Sunlight raced toward the horizon, signaling the end of another long day's travel. I had just enough daylight to make it another thirty kilos before I would be forced to stop and set up camp. Getting through this last leg of my daily travels was always the most challenging part. The engine of my motorcycle was dangerously close to lulling my eyes shut, but I remained vigilant. Just a little longer. The unfamiliar scenery passed by in a blur, reducing my mind to the consistency of pudding. There was a wild urge in me to pop an adrenaline capsule and power through the last bit of the journey, but it was likely best to err on the side of caution.
It was possible to continue on with the aid of night-vision goggles and the radar, of course, but even with the taser and pistol, it was too much of a risk. On an average day this particular area was rife with giant pythons and bandits, not to mention considerably large birds of prey capable of snatching me right off my motorcycle. Under normal circumstances, pressing on in spite of the risk would have been advisable, but I was exhausted - and the circumstances were far from normal.
If the existence of a warrior alien race bent on conquering the earth was hard to process, the knowledge that the only hope of stopping them was a set of mystical orbs, capable of granting any wish once brought together via a mystical dragon, was doubly so. I still found myself occasionally lost in thought, loosely re-experiencing mild sort of bemusement at the memory of first hearing Kami's voice in my mind nearly two weeks before.
Hello, Miss Briefs. Please don't be alarmed. We need to speak, quite urgently, I'm afraid...
After spending roughly forty minutes convincing myself I was not in fact having some sort of mental break, I became enthralled with the tale the purported guardian of earth wove.
The limits of what I thought possible were completely shattered during that three-hour conversation. As the daughter of a world-leading scientist and inventor, and being a successful scientist and inventor myself, I had once been confident in my understanding of the natural order. Instead of remaining in denial, however, I was excited at the prospect of new realms of discovery. There was an entirely new side of the world that most didn’t know existed and I now had the opportunity to investigate it. Of course, all of this was moot if these so-called Saiyans enslaved the entire planet and stripped it of all resources.
If the news footage was any indication, they were ruthlessly efficient. According to my calculations, if they kept up at the rate they were going, they would have the entire planet conquered within eight months - assuming they didn’t send for reinforcements to make the process faster.
There were many, many unknown variables in this particular equation. This made stopping to rest seem like a frivolous luxury, but I was tired to the point of being cross-eyed. I knew the effects of excessive fatigue on the brain very well, and I couldn’t afford to make a mistake on a mission so dire. The world couldn’t afford it.
With a flick of my wrist, a capsule popped and my shelter for the night burst into existence. It was a simple, nondescript small cottage that nestled up near the sheer rock face of a steep cliff. This eliminated the chance of enemies surrounding me, so if there were any disturbances, I’d see them coming. This capsule had been specially crafted for this mission, as the house was capable of camouflaging itself to better blend with its surroundings. This would make it very hard to pick up from a distance, and my decision to use as little light as possible would aid in remaining obscure as well.
I felt as if my knees might buckle when I finally dismounted from the bike; one more flick of my wrist put it back in its capsule. There wasn't a garage to store it in, and even if there were, it was more secure in the capsule.
In the same vein as lacking a garage, the amenities of the cottage were basic and nowhere near advanced as the houses the family usually traveled with - but it had a hot shower and a soft bed - and that was all that truly mattered at that point. I trudged into the small space, using the panel near the door to prevent the lights from automatically flipping on. There was a small living area, a kitchen, a single bedroom, and a bathroom - all without decoration and only possessing the minimum necessities. The fridge was fully stocked with plenty of water, electrolyte beverages, and dehydrated foods and vitamin capsules. The bathroom also housed a fully stocked medicine cabinet in case of injury or illness. I had only been on the road for a week and I already felt drained - there were potentially had eight more months to go - hints the electrolytes, vitamins, and adrenaline tablets.
The radar, assuming it was as accurate as I desperately hoped it was, pegged the closest dragon ball at just over another two-hundred kilos away. Assuming all went well in the morning, I could have the second dragon ball in possession before lunchtime.
