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When Pasts Collide

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whenpastscollide-ladisaiyan

It had been months since Bulma had seen Earth. Things had gone horribly, horribly wrong that final day on her home planet. What she thought was going to be just another normal day had turned into the worst day of her life. The blue haired heiress of Capsule Corporation was 19 years old, and had just started really getting into working on some major projects with her father, Dr. Briefs, the CEO of the company. It was early morning, and she had just finished breakfast, when an alien ship had come out of nowhere, and wreaked havoc across West City, and what she assumed probably the entire planet as well. A handful of strange looking creatures, horned and lizard-like, had descended upon the metropolis, firing intense energy blasts to and fro, demolishing buildings and life alike. The screams and sounds of destruction were forever burned in her memory, and so was the face of the creature that had pinned her down as she ran through the halls of Capsule Corporation, trying to escape the madness.

She remembered being thrown to the ground, a heavy alien foot pressing down on her back sharply as she screamed out to her lover, Yamcha, to help her. Bulma struggled to escape, but was no match against the alien creature, what she would later find out was an Icejin from the army of the Colds, essentially what one would consider terrorist group that ran the Planet Trade Organization. Yamcha was nowhere to be found, and Bulma still wondered what had become of her longtime lover and friend. Moments later, she blacked out. She awoke hours later on the cold, hard floor of what she had assumed was the alien ship, shackled and gagged in a barricaded cell. Her memories of those first few weeks aboard the ship were akin to swiss cheese, not completely solid with random holes spread around amidst the rest. What little she remembered was whispered voices in a language she couldn't understand, some strange, green slop that supposedly passed as food, and other captives that would come and go within the surrounding cells. Occasionally, she would too be taken out of the room into a stark white medical facility, where her vital signs were read and vials of blood were drawn despite her vehement protests. Her tiny amount of strength was laughable against these brutes, she quickly learned, and resigned herself to submit to whatever it was they were doing. She discovered that the bigger fight she put up, the less rations she received. It wasn't worth it to go hungry for days on end, where she would dry heave for hours because she was, what she assumed was starving to death from lack of a proper diet.

Bulma didn't know how long she had been aboard the ship, but eventually, it docked on a planet called P924B, a planet that had an oxygenated atmosphere much like earth, but it certainly didn't look like earth. The atmosphere had a dingy orangish-red hue, likely from extensive pollution. When she and the other captives on board were marched off the ship, still shackled, in a single file line like a herd of sheep, she was shocked to see a towering city, with buildings as far as the eye could see in every direction. Buildings so tall that they touched the cloud layer in the lower atmosphere. It was startlingly cold, and some of the tallest buildings looked like they had ice on the windows. She had to stifle a gasp, and she saw a few of the other captives do the same. Many were different species as well, humans...and other aliens that she had no name for. Bulma was so far out of her league that it sent a shiver down her spine as she disembarked the ship onto a whole new planet, and as much as she would have loved to explore it, she knew that whatever it had in store for her was likely not anything positive.

The captives had been taken to a holding room a few miles away from the ship, in a large, wide building. The room, just like outside, was quite cold. She was thankful for the heavy sweater-like article of clothing she had been given before disembarking the ship. They were given a number on a small piece of paper, and motioned to sit against the rusty wall, and told to wait for the number to be called. Over her time on the vessel, Bulma had begun to pick up bits and pieces of the language used, Galactic Standard. She was a quick learner, and had gathered the basics of the language enough to understand simple conversation. She had yet to actually attempt conversating using the language, but she assumed that would come soon enough. The room they were sitting in itself was bare, save for a large, metal desk on one wall, with a door behind it. A strange looking green creature, tall, with antennae, sat at the desk, a stack of papers in front of it. A few guards from the ship, Icejins, the strange lizards with horns, milled about the room, shooting heated glares at the captives if anyone so much dared to speak or move around too much. Bulma kept her head low, and pulled her knees to her chest. She had always been strong, and intended to put up as much of a fight as she could if necessary, but she wouldn't deny that she was intimidated as hell. The green alien at the desk called out the first number, and a thick, purple alien slowly stood and made his way to the desk.

Bulma watched from the corner of her eye, observing whatever this process was. The green alien asked the other a question in Galactic Standard, but she was too far away to hear exactly what had been said. The purple alien responded, and the green quickly scribbled something down on the paper stack in front of him. Another question was quickly asked, and then one of the Icejins was summoned to the desk. The lizard grabbed the man by the shackles abruptly and hauled him around the desk with a hiss, opening the door behind, and they both disappeared beyond. Bulma gulped, and lowered her head again. Additional numbers were called, and she watched the process repeat, as another Icejin stepped forward to take the next captive a few minutes later.

All of a sudden, she was broken out of her thoughts when the number on her little piece of paper was called. Her hands trembled for a moment as she got to her feet, reminding herself to be brave. She was Bulma fucking Briefs, and it didn't matter what planet she was on. She tipped her chin up, and walked bravely over to the desk.

The green alien gave her a once over, his lips pursed tightly. "State your name and age," he snapped in Galactic Standard. She had trouble understanding his accent momentarily, but she processed the words he had said quickly in her mind and realized what he was requesting of her.

"Bulma Briefs. 19 Earth Years," she replied, voice a little more shaky than she would have liked it to be.

"Earth Years, I don't know what that is. We go by Galactic Standard years here," he responded brusquely, head down as he scribbled on the paper.

"I'm sorry sir, I'm not familiar with Galactic Standard timeframes. On Earth, a year was 12 months, a month being an average of 30 days, and 24 hours in day for a full rotation of Earth's axis. I don't know if that helps," she grated out in broken Standard, nervous to be speaking in it for the first time. However, she was proud of herself for picking it up so quickly, just in passing.

"Be quiet, girl. It is obvious you are still an unruly youth that doesn't know when to stay quiet," he chided, making another note on the paper. "You will do well to mind where you are going, or you'll suffer the consequence. Frieza doesn't take well to disruptions or disobedience on his ship. I suggest you quickly learn to control that tongue and speak only when you're spoken to. Now get out of here."

Bulma was about to respond when his words clicked in her brain, and she quickly nodded. The alien motioned for an Icejin to come take her to wherever it was she was being sent to, and he came over, grabbing her by the wrist in an excruciatingly tight grip. The horned lizard creature made some sort of grunting noise, and dragged her through the door into a darkened hallway.

It seemed like the hallway would go on forever until it started to get a little brighter, and then they turned a corner and started moving up a ramp of sorts. Bulma lost her balance slightly, and the Icejin growled at her and his grip tightened on her wrist, causing her to squeak in pain. He shot her a glare that could kill, as he continued dragging her along. Finally, they came to a dimly lit doorway with metal plated door. The lizard creature reached with his other arm and wrenched the door open, shoving Bulma through it. The new area she found herself in was a stark contrast to the hallway they had just been in, in both light and terms of hospitality. It was brighter, open, and airy, but freezing cold, with strange looking plants dotting the room, some vine-like ones even extending up the walls. A glass ceiling stretched across the room, letting filtered red light come in from outside. The floors were a type of grey stone, and the walls a similar material. It almost looked regal, but in a oddly tropical way. They kept walking through the room, until they reached a very large atrium, that had a domed glass ceiling and floor to ceiling windows on the far side.

Bulma could see out the gigantic windows, and gasped when she realized the building she was in was protruding out over a massive canyon, gouged deeply into the red rock. What she assumed was snow, covered the top portion of the canyon, and a frozen lake lay at the bottom. On the right topside of the canyon, designed into the building, there was a large docking bay, with a strange looking spaceship in dock. It was round, with circular, dark blue protruding windows, and odd oblong yellow protrusions between numerous crab-like legs. It looked different from the ship she had been brought to this planet on, but a few of the features were similar to some degree. The circular protruding windows seemed to be common on space ships, she realized, when she had stolen a glance around the first docking bay. Funny how she had always wondered if aliens were even real, and here she was living some sort of crazy dream, thinking maybe she'd pinch herself and wake up.

The Icejin turned to the right when they reached the center of the atrium, re-directing toward the docking bay. As they were walking, Bulma heard a flurry of sound behind her, and muffled voices across the atrium reached her ears. A small group of what looked like very muscly humans were standing on the far left wall, wearing strange looking armor. They had dark hair, and two of the men were giant, Bulma could tell that even from where she was. One of the large men was bald, with a dark mustache, and the other had a completely unruly mess of hair that jutted out in all directions. The third, was much smaller in stature and was wearing tight fitting blue spandex beneath his armor, while the others were bare skinned beneath. His hair was oddly shaped, resembling a flame, and his face wore a tight scowl. The two large men were talking rapidly, and the smaller one seemed less than enthused by whatever it was they were conversing about. She could barely hear them across the room, although what she could hear was not in Galactic Standard, but another language that she was unfamiliar with. Momentarily, the man with the unruly hair met her eyes as she continued to walk, dragged along by the Icejin. Unruly hair man quickly turned to the side, and Bulma gaped when she realized the fuzzy "belt" around his waist was actually a tail! It had fallen and was flicking rapidly behind him. The three men quieted to hushed whispers and disappeared down another hallway.

She returned her gaze to in front of her as the Icejin yanked her arm once again. He growled, and spoke in a grating voice. "Girl, you would be wise to mind your own business and do as you are told."

Bulma nodded and bit her lip. They arrived at a hulking doorway that lead into the docking bay, and the Icejin opened it and much like the last few, pulled her through. There was a long catwalk with a glass wall to one side, and the ship was positioned at the other side. A lowered ramp was down onto the catwalk, leading up to the ship. The Icejin directed her up the ramp, and onto the ship.

They hung a left into the first hallway on the ship, and then immediately into a small, narrow stairwell that lead to the lower level of the ship. He pushed her forward and down they went. Upon arrival at the base of the stairwell, it opened up into large round central room, with smaller, individual rooms on the outside. There were a handful of creatures milling about, none of them looking happy to be there.

"This is the slave quarters. You will be working on Lord Frieza's ship. Your assignment will be to provide food for the Frieza Force members on board, to clean up the kitchen and cafeteria after meals, and to clean the ship as needed. You will not receive any pay, but you will be given board and meals in exchange," the Icejin ordered, directing her to one of the small outer rooms. It was bare, save for a set of sparsely covered bunk beds and two small dressers on each wall, with a tiny attached bathroom in between the room and the next room over. "This is your room. You will bunk here with three other slaves. There is to be no disobedience on this ship. Lord Frieza does not tolerate anything of the like, and you will be punished severely, if he even lets you live. The ship will be departing tomorrow. The Frieza Force has a number of objectives to complete, and the suspected duration of this endeavor will be about 10 months. After that, your tenure with the Force will be looked over, and an officer will determine if your position needs adjusting or not. Your commanding officer on board is Appule, and you will obey his orders. He will be on board shortly to administer tasks. That is all." With that, the Icejin turned on his heel, and disappeared back up the stairwell.

Bulma was momentarily lost, she didn't know what to think. Bulma Briefs, reduced to a mere slave? Oh, not if she could help it. She groaned and turned into the room she had been assigned. A thin pink skinned alien, with large round eyes was sitting on one of beds, and she looked up at Bulma.

"Hi. My name is Lysea. The bottom bunk on that side is open," she said quietly. "I'm sorry that you're here too."

"I'm Bulma. Thanks. Nice to meet you, Lysea. Wish it was on better circumstances," Bulma replied, as she sat down on the bunk. "I don't even know what time it is, or how time works here. All I know is I am exhausted." She sighed, and laid back. The bunk was hard, and cold.

"This planet, P924B, has two suns, and takes approximately 39 hours to rotate on it's axis, completing a day. However, there is only about 8 hours of darkness at any given time. I have found it remarkably hard to sleep here. But, it won't matter once we get into space, obviously," Lysea explained, smoothing the creases out in the pale brown dress she was wearing. "You may as well get some sleep now, we leave tomorrow and I have no doubt it will be hell once we get moving. Appule is a jerk, and it is nearly impossible to get a break once he starts giving out tasks. This crew is one of the worst, too. They're a bunch of mouthy assholes."

"Mouthy assholes, eh? Well, I'm sure it's nothing I can't handle," Bulma said with a half-hearted chuckle. She adjusted onto the bed, and before she knew it, she was asleep, despite being uncomfortable on the hard surface and with the surroundings. She would need all the sleep she could get before a rude awakening the next day.

Chapter Text

Bulma was roused from her fitful sleep by a shrill series of alarm-like beeps resounding through the ship. She rubbed her eyes, and it felt like she had barely slept. She was positive that there was no way it had been more than just a few short hours since she had fallen asleep out of sheer exhaustion. The bunk itself had not done any wonders for her sleep, it was hard and uncomfortable, what passed as a mattress pad was more or less just like a glorified camping pad an inch or two thick. She slowly sat up, glancing around her bunkroom.

Lysea, the pink alien she had met before she slept was already up and moving around, and another alien creature she had not been introduced to was also awake and moving. The other was a small, rotund green alien, with little arms and legs. Both of her roommates seemed to be in quite a hurry. "Lysea, what's going on?" Bulma queried, running a hand through her messy hair.

"That alert was the one hour until launch, which means Appule will be here any minute to start giving out tasks. Get out of your bunk and let's get out into the common area. He doesn't tolerate anyone being late or anyone out of rank line." Lysea filled her in, while throwing the few belongings she had amassed over the years in her service to the Frieza Force into a small rucksack, then pushing it beneath her bunk. "Oh, and this is Melly." She gestured to the small green alien. She doesn't speak, but she is our other bunkmate. "I assume we will have a fourth assigned at some point, but right now, there isn't anyone."

"Nice to meet you, Melly." Bulma greeted with a small smile, and Melly returned it with a small upturn of her lips. She had large eyes but otherwise small features, a small nose and small mouth. "And thank you Lysea, for keeping me informed. I'm grateful."

Lysea nodded, and guided both Bulma and Melly out into the common room, where the other slaves were already lining up. Bulma scanned over the mix of beings, some tall, some short, some round, but all were bipedal. She assumed it was because of the tasks they would be assigned, they'd need the use of their hands. It was a very random mix of creatures, and she felt a brief moment of sadness when she realized that she was the only human within the group. It wasn't surprising, but she had hoped for a moment that perhaps there had been another captured on Earth and brought on another ship by some miracle. She came to stand in the line beside Melly, and on the other side a creature that looked human, but had two pairs of arms instead of one. Bulma shifted uncomfortably a little, all of this was overwhelming.

A few minutes of hushed talking passed, as speculation of tasks and where their ship was headed traveled through the line. The whispers were abruptly hushed when the door exiting the stairwell was slammed open, and a purple skinned creature with an elongated head emerged, a scowl etched deep into its face. He was wearing armor, similar to that of the armor Bulma had seen on those three strange human like creatures back in the large atrium room outside the docking bay. At once, all of the slaves stood up and faced toward the new arrival, who wasted no time addressing the crew.

