corporation in 712 after his revolutionary invention of the hoi-poi capsule. Generous benefactor of six humane animal shelters. Married, father of two, one of whom recently became Capsule Corporation’s COO.”
“Enough.” To Bulma’s horror, her father let her go and stepped forward. “I’m the one you want.”
“Daddy, no!” she cried out, clawing for his arm to tug him back. He gave her a sympathetic smile before two armed men grabbed him up and whisked him away. Frieza walked smoothly past her.
“Don’t you dare hurt him!” She shrieked, shaking in both fear and fury.
Frieza gave her a sinister smile. “That’s entirely up to him.” Then he left for the elevator where he and two of his men abducted her father upstairs. Bulma picked up a nearby present from the Christmas tree and hurled it uselessly after them.
Vegeta moved from floor to floor, checking each one as he went up. He encountered men transporting heavy artillery on the 32nd floor, submachine guns strapped to their backs, but he was able to retreat before they noticed him. Whatever this operation was, it was well orchestrated and well manned.
The first phone he could safely get to was dead. As was the next, and the next.
“Fuck!” He slammed the receiver down and pushed a hand through his hair in frustration. He could almost hear Bulma’s voice now chastising him for not owning a cellphone. It was killing him to feel so helpless, and every second he left Bulma in the hands of terrorists was gnawing at him.
A moving light caught his attention. Glancing over he watched as the elevator drifted up, the display indicating it had stopped at the floor above. He hurried back to the stairs and followed it up. He needed information.
The 34th floor was elaborately decorated, some kind of showroom displaying Capsule Corporations’ many achievements, as well as various antiques that Bulma’s father had amassed over the years. Japanese armor. A crystal skull. Gold inlaid pages from ancient texts. Vegeta watched as three men escorted Dr Briefs through the gallery.
“A beautiful collection, doctor.”
Vegeta couldn’t believe his eyes, but there was no denying that voice. It would be imprinted on him the rest of his days and nightmares to come.
Frieza. Criminal, terrorist, war monger. He had run up against Frieza and his operation several times during his service. It was thanks to Frieza that he had been forced into early retirement.
What the fuck was he doing here?
“Your empire is impressive,” Frieza mused. “Vast, expansive. Like the Romans. What will be your downfall I wonder?”
Dr Briefs said nothing, hands shoved in his pockets. Vegeta had to give him credit for keeping a cool head under the circumstances, but his presence was a problem. It was going to be hard to act without endangering his life.
And oh, how Vegeta itched to act. Frieza was right there along with two of his lackeys who he was also familiar with: Zarbon and Appule. Memories threatened to bubble up and cloud his judgement, but Vegeta pushed them — and his seething hatred — back for now. For Dr Briefs and Bulma. Going out in a blaze of glory wasn’t going to help them.
Frieza paused by an illuminated glass display with a large crystal ball inside. It had four reddish markings resembling stars. The refracting light of the amber crystal glittered back in Frieza’s eyes. “The world’s rarest gemstone,” he purred. “One of the infamous Dragon Balls. Legend has it they were handcrafted by ancient priests and contained magical properties. As a set, they are worth more than 600 million dollars, no?”
Dr Briefs said nothing.
Frieza’s eyes slid to him before his face broke out into a serpentine smile. “Forgive me, I’m something of a collector myself. But enough history. To business, shall we?” They moved into the adjacent board room. Vegeta snuck closer, hiding behind one of the displays to better eavesdrop on the conversation. The boardroom had a window on the door he was able to glimpse through.
“We are both busy men, so I shall not waste time.” Frieza gestured for Dr Briefs to take a seat. “All we require from you is your passcode and then we shall be out of your hair.”
Dr Briefs sat down. He pulled something out of his pocket, slowly so as not to trigger the gunmen, and placed a cigarette in his mouth. He lit it, set his lighter down, and finally replied. “If you don’t mind my saying, my code is useless to you. It changes every midnight. That’s hardly enough time to get up to much mischief.”
Frieza’s mouth curled up in a chilling smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “If it’s so useless, then there’s no reason not to give it to us.”
Dr Briefs took a drag on his cigarette. “If you’re thinking of holding our company ransom—”
“What I’m thinking,” Frieza smoothly interjected, interlocking his fingers as he leaned forward, “is that I require your code to access your vault.”
Frieza’s grin widened dangerously. “That is where the other six Dragon Balls are.”
Dr Briefs went still. “…You’re after the Dragon Balls? What kind of terrorists are you?”
“Allow me to worry about my agenda. All you need concern yourself with is your code.”
Zarbon spun a laptop about and shoved it towards Dr Briefs, where a blinking cursor awaited input.
Dr Briefs glanced at the screen. He took another puff. Vegeta saw the old man’s hands trembling slightly.
Frieza leaned back in his chair. “I understand your reticence. Admire it even a little. But a few pretty gemstones are not worth dying over, are they, Doctor? You keep them locked away, unappreciated. Forgotten. You’ll hardly even know they’re missing. I get the stones, you get to continue playing Alexander.”
Dr Briefs said nothing, didn’t even move. Ash from his cigarette fell onto the table.
Frieza sighed and pulled out a handgun. Vegeta tensed, watching as Frieza stood and walked around the table, moving out his sight. “I am going to count to three. There will not be a four.”
Dr Briefs still didn’t budge. Vegeta glanced about the room. He not longer had a clear shot if he was going to take one.
He moved carefully to the next display.
The angle wasn’t much better. Zarbon and Appule were annoyingly in the way.
“My password isn’t the only one needed to access the vault,” Dr Briefs tried to explain.
“Then again, you should have no qualms handing it over.”
Dr Briefs hung his head.
“Zarbon, radio Dodoria and have him shoot the daughter.”
Vegeta went cold. Bulma! He had to get back downstairs to her—
“Wait!” Dr Briefs leaned forward, his cigarette falling from his mouth. “Please, leave my little girl out of this.”
The laptop was nudged closer. “The code then. Now.”
Dr Briefs’ shoulders slumped and he typed in his passcode. Appule took the computer and checked the code’s authenticity. He nodded. “It’s good.”
“Excellent,” Frieza enthused. “I do so love the conclusion of a successful business deal.”