The first dragon ball, upon which the readings for the radar were based, was the ‘four-star’ ball. Kami had seen it safely to me directly after that initial conversation; it had been in his possession for quite some time judging from the rust on the hinges of the box it had been stored in. The shiny golden orb currently resided in a bio-locked capsule stored separately from the others stored on my belt for quick access.
I could have stood under the hot water forever, but it wasn’t long until bed was calling. I dressed for sleep - braiding my hair and slipping into a nightgown - barefoot, but I did climb into bed with one accessory - an earpiece that would alert me if someone crossed the perimeter around the house. It was an unfortunate truth, but growing up as the daughter of the richest man in the world - who also had enemies due to his success with Capsule tech - had made me a target since the day I was born. So, naturally, all of Capsule Corp housing the family used had specialized defense systems in order to discourage kidnapping attempts.
The specially crafted mattress cradled my body perfectly, like a cloud made specifically for me. I sighed with bliss and fell asleep before I even finished situating the blankets...
Perimeter alert in Sector A. Perimeter alert in -.
The cool, automated female voice repeated the same warning message in my ear, sending me crashing back into consciousness, heart squeezed in a cold fist of alarm. I brought a finger to the earpiece and brought up the defense programs installed with the cottage. “Target profile.” The command bade the earpiece to project a holo-screen within my line of sight, one that depicted several life forms less than half a klick away in Sector A. They were silhouetted, striking imposing shadows against the backdrop of the forest. “Enlarge profile and search for threat level.” The screen highlighted several statistics, rapidly calculating ratios such as their height and general body mass. Several boxes highlighted the outline of what looked like body armor with ridiculously exaggerated shoulder plates. There were no weapons, however, which was very odd. Anyone with any sort of sense would bring a means to defend themselves into this region - so either these men were very stupid or incredibly confident in their ability to punch a pterodactyl in the face.
Their body mass was easily twice what it should be in accordance with their height - which was already strange enough on its own considering they were all significantly taller than average and not extremely obese. Either these fellows had some incredibly dense bones and muscles or the readings were on the fritz. ”Threat level low. Engage?” The cool, automated voice asked. It was a tough call, but I decided against opening fire.
“Negative. Await further instructions.”
Wait a second. I was half asleep still, but a thread of instinct was determined to become loud and clear. The fact that their body mass was reading unlike that of a normal human might not be a malfunction - what if these guys were part of the invading forces? Just because they looked like human men didn’t necessarily mean they were human men. Idly, I wondered how many aliens I’d met over the years without knowing it.
Either way, I couldn’t just dismiss their presence across my perimeter line, but I also couldn’t engage them - not when there was still a chance they didn’t know I was there.
Obligingly, the earpiece beeped - nothing but the crackling of static and cricket song. I’d almost let out a sigh of relief, until -
“Picking up some interesting readings on my scouter, my liege. I’ve never quite seen this energy signature before. It’s comprised of elements that simply don’t exist. Shall we investigate?”
A beat of silence. Someone must have nodded or given some other silent signal because four of those five figures were darting off in my direction an instant later. They were so fast the targeting systems couldn’t lock on!
“All systems engage, lock-on four targets and fire! Shoot to kill!”
Despite all systems engaging properly and confirming the command, the red bolts of hard light energy hit nothing but air.
“Ooh, someone wants to play!’ One wheezy voice cackled with glee.
“Let’s entertain them, then!” Another replied just as jubilantly.
The scream of metal and silenced blasts were all that was audible for several agonizing moments. Somehow, the reinforced alloyed drones were simply torn through. The holo-screen depicted one of the auto-piloted crafts falling to the ground in a shattered mess of metal before the screen sputtered out.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit!”
I was already out of bed, wasting no time with changing clothes or tugging on my boots. They were too close to have time to re-capsule the house and take off on the bike - the only choice was to engage them directly and defend myself. I grabbed a pistol and a canister containing an electrified net from my belt capsules, putting the rest within reach.