"Alright, you lousy lot, this vessel departs dock in 52 minutes. My name is Appule, and I will be your commanding officer throughout the duration of our tenure in space. You will address me as Officer at all times. Let's cut straight to the chase. I see a lot of new fresh meat here, so let me tell you right here and now that I don't play games and I don't allow bullshit on this ship." Appule was walking up and down the line, looking at each individual. "You are attendants on the highest ranked ship in Frieza's fleet, and Lord Frieza himself will be aboard. Make no mistake, if you step out of line, punishment will be severe. Now, if you will, please form a group with those in your bunkroom immediately, with haste. Your assignments will be given as a group."

There was a rush as everyone scrambled into their respective groups, and Bulma quickly found herself standing with Melly and Lysea. Their group had been pushed to the front of the rest. Appule watched closely as the remaining movements died down.

"Very good. Now, remain quiet. I will address each group individually. You will not speak unless spoken to."

His eyes searched with a smirk playing at his face, and his eyes landed on Bulma and her bunk mates. "What have we here? I don't recognize you, bluehead. I hope you'll do well, I sense you're as weak as a bug. If you mess up, I'll throw you out an airlock." Bulma gulped, and a malicious grin spread across Appule's awkward face. She was beginning to understand why Lysea had said he was a jerk. If Appule was so bad, it made her shudder when she thought about what the rest of the crew must be like.

"Alright, what bunkroom are you three in?" Appule barked, reaching for a notepad stuffed in an obscure pocket within his armor.

"Room three, Officer Appule, sir." Lysea offered, meekly.

"Good, girl. You've been around these parts before, so I expect you to show this new bluehead what type of work we expect. If she fails to do an acceptable job, you will be at risk too. Consider yourself warned. You three will be assigned laundry duty. You'll report at 0600 hours and work until the days laundry is completed. If you finish early, you'll assist the crew responsible for meal preparation and serving for the remainder of your day. Am I clear?" He raised a brow, and stared hard at the group.

"Yes, Officer Appule, sir." All three said in unison. Bulma didn't dare look him in the eye, looking down and shuffling her feet.

"I'm watching you, Bluehead. Now, get to work!" Appule barked at them, before moving on to the next group.

Lysea sighed in relief, and quickly bustled back into the bunkroom. She grabbed an old, dirty apron from her rucksack and tied it around her waist. "That could have gone much worse. I'd rather do laundry than cook for this lot. Sure, it'll stink more than a pile of excrement in the hot sun, but it's better than slaving over hundreds of pounds of hot food each day. But, Bulma, he's serious, he will be watching you. So make sure you're cautious and working hard. Appule runs the newbies into the ground, it's his way of a sick initiation. Be careful. I will show you everything you need to know about laundry. With three of us it'll be tight, with four it would be better, but we can make it happen."

"Thanks Lysea. I appreciate it." Bulma gave her a nod. "Lead the way."

Lysea responded with her own nod, and then motioned for her and Melly to follow. She guided them up the stairs, and then through a rounded hallway. They came to a locked doorway, and Lysea paused. There was a keypad. "You'll need the code to get in if you're ever not with me. It is 43678. I will write it down for you when we get back to the bunkroom tonight, I have a small pad of paper I save for important occasions."

Lysea punched the number in, and a green light flashed on the keypad, and a click sounded from the door. She pushed it open, revealing a cramped room with a number of strange looking machines. There were large baskets pushed up against one wall, and what appeared to be laundry chutes emptied into them. The baskets were already partially filled with dirty laundry, ranging from towels to bodysuits. The opposite wall was shelving, where clean laundry was folded and stacked.

"The crew puts their laundry into the chutes, which empty into the bins. It is our job to wash them, dry them, and then separate them into piles. Each crew member's clothing is tagged with their name, and each has a space on the shelves for their clean laundry. They can come in and get it as they please. Be warned, they are all brutes and have no respect for slaves. It is best to mind your own business and not interact with them when they come in. They expect their laundry finished in a timely manner, so we must work as efficiently as possible." Lysea explained, as she pointed out each area within the laundry center. "I think it will be best if we each have a specific task. One can run items through the wash, another run items through the dryer, and another can fold. Does that sound fair?"

Bulma nodded, and glanced over at Melly, who also gave Lysea a nod in agreement. Bulma was glad that Melly could understand what they were saying, despite her inability to speak. She couldn't help but be curious why the little round alien couldn't speak, however. She wondered if it was just part of her nature, or if there was another reason.

"OK, great. I will wash, Melly, you can dry, and Bulma, you can fold. At some point we can switch up the order, but let's start out with that and see how things go. I'll get the first load started so we can get moving. Thankfully there isn't a large amount of laundry since this is just day one. As we get moving, it'll pick up. Observe how I do this first load of washing, so that you can learn." Lysea grabbed an armful of laundry, and shoved it into one of the machines. It didn't look like the washing machines Bulma was used to from earth, but she suspected it likely went through a similar process. It was a large, round dome with a rounded lid (these aliens sure liked things round, she noted), that hinged upward. She watched as Lysea filled it with a copious amount of laundry, almost double what an earth machine could have fit. A few moments later, she pressed a few buttons on the side, and the machine whirred to life. The scientist and mechanic in Bulma was intrigued, she wanted to know how it worked, but perhaps that could come later.

While the machine worked, they engaged in small talk, and Melly listened in. A few minutes later, the machine beeped an ugly sounding beep.

"Wow, that was fast. On earth, our machines take twice as long."

"Heh, with the amount of laundry these brutes produce, you need them to go fast or you'll be here all day. Drying takes a little longer, but thankfully we have two machines for that." Lysea chuckled, and Melly moved the wet garments and towels into the dryers.

Suddenly, there was another round of shrill beeping. A voice came over an intercom system on the ship. "This is Zarbon, your Captain, speaking. Prepare for launch, 2 minutes until lift off. Secure yourself into position for transit through the atmosphere and then jump to hyper drive. Our first destination will be Planet Arcose, arrival in approximately 13 days. That is all." Another series of beeps ended the transmission.

"Quickly, girls, over here." Lysea motioned to Bulma and Melly to follow her. She pulled down a set of seats from the wall for them to sit on and strap into for takeoff. "Strap in, takeoff from this planet can be bumpy sometimes."

Bulma followed her directions, and then waited. Finally, another set of beeps, then an automated voice came across. 15 seconds until launch. 10 seconds. 5 seconds. 4. 3. 2. 1. Launch sequence engaged. Take off imminent.

The ship began to vibrate beneath her, and she could feel the pressure as they began to rise up into the atmosphere. Lysea was right, it got a little shaky and bumpy, and their speed increased rapidly. Heavy pressure closed in around her, and she closed her eyes to try and stave off the feeling of nausea and the overwhelming blackness in her vision that was threatening to take over. The last thing she needed was to throw up on her first day on the ship. What felt like centuries later, there was an abrupt bump, and then the ship slowly started to smooth out and stop shaking.

"There, that was the jump to hyper drive, I think. Wait for Zarbon to announce that we've made the transition, but we should be good to get back to work here soon," Lysea said reassuringly. Bulma opened her eyes and gave her a weak smile. "Bulma, are you OK? You look a little green."

"Yeah, just still not used to space travel yet. On my planet, anyone who space traveled trained for this for a while. Our bodies aren't used to it. The first time I was on a ship, I passed out during launch," Bulma said with a sigh, her thoughts wandering back to Earth. She had to push the thoughts out of her mind as tears threatened to spill out. She'd always been so strong, but here, she felt so weak and so helpless.

Another set of beeps trilled through, and whoever Zarbon was, came back onto the intercom system. "Crew, the jump to hyper drive is complete. You are free to move around."

The intercom clicked off, and the three bunkmates undid their straps and rose to get back to work. Bulma was shaky on her feet after launch, and ended up sitting back down over by the drying machines. The first load was due to be done soon, so she passed the time by scanning over some of the names on the shelves. Raspberry. Dodoria. Cui. Raditz. What kind of names were these, she wondered.

Just then, the door to the laundry center clicked open, and Bulma was about to find out just how nasty this crew could really be. A giant, burly bald man stepped into the room, wearing armor that left far too much of his bulging muscles on display. He had an oddly shaped mustache, and his face was hardened with a scowl. He slammed the door behind him.

"Hey, you! Where are the towels for my crew? They should be finished by now, you lazy wretch!" His voice grated, as he pinned Lysea with an angry glare. He was nearly double her size in girth, and at least two heads taller. Lysea was already tall to begin with, but this man made her look quite small in comparison. She lowered her head in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry, Nappa, sir. We are working on it right now. Officer Appule just gave us our job assignments this morning and we started in immediately. They will be ready for you as soon as possible," she said, her voice squeaky and unstable. She seemed almost more terrified of this creature than she had been of Appule himself.

Suddenly, Bulma realized that she recognized this man as one of the three strange creatures she had seen back in the atrium as she had been brought to the ship. His tail, which had previously been wound around his waist, was now flicking agitatedly at his side. The sight of the tail had sparked her memory.

"Well, you better hurry it up, slaves. Prince Vegeta doesn't like to be kept waiting. He will see to it that you are punished if you can't provide him with his freshly laundered towels in a timely manner. I'll be back to check in a short time, and they'd better be finished!" Nappa said with a snarl, turning on his heel to leave the room. His tail was rapidly moving back and forth behind him as he disappeared through the door.

Lysea let out a giant sob once he was gone. "Oh how I despise that man!"

Melly had been hiding around the corner of the drying machine, and emerged to give Lysea a pat on the leg.

"Lysea, who was that? And what is he? I've never seen a creature that looks like a human like me, but with a tail." Bulma said, her voice raised in surprise. "Oh, and I get what you mean about this crew, I've only seen two so far and they're awful!"

Lysea wiped at her eyes to dry up a few tears that had spilled "That's Nappa, he's a Saiyan. The Saiyans were a ruthless warrior race. Lord Frieza took the last of them in when their planet was destroyed by a meteor. Nappa is just the guardian for the young Saiyan Prince, Vegeta. If you think Nappa is bad, you don't want to meet the Prince. He's got a temper like none other. Nappa is just ruthless, but Vegeta…Vegeta is stone cold and can fly off the handle with no warning. Their buddy Raditz isn't so bad, but honestly, no Saiyan is a good Saiyan. They're all brutes. Lord Frieza keeps them around because they're so good at purging planets, otherwise they'd probably be dead right now. Well, at least that's what I've heard. There's lots of rumors about them."

Bulma shuddered. She certainly didn't want to meet them, but she had a feeling that there wouldn't be any avoiding the Saiyans. It was a small ship, eventually she'd probably run into them somehow. Soon, she was folding the first load of laundry that had finished drying, and was relieved to see towels that had been marked with the names Nappa, Raditz, and Prince Vegeta come through. She made sure to fold them as best as she knew how, and placed them in the corresponding spots on the shelves. She immersed herself into folding, and before long, the door banged open once again, revealing the same burly Saiyan. He lumbered his way over to the shelves, which was too close for comfort for Bulma.

"Good, I was afraid I would have to report you slaves on the first day. That would have been a damned shame." Nappa grabbed the towels off the shelves, and then glanced down at Bulma.
"You must be new. Not sure I've seen a creature with hair like yours before, pretty girl. Better watch your back on this ship. Lots of the men'll want a piece of that, no doubt. Can't blame 'em." He gave her a quick look up and down, and her stomach tightened nervously when his mouth turned upward into a smirk. Nappa slammed the door shut on his way out, laughing his way down the hall.

Bulma's spine tingled, and she fought the urge to scream. It didn't matter what race they were, men were just disgusting sometimes, she thought to herself. Lysea gave her a half-hearted smile of encouragement, and they all slipped into silence as they continued working. Hours passed, and luckily they had no other hostile intrusions. A few other crew members had come to find their laundry, but the bunkmates were thankful that those who came in, had laundry on the shelves to take with them, resulting in no confrontations.

The blue haired heiress' was exhausted, but eventually Lysea informed them that their day was done, and they could retreat back to their bunkroom. It was then that Bulma realized she had not eaten in over what had probably been 24 hours, at least, and her stomach gave a loud rumble. "Lysea, when do we get to eat something? I haven't eaten in a long time and I'm starving and thirsty."

"Once the serving group is finished feeding the crew, we can eat. We usually get what is left, unless we want to cook ourselves something else. They should be just finishing up. I'll take you to the mess hall. This ship isn't particularly large, so you'll be able to find your way around relatively easily. Just remember that you can't wander, if you get caught, you'll be punished, " Lysea explained, as she guided them to the mess hall. When they arrived, the crew had finished, and the serving group was cleaning up the disastrous mess. Dishes haphazardly created towering piles and food bits were strewn everywhere, the garbage bins were overflowing, and the room stank of sweat and burnt meat of some kind. Bulma couldn't help but inwardly chuckle at how true the name mess hall was, but she was equally appalled at how disgusting the crew was. Lysea disappeared into the kitchen, and emerged a few moments later with a metal bin.

"Here's our supper, inside this bin. We will take it back to our bunkroom and I will drop it off in the morning on our way back to the laundry room." She smiled, and they went on their way back to their bunks.

Before long, they had filled their bellies with some sort of grilled meat, which had indeed been a bit burned, but it was still good, and some various vegetables and fruits that Bulma was not familiar with. She was pleased to have had a meal, and found herself exhausted. Sometime during the day, a handful of new work suits had been delivered for each of them, and they had been placed on their beds. Bulma was slightly put off by the fact that they were ugly gray jumpsuits, but anything would be better than not having clothes to change into. And at least she could do her own laundry whenever she needed.

She exchanged pleasantries with Lysea, and bidded Melly goodnight. It took her a bit longer to fall asleep than she had expected, despite being so tired, but she chalked it up to being on a moving ship again. Her mind wandered to thoughts of Yamcha. Bulma had to fight back tears, and she bit her lip. Oh, how she missed him. She fell asleep thinking of what she would have given to be in his arms at that moment. Her sleep was fitful, and it wouldn't be long before another day on Frieza's ship would start anew.

Chapter Text

The first week that the ship was in motion passed by rather uneventfully, both to Bulma's appreciation and, in in a way, disappointment. She was grateful for the ease in which she grew accustomed to the ways things worked on board, but her adventurous and curious side had hoped for more than just rise, work, retire each day. A handful of various crew members had come in at times to get their clothing, but none had been particularly brusque, quite like that Saiyan character, Nappa, had been.