The gunshot ripped the silence, and a red film of mist sprayed against the boardroom window. Dr Briefs’ chair fell over from the impact. Vegeta reeled back, pressing himself flat against the display incase he was seen. His breath sounded too loud in his ears.
“Zarbon, be a dear and clean that up. Appule, bring the laptop downstairs; we have work to do if we want to get into that vault.”
The three men left, Zarbon dragging Dr Brief’s away. When the elevator door’s closed, Vegeta dropped his head forward against the edge of his pistol.
“Fuck. Fuck.” He had hesitated, and it cost a good man his life. How the hell was he going to tell Bulma he had let her father get executed?
When the elevator was long gone, Vegeta stood and moved inside the conference room. There was fresh blood on the floor, and the old man’s lighter sat on the table. Vegeta picked it up. It was heavier than he expected. Weighted with guilt. He slipped it into his pocket to give to Bulma later.
He had to do something. If Frieza was running this operation, there was no chance for any peaceful resolution. Dr Briefs’ compliance had just proven that.
He looked around and his eyes landed on the case with the Dragon Ball.
“Where’s my father? Where is he? What did you do to him?”
Frieza smiled serenely, watching as a terrified man in a yellow suit held the Briefs girl back for her own protection. She certainly was a spitfire. He had a soft spot for the kind. They were always so fun to rile up.
“I wanted this to be professional,” Frieza lamented, speaking to the hostages while pointedly ignoring the girl. “Efficient. Cooperative. Alas, Dr Briefs failed to meet those requirements, so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.”
The daughter screamed. Frieza had been anticipating it. They always screamed. To her credit, amidst her tears, she shouted a slew of unladylike curses his way. How amusing. When her ire petered out into broken sobbing, the poor chap next to her caught her up and tried miserably to comfort her.
Frieza’s radio crackled, breaking up the droll display. “What is it?” he inquired.
“A silent alarm has been tripped.”
He exhaled through his nose at the minor annoyance. “Then contact the security company and give them the code to call it off. Must I do everything?”
“Yes Sir, uh, no sir. But I think you should know it originated from the 34th floor.”
Frieza frowned and looked over at Dodoria. “Is anyone supposed to be up there?”
Dodoria shook his head.
Frieza clicked his tongue unhappily. “Cui, go investigate that. Quickly, please. I don’t like loose ends.”
Vegeta looked out the massive window as a couple police cars came down the main street. “Fucking finally.” Never did he think he would be so grateful to see flashing red and blue lights. They were nearly at the last intersection when, incredulously, the lights turned off and the cars slowed and turned back the way they had come.
“What the… No, NO. YOU FUCKING IDIOTS! GET BACK HERE!” He slammed his palm to the glass just as the sound of the elevator behind him announced its arrival.
A man stepped out, and they both drew their weapons on the other.
“Hi,” Vegeta deadpanned. “Come for the view?”
“Vegeta? What are you doing here?” Cui glanced around. A nasty smile grew on his face. “All by yourself, huh? Don’t you have all the luck.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well then, this should be easy since you know who you’re dealing with. It would be stupid to resist. Put your weapon down and you can rejoin the others.”
“No thanks. I’ve never been very good around others. Or liars.”
“Have it your way then.”
Vegeta jumped behind a display case as Cui open-fired. He fell into a roll and sprang back on his feet, running and firing off wild shots behind him to provide cover for his escape. Bullets chased after him until he found the first set of door and dove in. The machine gun fire stopped, but Cui’s footsteps approached. Vegeta quickly surveyed his options and his dwindling ammo supply.
The door creaked open. He waited next to it, out of sight, heart pounding a thousand miles per hour. As the first footfall crossed the threshold, he kicked the door hard into Cui’s face and emptied his magazine after.
He waited, every muscle tensed, watching the smoke rise from the bullet holes in the door. After several seconds, and keeping to the side in case of retaliatory fire, he pulled the door open.
Cui was dead on the ground. Vegeta stepped over and took his MP5, strapping it across his shoulder before looking for anything else useful he could appropriate. He took two mags, a watch, and a radio. He compared their feet, but it was clear Cui’s shoe size wasn’t compatible.
“Nine million terrorists in the world and I’ve got to kill one with feet smaller than Bulma’s.”
He organized his equipment before heading towards the staircase to figure out his next move. He passed more Christmas decorations and slowed to a stop. An idea began to formulate.
The elevator opened on the thirtieth floor. One of the hostages looked over and started to scream.
“Get them back!” Frieza snarled. He hurried to the elevator and came to a sudden halt.
Cui’s lifeless body slumped in an office chair, wrapped upright with Christmas lights. Something was scrawled on his sweater in red sharpie.
“What does it say?” he demanded.
Zarbon flicked his long ponytail over his shoulder before stretching out the sweater to better read the text aloud.
“Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”
Chapter 3: —3— “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
Frieza narrowed his eyes at Cui’s body and the mocking message he wore. His men hovered nearby, throwing nervous side-glances his way.
“Anyone care to explain?” he finally asked.
Zarbon stepped up to the plate. “A missed security guard?”
He weighed the possibility, but found it wanting. “…No, I think not.” Security guards were not usually so well trained or confrontational. “This smells of something… different.” Something unaccounted for. Frieza didn’t like for unaccounted for. Unaccounted for led to the unraveling of carefully laid plans that had been months in the works. He felt a vein in his temple start to throb.
“What should we do, boss?”
“Nothing for now.” He looked away, already dismissing Cui from his thoughts. “We do not alter the plan. Everyone watch your backs, it would seem we have a snake in our nest. Zarbon, you and Napple take this—” he gestured at Cui the same way he would a pile of trash, “—upstairs, and check on their progress while you’re at it.”
Above them, Vegeta lay sprawled on the roof of the elevator and listened in. In one of the offices he had found a sharpie, and now used it to write down names on his arm as they were listed off: Frieza, Zarbon, Appule, Dodoria, Napple, and Cui (whose name was now crossed off). Out of those 6, Napple was new to him, but his wasn’t the only new face. Just how many men did Frieza have working for him on this operation?
The elevator started to move and Vegeta was forced to ride it up. He mulled over what he had learned. Frieza had people working on the upper floors. For what purpose? The vault — which he’d claimed was his purpose here — was downstairs. Something didn’t add up. Knowing Frieza as he did, Vegeta could only speculate it was something foul.