From what I’d overheard, it seemed I’d had the misfortune of not only encountering the absolute last beings on Earth I needed to encounter, but their King as well. If I could somehow disable his forces and then take care of him, perhaps I wouldn’t need the dragon balls after all? No, they were the only sure-fire way to stop this madness. Besides, there was no guarantee the rest of his men would cease their invasion. Killing their leader might temporarily halt decision making, but chances are it would only worsen the situation for earth.
The best course of action was to fight only until I could slip away and move on.
The door to the temporary abode was bio-locked, so it didn’t obligingly rise when someone outside pressed the button. To my shock, a solid knock sounded against the door. “Anyone home? Me and my boys could do with some good old fashioned hospitality right now!” A round of male giggles followed, but I remained quiet, hoping beyond hope that they would just go away. I knew it was foolish, but deep down I am something of a glass half-full kinda gal.
The shot-gun like dispenser for the net was aimed towards the door, and clocked for just enough volts to render an ordinary man completely unconscious and void of bladder control. On second thought, there was a strong chance these were not ordinary men - so I clocked the voltage up to maximum capacity. This would end their lives for sure - the bubble of guilt building in my chest had to be swallowed down along with a cold lump of fear.
My life and the lives of everyone on the planet was at stake. I had no choice but to do this.
“Ah, well, guess we oughta just go since no one is home...”
My brows rose of their own accord in disbelief.
The door caved in, reinforced titanium crumbling like paper mache.
For a moment, I was so stunned I didn’t even aim the net. For a heart-stopping instant, I just knelt there on the living room floor in front of where the door used to be, staring at its remains. Thwap!
A trembling finger squeezed the trigger an instant later and the net shot out, sparking with enough energy to power a small city for a week. In a moment of weakness, I closed my eyes, deciding at the last minute I didn’t have it in me to watch these men die so horribly. Even men as reputedly vile as these...
I waited for the screams, for the smell of burning hair and flesh - but there was nothing.
Well, that can’t be good...
I peeked opened my eyes to find four very large, very much still alive armored men staring at me. Men who, aside from charred bits of skin and armor, seemed to be otherwise in perfect condition.
My shocked brain took stock of them, while still marveling at the fact they were somehow still standing, let alone alive.
The bald one with the goatee wore different colored armor than the other three - his was a deep red with black and chrome accents. A strange symbol was embossed into his breastplate - the others’ armor lacked this. He casually shrugged out of the still weakly sparking netting, looking rather nonplussed about the situation.
All of them had an odd, one-sided visor type device that hooked around their heads and had a lens in front of one eye - each of these devices beeped steadily, and seemed to be computing tons of information at great speeds.
“Still got a solid reading, boss.” A short, squat man said in a wheezy voice, also acting as if your net had done jack squat.
A mountain of a man, basically slab of muscle on muscle, several heads taller than the bald leader, grunted as he ducked the low door frame to continue his entry into the house. “Silly woman, using weapons. Does she not know men are for the fighting, and women are for the cooking and the breeding?” His accent was strange. The misogynist adjusted his chestplate - with how keyed up my mind was every slight movement naturally drew my eye - he had strange a strange belt wrapped around his waist. Upon closer inspection, I noted that all of them did. Fucking bizzare.
“I want to be there when you make the mistake of saying that in front of Val,” the large bald one said, giggling like a prepubescent boy.
“H-how...?” I raised the pistol, proud of the fact my hand only shook a little. “I’ve got enough bullets for all of you. Get out. This is your only chance.” They’d be crazy to stare down the barrel of a high-tech pistol such as this. Maybe their armor had conducting properties that negated electricity? Yes, that had to be it. All in all this was a minor set back; they would come to their senses and leave, and then I would go on my way, collecting the dragon balls to wish this shit straight.
One hasty wish and boom! All Saiyans disintegrate!