They still had a little less than another week until their arrival to their first stop, the planet Arcose. It had seemed as if another day was going to pass by without anything interesting happening, but as Bulma reached for a freshly dried, crumpled up royal blue battle suit to fold and put away, she realized that there was something caught in the center. She glanced up at the other two girls, who were engrossed in their work, and she quickly untangled the clothing, exposing an object. It was a red lens with an earpiece, and the earpiece looked as if it was waterlogged and shorted out. Bulma had seen these before, Appule and a number of the other crew members wore them. She recalled overhearing them called "scouters" in the mess hall, and assumed they were some sort of communication device. No doubt someone was missing this.

But, it had been so long since Bulma had tinkered with anything. She desperately wanted to take this little scouter apart and see what she could learn about their technology. Maybe if she fixed it after being damaged in the wash, they would be pleased with her? She wondered if she should dare take the chance. The biggest problem she would face would be a lack of tools. She would have to go into the engineering room and either ask for some, or "borrow" some, neither of which solutions would likely go over very well. Bulma took a deep breath, and made a decision. She was going to do it. She realized a long time ago that she never got anywhere without trying or making an effort, and so be it if she got into trouble over it. The bluehead was taking the damned contraption, and that's all there was to it.

The work day was almost over, and Bulma was thankful that one of her own towels had been washed that day. She very cautiously snuck the scouter into the middle of the towel when it was time to go back down to their bunkroom.

"Hey Bulma, you've been acting a little strange today, are you all right?" Lysea looked her over, and then made eye contact.

Bulma shrugged, and smiled a little in return. "Yeah, just a little preoccupied. Thinking of home, I guess." Her smile downturned a little at the thought of Earth, and her family and friends.

"I understand."

Bulma wondered for a moment if Lysea had seen her move the scouter around the room at all, and she wondered what the pink skinned creature would think if she learned of her intentions with it. Briefly she thought of just being honest and telling her what she was going to do, but something in her mind told her that her two bunkmates wouldn't agree. But then she realized that it was unlikely for her to have time to herself to work on it without her two companions around. At the last second, she decided to come clean and hope for the best.

Bulma lowered her voice to a whisper. "Actually, Lysea…I found something today. Before you jump on me for it, please hear me out."

Lysea pursed her lips, but nodded.

"I found a scouter wrapped up in one of the battle suits today. It was significantly damaged from going through the washing process. On Earth, I was a scientist and engineer, I also did mechanic work from time to time. This kind of thing fascinates me. I looked at it briefly, and it is waterlogged and shorted out. I think, with a few simple tools, I can fix it and return it to whoever lost it. I worry we'd be in more trouble for washing it, than if I just quickly fixed it. I just need tools." Bulma explained, lifting the top of the towel, exposing the damaged scouter so Lysea could see it.

"You might have a point, Bulma. I have a friend in engineering who might be able to get me the tools. You and Melly go back to the bunkroom with it, and I will make a quick stop there and see what I can do. No promises, but I will try." Lysea exchanged glances between Bulma and Melly, and they both nodded yes in agreement and left the laundry facility, while Lysea herself made her way to the engineering bay.

Once Bulma and Melly made it back to their bunkroom, Bulma quickly unwrapped the scouter from the towel, and looked it over once again before placing it carefully beneath the side of her mattress. It was such curious technology, similar to that of a walkie talkie in a way, but the digital screened eye piece was unique. She couldn't wait to open it up and see how it worked.

--------

Nappa and Raditz had just come back from the mess hall, to their shared quarters on the ship with the Saiyan Prince, when they heard a resounding thud and an angered yell.

"Where is it?!"

Raditz, a tall, young Saiyan with long, dark hair, and extremely defined muscles, poked his head into the Prince's private quarters, a separate room off their shared main room, to see what the problem was. "Where's what?"

"My damned scouter! It's gone, and I can't track it. It's as if it's just vanished." Anger was written all over the Saiyan Prince, Vegeta. He had sensed his comrades' return, and continued overturning his meagre belongings within his room, in hopes that maybe it had just been misplaced.

"Oh, man, where'd you last have it?" Raditz asked, glancing around the room, while scratching his head awkwardly. Raditz was never known for being particularly intellectual or overly helpful, but he got by on his Saiyan strength and sheer luck. Plus, he happened to be quite the charmer with the ladies whenever they ended up on a planet that didn't require purging for resale. Nappa on the other hand, wasn't much better, but he had a little bit more battle smarts than Raditz and had a war history. He was older, and had been a commander in the Saiyan Royal Army before their planet had been destroyed by a meteor a number of years prior. He had a crude sense of humor and a demanding attitude that never accepted no for an answer.

Vegeta whipped around to shoot a glare full of daggers at Raditz. "I last had it yesterday, just like everyone else here. Yours and Nappa's aren't missing, right?"

"Mine is right here." Raditz held his up with a cheeky grin.

From the other room, Nappa yelled that he had his as well.

"Tch." Vegeta slammed his hand down on the table again, and with his other, reached up and anxiously combed through his black, flame like hair. The last thing he needed was to have to report to Frieza that his scouter was missing. The lizard-like tyrant never took well to things like that, and he most certainly didn't hand out items for free. Vegeta could bet on having the cost taken out of his credits, as well as the price for a new one to replace it. Well, fuck. He growled.

"Raditz, get out and leave me alone."

"Fine, fine, prince."

Vegeta threw a metal cup at him as he exited the room. "Idiot."

He sighed, and laid back onto his cot. This was the exact opposite of what he needed right now.

--------

Lysea returned to the bunkroom later that evening, just before curfew, a small messenger style canvas bag clutched closely to her chest. She closed the door behind her quietly, and then quickly walked over to Bulma.

"Bulma, you're in luck. My friend Beck, a Namekian in Engineering had a few spare tools to loan you. Make sure you take care of them. He will need them back soon." She smiled and handed over the small bag to Bulma, who grinned in return, like a small child being permitted entry to a candy shop.

"Thank you so much, Lysea. I will take great care of them, you can count on me," Bulma replied, as she lifted the flap of the bag and peered inside.

There was a handful of small tools, but none looked exactly like any earth tools. One looked similar to a screwdriver, but had three different ends on it instead of just a single end. Another resembled a small mallet, and another an eye glass. Lastly, there was a small tool that looked similar to a soldering iron, with a small switch on the side. Bulma grabbed it, and flipped the switch. It sizzled briefly, and she watched as the metal tip turned red, indicating it was indeed heating up, confirming her theory that it was much like an earth soldering tool. Lysea must have explained what she needed. For a moment, Bulma's heart skipped a beat out of nervousness, realizing someone besides her friends knew what she was doing. She hoped that Lysea could trust this Beck.

The bluehead looked over at the other set of bunks to see that Melly and Lysea had settled in for the night. She decided she'd only tinker with the scouter for a short time. She pulled it out, and turned it over in her hands a few times, locating a few small screw like hardware pieces on the sides, securing the earpiece together. Upon closer inspection, she realized that the screws matched the tool that the Namekian engineer had sent down. She reached for it, and unscrewed the first screw, placing it gently on her mattress. A few moments later, she had removed all of the remaining screws, exposing the inner workings. It was a network of wires and circuitry, not too unlike earth products. Bulma ran her finger down a wire, and sure enough, it was damp. She reached over and grabbed a cloth, and gently wiped down as much as she could, drying it off. It would need to be exposed to the air to finish drying, and hopefully that would do the trick. The connections would need to be re-established be re-soldering the wires, and then the unit could potentially need to be calibrated. That could prove to be a challenge, should there not be a failsafe memory system in place.

Bulma finished wiping out as much moisture as she was able to, and then set the pieces of the unit aside, placed gently between her mattress and the wall to dry. It would take longer due to the restricted air flow, but hopefully within a day or two she would be able to begin restoring the unit. She laid down, a smile ghosting across her lips. For her, there was something about being able to tinker with things that lightened her spirit.

--------

Vegeta woke early the next morning, he was not looking forward to having to alert Frieza of his missing scouter. He dressed into his armor, pulling on his boots with a scowl. He could hear Nappa and Raditz chattering in the main room, and he wanted nothing more than to avoid their dithering today. Some days he couldn't stand their nonsense and would rather just throw them out an airlock than listen to them ramble on about how they wished they'd taken some girl to bed, or how they should have bought more of a particular alcohol on some far off planet. It was useless drivel and wasted time. If they weren't on a purge mission, they should either be training or planning. Idle chatter is what got them in trouble.

He stood, and threw open the door to his private quarters. "Will you two stop with your incessant chattering and find something useful to waste your time on?" Vegeta hissed, stomping through the room, the scowl etched even deeper on his face.

"Gods, Vegeta, that's quite the bee in your bonnet today." Nappa rumbled, with a chuckle. The prince's grumpy antics didn't often phase the bald, older Saiyan. Vegeta was indeed his Prince, and Nappa by all means paid him the respect he was due, but not without a little fun poked and dry humor here and there.

"Don't test me, Nappa." Vegeta snarled, whirling on the much larger man. Despite his royal heritage, Vegeta was small in stature, but he was muscular and intensely strong. Of the three, he was the most powerful. Proof that size doesn't always mean strength. Vegeta had been under Frieza's control since he was just a youth, and had endured many years of ruthless beatings, and malnutrition, likely stunting his overall growth. "My patience is drawn thin today."

"Clearly." Raditz muttered, turning his head.
Vegeta wasted no time and backhanded him. "Hey! What was that for?!"

"Don't mouth off and you won't get whacked."

Raditz went to open his mouth again, and both Nappa and Vegeta stared him down. He quickly closed it again, appearing much like a fish taking a gasping breath.

"I thought so." Vegeta growled. A pause. "I have to request an audience with Frieza and alert him of the status of my scouter. I suspect that he will not be pleased. I would not be surprised if he docks my credits or changes our assignments as some sort of punishment."

Nappa harrumphed. "I would tell you to act as if you hadn't lost it, but he'd just find out anyway when he tries to summon you and either can't get through or gets someone else. Not going to end well. I'm sorry, Prince Vegeta. I wish I had a solution for you."

"Tch." Vegeta crossed his arms and if his scowl could have dove any deeper, it did.

"On your way, check in the laundry facility. Make sure it didn't end up there on accident or something. You never know." Nappa shrugged his shoulders.

Vegeta growled in agreement, and turned on his heel, exiting their quarters. He set a quick pace down the hallway, then climbing down a set of stairs to the lower deck, arriving at the laundry facility a few moments later.

The prince threw open the doors, and entered the room. His eyes fell on a pink creature that he was certain he'd probably seen before on this ship, or perhaps another, and then after another scan of the room, his eyes landed on a shock of blue hair facing away from him in the far corner of the room near the shelves of clean laundry. Blue hair? He rounded on the creature.

"You!" He bellowed.

Bulma, startled by the loud voice, jerked upright, and scattered the laundry she was folding in surprise. Her two companions whirled around, caught off guard as well.

"Have you seen a scouter in any of this laundry in the last day?" Vegeta's voice grated out in a growl.

Bulma went rigid. She sucked in a breath, and immediately she knew that she couldn't let on that she had any information on it. Her eyes roamed over the newcomer, and she realized it was another from that small group she'd seen in the atrium that first day when she'd boarded the ship. A Saiyan. His tail was curled tightly around his waist, but it was bristled and puffed, much like an irritated cat on earth. He was wearing a royal blue, tight fitted battle suit, topped with the typical Frieza Force style armor and white gloves, his well cut muscles emphasized by the battle suit. When the bluehead's eyes reached his face, they briefly locked with his onyx eyes, and she had to stifle a gasp. His brows were furrowed inward in irritation, and his mouth was turned down in a frown, but kami, the man was handsome, unlike the other giant, bald Saiyan that had barged in here. This one was much smaller, but despite his stature, he was clearly muscular, and she couldn't help but stare at his face. His dark hair rose upward in a flame shape, coming to sharp points, accenting his angled facial features.

"Answer me, woman!"

Bulma was brought out of her thoughts when he took a few steps closer to her.

"I, I uh, no. No, there haven't been any scouters. I'm sorry, sir." Bulma glanced quickly over at Lysea, who was staring wide eyed at her, and then back to the Saiyan in front of her.

Vegeta closed the distance between himself and Bulma in a second, and grabbed her by the wrist. "You're absolutely certain, woman?" He stared into her blue eyes, the hint of a threat laced within the question.

"Yes, I'm certain." She never broke his gaze, staring straight back into his dark eyes. She was terrified, but kami be damned, she wasn't going to show it. She was Bulma fucking Briefs, and she was going to be tough even if it killed her. Literally.

"Tch." He threw her wrist down and whirled around to face Lysea. "If any one of you finds one, or hears anything about a scouter, you let myself or Nappa know right away. Do you understand?"

Lysea nodded. "Yes, Prince Vegeta, sir."

"Good." With that, he quickly retreated from the room.

-------

A few moments passed after the smaller Saiyan had left the laundry facility, and Bulma released a breath she didn't even know she had been holding. She ran over to Lysea.

"Lysea, THAT was Prince Vegeta?" The bluehead didn't know what she had expected, but it hadn't been him. She had expected someone big and burly like Nappa, not small and compact like Vegeta was.

"Yes, yes it was." Lysea replied, with a sigh of her own. Melly had come over and was gripping Lysea's leg, her eyes wide.

"I…I was expecting someone bigger. Like Nappa, but…maybe, worse?" Bulma explained, running a shaky hand through her hair.

"No, Vegeta is the smallest of the three remaining Saiyans, but he is the strongest. He might be little, but he is a force to be reckoned with. Rumors have gone around that he is small because Frieza used to beat him and starve him when he was a young child, " Lysea explained, a brief moment of pity appearing on her face before hardening again. "Don't let his appearance fool you. He is even more ruthless than Nappa, and he's a grade A jerk. I don't think that there is anyone on this ship that likes him except for his fellow Saiyans. And some days I'm not even sure they like him."

"Oh. That's kind of sad, isn't it?" Bulma replied.

"Nah, he's earned it." Lysea snickered, but then her voice took an air of concern. "You saw how he acted with you. Is your wrist okay?"

"Yeah, I'm alright," the bluehead said, looking over her wrist. There were red marks where he had gripped her with his gloves, but they weren't bruising, thankfully. She sighed in relief.

"Good, let's get back to work. We don't want to get too far behind."

With that, they went back to their stations, and set back into their tasks. Bulma's mind couldn't help but wander to the strange Saiyan Prince. He was ruggedly handsome, but his temper was like a stick of temperamental dynamite. He was an enigma, a mystery, one that she had a sudden curiosity to unlock. Maybe repairing his scouter would bridge a gap, if it didn't kill her first.