The silver lining was that Frieza hand’t finished setting up his scheme. Which meant Vegeta had time to foil it.
The elevator came to a stop and he waited a few seconds before climbing off and B-lining for the roof. It would be the best place to use the radio.
The night was bitterly cold. The winter air bit into his bare arms and feet and froze the sweat on his skin. What he would give for his boots and jacket right now. When he’d made sure he was alone, he crouched behind some ducting and pulled out the radio.
“Mayday, mayday. Terrorists have seized the Capsule Corp building and are holding about 40 people hostage. One dead already. Unknown number of terrorists, six or more, armed with automatic weapons. Leader is named Frieza. Very dangerous. I repeat, terrorists holding hostages at Capsule Corporation, West City. Does anyone copy?”
A tired female voice replied. “Attention, Sir. This channel is reserved for emergencies only.”
“No shit, woman!” Was this person fucking serious? “Does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza? Open your ears. This is a terrorist situation! They’ve killed one and have dozens more at their disposal. They’re heavily armed and are fortifying their position even as we speak. How is that not an emergency?! Send the fucking police, now!”
“Sir, this is a reserved channel. If this is an emergency, please dial 911 on your telephone—”
“They’ve cut the phone lines, you stupid bi—”
The roof door banged open and footsteps ran towards him. Just perfect. He peeked out from his cover and saw 3 men — Zarbon among them — spreading out and cutting him off from the exit.
Resisting the urge to throw the radio off the roof in frustration, Vegeta braced himself for the coming battle.
So much for the element of surprise. They fired and he shot back, managing to drop one terrorist before the other two found sufficient shelter.
The crack of automatic fire echoed against the city night skyline. Vegeta bolted from one defensible position to the next, bullets biting at his heels. He hid by some pipes just as more bullets flew by his shoulder so close he could feel the burn of them on his skin. Too close for comfort. He was running out of ammo and options, Zarbon and his friend closing in. He had to find better ground.
Shoot and duck, run and hide. He made his way to the other side of the roof where there was a service hatch, but the fucking thing was locked. He was down to only a couple more rounds. What to fucking do?! Snarling in frustration, Vegeta unloaded his magazine at the lock then threw himself against the hatch.
The lock gave and he tumbled through, coming out at the top of a staircase. He wasn’t in the clear yet. Zarbon and his friend would be breathing down his neck any second. Vegeta looked around and spotted a ventilation shaft several feet up the wall. It would be a tight squeeze, but it might buy him some time in evading capture.
He jumped up, catching the grate on the front and ripping it away. He tossed that aside and pulled himself into the narrow space, wriggling in. Fuck it was tight. At least Zarbon — with his monstrous shoulders — wouldn’t be able to follow him in.
He fished out Dr Briefs’ lighter and flicked it on, the yellow glow illuminating the long metal passageway. It was like being stuck inside an aluminum coffin.
Vegeta grimaced. “Now I know what a baked potato feels like.”
Voices drifted up behind him and he clicked the lighter shut. Just go down the stairs, he begged.
“Look at this.”
“That’s from the vents. Spread the word. We’re nailing this asshole now.”
Son of a bitch.
Couldn’t one, just ONE fucking thing go right today? He knew he didn’t exactly make the cut for Santa’s ‘nice’ list, but for fuck’s sake, could the universe throw him one goddamn bone? Grinding his teeth, Vegeta army-crawled deeper into the ventilation system, needing to find a quick exit before he was found first.
Bulma glared defiantly into the office where Frieza and one of his men were talking. It was her father’s office, but of course Frieza had seen fit to take that too.
All the other Capsule employees were huddled together on the floor under the Christmas tree with terrified expressions, looking down at their feet in shock or sharing hushed conversations. But not her. She was burning Frieza’s face into her memory, forcing herself to remember every repugnant line and contour until the day she could enact her revenge.
“What are you doing, are you crazy?” Yamcha hissed, turning her around. “Stop it, Bulma, you’re going to get us in trouble if you keep staring like that.”
“In trouble like what, like my father?” she spat back. It was unfair to throw that in Yamcha’s face. It had nothing to do with him, but her grief was raw, and she had to unleash it somehow.
“Exactly like that,” he whisper-shouted back. It caught her off-guard her. Yamcha rarely talked back. “They’re already rattled by whatever that was in the elevator. Don’t give them an excuse to take their frustrations out on you. You’re smarter than that.”
She scowled at him but knew he was right. She just didn’t care to hear it right now. She didn’t want to be smart. She wanted to be furious. She wanted to cry for days on end. She wanted her father back. She wanted Vegeta’s strong arms to hold her, just like he had after she’d discovered she was pregnant and freaked out. He had held her so close, whispering the softest and sweetest things in her ear, reassuring her in a way he rarely had in their relationship prior.
“Vegeta…” Her eyes widened as realization dawned.
Yamcha made a sour face at the man’s name. “What is it?”
“It’s him.” Who else would be trying to go against a group of terrorists?
“Your baby daddy is fucking with terrorists? Oh that’s just great,” Yamcha snarked back. “The hell does he think he’s doing?”
“His job!” she replied, growing defensive. Vegeta might be a reckless asshole, but he was her reckless asshole. And a well trained one at that.
“I thought he was retired? He’s going to get us all killed!”
Bulma said nothing, not wanting to start a panic if anyone overheard, but she had a feeling they were dead anyway if Frieza had anything to say about it. He hadn’t shown her father any mercy, why would he make an exception for them?
Yamcha was right about one thing though. She was smart, genius-level smart. It was about time she stopped feeling sorry for herself and proved it.
Vegeta crawled and crawled and crawled until at last he found a grate in the vent with light coming through. He was nearly upon it when there was movement on the other side.
Zarbon entered the room, looking up at the ceiling with suspicious eyes. Vegeta went still, willing himself to fade into the shadows like a cat camouflaged in the Serengeti grass.
Zarbon looked exactly as he remembered from the days when he and his team had been held prisoner on Frieza’s compound. Beaten. Interrogated. Starved. The Saiyan squad had suffered under many cruel guards, but Zarbon was the worst, taking great pleasure in torturing them. Even now, Vegeta still woke up some nights, shaking and drenched in sweat, Zarbon’s laughter haunting his nightmares.