There was a beat of silence, a soft murmur of surprise and then -
They all burst into laughter.
“Ha! Sorry, sorry! I know you’re trying to do a thing here - but, ha! Damn! This is the best challenge we’ve had yet, and from a slip of a girl! The king was right when he said this would be fun!” The bald one, and the apparent highest ranking, guffawed. Then, with a motion of his hand, he commanded between laughs, “Disarm her before she hurts herself.”
A burly, long-haired giant of a man darted forward with speed so great I could barely register his movements. One moment I was standing, pistol aimed and ready to fire - and the next I was weaponless and flat on my ass, my right wrist screaming in agony.
I choked back a cry of pain, instead hissing like an angry cat. “Asshole!” I glared in the long-haired man’s direction while cradling my injured limb.
He just smirked.
“Whoa! Did ya hear that bone snap, fellas? Little gal barely made a sound! What a trooper!” The bald one grinned toothily, and it was a smile that chilled me to my toes. To the one that disarmed me he mumbled, “But did ya really have to break her wrist, Raditz? If ya gotta blow off some steam, go find an actual warrior to slaughter. Now we gotta patch her up and explain to the king why one of the women was injured. Ya know we’re not supposed to hurt the women, and why.”
It was odd that this man’s gravelly tone was so....reasonable. Maybe he was the one to speak with, maybe he would help put a stop to this needless bloodshed -
A flash of red light later, and the one called Raditz was missing his right hand.
Raditz bellowed in agony as blood flowed from his stump of a wrist. The other two flinched in reaction but remained motionless and alert. My stomach roiled from the sight of so much blood, but I refused to pass out. I needed to get the hell out of there because I didn’t even want to begin to know what they wanted the women for! And how the hell did he remove his goon's hand? I saw no weapons on him - and where had that red light come from?!
“You know how I hate repeating myself,” the bald one continued, still perfectly calm and even a bit amiable. “Maybe this little reminder will help you in the future.” He laughed then, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Hey, its better than what our Liege would have done to you - this’ll be our little secret, right? Anyone asks, just say you slapped a human so hard your hand fell off. Next time, though, I will include your tendency to ignore orders in my report to the King.” Another thoughtful pause, and then, “Seriously, why do you always make me correct you in front of the locals? She probably thinks we’re really, really incompetent now.”
He looked to me, still smiling that blood curdling smile. “We’re really actually very organized, promise!”
The leader casually moved a step to his right, incidentally cutting off my only route of escape - as if he was anticipating me making a run for it. Of course, he was. His dark eyes shone with a sinister intelligence few would expect. I got the sickening sense that underestimating him would be a grave mistake. Also that he was playing with me.
He approached slowly, then knelt before me. I blinked, dumbfounded, when he offered a large, calloused hand. “Hey there, beauty. My name is Nappa, and I’m here to escort you. Don’t you know it isn’t safe for a sweet thing like you to be out here all by herself?”
Yes, he was playing with me.
"I'm pretty sure that the only safe place to be is away from wherever you and your goons are." I knew that no good would come from pricking this man's temper, but I didn't have any plans to cower, either. When backed into a corner, I tended to lash out.
Corner, meet Bulma.
Raditz's wrist still bled freely but he seemed more or less indifferent over the injury now that the initial shock had worn off. In fact, he apparently felt well enough to search the immediate area, already having my belt, along with the dyno-caps, in hand.
My eyes narrowed in his direction, but I didn’t take my attention from Nappa for very long.
“I’m not going anywhere with you. Now give me back my dyno-caps and get out, or -”
“Or what?” The hulking man leaned forward, tilting his bald head the way a curious puppy might. I blinked at him in disbelief - for the life of me, it seemed he was genuinely interested in my response.
“What?” I asked dumbly, feeling the blood steadily drain from my face.