Chapter Text

The night after Bulma had her first run in with the Saiyan Prince, she stayed up past curfew to inspect the broken scouter. It had sufficiently dried out enough to begin removing a few of the inner pieces. She removed two of the electronic chips, which she assumed were the processing units and the control units. One of the wires had come loose and would need to be re-soldered and re-grounded to complete the connection once everything was put back into place. Bulma would need to make a few minor adjustments on the processing unit as well, it appeared that being tossed around in the wash process had knocked a few of the tiny chips off kilter.

While the technology was different, it wasn't that far off from that of Earth tech, Bulma was pleased to find. She worked in silence, as Lysea and Melly slept on their bunks. Using the three piece screwdriver like tool, she popped out the chips, and then repositioned them into their proper places on the processing unit. They were color coded and marked with a very small galactic standard letter, that corresponded with their match in a slot on the main unit. It was like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. She assumed these scouters were mass manufactured, likely by slaves, so it was no surprise that the parts were well marked. It would also not be surprising that should they need repairs, slaves were the one to fix them, instead of skilled tradesmen. That seemed to be the mode de operandi here in Frieza's Empire, she thought to herself, a wave of anger surging through her as she realized that her skills were going to waste as she spent each passing day doing laundry instead of using her brilliant mind.

Oh well. She kept working, and eventually she popped the processing unit back into place in the main unit. The control unit was next, and it had the toggle button likely responsible for turning the unit on and off. The bluehead carefully removed the button, using the eye glass to see the tiny screw-like clamps holding it on. She checked the button for any damages, and when she found none, she resecured it to the control unit. Testing the button a few times, she was pleased to find when pressed, it moved fluidly and didn't catch on anything. Bulma placed the control unit back into its location within the main unit, and secured it into place.

The next step was to solder the wiring back together and re-ground everything. Bulma knew it was getting late, well, at this point early, or whatever early meant in their galactic schedule, considering there wasn't really a set "night and day" according to daylight except by their sleep schedules and when the ship's interior lights were dimmed to mimic night time. She yawned and stretched, but she was who she was, once she started a project, she couldn't be torn away. Plus, she was so close to being done, and she needed to know if it would work! She grabbed the soldering iron and set to work on resoldering the connections and the wires, being careful to make sure she didn't rush and that the connections were good. Finally, she was pleased with her work, and switched off the iron. Bulma grounded out the wire on the side of the unit, and grabbed the galactic screwdriver once more, closing up the scouter.

A big grin spread across her face, as she held her finished work in her hands. A few moments later, the harsh beeps of the morning alarm resounded through the bunkroom, and her head whipped up in surprise. Had she really been up ALL night working on this?! She blinked in surprise, but she knew that this was definitely not the first time that it had happened, where she'd gotten so sucked into something that she'd pulled an all nighter.

Lysea and Melly were beginning to rise, and she flashed them a grin as they glanced over her way, realizing she was already up.

"I think I fixed it!" Bulma said, a hint of exhaustion in her voice.

"Bulma, please tell me you slept." Lysea asked, with a slight scowl on her face, as she folded her blanket and placed it at the foot of her bunk.

"Well, no, but I think it's worth it. I'm going to test it really quick before we go. Don't worry, I'll be fine. I used to work on all nighter projects allll the time back on earth!" She carefully clipped the scouter up to her ear. "Alright, here goes, hopefully it won't need programming."

Bulma pressed the button, and a small beep sounded in her ear. Then something in a language she didn't understand. She pressed the button again. More words in a language she didn't understand and a few more beeps. Almost like a phone ringing. Then, a voice.

"Who is this?" The voice was loud, with a rumble. "Who are you and why do you have Prince Vegeta's scouter?"

Bulma squeaked and quickly pressed the button again, and the scouter beeped, and the voice was cut off. She wasn't sure what made her think to press and hold the button, but there was a long beep, and the unit powered down. She breathed out a huge sigh of relief, a breath she didn't even realize she was holding.

"Well, it works!" She laughed nervously.

--------

Vegeta was pacing in front of the large doors to Frieza's bridge room, at the front of the ship. Zarbon, the green skinned alien that he despised, had gone in to request an audience for him. The prince was dreading this conversation, he knew alerting the lizard tyrant of the loss of his scouter would not go in his favor. He growled and clenched his fists at his waist, a spark of ki erupting around him. He took a deep breath, realizing that if he was to speak with Frieza, he must keep his anger and frustration in check if he didn't want to end up in a regen tank.

What was taking so long? He growled again, his scowl deepening. All of a sudden, he heard footsteps behind him. Raditz was running down the hallway, and skidded to a stop in front of him. "I'm sorry, Prince, your highness, sir. I'm glad I caught you before you went in. I just got a transmission from your scouter, but I couldn't hear anyone on the other end before the line went dead and I wasn't able to track it. Someone has it, I know it."

"Tch." Vegeta's lips turned up into an angry sneer. "I will find out who it is, and they will pay dearly. You don't cross the Prince of all Saiyans!"

Raditz's tail bristled at Vegeta's tone, and he slowly backed away. Even he knew better than to mess with him when he was that angry. "I'll see you later, Prince Vegeta." He turned on his heel and took off back down the hallway without waiting for a reply.

Vegeta huffed and kept pacing, but it wasn't long before the doors to the bridge were thrown open, and Zarbon emerged, his darker green hair flowing quickly behind him. He had a disconcerting smirk on his face. "Right this way, your highness." He placed emphasis on the latter part, his voice dripping with sarcasm, as he opened the doors to admit the prince entry into the room.

The room itself was large and open, the entire far wall made of glass, looking out into the expanse of space in front of them. Dodoria, a portly, reddish pink creature with spiky, leathery skin stood against one of the walls, a sneer on his face as Vegeta entered. Frieza himself stood near the glass, looking out. Vegeta was surprised to find him standing, instead of seated inside his little hover device that he usually favored. He wasn't sure if that bode well for him or not.

Zarbon led him toward the leader of the Frieza Force, and he scowled. He'd still never gotten over his hatred of this Icejin, the lizard creature that had taken him from his home, from his father, at such a young age. Vegeta was one of three remaining Saiyans, the rest of his people had died when the planet they called home was destroyed by a meteor. And boy, Frieza never let him forget it. He was the prince of nothing, Frieza liked to remind him. His mind wandered through the many years he'd served under the tyrant, and worked purging planets to ready them for sale for that monster. And when things didn't go right, he'd pay the price. There'd been countless times he'd woken in a regen tank after a beating from whatever mistake Frieza believed he'd made, or he'd received half rations, sometimes even no rations, or a dock in his paid credits.

They came to a stop a few yards away from him, and Vegeta steeled himself. Zarbon stepped away, to stand near Dodoria. Frieza did not turn around.

Vegeta swallowed. "Lord Frieza. I have come to speak with you about an urgent matter."

"Yes, my favorite monkey?" His voice was drawling and low, but he still did not turn. He had always loved to make a mockery of Vegeta, and his favorite insult was to call the Saiyans monkeys thanks to their furry tails.

"I have a bit of a dilemma. My scouter has gone missing. I wanted to let you know before you tried to contact me, and in case it has fallen into the wrong hands. I have not been able to track it." Vegeta stood stock still, hands at his sides, doing his best to keep his ki level, despite his nervousness as well as his irritation and anger.

Frieza let out a sigh. "Vegeta, Vegeta. You disappoint me. How could you let something as simple as your scouter go missing? A ship is not a large place. You must not have been being responsible."

"Lord Frieza, sir, I assure you, I…" but before he could finish, the wind was knocked out of him, a grunt escaping as a fist collided with his chest, his armor buckling beneath it. He flew backwards and landed on the ground, skidding towards the doorway. Zarbon let out a chuckle from against the wall. Frieza had closed the distance between himself and Vegeta in faster than the blink of an eye, connecting a ki fueled punch straight into his rib cage.

A few seconds passed, and Vegeta was pulled up from the ground by the collar of his armor. "Your irresponsibility will cost you. Your credits for this week will be reduced to zero, and the cost of a new scouter will be docked from the following week's pay as well. A replacement will not be available until we reach Arcose. If by any miracle you find yours, alert me, but don't expect me to reimburse you. Perhaps you'll learn from your mistakes, monkey." With that, he threw him back down on the floor. "Now get out of my sight." Frieza hissed, as he turned and took his place back near the wall of glass.

Zarbon and Dodoria were chuckling as they approached Vegeta, who was scrambling to his feet.

"Little prince, when will you learn that you'll never be as good as us? Always making mistakes, can't even keep track of a simple scouter," Dodoria teased, both of them erupting into a fit of laughter. "Now, you heard Lord Frieza, get out of here. None of us want to see your monkey filth in here." He made a shooing motion with his hands.

Vegeta shot them a glare, and took off out the doors and down the hallway. He decided to make a detour, and burst through the laundry center doors. He didn't dare go back to his quarters until he could calm down his spiking ki.
He marched over to the racks of clean laundry, and found a few of his battle suits clean and folded. The prince picked them up, and put them under his arm. As he turned, he noticed that all three of the laundry workers' eyes were on him, including that blue haired girl he'd questioned the last time he was in here. She was standing not far from him, her eyes wide.

"Uh, can we, help you?" The blue haired girl asked, as she shifted a pile of folded suits over in exchange for a pile of unfolded, freshly dried laundry.

"No. Just shut up," Vegeta snapped, shooting a glare at her.

"Hey, don't you tell me to shut up, you jerk! I was just trying to help!" Bulma quipped back, putting her hands on her hips, and Lysea gasped from the other side of the room. No one dared talk to Prince Vegeta that way.

Vegeta whirled around and pinned her against the clothing racks with a hand on her shoulder, the other arm still clutching his laundry, before she could even let out another breath.

"What was that, girl? Do you know who I am?" He hissed, pushing her shoulder into the racks.

She glared at him, although pain was shooting through her arm and down to her fingers. "Yes, Prince Vegeta. Prince or not, I was just offering you help. You didn't need to be a jerk and tell me to shut up." She bit out, a grimace replacing the glare.

"Tch. You will respect me, woman. I highly suggest it, or you will regret it."

"I respect those who have earned my respect. I don't even know you."

Vegeta growled. "You don't want to know me, I am your worst nightmare, I can promise you that. Now, shut your mouth, and get back to work."

He released his hand from her shoulder, and she dropped to the floor.

The prince turned to leave. "Remember, if any of you find my scouter, let myself or Nappa know immediately."

Vegeta was almost to the door when Bulma spoke, her voice timid.

"What if I might know where your scouter is?"

Lysea's eyes bugged out of her head, and she shot a look at Bulma.

He froze. "What did you say?"

"I said, what if I might know where your scouter is."

Vegeta turned and looked at her. "You have 5 seconds to tell me, or I will kill you right here, right now."

"But if you kill me, you won't know where it is."

He pondered that for a moment, realizing that she had a point. The woman knew something, that was clear. Now he had to get her to talk.

"Fine. Speak, woman. Now."

"It did come through the laundry. It was unusable and damaged, the water and spin cycles of the system had broken a number of components. I fixed it overnight last night."

Vegeta stared at her. None of it made any sense to him. How did he know it really was damaged? How did he know she hadn't stolen data and information from it? Why did she fix it? He had too many questions and not nearly enough answers. His face curved into a scowl, and he low growled.

"Woman, so you're telling me you kept it from me after I asked you yesterday if you knew where it was?" His voice raised more as he worked through the sentence, his anger becoming even more apparent.

She averted her gaze and bit her lower lip.

"Well, yes, but I can explain why….I didn't want my friends here to get into trouble for accidentally washing it. I had intended to fix it and get it back to you without any confrontations like this, but…well, that clearly didn't go as planned. On my home planet, Earth, I was a scientist and engineer, so building and fixing things was one thing I did often. It was an easy task for me to fix the scouter, even though your technology is different."

"I don't care what you used to do or whatever, I just want my damned scouter. Where is it, woman?" Vegeta seethed, as he took a few steps toward her.

"It is in my bunkroom. I can get it for you when I'm finished with my shift."

The prince shifted uneasily, his anger boiling over the top. He didn't trust this woman, not one bit. He wanted to go retrieve it from her bunk, but he wouldn't know which was hers, and a prince in the slave quarters? That was unheard of. He would just have to acquiesce and wait, and hope that she'd actually bring it to him.

"And what makes you think I will actually trust you to bring it to me?"

"Because I have no reason to be dishonest?"

Vegeta pondered that for a moment.

"Fine. But if you do not bring it to me tonight, and no later than galactic midnight, I will be reporting you to Lord Frieza for stealing my property. He was already made aware of the situation today, and I paid the price for YOUR choice to double cross me. I should kill you for that, and I very well may do so when you bring it to me. I don't take lightly to thieves and liars, especially when they are one and the same." He snapped, shooting her an angry glare. He told her where to find his quarters. "Don't mess this up, woman, if you value anything."

With that, he was gone.

--------

Later that evening, once the work was done and they had retired to their bunkroom, Lysea immediately launched into Bulma.

"What do you think you're doing?! You're going to get yourself killed! Prince Vegeta is brutal. You could very likely have just signed your death certificate, Bulma!" Lysea exclaimed, as Bulma fiddled with the scouter.

"Don't worry, Lysea. I have an idea. I'm going to make a few upgrades to the scouter to impress him. From what I've seen, these scouters read ki power levels, track them, send and receive messages, and send and receive calls. I'm going to add the capability to store ki information, add language selection, and calibrate the eye piece. I am hoping that if he sees that I made it better for him, he will be pleased, and won't kill me. Maybe he will even tell someone. Maybe I can get a job in engineering!" Bulma broke into a grin, as she continued to work on the scouter, making her upgrades.

Lysea's expression grew glum at Bulma's suggestion of working in engineering. "You know we'd miss you if you left us, right Bulma?"

"Oh, Lysea, you know I would miss you and Melly too! You both have been so wonderful to me and have been my only friends. I just feel like my skills are being wasted when I know I could do more, and I always want to learn more too. The technology on this ship is fascinating. I don't WANT to leave you two, I just know that I'd be more useful elsewhere, that's all," Bulma explained, pulling Lysea into a one armed hug as she adjusted the screen calibration on the eye piece of the scouter.

Lysea smiled. "I guess I understand. As long as you wouldn't forget about us."

"I could never forget about you two." Bulma flashed a smile back. She couldn't quite quell her nervousness about meeting Vegeta later, especially since she'd have to sneak around the ship past slave curfew to get there.

The bluehead finished her upgrades with the scouter and was pleased with her work, and she desperately hoped that Vegeta would be too. Lysea and Melly had gone to bed a short time before, and it was far enough past curfew that it was time to venture out. She pulled on a hooded cloak like jacket that she had been given, clutched the scouter to her chest and quietly opened the door to her bunkroom.