Hatred bubbled up, old wounds splitting open and festering with resentment. If only he had a bullet now — consequences be damned.
Zarbon, however, had ammo to spare. The man raised his weapon and let loose, spraying the exposed vents with scattered gunfire. Bullets pierced the metal bottom, one breaking through only inches from his face.
Zarbon glared at the holes, still not convinced by the lack of screaming. He moved to one end of the room and worked his way across, using the nose of his gun to poke the vent panels for flex. Vegeta closed his eyes, feeling the last grains of sand in his hour-glass run out.
Well fuck it. If he was going to end up filled with bullets and regret, at least he would end it while fighting. He readied to throw himself against the grate. Maybe he would be lucky enough to break Zarbon’s nose before the asshole got in a killing shot.
Zarbon pushed on the panel next to his. The vent bent up, then down, and Zarbon took a step forward under the grate—
“Zarbon! Police! The police are here!”
Zarbon’s head jerked around. He hesitated, his face contorting with annoyance, before he hurried out to follow his comrade.
Vegeta let out a long breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, dropping his sweaty brow to the cool metal vent in gratitude.
“I need a vacation.”
The police cruiser circled Capsule Corporation’s driveway at a leisurely 5 miles per hour. Krillin peered through the windshield up at the large modern building. Capsule Corp was an impressive piece of construction, tall and shiny and, as was to be expected late on Christmas eve, totally dead.
So much for the ‘emergency’ he had been called out to investigate.
“Officer Krillin to Dispatch. I’m here at Capsule Corp. No signs of disturbance.”
“Roger that. Possible crank call. Check the area again and confirm.”
Krillin did another slow pass looking about the area, but his mind was back home with his eight-month pregnant wife. She was finding it increasingly hard to move around. He hoped she had taken his advice and was relaxing.
They hadn’t parted on the best terms that evening. Lazuli wasn’t pleased to hear that he would be working tonight. Again. She’d complained about his increasing work hours. Truth was, he had been taking more and more double-shifts to help save up for when the baby came. It terrified him to think he wouldn’t be able to comfortably provide for his family on a single-salary. He also wanted to take some leave to help her around the house in those first few weeks when she would need it most.
As his car neared the front of the building for the second time, he spotted a man in uniform at the front desk. “Dispatch? I see a guard inside. I’m going to go in for a closer look.”
“Roger. Use caution.”
Krillin parked the car by the entry and stepped out, thumbs slung in his belt loops as he approached the front door. The air was brisk. Maybe they would get some snow in time for Christmas? Lazuli would like that.
The guard unlocked the door to greet him. “G’evenin’ Officer. How might I help you?”
Krillin tipped his cap. “Good evening. Got a call regarding this location. Mind if I look around, mister…?”
“Jeice. Nah, not at all, mate,” the guard held the door open for him. “Another call? Someone’s pulling your leg, I reckon. We already had one false alarm tonight.”
Jeice led him over to the reception terminal. A sports game was playing on one screen, while another cycled through black and white CCTV footage. Krillin could see the external perimeter of the building and underground garage. Nothing out of the ordinary on any of the cameras. Totally quiet.
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” he mused.
Krillin chuckled. “Oh nothing, just that old Christmas poem, you know? …Anyone still in?”
The guard shook his head. “Only the big-wigs at their Christmas party upstairs. Want me to buzz you up?”
Krillin waved his hand. There was no point interrupting a party over what was obviously a prank call. He had better things to be doing, like getting home to his pregnant wife before she never spoke to him again. He gave the foyer one last cursory look around. An abstract painting behind the desk caught his attention. “Hey, is that a Pollock?”
The guard turned to look at it, his face going pale before he let out a nervous laugh. “I uh… Wouldn’t have a bloody clue, mate.”
Krillin frowned at the red splotchy painting. “It’s no matter. My wife is a bit of an art aficionado, that’s why I ask. She’s actually pregnant now with our first. Do you want to see?” He didn’t wait for Jeice to answer, pulling out a picture from his wallet to thrust in Jeice’s face. “There she is. That little bean is my daughter. Or will be. Can you believe it?”
The guard made some half-hearted sounds of appreciation, while Krillin ran his fingers fondly over the blurry sonogram. His heart flooded with joy. He could hardly believe he would be a father in just a few weeks.
Newly inspired to get back to his wife, he tapped the counter in farewell. “Alright then, I won’t waste any more of your time. Thanks for your help. Merry Christmas!”
“My pleasure, Officer. Merry Christmas!”
Krillin exited the building, whistling a Christmas song that had been playing on the radio earlier, and settled back into the cruiser.
“Krillin to Dispatch? Everything here at Capsule is A-O-kay. Over.”
He pulled the gear-stick into reverse. Something fell out of the sky and landed on the hood of his vehicle with an almighty crash, the head of a man lodging itself into his windshield.
Up above, windows shattered and automatic gunfire hailed down upon him. In a blind panic, Krillin slammed on the gas and didn’t let off as he careened out of the driveway and across the gardens, scrambling for his radio.
“OFFICER UNDER AUTOMATIC RIFLE FIRE AT CAPSULE CORPORATION. I NEED BACK UP ASSISTANCE NOW. NOW GODDAMN IT, NOW!”
—3 MINUTES EARLIER—
Vegeta moved quickly through the corridors until he could find a window. The terrorist had mentioned the police. He found a room with a view and sure enough saw a cop car driving slowly around by the front of the building.
“Well it’s about fucking time.” He pressed his head to the window in relief, but it was a short-lived feeling.
The car circled once, twice, and then pulled to a stop at the front of the building. Vegeta’s eyebrows rose as one lone officer — no bigger than his fucking toe — got out and approached the entrance.
He smacked his hands on the glass in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Where’s the goddamn cavalry?” How was this dipstick, with all the urgency of the DMV, going to stop Frieza?! The runt was going to get himself kidnapped and killed, or worse, end up leaving blissfully unaware of the shit-fire going down, abandoning Vegeta and everyone else to Frieza’s devices.
“Hey, HEY! THIS ISN’T AFTERNOON FUCKING TEA, PAL!” he snarled in vain (as if the officer would hear his desperation from thirty-something stories up).