“Or what? What will you do, little girl blue, if I don’t instruct my men to give your caps back and high-tail it out of here? Will you shoot another net at us? Try to plug us with some more guns? Though, honestly, I don’t know where you would be hiding anything else...” he leered to punctuate that statement. In a rush of burning mortification I realized the simple, long nightdress I wore wouldn’t hide overly much. Thank heavens I hadn’t said screw it and slept in the silk teddies I usually favored - or nude. “But here, let me help things click into place.”
His belt wasn’t a belt.
In fact, the dark shape wrapped around his waist protectively was a prehensile tail, covered in dark brown fur. The appendage shot out and wrapped around the butt of my abandoned pistol, and dropped it into his waiting palm. I sat there, stunned, as he brought the muzzle of the weapon up to his own temple.
“Wanna see something cool?”
I could only gape and make small squeaks of morbid horror and fascination as his cohorts giggled. Even Raditz, with his missing hand, seemed amused.
Nappa pulled the trigger.
There was a smell of ozone and heat. Despite the sharp bang of the gun firing a beam of hard light directly into the man’s skull, I was too wire to squeeze my eyes shut. My shock only grew, when, not even a red mark formed when Nappa pulled the gun away.
“See? None of your weapons can hurt us. None of your warriors can beat us. I mean, sure, some of our soldiers are green, or just flat out weak compared to the Saiyan Elite - I mean, I’m the strongest guy in the room here. And as strong as I, a member of the Sayian Elite am, there are a few even stronger than me. Our King? He’s decimated entire armies by himself in a matter of minutes. See, I like you, sweetheart. That’s why I’m making the transition easier. Nothing you do matters, so why not just pick your cute butt up and come along, heh? Maybe we’ll stop and get you some ice cream along the way? Assuming we can find a city we haven’t pulverized yet -”
His words were cut short be a resounding smack.
I hadn’t meant to hit him. His glib talk of the cities, the innocent people he’d decimated though - that had made me snap. I was pretty sure I was going to regret it. For the first time since the arrival of these men, I felt the first trickle of fear slip down my spine. It was cold and nearly all consuming. My knees quaked, but I stood your ground. If I was going to die, I wouldn’t die crying and begging like a weakling. After all his talk of sparing the women, I still wasn’t convinced. I doubted any of the women before had dared hit him.
Instead of anger, or even minor annoyance, Nappa gave a full belly laugh. “Oh, this one has spirit! Here’s to hoping whoever you’re paired with doesn’t beat it out of ya!” With ease that was alarming, he lifted me and slung my body over his broad shoulder like a sack of grain. With a firm, humiliating smack on my ass for good measure, at that.
"Find the source of that reading, and keep those cap things she was on about. If she wants them back so bad, must be useful. Gonna go for a walk - meet back at camp when you're done."
He strode out into the night then, inhaling the crisp and cool air. I was facing backwards over his shoulder, able to see his men tear apart my rooms, looking for the box. If they were able to track that strange energy...if they were somehow picking up the dragon ball....well, at least it was in a biolocked capsule. Capsule tech was alien to them; it would perhaps buy you some time as they didn't know the dragon ball was nigh indestructible. Hopefully they had the wherewithal to avoid simply blowing the container up.
I could feel the breeze tickling my bare legs and arms. “Where are we going?” I demanded, proud of how little my voice shook.
“Oh, just going out for a stroll,” he commented lightly - too lightly. Pretty soon, I recognized the immediate area as the one shown on my holoscreen shortly before the attack.
Was he taking you back to his leader?
For what possible reason?
Panic seized my heart and since my fight or flight response couldn’t choose flight, it chose fight. With our proximity, I was able to lower myself down his back slightly, just enough to get my mouth level to his lower back - to where his tail was wrapped tightly around his waist.
I sank my teeth into the furry flesh, feeling a savage satisfaction at his howl of pain...
At least, that was, until I went flying...
Wind stung my eyes and my body seized with alarm, even as I wondered at how far he was able to throw me.
“Hey, boss! Catch!”