Bulma couldn't see anyone in the slave common room, and she quickly crossed the distance to the stairway, and up she went. She followed Vegeta's directions, carefully checking around corners for any crew members before moving forward. Luckily, it seemed as if most of the crew had turned in for the night already. Eventually, she found herself at a doorway. She hoped that it was the right one. She had followed his directions just as he had described.

Bulma Briefs took a giant breath, the scouter clutched closely to her chest, and knocked on the door.

Chapter Text

Bulma sucked in a breath as she heard movement from the other side of the door. A moment later, it opened, and she stood face to face with the Saiyan Prince. He wore a deep scowl, the corners of his mouth turned down and his dark eyes glaring at her. He was wearing only his blue battle suit, and his white boots and gloves, no armor this time around. The chiseled muscles beneath were no secret, she could see every curve and every bulge of sinewy tissue as it curved and rippled throughout his body.

"Get inside, woman, before someone sees you," he snapped, and grabbed her jacket, yanking her inward.

Nappa and Raditz were sitting at a table on one side of the room, which was dimly lit and smelled of sweat and…well, man. She wasn't sure how else to describe it. There was a set of cots on one wall, and the table on the other, and a two doors on the far wall, and a small round port window looking out to the passing stars over the cots. The other two Saiyans were watching her closely.

"Well, well, Vegeta, I'm surprised she showed up."

"Shut up, Nappa. I told you to keep your mouth quiet." Vegeta snapped, shooting him a glare.

Raditz appeared as if he wanted to say something, but he wisely kept his own mouth closed. He knew that Vegeta's temper was at a high right now, and it wasn't worth poking at a pit viper when they were coiled and ready to strike. That's how fools get bit.

"This way, woman." Vegeta hissed, motioning for her to follow him, walking toward one of the other doorways. He threw the door open, and held it open for her as she reluctantly passed through, watching her closely as she did. The door shut loudly behind them as he quickly moved past her into the room, which was also dimly lit. This room, however, didn't smell quite as badly, it was still sparsely furnished but the furniture itself was of better quality. There was a small sitting bench, a bed, the size of what would be considered a twin on earth, and a writing desk and chair, with another slightly larger port window. His armor was piled on the bench.

Vegeta turned around and faced Bulma.

"Alright, woman. Speak before I lose my temper further, and you better have what belongs to me if you value your life." He grated, his fists balled at his waist. He was still furious that she'd hidden the fact she had found his scouter and had lied to his face when he asked. Vegeta could have easily had the engineering crew fix it and he would have never had to go to Frieza and been humiliated once again in front of that monster. The corner of his mouth turned up in an angry sneer at the thought.

"Prince Vegeta…sir, er, your highness? I guess, I'm not sure what to call you," he cut her off abruptly.

"Just shut up with the formalities, woman, and get on with it!"

"Okay, okay, jeez, I was just trying to be polite. Here, here's your scouter." She pulled it out from beneath her jacket, and it held it out in her hand. He immediately lunged forward and snatched it from her, like a dog snatching a bone. She recoiled back in surprise at his sudden movement, she hadn't expected him to move quite so quickly.

Vegeta snapped the scouter onto his ear, and booted it up. He wanted to make sure she hadn't deleted or removed any of his data, or tampered with it.

"I made a few adjustments to the unit… " but before she could finish, he cut her off again.

"You did what?" His voice was laced with rising anger, as he scrolled through the important information, viewing it in his eyepiece. As far as he could tell, nothing had been tampered with in terms of his own private information. No contacts had been removed, no messages removed or altered, no data or information missing.

Bulma faltered for a moment. "I…I just made a few simple upgrades, that's. I thought they would help with the efficiency of the unit. You see, on earth we are always trying to make things better and more useful. I added the capability to store ki information, not just read power levels. It will now store the ki information of others, and track locations. I also added a handful of different languages, and I calibrated the eye piece so that it is more efficient. You can try it all out by scanning me if you'd like."

The Saiyan Prince stood, his eyes on her, one of them watching the data flowing through the scouter as well. He was having a hard time understanding why she would even bother upgrading his equipment.

"Fine, I will try it. You better hope it does not disappoint me." He pressed the button to initiate the scan, and as it completed, he noticed a new menu pop up in the corner of the screen, allowing him the option to store the ki information, track ki or discard information.

"Interesting."

Vegeta then shifted through the available languages, surprised that she had been capable of adding all this in such a short time. And the calibration of the eye piece was surprising as well. It moved and processed information quickly, and there was no lag during ki scanning or info download. It locked onto the target quickly, and held the lock. He didn't want to say it, but he was actually pleased.

Bulma had been standing there, shifting ever so slightly on her feet, trying to quell the nervousness bubbling up. "Well, what do you think of it?" She asked, trying to keep confidence in her voice.

"It is…acceptable. I am surprised that you were able to do this in such a short amount of time. The upgrades are something that would be quite useful in battles and purges. However, I am having a hard time understanding your motives behind doing this. What is it that you want, woman?" Vegeta snapped, his eyes boring into her. He unclipped the scouter and set it down on the writing desk, and then crossed his arms, waiting for her reply.

"I just wanted to be helpful. I also feel like my skills are being wasted working in the laundry center every day. I know I'm a female, and many think that's the only place we belong, but back on earth, I was what's called a genius. I have extensive experience with engineering, science, and building things. My father and I ran the largest company on our planet, and I was the most wealthy woman on the planet as well, because of our inventions and my work. I was just hoping that maybe if I proved I was able to do something like this, that I could be put to work using those skills…" Bulma tapered off, her eyes shifting down to her feet. She wondered if maybe her idea had been stupid after all, and she was just going to end up thrown out an airlock, blasted to pieces, or thrown in the ships' brig for the rest of the voyage.

There was silence for a moment. Vegeta looked her over briefly, his eyes wandering from her odd blue hair, down to her worn brown work boots. He hadn't really looked closely at her before, but it suddenly hit him that she was actually quite beautiful. His eyes widened for a second, and he shoved that thought away as fast as it had come. He couldn't be thinking about her that way. He was Vegeta, the Prince of all Saiyans, he didn't have time for distractions. And most certainly not for a non Saiyan, earth woman. However, it was kind of attractive in an odd way that she had stood up to him yesterday in the laundry room, and that she had so quickly fixed his scouter. That meant she was knowledgeable and she must be tough, to be willing to stand up to him, of all people, even when she knew who he was. But no, he couldn't think that way. Vegeta had never taken an interest to any females. He inwardly scoffed at the thought. The prince's eyes met her blue ones.

"Tch. I won't say that you have any chance of getting anywhere on this ship, but I will do you a favor and spare your life for making these upgrades on my equipment. They will be useful." His tone had softened from angry, to just a gruff, somewhat more conversational tone.

"Oh thank kami. I am glad they will be useful for you, I just tried to think of what would have been useful for our fighters on earth," Bulma sighed, as she ran a hand through her hair.

"Now, get out of here before anyone finds you or figures out you were here," Vegeta snapped, moving toward her and pushing her toward the door. As he did, he was hit overwhelmingly by her scent, a sweet but mild scent, one that permeated straight into his nose. He resisted the urge to inhale deeply, and his mind swam. What in the hell was going on with him?! He gave her a harder push through the door, and she glared at him.

"Hey, what was that for?" She quipped, shooting him a glare.

"I told you it's time for you to go, now get out." He grated, pointing at the door to the Saiyan's living quarters.

As they had emerged from Vegeta's own private room, the door had swung open quickly, and smacked an eavesdropping Raditz hard in the nose, and he was now clutching it, sitting on his cot. Bulma hadn't noticed, but Vegeta did.

Bulma quickly crossed the distance between his door, and the outer door. She briefly turned, and looked at all three of the Saiyans. "Thank you, Vegeta. You three…uh…have a…good night?"

"Get out!!!!" Both Nappa and Vegeta bellowed, and Bulma jumped, rapidly opening the door and disappearing into the hallway, praying that no one was out there. She made her way back to her bunkroom as fast as she was able, without being spotted. The bluehead knew Lysea and Melly were asleep, so she quietly opened the door, and didn't bother changing before climbing into bed, all the while thanking her lucky stars that Prince Vegeta had accepted her upgrades and spared her life.

--------

Back up in the Saiyan's quarters, Vegeta had wasted no time before turning to Raditz.

"Why in the HELL were you eavesdropping, you moron? Don't you have any respect?" Vegeta raged, earning Raditz a punch to the face. "Don't let me ever catch you doing that again, you do understand me?"

"Y…yes, Prince Vegeta, sir," he sputtered out, as his nose began bleeding.

"Nappa, get him something to clean that up with before he bleeds all over the floor and we end up getting docked even more credits for damaging Frieza's precious ship," Vegeta mocked, turning to the larger Saiyan.

Nappa just chuckled and tossed Raditz a rag. "Clean up your mess, dumbass. I told you he'd be pissed if he caught you. Oh, and Vegeta, whyd's you let her go? You shoulda just killed her, girls like that are just trouble."

"She…could be useful. She made some upgrades to the scouter that will be helpful in battles and purges. I…am considering informing Frieza when I alert him of the status of my scouter. He might find the upgrades useful as well." Vegeta said, clearly pondering the potential impact of such choices.

"Hey, little man, you better think on that. Don't make any rash decisions." Nappa replied, giving the prince a condescending, almost protective look.

"I do not intend to. If I choose to tell him, it will be because I think it would be in everyone's best interest. Perhaps Frieza would reward us for telling him. I will think on it. Now, I am going to sleep, and I suggest you do the same." With that, he returned into his own quarters, shutting the door behind him.

His mind wandered unbidden to the woman once again, and despite trying to shift his thoughts elsewhere, he found that he couldn't. She was alluring, he had never seen any creature with eyes or even hair quite that blue. But oh, how weak her ki was. He could squash her like a bug, if he really wanted. One punch, and that's all it would take to knock her lights clean out for good. Except, something about her reminded him of a Saiyan female. She was stubborn, and intelligent. What she lacked in physical strength, she made up for in intelligence, it seemed. He barely knew her, but what little he had seen had made him briefly wonder if she had been some odd cross of a Saiyan and another species before she had told him she was an earthling, from the planet Earth.

He pulled off the top of his battle suit, and climbed into his bed. He wasn't sure if the room had grown hot, or if he had. He also wasn't sure if he liked the feeling. There was an odd sensation in the pit of his groin, and he knew it was the woman that had stirred it. Her scent had hit him like a ton of bricks. And that was certainly a game he really had no interest in playing. He had so many other things he needed to focus on. Someday, he wanted out of this hell hole. Vegeta was tired of the humiliation. Tired of the never-ending jobs. While he didn't mind the purges, the destroyed planets or the battles and bloodshed, he loathed the fact that it was Frieza who ordered him to do it. Frieza who beat him or humiliated him, or both, when he made a mistake or just when he felt like it. Frieza who starved him by taking away meals or credits when they didn't complete a purge on time. Frieza who forced him away from his home so young. He hated him so, so much.

Vegeta stared up at the ceiling, his arms crossed above his head. He couldn't waste his time thinking about that woman. She'd done him a favor by upgrading the scouter, and that was all. He'd think over passing on the information to Frieza, because if the Icejin Lord decided the upgrades were worthy of being installed on all scouters, the woman may have just earned herself a job. But that was it. He wouldn't see her after that, anyway, so it wouldn't matter. He wouldn't have any reason to think about her.

The Saiyan Prince eventually dozed off, his mind fighting a losing battle.

Chapter Text

Bulma was thankful that her encounter with the Saiyan Prince to return his scouter had been a somewhat positive one, she had feared the worst when she had arrived at the door that evening. A few days had since passed, and the ship was due to arrive at their first stop on Arcose in 4 more sleep cycles. Nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, and the bluehead and her friends had slipped back into a camaraderie within the laundry room as they worked.

Of course, Lysea had wanted to know exactly what had happened with Bulma's visit with Prince Vegeta, so she obliged and filled her in. Having experienced a number of expeditions with this particular crew, Lysea hadn't held the highest hopes that the Saiyans would leave Bulma with a positive outcome, but she was pleased to hear that it had gone reasonably well.

Their workload has steadily increased as the ship had gotten underway, with more linens and clothing coming in to be washed each day. Lysea had given Bulma warning that times when they would make berth on planets, or days when there was a planet purge or an attack, there would be an influx of large laundry quantities. She hated purge laundry the most, because some of the crew didn't understand what clothing should just be tossed into the garbage versus what was salvageable. Many times they'd find completely tattered and blood covered body suits that weren't even worth saving, and then an argument would ensue when the owner came looking for it. Bulma cringed at the thought.

The three settled into a steady pace on this particular day, and they had fallen into familiar small talk and friendly banter. Lysea and Bulma would chatter back and forth, and Melly would flash them her host of facial expressions that they'd grown to understand.

-------

Vegeta had awoken reasonably early a few days after his meeting with the strange blue haired earthling. He had considerable trouble getting the thoughts of her out of his mind, and the past two days he had been working on plans for re-upping their supplies when they arrived on Arcose soon enough. With the credit loss from the scouter fiasco, he was down quite a bit and his budget was tight, but he needed new battle suits and gloves, and a new pair of boots would be nice. And despite being able to eat at the mess hall on the ship, the Saiyans liked having their own rations available to them as well. He wanted to pick up some dried goods, cleansing and health supplies to store in their quarters, but the budget was proving immensely tight and he was falling short of what he had hoped to procure. Especially considering he was going off the pricing from the last time he'd visited the planet, a number of years ago. Gods know the prices were probably higher now anyway.

The prince grunted, and slammed his fist down on his writing desk. The paper he'd been making notes on flew off and onto the floor, and he swooped down to grab it quickly, as an irritated growl escaped his lips. So many years of being inadequate. Inadequate in power. Inadequate in size. Inadequate in pay. Red haze burned in his vision momentarily. He was so tired of the constant feeling of failure. They wouldn't be short credits if he hadn't fucked up again and lost his scouter.

But, despite his shortcomings, or at least the shortcomings he felt, Nappa and Raditz never once spoke badly to him. His mind wandered to his comrades, and as crazy as they drove him each and every day, they were goddamned loyal. They were always right behind him to support him in every battle or purge. They were the only ones to help him when Frieza beat him and humiliated him so many times over the years. Vegeta didn't have "friends", but if there was such a thing, he guessed that Nappa and Raditz were as close as it got.

He drew his attention back to his scratch paper on the desk. They were a few thousand credits short of what was needed to procure the items that would allow them comfort and security during their voyage. Even with all their credits pooled together, it wasn't enough. Raditz needed new shoulder armor, and Nappa needed new boots and spandex. On top of the battlesuit, gloves and boots he needed, it was a lot. All of that added up incredibly fast, and left them with very little to spare for anything else. Vegeta huffed, and stuffed a hand into his hair.