Infuriated, Vegeta peeled off from the window and looked for something he could use. His eyes fell on the nearest chair. He swung it mightily into the window. The glass shattered but did not break; Dr Briefs hadn’t cheaped out on construction costs, that was for sure. He swung again and again.
Someone heard. Footfalls approached, growing louder as they ran towards the room. Vegeta dropped the chair and pulled his empty machine gun up just as a huge Schwarzenegger-wannabe with ginger hair came barging into the room.
“FREEZE!” Vegeta roared down the sight of his weapon. “DROP IT, PUT YOUR GUN DOWN, PUT IT DOWN, DROP YOUR WEAPON NOW!” He hoped the military superiority would stun the man into compliance, because bluffing was the only weapon he had.
The man froze, caught with his gun down. He put his right hand up while his left slowly lowered his weapon to the floor. “Hey, okay friend, don’t shoot.”
“DROP YOUR WEAPON. NOW. NOW!”
The man did as told, holding up both hands after. “Okay. Look, I did it just like you asked me.”
“KICK IT OVER. KEEP YOUR FUCKING HANDS UP!”
The man punted the MP5 forward with the toe of his boot. It scooted across the floor, stopping a few paces shy of Vegeta’s bare feet.
Vegeta slowly closed the distance, gun still aimed. “Don’t you fucking move, pal.” He reached the weapon and sank down to pick it up, his fingers brushing over the frame.
Another terrorist appeared, and the tall man dropped to the floor.
Vegeta snatched the weapon up and rolled. Bullet-fire blew holes in the ground where he had been. He ended up on his side and fired. The new gunman took three to the chest and collapsed, dead.
A giant boot kicked the machine gun out of his hands where it flew across the room, then kicked him in the stomach — hard. Vegeta slid across the ground several feet away.
“Since you like me kicking things so much, I thought I’d show you my moves,” Recoome mocked, coming for him, his face twisted into a demonic grin.
Vegeta grabbed his stomach and stumbled to his feet, wanting to put distance between them. But Recoome came at him in a run, grabbing him about the waist and rugby-tackling him into the large table behind.
The force of their combined weight shattered the table and they fell through. Vegeta cried out, jagged wood digging into him from underneath as Recoome pinned him from above and began to rain down punches. Vegeta barely raised his arms in time to deflect.
“My name… Is Recoome,” the big guy shouted between each blow. “And it rhymes… with doom… And you’ll be dead… all too soon!”
Vegeta grit his teeth against each meaty punch. His forearms screamed with pain. Holy shit this was not happening. He was not going to be taken out by some guy who fucking rhymed.
“Yo, shorty. I guess you thought you were pretty hot stuff when you had your gun, huh? But now Recoome’s gonna give you some advice. Next time you have the chance to kill someone, take it."
The instant Recoome wound up for the next punch, Vegeta rolled to his side. He strangled back a scream as a piece of splintered wood punctured his side. But it bought him the chance he needed. Recoome’s fist struck the ground and in that split second, Vegeta grabbed a fistful of his stupid orange hair and slammed the man’s head down against the broken table over and over and over until he went limp.
Vegeta let go, collapsing back to catch his breath. He looked over at the body. “Thanks for the advice.”
He struggled to get up, crying out as he pulled free of the chunk of wood. It left a small hole that was rapidly blooming blood on his undershirt. The injury was less than ideal, but at least it wasn’t fatal. Well, not compared to getting shot by armed terrorists.
Putting pressure on the wound, Vegeta mustered his strength and stood, shaking his head against a momentary head-rush. When the dizziness passed he staggered back to the window to check outside.
The cop was walking back to his car, still in no particular hurry. Absolutely, unequivocally oblivious.
Vegeta felt his frustration peak. “Un-fucking-believable.” This might be his last chance of getting any help. He needed that midget to DO HIS FUCKING JOB.
Gnashing his teeth, Vegeta grabbed the chair and smashed it into the window, finally breaking through. Ignoring the intense pain in his side, he fetched Recoome’s body, heaving the giant man onto his shoulders — “Where are the little terrorists when you need them?” — and carried him over to the window.
He checked his balance. Took aim. And flung Recoome out.
The body landed with a satisfying crash. From one of the other floors, the terrorists open-fired and the officer sped off.
Panting, clutching his side, Vegeta watched as the whole magnificent scene unfolded before him.
“Welcome to the party, pal.”
Chapter 4: —4— “Bubbe, I’m your white knight.”
Vegeta collected Recoome’s machine gun and scavenged for more ammo from the other dead terrorist. The tiny police officer must have gotten the word out by now; Capsule Corporation was officially under code SHIT’S FUCKED. Soon every boy-in-blue for miles around would be here.
But something else was bothering him.
That name rang a bell. The giant oaf’s face was unfamiliar, yet the name strangely was.
Where had he heard it before?
Digging out his sharpie, Vegeta wrote it down with the other names on his arm, unable to shake the feeling he was missing something as he drew a line through the 7 letters.
The distant siren of the police floated in on the night through the broken window. Fuck, he never thought he would be glad to hear that sound.
But he wasn’t about to celebrate just yet. His faith in the police was tentative at best. They weren’t the end game, merely a tool in his arsenal to get at Frieza. Apply pressure. Antagonize. Spread the enemy thin. Delay their plans no matter the cost to buy enough time for him — or the police — to get Bulma to safety.
He picked up the radio and clicked it on. A familiar voice answered the static buzz.
“I distinctly remember telling you all that I wanted radio silence until—”
“Well excuse me, Frieza, I didn’t get that memo,” Vegeta drawled. “Perhaps you can discuss it at the next meeting, although I don’t think Recoome will be bringing much to the table.” His eyes drifted over the busted table and window, the corner of his mouth curling up at. “You see, he had to drop out.”
“…Who is this?” The strained tone in Frieza’s voice was music to his ears. Well worth getting stabbed and beaten.
“Just a monkey in the wrench, Frieza. I wanted to check in on you, Zarbon, Dodoria, and Appule and make sure you weren’t feeling too lonely seeing as I killed Cui and Recoome and your two other friends.”