He glanced over toward his bed, and noticed his scouter sitting there, where he'd left it earlier that morning when he'd first gotten out of bed. Vegeta's lips turned up into a snarl, exposing his sharp canines, as he remembered he needed to go speak with Frieza today to brief him on the situation with his scouter. He'd waited long enough, he couldn't put it off any longer. If he did, he'd be risking trouble for both himself and his comrades.

The Saiyan Prince rose from his seat and pulled on the top of his body suit, and then his boots. He strode across the room to retrieve his armor, which had been discarded in a heap by the door after a heavy sparring session with Nappa the night before. He had been exhausted and had gone straight to bed after a cold shower. Now, he tugged the armor on, settling it into place on his muscular torso, and then pulled on his gloves. He grabbed his scouter and clipped it into place on his ear, and powered it on. No new messages had arrived in his inbox overnight, but the scouter beeped to alert him of the close proximity of the two ki's present in the next room. He had set it to track both Raditz and Nappa at all times, thanks to the upgrade the earthling woman had made. It was quite handy, he certainly wouldn't admit it to her face, but he was a little surprised by her alterations. Vegeta was positive it would prove useful during battles or purges.

He made his way into the central room of their quarters, to find Nappa and Raditz still sleeping in their cots. He rolled his eyes and low growled, these two were as lazy as ever if they could be, especially on space travel days. They were strong fighters indeed, and Vegeta was grateful for their assistance on his crew, but he got irritated with their antics from time to time. Between the laziness and the goofing off at canteens and brothels on various planets, it got old after a while. Vegeta wasn't into that nonsense, and he didn't believe that they should be either. Although he shared some choice words with them over the incidents, he never did stop them, however. He figured if they were going to have a little fun, that was about the only way they were ever going to get it under a tyrant like Frieza, running them into the ground.

Vegeta shot another glance around the room.

Raditz was hanging over the edge of his cot, arm draped down onto the ground. He was snoring loudly.

Nappa on the other hand, barely fit onto his cot, since he was so largely built. It was almost humorous to look at, because he tried to fold himself up to fit onto it, but it just didn't quite work. His arms and legs were flayed out to the side, and he too was snoring.

Vegeta raised his ki, and shot two quick, but very small energy blasts from his palms, one at each of them. The blasts weren't overly powerful, but they were enough to shock the two Saiyans awake rather abruptly. Both of them snapped awake, Nappa sitting up quickly, while Raditz flailed awkwardly and ended up tumbling onto the floor.

"Vegetaaaa! What was that for? We were sleeping!" Raditz wailed, angrily, shooting him a hearty glare as he clambered back up onto his cot.

Nappa shook it off quickly and chuckled. He was used to the Prince's antics by now, and found it rather surprising and, frankly, amusing, that Raditz was not. "Raditz, don't get your underthings in a bunch, you idiot."

"Shut up Nappa." Came the irritated reply as Raditz glared at him, and then turned to glare at Vegeta. "And what do you know, I don't even wear underthings." He muttered, shifting his gaze to the floor.

"What was that, Radz?" Nappa said, leaning toward him with a grin on his face, pretending like he hadn't heard him.

"I said shut up, Nappa." Raditz snapped.

Vegeta just stood there, staring at them. "You two are both morons. I stand by that determination." He shook his head. "I've seen both of your bare asses too many times to count, and it's enough to make me want to vomit. Enough useless banter about underthings and get those asses up. You're no use sleeping all day. I just finished budgeting out our credits for our stop on Arcose, and we're short by a few thousand for what we need. There's gonna have to be some cuts, so think about what we can go without. I need to speak with Lord Frieza about the current status of my scouter, so I am dismissing myself to take care of that matter."

Nappa side eyed him. "You're not thinking of telling him about that earthling, right? I'm telling you Vegeta, she's trouble. No one can fix something that fast and then just give it back for nothing. She's got something up her sleeve. I wouldn't trust her as far as I can fu.." but before he could finish the sentence, Vegeta cut him off.

"That's enough, Nappa. I've thought it over, and I believe that no harm would be done by telling him. If she did anything, Frieza would just kill her anyway, and it's off my hands. Better for him to know, than not, if we're thinking tactical here. Plus those upgrades really will come in quite handy in battles," Vegeta explained, his voice low.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say your highness. I just hope you're not making a mistake. I think you've got your eyes on that girl…" Nappa said, awkwardly wiggling his eyebrows at Vegeta.

At that moment, Vegeta had never wanted to end someone more than he wanted to end Nappa. He grit his teeth together and clenched his fists, his mind settling on that woman's face once again, unbidden at the request of Nappa's teasing. "Nappa, you'd be wise to shut your mouth, you big brute, before I wipe that smirk off your face permanently." Vegeta hissed, folding his arms across his chest angrily.

The bald Saiyan chuckled, but wisely kept his mouth shut. The last thing Vegeta needed was for either one of his comrades to clue in any more on his sudden, frustrating wave of thoughts regarding that earthling. She was just a slave, who had no meaning to him, he thought. Over and over. But it wasn't working.

He sighed, and let his arms drop out of their crossed position across his chest. "You two find something useful to do while I'm gone, or you'll regret it."

"You got it, Prince." Raditz saluted him. Sometimes Vegeta wondered if he ran a circus instead of a crew of galactic mercenaries, because, frankly, these morons reminded him more of two clowns than anything intimidating.

Vegeta exited their quarters with a huff, and made his way to the bridge, where he was sure to find Frieza, doing whatever it was he did all day in there, floating in his little hovercraft. The thought made Vegeta roll his eyes, but it ended with a shudder.

When he arrived at the doors to the bridge, he was not particularly surprised to find one of the tyrant's other henchmen lurking outside. Appule was there, leaned up against the side of the door.

"Eh, Prince of all Three Saiyans, what do you want?" His tone was impatient, and mocking.

Vegeta inwardly seethed at the pointed jab. He took a deep breath to steady his ki and calm himself. "I need an audience with Lord Frieza, sir." He grated out, teeth gritted in an attempt to not snap back at him.

"Whatever you need, your highness," Appule said, giving him a mocking grin and putting emphasis on his title.

It was all Vegeta could do to not attack him right then and there, but he knew better. He knew that it would just land him in a regen tank once Frieza got a hold of him. The few seconds of gratification wouldn't be worth the setback and yet another beating from the tyrant. He grit his teeth even harder, as Appule opened the door to the bridge and disappeared inside, just as Zarbon had done a few days prior.

This time though, the wait was shorter, and Appule was back momentarily, opening the door wide enough for Vegeta to step through.

"Hurry up, Saiyan. Lord Frieza is waiting."

Vegeta did as he was told, and came through the doors into the bridge room. Oh, how he despised this place. Unlike last time when Frieza had been standing near the glass, this time he was floating in his hover device near the center of the room, his eyes bearing down on the prince as he entered the room. Zarbon and Dodoria were absent today, perhaps the reason for Appule's presence instead.

"Ah, Vegeta, my boy, what brings you back so soon?" Frieza said, in his oddly cheerful, elegant voice.

"I have an update on my scouter situation, Lord Frieza, sir." Vegeta replied, lowering his head in a bow. As much as he despised the filthy tyrant, he may as well appease him if he was hoping to get some credits back.

"Ah, do you now? I do hope that it is good news, for your sake," Frieza said, his voice lilting as he scanned over Vegeta quickly. "I see that you have a scouter on you currently."

"Yes, my lord. It was returned to me, one of the laundry slaves found it in the wash. I must have accidentally got it mixed up in my dirty laundry after a sparring session." Vegeta explained, mustering up as much confidence as possible.

"I see." Frieza's eyes settled on the Prince's, likely discerning whether or not he believed if he told the truth.

"Although, my Lord, may I bring to your attention that it was one of the laundry slaves who found it, damaged in the wash. She then took it back to her quarters, and repaired it. I spoke with her when she returned it to me, and she comes from a planet called Earth. She was a mechanic and engineer there. This woman actually made a number of upgrades on the scouter, that I believe you might find rather useful." Vegeta explained, trying to not allow his nervousness to betray him through his voice.

"Oh ho, do you now? What kind of upgrades?" Frieza's eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"The woman added in a number of different language translators, as well as a ki tracker. Not only does it scan for power levels, you can now store ki readings and information. For example, my comrades, Nappa and Raditz, I am able to track their ki at all times now, via my scouter." Vegeta brought up the menu on his scouter that would allow him to make changes to the ki tracker. "It is all here on this screen."

"Let me see it, boy. Bring it here."

"Yes, my lord." Vegeta replied, and quickly unclipped the scouter from his ear. He approached the hover device and handed the unit over to the tyrant.

He watched as Frieza looked it over, likely checking for any other manipulations or hacks to the device. There was one thing Vegeta had learned over the years, Frieza trusted no one, and he was always very skeptical of everything.

"Hm. So you say some slave girl did this?"

"That is correct, Lord Frieza, sir. She works in the laundry center, an earthling."

"Interesting. Very interesting. I do indeed find these upgrades useful. Being able to track ki beyond just a simple power level reading, that is indeed very useful." He flipped the scouter over in his hands once again, before tossing it back to Vegeta. "Well, it seems as if I can give you back the credits for the purchase of a new scouter, since you were able to procure yours. However, do not let it out of your sight again, do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Lord Frieza." Vegeta replied, with a nod, as he repositioned the scouter once again on his head.

"Now, as for this slave girl…I think her skills might be more useful elsewhere. If she can do something like this with a simple scouter, we could use her abilities in engineering." Frieza turned his hover device to face outward toward the glass wall. "I will set up a meeting with her soon. In the meantime, Vegeta, I advise you not to make a mistake like that again. You are lucky you weren't double crossed, and that this girl didn't plant some virus in your scouter. Some stroke of luck. I'm curious what her motives are for making upgrades." A brief moment of silence passed. "Now, you are dismissed. Get out of my sight before I change my mind on not whipping your tail for so carelessly losing track of equipment like that."

"Thank you, Lord Frieza. I will not disappoint you again." Vegeta bit out through his gritted teeth. He hated the formalities, he hated that creature so. He turned on his heels and took off out the door, not even waiting to hear what insult Apple had conjured up for him this time around.

The Saiyan Prince stomped through the hallways angrily. So disgraceful, having to subject himself to humiliation like that. Prince of an all but dead race or not, he deserved respect. But with Frieza in charge, that respect was lost like a sailor to the angry sea.

He paused momentarily in front of the laundry center door, and hesitated. He knew he didn't have any laundry, but maybe Raditz or Nappa did? Here he was, trying to come up with a stupid excuse to go inside and look at that strange earthling woman again. Well, she was going to get what she wanted, it seems. Hopefully engineering will be a good place for her, it seems as if she's quite intelligent. Vegeta thought. He decided checking whether Raditz or Nappa had anything in the laundry was worth it, so he opened the door.

As per usual, the three workers' heads popped up at the sound of someone entering the room. To look less suspicious, Vegeta glanced around the room, first making brief eye contact with the very wide eyed pink skinned slave who was loading laundry into the wash machine, then glancing over the strange, mute round one, near the dryer, before landing on the blue haired earthling standing near the dry racks.

Bulma shot Lysea a quick look, and Lysea shrugged her shoulders. Vegeta caught their exchange, and a small smirk tugged at his lips.

"Earth woman, do any of my comrades have dry laundry?"

"I believe I finished folding some earlier." Bulma replied.

He walked to the dry racks, and looked them over, finding just one towel belonging to Raditz, and some of Nappa's spandex. He picked it up and held it out at arms length away.

"Good. I believe your services will be better suited elsewhere, soon enough. Stay alert, woman." He kept his voice low, but he was certain the others in the room were probably still able to hear him.

"Uh, thanks, Prince Vegeta?" Bulma said, shifting her weight and running a hand awkwardly through her hair.

"That is all. Get back to work, all of you." He snapped, trying to keep up appearances. The three females snapped back into what they were doing, and Vegeta slipped through the door. He however didn't miss the glance the bluehead threw his direction just as he was leaving. Was she interested too? No, no. He wasn't playing that game. He beelined it back to his quarters to deliver the laundry he had retrieved to his fellow Saiyans.

--------

"Bulma, what the hell was that all about?" Lysea queried, her eyes as wide as saucers. "I'm not sure I've ever seen the prince that mellow. And he addressed you directly. It seemed like he came here looking for a reason to talk to you."

"I…I'm not really sure. When I took the scouter back and showed him the upgrades, he said he might tell Frieza about them…and I might end up with a job somewhere else on the ship doing mechanic work or something. I wonder if that's what he meant?" Bulma replied, as she couldn't make sense of what he had said in any other way. "It has to be that, what he said just doesn't make sense otherwise."

"Oh Bulma, if you are moved somewhere else, we are going to miss you!"

"Lysea, don't you worry, I will always come visit you! Both you and Melly are my only friends on this ship!"

"You better come visit! Better yet, maybe you'll stay in the same bunkroom with us!" Lysea exclaimed, hopeful.

"Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. We don't even know what he really meant."

"True. But Bulma, I've never seen him be that nice to anyone. And the way he looked at you!" Lysea's eyes widened once again.

Bulma's eyes followed suit. "Lysea, you can't be serious. You aren't suggesting he is interested in me, are you?"

"Well, you saw him, didn't you? It really did seem like he came in here just to find a reason to talk to you, didn't it?"

"I guess so."

"And you have to admit, he sure is handsome. Even if he's small, he's ripped and oh, those eyes and that hair!" A grin spread over Lysea's face, but it was quickly overtaken by a scowl. "But then again, he's usually a jerk. So...there's that. He's just so handsome."

"Lysea, you are so funny. Yes, he is certainly handsome, I can't deny that. He's got quite the body." They both giggled. "But for real, I can't believe we're talking about this."

"Oh come on, Bulma, you're in denial! I'm amazed he didn't kill you the other night."

"So just because he didn't kill me, now you think he has the hots for me?" The bluehead broke out into a fit of giggles, and both Lysea and Melly joined in.

"Well, you never know!"

The laughter continued, and they kept on working. The day was still young, and they had quite a few more laundry loads to process.

Chapter Text

A short time had passed since Vegeta arrived back in his private quarters, and he was just getting ready to head to the mess hall when his scouter beeped, indicating the arrival of a message. He fringed when he realized that it was from Frieza, and was reluctant to listen, but knew better than to disregard a message from the tyrant.

He initiated the message.

"Vegeta, I require an audience with you in one hour. You will be speaking with myself and this earthing you mentioned. I expect your presence. Do not be late." Frieza's high voice rang through his earpiece, and he cringed. This didn't sound good. From his earlier understanding, Frieza was intending to meet with the woman alone. Why did he want both of them present? The prince's usual scowl dug deeper on his face.

--------

After the majority of that one hour had passed, Bulma was just finishing folding the 11th load of laundry for the day, as Appule came through the laundry center doorway abruptly. The strange-headed creature's gaze landed on her quickly after scanning the room.

"Earthling with the blue hair. Lord Frieza demands an audience with you. I am here to escort you to the bridge, where he will see you. You are to follow me, now." He rumbled impatiently, his eyes locked on hers.

Bulma went rigid. While she had a pretty good idea as to what this was likely about, the idea of meeting Frieza face to face after all she'd heard about him…she wasn't so sure she liked it. Her hand flew up to nervously tug at a few strands of her hair. Come on Bulma, pull yourself together. Be tough, you're Bulma fucking Briefs. You eat this shit for breakfast, she thought to herself, trying to stave off the waves of nervousness working their way through her body.

"Yes, yes sir." She nodded in agreement, rising up from the floor where she had been sitting to fold the laundry. The bluehead shot a nervous glance at a once again wide eyed Lysea, who nodded, trying to send her as much encouragement as possible.

Bulma walked toward Appule, who turned to make his way out the door, holding it open for her as she passed him. Once the door closed, he made his way through the halls, she a few paces behind. She had to remind herself to take deep breaths, and that it would be alright. Whatever this Lord Frieza had to throw at her, she could handle it.

They arrived at a set of large doors, and Appule pushed them open, allowing Bulma to pass once again. She nervously entered the large room that was the bridge, and very nearly balked when she saw Prince Vegeta standing in the center of the room, fixing a hard glare on her. She frowned, and her eyes passed him, landing on a strange hovercraft near the large glass windows on the far wall. The hovercraft was facing out, but she could see a purple tail flitting back and forth along the side.

A high, almost elegant voice echoed through the room. "Good, Appule. You can go, now. Leave these two here so that I may speak with them in private."

"Yes my Lord." Appule responded, dipping into a low bow before returning through the doorway and shutting the doors behind him as he went.

Bulma had moved closer to Vegeta, but remained a few feet behind him. Her eyes widened as the hovercraft turned, revealing a strange, lizard like creature with horns and purple and white scaly skin. His red eyes were unnerving as they settled on her, skimming up and down a few times, and he moved the hovercraft closer, only a short distance from her and near the Saiyan.

"So, you must be the earthling woman that Prince Vegeta here told me about. The one who kept his scouter from him and then altered it without his knowledge or consent." His eyes bored into her. "I am Lord Frieza, commander and ruler of the universe. I do not allow such folly on my ship."

Bulma paled, clenching her fists nervously at her sides.

"Now, Vegeta here is aware of the consequences for his mistake of losing his scouter, and as such has already paid them. You are both at fault for different offenses. Earthling, for what you have done, you should be whipped and thrown into the brig. However, instead of requesting punishment for you, Vegeta informed me that your upgrades to his scouter were in fact quite beneficial, and suggested that I consider having all the scouters upgraded as such. I inspected your work, and will confess, I am also impressed that you were able to make such changes in a short amount of time. I do believe that they would be beneficial, yes."

A moment of silence passed.

"Now, from my understanding, you are a slave in the laundry center, is that correct, earthling?"

"Y...yes, yes sir." Bulma replied, with more of a tremble in her voice than she would have liked.

"I doubt that your credit pay is anything substantial, but I intend to dock your credits for the week for stealing the property of someone else. I will show you lenience this one time, but do not make me regret it. You are lucky you won't be waking up in the brig instead. Finally, you are to be reassigned to the engineering department. I intend to issue an alert to the crew requiring scouter updates, and once you have completed that, you will work with the engineers on tasks such as pod maintenance or other means where your skills are required. No sense in wasting good skills. Do I make myself clear, earthling?"

Bulma nodded. "Yes sir, thank you."

"Prince Vegeta, now, since I am still displeased with you for your mistake, I think that the whipping the earthling should have received would be a punishment better suited for you instead."

Bulma gasped, her eyes going wide, looking over at Vegeta. His mouth turned up into a snarl, and he shot Bulma a murderous glare.

"No…that isn't fair!" She yelled, angrily.

"Quiet, earthling. This is not your decision to make." Frieza snapped. "I believe I already told you to not make me regret my decision to show you lenience."

Bulma growled, raising her fists. A wave of courage suddenly flowed through her veins. "But this is not his fault, I had the choice to return his scouter to him, but didn't." She paused, and when Frieza didn't stop her, she continued on. "It was not working because it had gone through the wash, so instead of returning a broken scouter, I chose to try and repair it instead. Once I realized how similar the technology was to that of the technology of that on earth, I decided to try and make a few upgrades that I thought might be helpful. It didn't mean to cause any harm. Please, please don't hurt him because of my choice." Her voice had gone from strong, to pleading. She feared that if he took the punishment for her, he would seek her out later, and she didn't want to find out what might happen when an irate prince found her.

"A compelling argument, woman. But, I don't understand why you'd want to make upgrades. It doesn't benefit you in any way." Frieza drawled, tapping his long nailed fingers on the edge of his hover craft.

"Because…because I thought if I did, it might be a way for me to get out of the laundry center and put my skills to use where they'd be better suited," Bulma stated, quietly, hanging her head.

"So you'd resort to stealing to get what you want?" Frieza asked, pinning her with his gaze once again.

"I…I didn't intend to hurt anyone, or cause any trouble. I really was just trying to help."

Vegeta shot her another glare, but remained quiet. He knew better than to speak out of turn when in the tyrant's presence.

"I see."

"Please. Dock my credits for however long, whatever. Just don't hurt him because of me."

Frieza laughed. "Vegeta, I think this earthling has developed a soft spot for you. How charming. That must make you feel so wonderful."

"Tch." Vegeta snarled, baring his teeth.

"Earthling, what is your name?"

"Bulma, sir. Bulma Briefs." She said, hesitantly.

"Ah, Bulma. What a strange name. Oh well. I will alert my Chief Engineer, Beck, that he has a new assistant, and that he is to fetch you tomorrow morning to begin upgrading scouters. You are dismissed." Frieza flipped his hand toward the door, gesturing for her to leave.

"Thank you, Frieza sir." Bulma half bowed, copying Appule's earlier display, and all but ran out of the room.

--------

As the door clicked shut behind him, Vegeta steeled himself once again. Far too many moments of silence passed before Frieza turned his gaze to him.

"And why should I forego passing her punishment on to you, as she so insistently requests?" Red eyes boring into him, Vegeta felt his insides crawl.

"I don't have a worthy answer for that, my Lord." The Saiyan Prince dipped his head down.

"Oh ho ho." Frieza chuckled, stepping down from his hovercraft. He padded over to Vegeta, and then grabbed a handful of the Prince's dark hair, wrenching his head up.

"And why is it that you don't have an answer, you filthy monkey?" Frieza spat.

"Because I made a mistake. I should have been more cautious." Vegeta grated out, teeth clenched in anger.

"You're right. And will that mistake happen again?" Frieza wrenched harder upward on Vegeta's hair.

"No, my Lord." A hiss through clenched teeth.

"Good. You're lucky I'm feeling merciful today." He threw the Saiyan Prince down onto the floor, a resounding thud echoing through the room.
"Despite your mistake, it did result in a benefit, providing this earthling proves herself worthy. I will be watching her closely." Frieza chuckled, turning back to his hovercraft. "Now move along, Saiyan, I'm sick of your ugly face."

Vegeta scrambled to his feet, scalp burning. He wasted no time in putting as much distance between himself and that bastard as he possibly could.

---------

Vegeta arrived back to his shared quarters for the second time that day, his pride at a low, and his head still aching. Nappa was nowhere to be found, but Raditz was lounging about on his cot, flipping through some random alien magazine that he'd probably picked up on either a purge or a planet visit.

"I don't know why you even bother looking through that junk, Raditz, it'll rot your brain." Vegeta snipped, irritated.

"Well, when you've got nothing better to do…" Raditz started, but Vegeta cut him off.

"You always have nothing better to do. Just shut your mouth, you idiot." Vegeta said, crossing the room to his private quarters, stopping to grab a meal bar from their rations since he had no intention on visiting the mess hall any longer.

But before he made it all the way to the door, Raditz spoke once again. "Oh, hey, Vegeta, that earthling girl came by a bit ago, said she wanted to wait to talk to you. I told her she could wait in your room. Just so…you uh, know, before you go in there."

Vegeta gaped. "You did what?" It took all of his remaining patience and calm to not pummel Raditz into the floor.

"Hey, she said she wanted to talk to you about something important, so…yeah." He shrugged.

The Saiyan Prince low growled. "Raditz, I am going to kill you one of these days."

Raditz laughed, a hint of nervousness laced along the edges.

The earthling was the very last person he wanted to see right now. While it wasn't entirely her fault that Frieza had humiliated him once again, it partially was, and he was angry. Angry at her. Angry at Frieza. Angry at the whole situation, and taming his frustration wouldn't be easy. It was because she hadn't just returned the scouter right away that he'd had to report it missing in the first place, but then again, without the repair and upgrades, he still would have had to take the broken scouter to engineering to be fixed and Frieza would have found out about it at some point anyway. It was a catch 22, perhaps. Not entirely her fault, and not entirely his fault. But, she had indeed stood up for him today, after all. Begged that he not be given her punishment instead...which wasn't fair to begin with, but who was he to decide what was and wasn't fair.

Vegeta sucked in a breath of air, and went in to his room. The earth woman was standing next to his bed, looking out the window, and jumped when the door opened.

"What are you doing here?" Vegeta asked, wasting no time cutting to the chase.

"I just wanted to come and apologize. I am so sorry to have drug you into this mess, Vegeta. I hope he didn't hurt you after he sent me away…" Bulma trailed off, her eyes meeting his.

"Tch." His lip turned up in a half snarl, as he glared at her.

"Vegeta…" she started, but he put his hand up to stop her.

"I don't want to hear it, woman. Nothing you can say will make a difference. You got what you wanted. You're out of the laundry center, you got your engineering job. Are you happy now?" His voice was edged with hostility, and he tore his eyes away from hers. He kicked his boots off, and pulled off his gloves.

"Yes, and I owe it to you…you helped me. Thank you, Vegeta." Bulma said, as she slowly came toward him, laying a hand on his forearm.

"I didn't do it to help you. I just knew that those upgrades to the scouters would benefit the Force, so I did what I needed to in order to ensure that they'd be done. Even if that meant seemingly helping you in the meantime," he snarled, ripping his arm away from her hand. "The only person I help is myself."

Bulma's eyes widened in shock, and she took a step backward.

"Seriously? I do something to help you and that's how you repay me? By being a grade A jerk?!" She screeched. "What is wrong with you?"

"Excuse me? How dare you speak to me that way, woman. Do you realize that you are lucky I haven't killed you? I can't now, or Frieza will have my head." He snapped, grabbing her by the wrists, pulling her face up close to his. "Now get the hell out of my sight."

He let go, and she moved toward the doorway.

"Vegeta, I'm sorry, I really am. Even if you didn't do it to help me, I'm grateful that you did. I owe you." She offered him a soft, forlorn smile, and then left the room.

Raditz looked up at her as she passed through, but chose not to speak. He'd overheard bits of the conversation again, and knew it hadn't gone well. Bulma disappeared out of their quarters, ready to go back to her bunkroom and find comfort in her two friends.

--------

Lysea had waited up for Bulma to return, concerned for her safety and wanting to know what had happened in her meeting with Frieza. Melly on the other hand, was sound asleep, little snores erupting from her round body. When Bulma came through the door, Lysea jumped up with no hesitation, hugging her.

"Bulma, I'm so glad you're safe!" Lysea exclaimed, letting her go a few seconds later.

"Me too, Lysea. For a little while there, I wasn't sure I'd ever see you guys again."

"What happened?!"

"Well, Frieza is terrifying, by the way. Uh, first he informed me of how much trouble I should have been on for what I did. Then he told me that I was lucky he was feeling lenient, and that he was reassigning me to engineering to upgrade all of the scouters, and then do pod maintenance or whatever else they need after that." She paused to take a breath. "Vegeta was there too, and then Frieza pinned him down, saying that he should get the punishment I should have had, since it was just as much his fault. I begged him to not hurt him. But then he sent me away…"

"Oh man, Bulma! You are so lucky that you're not in a million pieces floating in space right now."

"Yeah...so I went to Vegeta's quarters and waited for him so I could apologize, Raditz let me in. When he got back, he was furious. Told me he didn't do any of this for me, only for him. I apologized, but I don't think he cared. I told him I owe him one." Bulma explained, as she flopped down on her bed. "I don't think Vegeta is as ruthless as everyone seems to think he is. I think Frieza's been awful to him. I saw how Frieza treated him, and I saw how Vegeta responded. I think it's just his defense mechanism, how he survives. How all the Saiyans survive."

"Maybe. Frieza is horrible. I've only ever seen him once, never spoken to him or anything, though. It's crazy you're so new and you already had an audience with him. Man, Bulma, you need to be careful. Please." Lysea pleaded.

"I will, don't worry."

"That's what you said with the scouter, and now look." She paused. "They aren't making you move bunkrooms, right?"

"No, I'm still here. Thankfully. I don't know what I'd do without you guys right now. Oh, and by the way, it sounds like your friend Beck will be my supervisor or something." Bulma told her, as she climbed under her blanket. She was immensely tired, and it was getting hard to keep her eyes open.

"Oh, good. Beck is a good person. He will take care of you up there. I already told him about you when I got the tools, so he should recognize your name." Lysea replied.

But after that Bulma didn't reply, because she had dozed off already, a little snore escaping.
Lysea laughed a little, her heart lighter than it had been most of the night. She was thankful Bulma was safe, despite her earlier fears.

Chapter Text

Bulma was directed to engineering straight away the following morning, with very little time for any conversation with her friends. She bid them farewell, waving briefly before disappearing out the door to follow a what seemed to be grumpier than normal Appule upstairs. They wound their way through the drab corridors, until they reached a dingy and dimly lit doorway, with a porthole in the center of the slightly rusted metal door. For being an engineering bay, the blue head expected a little less rust, but hey, it was what it was. Appule glared at her as he dragged the door open, and nodded in the direction of the now open doorway with a grunt. Apparently words were not going to happen this morning either. Bulma just smiled an awkward smile and entered the room.

She was thankful to find it was brighter lit than the hallway they'd just left, and the rust seemed to only be present on the door itself. There were racks of various tools on one side of the room, and the other held one set of shelves full of objects that needed repair, denoted by a worn sign scrawled out in galactic standard, and another with objects that had been repaired, also noted by its own corresponding sign. The center of the room was filled with a handful of metal tables, piled full of various tools and parts, and the wall furthest away had two rectangular windows looking out into the expanse of space as it passed by, and beneath the windows were additional heaps of parts and miscellaneous objects.