There was a pregnant pause before Frieza finally gritted out, “Well now. Isn’t that… sweet. You’re a most troublesome little monkey, aren’t you?”
“I wouldn’t need to be if you gave yourself in and opened the front door.”
“Yes, well, I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. But you’ve certainly proven yourself resourceful. I can use resourceful. I reward resourceful. It just so happens I have a few vacancies.”
Vegeta shouldn’t have been surprised at Frieza’s callousness. At the compound he had seen first-hand the kind of brutality the man was capable of, his lack of sympathy for human life. Why should he treat his own men any different?
Vegeta tightened his hold on the radio, imagining a certain neck in his grip. “There will be a lot more when I’m through getting to you.” He moved towards the staircase. Keep moving. It was the key to survival.
“Please, spare me your empty threats,” Frieza scoffed. “I know your type. Some disillusioned orphan of a brainwashed culture, brought up on cowboys and action heroes. Patriotic to a fault because you have nothing else to cling to. Well here’s a reality check for you: you are going to die, and no one is going to care how brave you were at the time. There’s no such thing as a heroic death, only meaningless waste. So unless you want to waste yours, you’ve got a choice to make. Die a cowboy, or live a man who does not interfere where he has no business being.”
Vegeta grinned, a humorless nasty thing. He pressed the radio close to his mouth so that Frieza wouldn’t miss a single defiant syllable. “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.”
The radio went dead.
“How does he know so much about us?” Zarbon demanded, slamming his hand onto the table.
“Forget that, what about the police?” Dodoria growled, looking out to the window where red and blue lights reflected against the glass.
His men started bickering like a bunch of old wives. Frieza pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed before raising a hand, commanding silence.
“This is nothing to get upset about.”
Frieza glared and the group quickly shut up. “As I said. This is nothing to get upset about. Police action was inevitable. Necessary, if you imbeciles recall. All this man has done is accelerate our schedule slightly. Let him and the police fumble about for all I care. Once Ginyu and his team have finished, none of them will matter.”
“What about the four of us he’s killed?”
“Claims to have,” Frieza corrected, though it seemed likely to be true. This ‘mystery guest’ had already killed Cui and Napple, and someone’s body had been flung onto the police car. Frieza looked up at Zarbon. “Take Sui and go find out if he’s telling the truth about Recoome. See if anyone else is missing. DON’T use the radio.”
Zarbon and Sui ran off.
Frieza leaned back, drumming his fingers on the desk. Something nagged at him. This ‘cowboy’ was annoying, yes, but after their repartee on the radio he was getting the feeling that there was something else to this. Something he couldn’t put his finger on, a string of food caught in his teeth that wouldn’t dislodge. He rolled the pebble of annoyance around and around in his mind until Zarbon and Sui return.
“Sir, he wasn’t lying. Recoome is down on the street, and the other man was Banan.” Zarbon paused, his face grimacing with discomfort. “…There’s more.”
Frieza’s fingers tightened on the armrest of the chair, sensing he wasn’t about to like this next part very much.
“The Dragon Ball on the 34th floor is missing.”
“WHAT?!” Frieza stood up so fast his chair fell over. “How? How is ONE MAN causing THIS MUCH TROUBLE?” Frieza screamed at his men. “What am I even paying you idiots for?!”
He spun around to gather his thoughts, letting the weight of his disappointment sink in. He needed to figure out how he was going to pick up the pieces of this mess. Snatching up the radio, he changed the frequency.
“Ginyu? We may have some problems. How are things progressing on your end?”
“Right on schedule, boss.”
“Good. Then don’t waste any more time talking to me.” Frieza turned off the radio and glared over his shoulder at Zarbon. “At least one of you isn’t totally incompetent.”
The radio in his hand hissed with static.
“This is Officer Krillin of the West City police department. If the person who radioed for help can hear me on this channel, please acknowledge this transmission.”
Frieza and his men stared at the radio in stunned silence as the ‘cowboy’ replied. “Acknowledged. You the one from the car?”
“What’s left of him.”
“Hey, I don’t know who you think you are, buddy, but you nearly got me killed!” the officer complained.
“Well boo-fucking-hoo. I’ve got actual dead bodies up here. Sorry I couldn’t roll out the red carpet for you but in case you didn’t hear, there are armed terrorists in control and over 30 hostages on the thirtieth floor. They’re lead by a man named Frieza—”
“He’s telling them everything!” Dodoria whined.
“Let him,” Frieza snapped back. “While he’s busy playing teacher’s pet for the police, one of you is going to get him and GET BACK MY DRAGON BALL!”
Zarbon turned and gave instructions to the men and they left to carry out a search. Frieza righted his chair and sat down, fuming as he listened in to the rest of the conversation.
“—well financed, experienced, and ruthless.”
“And how do you know that?” Krillin asked skeptically.
“This isn’t my first ball.”
“Really. Are you law enforcement? Can you identify yourself?”
“Just call me… the Prince.”
There was a telling pause. “…Do I have to?”
“Listen!” the ‘cowboy’ growled back. “I don’t give a fuck what you call me. Just send help! I’ve taken out four of these clowns already but I can’t do all you assholes’ jobs.”
“Alright, alright, keep your pants on. West City’s finest is on it. Just stay somewhere safe and let us handle things, okay?”
“I don’t fucking think so. It’s my— It’s my life on the line too. They’re up to something and I don’t intend on sitting by doing fuck-all. I’m going dark for a while. Over and out.”
“Wait. Wait! Prince? Hello? …Goddamnit.”
Frieza almost felt a sliver of empathy for the beleaguered police officer. This ‘cowboy’ or ‘prince’ or whoever the hell he was, was turning out to be quite a nuisance.
A knock interrupted his thoughts.
Appule stood by the office doorway, escorting the Briefs girl. She looked remarkably composed considering her earlier grief. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her posture tense, but her face was set firm with barely-controlled hostility, her eyes burning with blue fire.
“I have a request.”
Frieza smirked. He did so love getting under other people’s skin. “What idiot put you in charge?”
“You did,” she countered, her words clipped and unforgiving, “when you murdered my father. Now everyone’s looking to me. Personally I’d prefer to shoot you if I have to be this close to you, but I have a responsibility to my people.”
Frieza narrowed his eyes, assessing the woman more critically than before. She had a backbone. Interesting. He wouldn’t have thought it to look at her in her tiny designer-brand Christmas dress, but then he supposed she had to be halfway competent to be COO, even if her daddy had given her the job.
He gave her a cold smile. “I’ll allow you that one insult, Miss…?”
“Dr Bulma Briefs.”
“One insult, Bulma, in honor of your father’s memory. But push me further and I will not be so lenient. Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” she spat out between clenched teeth.
“Good. Then go on. What is your request?”
She struggled with her temper, her fists clenched so hard her knuckles were white. “Before you arrived we were celebrating. Drinking. Which means unless you like it messy, I suggest you start taking us in groups to the bathroom.”
His lip curled with distaste at the idea of what might happen if he didn’t concede. He waved a hand. “Yes, yes. It shall be seen to. Anything else?”
Her eyes flicked to the side where a large portrait of Dr Briefs, his wife and two daughters took up the majority of the wall. Frieza watched the pain crystalize in her eyes, threatening to spill over. But she choked it back and shook her head.
“Then leave. Appule, see to it that they use the facilities and nothing else.”
Bulma left the office, feeling Frieza’s eyes bore into her back. She returned to the group of employees, everyone looking at her with varying states of worry, Yamcha’s worst of all.
Appule stayed at her heels. “Alright. You five, your first,” he indicated a group of people with his weapon. “And you,” he added to Bulma, “lead the way.”
“Where are you taking them?” Yamcha demanded, his voice trembling slightly.
“Just to the bathroom,” Bulma placated. “We’ll be taken in small groups,” she added and watched the relief wash over some of their faces.
“Hurry up about it.” Appule shoved her and the others along. Bulma bit back any curt replies and led them not towards the main restroom, but down the hall to her office.
Her request hadn’t been entirely charitable.
“Those waiting their turn will sit on the floor,” Appule instructed. “If you take too long I’ll pull you out, finished or not. And no locking the door or I’ll shoot it open.”
Vegeta’s boots were still outside the bathroom door. Bulma made sure she went in first and shut the door behind her. There, blessedly still on the closed toilet seat, sat Vegeta’s duffle bag. She hurriedly dug through it, searching for the sidearm she knew he always carried with him. But it wasn’t to be found.
“No, no!” she whispered in dismay. Desperate, she dumped the contents of the bag on the floor but the only thing that remotely clunked was a small box wrapped in Christmas paper and a gold ribbon.
She blinked, frowning, and crouched to pick it up. The box was small and light and fit in her hand. There was no name tag but it could only be for one person. Vegeta wasn’t the sort to buy gifts, not even for her parents, and the wrapping was far too adult for a baby’s gift if it had been intended for Trunks.
That left only her.
She brushed her fingers over the curled ribbons, her hands beginning to tremble. Tears spilled down her cheeks as the night’s horrific events caught up to her and she had to muffle fresh sobs into her knees.
“Vegeta, where are you?” she keened softly, clutching the box to her chest. Amidst the mess of his clothes on the floor she spied his bomber jacket and picked it up, burying her face into the fabric. She gave herself a moment to breathe in his familiar smell and try and get herself under control. When she stopped crying she slipped the jacket on and hesitated over the gift.
It might be the last chance she had to open it.
“That’s quitter’s talk,” she whispered to herself, imagining what Vegeta would say if he was there now. She put the box in the jacket’s pocket. She could open it when this was all over. Besides, she didn’t want to miss the chance on watching Vegeta struggle to hand it over.
With a weak smile, she pushed the box into the jacket’s pocket, but something hard and cold was already there. A Swiss army knife. Not one of those cheap ones from the local store, but an expensive and well equipped tool. She ought to know. She’d had it specially made for him. The little CC logo was stamped proudly on one side, while VB was engraved in a heart on the other. A sappy sentimentality from when things had been going well between them.
He’d kept it all this time.
Bulma opened the knife to inspect the three-inch blade. Typical to Vegeta’s standards, it was clean and sharp. It was no Beretta, but it was something, and that was better than nothing at this point. Between the knife and the jacket, she felt a little more in control. She felt like she had options.
There was an impatient knock on the door. “Hurry it up in there!”
“I’m on my period, you ass, it’s going to take a minute!” she shouted back. Sure enough that shut the terrorist up. She hurriedly shoved Vegeta’s things back into his bag and pushed the duffle under the sink before finishing up in the bathroom. When she was done she strutted out, giving Appule her most man-destroying glare and went to sit down with the other waiting employees.
When they returned to the group, Appule took a new handful of employees to use the restroom, and Yamcha made his way to sit by her side.
“That’s his, isn’t it?” he asked, eyeing her jacket with disapproval.
Bulma tightened it about herself defensively. “Yes. I was cold.” And feeling vulnerable.
“What do you even see in that guy?” Yamcha asked bitingly.
Bulma felt her impatience raise its ugly head. She wasn’t in the mood to mollycoddle Yamcha’s hurt feelings. “You met him for five seconds and you’re qualified to judge my choice in men?”
“Oh, so you’ve made a choice now, huh? Earlier you weren’t even sure you were seeing him.”
She glared at him. “Yamcha, stop it. It’s complicated. And also none of your business. Leave it be.”
He pushed a hand through his hair, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, I’m just… I’m just trying to understand why you would put up with a guy like that? He acts like an ass and clearly doesn’t treat you well. He hasn’t come to see you or your son since you’ve been here, right? But you’re just, what, going to jump into his arms and pretend like everything’s fine because he showed up for Christmas?”
Bulma turned and poked him in the chest. “I said leave it be!” she hissed. “This isn’t the time or place. Now shut up and let me think.”
“Think? About what?”
Bulma looked up to make sure the guard wasn’t watching them. She dug into her pocket and half-pulled out the Swiss army-knife.
Yamcha’s eyes went wide, his face paling. “…Are you insane? You can’t do anything with that! Why not grab a stapler, then you can really do some damage!”
“Well at least I’m doing something.”
“We’re all doing something, we’re sitting and complying so that these terrorists don’t feel the need to make another example out of us.”
“Another example, like my father?” Bulma felt something hot burn the back of her eyes, but she fought back the tears and channelled her grief into rage. “That wasn’t making an example, that was murder. Vegeta understands that, that’s why he’s doing something too.”
“Yeah, abandoning the mother of his child and murdering people. Wow, Father of Year material right there—”
The sharp crack of her hand slapping his face echoed across the room. She glared at him with barely contained fury. The terrorist guarding them looked their way and took a threatening step forwards.
“Oi. What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Yamcha replied sullenly, holding his cheek and looking down at the carpet. The people close to them cast panicked glances their way, concerned their fight was going to get them in trouble.
“Keep it down or I’ll shut you up permanently.” The guard stepped away.
A tense silence built between them until Yamcha broke it. “Sorry, that was out of line.”
“No shit,” she replied, not feeling forgiving.
“I only want what’s best for you, Bulma.”
“In case this hasn’t sunk in yet, Yamcha, I am not your responsibility. Go White Knight someone else.”
He got up.
She watched him with sudden unease. “Hey, hey. What are you doing?”
“Like you said. I’m going to do something before you or your boyfriend gets us all killed.”
“Cowboy, are you there?”
Vegeta glanced down the hallway he was in, ignoring the radio for the time being to scope out the area. The last thing he wanted was to run into another goon, but it also amused him to make Frieza wait. Moving along on silent feet, he slipped into what looked like a small break room.
“Or is it Prince now?”
There was a vending machine and sink. He helped himself to some water, drinking directly from the faucet before opening up the cabinets and hunting down some clean cloth to fashion a bandage for himself.
“Or better yet, should I call you old friend?”
Vegeta froze, his skin breaking out into goosebumps. The little hairs at the back of his neck rose.
The fuck? He had a very bad feeling about this.
“Vegeta. It’s been a while.”
Oh no… His gut lurched the same as if he had jumped out of a plane without a parachute.
“…Hello? Come come, Vegeta, it’s not polite to keep your betters waiting. I’m sure you can hear me. I must say, this does explain a lot. Like why your voice was vaguely familiar. And why you’ve been such a thorn in my side. I can’t say I’m thrilled to see you’re up to your old tricks. Last I heard you were discharged for failing your psychological examination. How ever did you end up at a place like this?”
Vegeta relented and picked up the radio. “Funny. I was going to ask you the same thing.” He was dying to know how Frieza had found him out, but he wasn’t going to give the bastard the satisfaction of asking.
“I’m just here on a bit of business,” Frieza purred, his voice liquid silk and filled with confidence. He had the upper hand and he knew it. Vegeta’s ill feeling grew worse by the second. “But one should always make time for old friends, wouldn’t you agree? In fact, I have a very special friend here with me now who wants to talk to you. Someone who was with you at the party tonight.”
The world fell out from under him and his heart stopped beating.
He collapsed to his knees, covering his face with his hands. No no no no no… If Frieza had Bulma, it was over.
He would do anything to get her back.
Even agree to a bargain with Frieza, knowing full well the bastard wouldn’t keep up his end. But Vegeta couldn’t risk it, wouldn’t risk it, not when it came to her.
“Vegeta? Hey bro, you there?”
Vegeta blinked in confusion, his hands slowly peeling from his face, dumbfounded. It took a few seconds for his mind to register what he heard and catch him back up to speed.
“C’mon, Vegeta, it’s me. Your little brother, Yamcha.”
Vegeta picked up the radio, still numb with shock and disbelief. “Yamcha?”
“Yeah! Hey man, they’re giving me a chance to talk some sense into you, okay? Look, I get that you think you’re helping. But you’re only making things more dangerous for everyone.”
Vegeta was still reeling from shock, furiously trying to figure out what the fuck Yamcha was doing getting involved in all this. “…Yamcha, what the fuck did you tell them?”
“Just the facts. You know, that you’re my brother and we haven’t seen each other in a while because of your time in the special forces, so I invited you to the party to catch up.”
Vegeta felt a wash of relief flood through him. So Frieza didn’t know about Bulma or Trunks. Fuck, that was a small mercy. He pushed up to his feet and began pacing. “Yamcha, you should have stayed quiet. This isn’t your fight.”
“It’s not yours either, is it? You’re retired, remember. Let the police handle it, they’re here now. All these guys want to do is negotiate.”
Oh god, this idiot really had no idea, did he? Vegeta moved out of the break room and headed towards the stairs. “Tch, you’re a fool.”
“Damnit, brother, you’re the fool right now. All they want is some stupid crystal ball that you stole. That’s all they want, and they’ve promised to let the women go free if you do. Did you hear me? The women can go free.”
Vegeta grit his teeth in annoyance. Yamcha actually thought Frieza would play ball. He was trying to peacefully negotiate with one of the world’s most ruthless warmongers. Little did he know he was negotiating with his life.
“Frieza?!” Vegeta screamed into the radio, hoping the man would hear as he burst into the stairwell. “This moron doesn’t understand what kind of man you are—”
“But you do, Vegeta, don’t you?” Frieza replied. “So there’s no need for us to play games. Give me what I want and I’ll let your pathetic brother live. I’m really only interested in the Dragon Ball. As fun as torturing your relative would be, I have more pressing matters at hand.”
Vegeta took the stairs two at a time. “He’s not my fucking brother, genius. I don’t know this asshole, I only met him tonight.”
“Is that so? Pity. Then I guess it makes no matter if I kill him?”
The gunshot burst across the radio, peaking the speakers and echoing shrilly in the cold stairwell. It was followed by the sounds of terrified screams from the hostages.
“Do you hear that?” Frieza asked menacingly. “That is my favorite song, next to the one you’re about to sing. Now tell me, where is my Dragon Ball? Where is it, you filthy Saiyan burnout, or shall I shoot another one? Sooner or later, I might get to someone you do care about.”
Vegeta smacked his head against the wall in frustration, kneeing it a few times for good measure. He looked down at the ground, panting hard and struggling not to let his helplessness overwhelm him.
“Go fuck yourself,” he whispered into the radio, then switched it off.
AN: M-merry Christmas?
Sorry for the delay. Holiday obligations got in the way of me finishing this ;_;
Trivia fact of the day: Recoome’s rhyming line in the last chapter was actually from the Ocean/Saban English dub of DBZ. TeamFourStar paid homage to it in their abridged version. The more you know! :)