Bulma was a little surprised at the (organized?) chaos within the room, but things seemingly got done around the ship so she assumed that there was some sort of method to whatever madness took place here. She couldn't say much, her office and labs back on earth had been the very definition of messy and organized chaos. She'd always remembered a quote that said a messy desk was a sign of a brilliant mind…and that's what she stood by. Her mess, her madness, and no doubt that was in play here. Her eyes crossed the room again, and fell on a green skinned alien tinkering away, much like the one from the intake desk when she'd first arrived on Frieza's planet. He was tall, and had two antennae protruding from the top of his head. He had some fine wrinkles creasing his face, and she suspected he was likely middle aged for however long his species lived.

The door had clattered shut behind her after Appule had made certain she was inside, and the sound of its closure had broken the green skinned creature out of his concentration on whatever it was he was working on. He turned and looked at Bulma.

"Well, hello. You must be my new recruit. I've heard a bit about you. Bulma, is it?" He set down his project and strode over to her, extending a hand. His nails were relatively long and a bit sharp, but Bulma took his hand in hers anyway and gave it a shake.

"Yes, Bulma. Nice to meet you…?" she queried with a questioning tone of voice.

"Oh yes, my name is Beck. I believe your friend Lysea might have mentioned me before? I am a Namekian. She said you were from the planet Earth?" Beck asked, looking Bulma over. "I've never seen blue hair like yours before."

"Yes, I'm from Earth." A pang shot through her. "My hair color isn't natural on my planet either, it's quite rare."

"Well, it suits you. On my planet, Namek, we all look much the same." Beck chuckled and turned toward one of the tables. "Anyway, I hear you won Frieza over with some upgrades you did to Prince Vegeta's scouter? What an interesting twist, little one."

"Yeah, that's correct. It wasn't working, so I fixed it, and I figured I'd make a few upgrades to it while I had it. You see, on Earth I was one of the smartest people on the planet, a very wealthy scientist and engineer. So I wanted to see what I could do with this technology. Come to find out, it isn't too much different from our own, and it wasn't a challenge to make a few upgrades." Bulma explained, waving her hands and gesturing as she talked.

Beck smiled at her. "I see. Well, I'm glad it had a good outcome. When Lysea came to me and explained the situation, requesting I loan you tools, I won't lie, I was a little hesitant. Frieza does not handle that kind of thing well. You are very lucky to have come out of it unscathed."

The blue head sighed. "Yeah...when he spoke to Vegeta and I...he threatened Vegeta with my punishment. I didn't want anyone else to get in trouble because of me. I tried to stop him, but I don't know what happened after he sent me out. I went to talk to Vegeta after, but he was angry and wouldn't speak to me." Bulma hung her head. "I just wanted to find a way to use my talents instead of allowing them to go to waste. That's all. I didn't mean any harm."

Beck put a hand on her shoulder. "I understand, Bulma. Sometimes our intentions are good, but we may not see the larger picture. We might not see the consequences our choices have, especially when they affect others." He paused for a moment, and Bulma took a deep breath. "Now, just from my own experience, I highly suggest you keep your distance from those Saiyans. They're trouble, Bulma. All three of them are brutes, and Vegeta is the worst. His temper is like a ticking time bomb."

"So I've heard…" Bulma said with a half hearted chuckle. "I just thought that maybe he wasn't so bad, you know?"

"Oh, he's bad alright. It's not worth your time, little one, I promise." Beck told her, and patted her shoulder again. "Now, let's get to work. From what Appule explained to me yesterday, the first batch of scouters will come in for upgrades once we depart from our first stop in Arcose in a few days. We will need to restock supplies and tools on the planet, so I will need your help doing so once we land. I'll give you a list and we'll both go get what we need and meet up back here. In the meantime, I have a few small projects we can work on. There is a component of the warp drive that needs fixing, and one of the condensers in the refrigerators in the mess hall needs repair. Both should be easy fixes."

Bulma nodded. "I haven't worked on a warp drive before, but a condenser is easy enough. I understand how those work."

"Good." Beck smiled. "Let's set you up with your own toolbag that you can use when you're working."

Beck showed her what tools she would need for most repairs around the ship, and they put them in a medium sized shoulder bag, made from a material that reminded Bulma of canvas, but yet it wasn't quite the same. She suspected it was the hide of some type of animal found on some far off planet somewhere. She put in a variety of things that reminded her of bolts and screws, and some that looked like rivets and a rivet gun. While the technology was similar, the tools of the trade were different enough that it would certainly take some getting used to.

The two shared small talk as Beck showed the blue head how to use the basic tools within her kit. He had been working on repairing a handheld control console that was commonly used in docking bays, when Bulma had first arrived, so he showed her a bit how that technology worked. It reminded her of the tablets from home, but it was more heavily reliant on hologram use and what seemed almost like an LED light panel, but yet, it certainly wasn't LED. She was fascinated by all this new tech in front of her, and couldn't wait to dig into it.

"Frieza's got all this technology, but he still can't treat us workers any better. It's honestly frustrating." Beck muttered, with a shake of his head.

"Ah, well, I mean he seems bad, but not all that bad, right?" Bulma responded, the full force of her ignorance on the matter showing through.

Beck's eyes widened, and he stared at her for a moment without a reply. Bulma must have understood her mistake, because she peered over at him.

"Did I say the wrong thing?"

"Well, Bulma, it seems you just haven't been within the PTO and a part of the Frieza Force for long enough to realize quite how many misgivings there are, and quite how terrible Frieza truly is. You do know that it was he who ordered the strike on your home planet, correct?" Beck said, his voice slightly above a whisper.

Bulma sucked in a breath. She hadn't really connected the dots between that particular correlation thus far. No, it had not occurred to her that it had indeed been Frieza who had ordered the purge on her planet, and ordered that a handful of prisoners be taken for his own uses. Anger that she hadn't felt before roiled within, and she clenched her fists.

"No…I guess I hadn't really thought about that." She replied, voice tight.

"I'm sorry to bring it up so bluntly, Bulma, but you can't seriously believe that Frieza is good in any way. You don't even know the half of what he's done to this crew. And not just the crew. To planets, planets just like your own...the people that called those planets home. To the creatures that lived on them as well. Some planets he destroys entirely if they don't serve his purpose. If they do indeed have some purpose to him, he wipes out all life, called a purge, and then terraforms the planet to his liking, and then creates whatever he sees fit. He's a tyrant, Bulma, and an awful one at that."

Beck gave the blue head a forlorn look, and sighed.

"I'm sorry, Beck. I guess I just really didn't think about it before. But it makes sense…I mean, anyone running an operation like this has to be that bad, huh? I probably should have gotten a clue when he threatened Prince Vegeta for my own mistakes, only someone truly cruel does something like that." Bulma lamented, running a hand anxiously through her blue locks.

"Oh Bulma, he is indeed cruel. You don't know the half of it, and I hope that you never have to find out," came Beck's half hearted reply, as he turned to face the windows. It was then that she noticed a large scar running down the back of his head, disappearing down below his shirt line. She inwardly gasped, and wondered if what he meant had any correlation to the old injury.

A few moments of silence passed as the Namekian continued to stare out the window, lost in thought.

"Well, maybe one day someone can take him down and the universe will be at peace, right?" Bulma gushed, her ever-optimistic demeanor pouring back into conversation.

Beck turned back toward the blue head once again. "Perhaps, little one. Perhaps someday." He offered her a smile. "Now, it's time we sit down and make our lists for our arrival on Arcose. No sense in flitting around the planet aimlessly once we get there, we will need a plan to shop quickly. Time is of the essence with these short planetside stops."

Beck grabbed a rudimentary pencil-like object that was short and stubby, and snatched a piece of paper from a cubby next to one of the tables.

"These are usually my drafting pencils, but this will do. Let's begin."

He explained to her their upcoming projects, which consisted of pod maintenance and bridge updates, as well as the scouter upgrades. Beck made a list of small fasteners, soldering metals, fixtures, and other parts they would need to make their repairs. There would be three locations at which they would need to conduct their purchases, one of which he would be sending Bulma to on her own once they arrived. Beck would go to another, and then they would both meet at the final location to finish their purchases. Even though they were still over a day away from their arrival on Arcose, he wanted their plan to be determined well ahead of time so there wasn't any confusion.

Three separate purchase lists were made, and everything was detailed out as best as they could. Once Beck was satisfied, he allowed Bulma to tinker with a few older, scrapped projects so that she could continue working with the tools and get back into the habit of working with her hands. Not that it was any challenge for the blue head, and she was quite enthused to be back in her element.

The day drew to a close, and she bid Beck farewell, thanking him for taking her under his wing. Bulma departed from the engineering quarters, giddy with excitement to chat with Lysea about her first day. While she missed spending time with Lysea and Melly in the laundry center, it sure was good to get her hands into some mechanics.

-------

Vegeta was still reeling with anger and frustration from his visit with Frieza and the Earthling, and he found himself sitting outside the doorway to one of the ship's airlocks, leaning against the wall with his head in his hands. It was the least used airlock, and one in the least traversed area of the ship, so he often found himself here when he needed time to think, or time to get away from his comrades. It was also his passive aggressive threat to himself of ending it all, ending all his frustrations and suffering at the hand of that brute…all he had to do was press two buttons and take a few steps, and out he'd go. He wouldn't deny that he'd thought about it plenty of times over the years, no. But his pride always got the best of him, his father's nagging voice in the back of his head.

Be proud, Vegeta. You are the Prince of the Saiyan race. You are strength embodied and pride envisioned. Don't stray your course, stay firm and strong, my son.

He never could just throw it all away, even when his feelings hit rock bottom. Sure, he was one of three remaining Saiyans now, but that didn't stop him from keeping a hold of his pride. Some days it was hard, damned hard, but he refused to be an embarrassment to his people. Days like today, for example. It had been incredibly hard to keep his cool in front of Frieza, and even harder to keep cool and not turn that earthling to ash when she had confronted him again in his private quarters. Whatever possessed her to think he'd even want to speak to her after that debacle on the bridge…she was crazy.

Vegeta hated Frieza, and as much as he wanted to hate the woman for putting him in that situation, he just couldn't bring himself to keep the feeling. As time passed after the incident, he found himself slowly beginning to conjure up scenarios in his head in which he forgave the earthling for what she did. After all, she had defended him, hadn't she?

As he'd gone to exit his private quarters after she'd left from their brief encounter, Raditz had eyed him warily.

"Hey, Vegeta…I'm not sure what's up, but that girl doesn't seem half bad. I don't know what she's try'na do, but maybe you should give her a chance?" He had said, with a shrug of the shoulders.

Vegeta shot a glare full of daggers at him. "Raditz, once you learn that just because women are something you can stick your dick in and it makes you feel good, doesn't mean they're all good, you'll be better off. Women are trouble, and a distraction. That's all they are, plain and simple, end of story," he snapped, not caring at the crassness of his comment.

Raditz just gaped at him as he walked out the door.

And now there Vegeta was, trying to make heads or tails of his own feelings. As much as he wanted to forget all about the Earthling, his mind was back to focusing only on her, no matter what he tried to do to distract himself. He could not figure out what it was about her that was so alluring, never in his twenty some years in the universe had he ever experienced anything like this when he'd encountered a female. He sighed in resignation and ran a hand through his thick hair, and desperately tried to shift his thoughts.

Their landing on Arcose was just two short days away, and he was still short the funds to get everything they needed. Another discussion would be required to determine what they could eliminate from their list to make ends meet. Vegeta would have a few stops to make once they were planetside, one at a general goods store, another at a black market store, and the final stop was a PTO outpost for uniform material. The prince knew that Nappa and Raditz would dip out on him to visit a local spot they were fond of, and he likely wouldn't see them until they were back on the ship. Most of these quick stops were like that, he never expected much from those two when it came to help restocking or making any big decisions. That was another reason he had stolen away tonight to think, he didn't need their unnecessary opinions and sometimes just being in his own quarters wasn't "away" enough from them for his liking.

His mind switched gears again. The earthling had said she owed him…owed him what? He wondered what she had meant by that. Favors weren't just handed out for no reason here in the PTO, you had to have a good reason for someone to owe you something. But considering what he'd done for her, he felt that yes, she did indeed owe him.

Perhaps he'd come up with something at some point. But what, exactly? What could a simple earthling female do to pay him back for granting her the job that she'd wished for? He lifted his head up from his hands and looked up towards the window within the airlock door. Some days, he wished he could be rid of all this nonsense. Rid of being a pawn within Frieza's army, and no longer stuck on a ship cavorting through space ninety percent of his waking hours. Perhaps that little Earthling would be the one to help take out the tyrant?

As soon as the thought crossed his mind, he laughed, a low rumble. The sound was brief, bit off quickly as he realized the sound echoing through the quiet halls. A mere Earthling taking out Frieza, that would be a miracle. A ghost of a wry smirk played on his face and he shook his head. No, that wouldn't do. But maybe she could do something. He rose, and made his way back to his quarters.

Chapter Text

The ship was abuzz the morning of their expected docking on Arcose, the various crew members tying up loose ends on board and finalizing any plans to be set into motion upon their arrival. Zarbon had come across the announcement system to alert the crew of the ship exiting hyperdrive and to briefly strap in for the transition. He then announced that it was approximately three hours until they would enter the atmospheric airspace above the planet, landing shortly thereafter.

Bulma and Beck had gone over their lists one more time, and he had given her a detailed map of the commercial district in the planet's main city, Aleetan, where they would be docked. They had marked the shops on the map that she needed to visit, and Beck had given her a canvas rucksack to carry, as well as an engineering credits card she would be expected to use to make her purchases. She had been given her own card when she had first been brought on the ship, but she wasn't even sure how much she'd accrued in the short time she'd been there. She also was completely unaware of the value of the credits or how much anything would cost, should she want to buy any items on her personal dime.

Bulma had asked Beck a few questions about what to expect, and he'd answered them to the best of his ability. However, the most important piece of information that he had attempted to convey to her was that she needed to make sure she stayed on task and kept track of time. He'd given her a device that resembled a pager, which could tell time and send and receive messages. The Namekian insisted that if she ran into any trouble, she was to contact him immediately, and showed her where his information was already programmed into the device.

"So...Beck, is there really that much trouble in the city? I mean, having to tell me this stuff, like, if I run into a problem or whatever." Bulma queried, as she tucked the communications device into a secure pocket in her rucksack.

"Well, while Arcose is indeed a trade planet, Aleetan itself is known for having it's fair share of black market dealings. None of the shops I am sending you to have any ties to the black market that I am aware of, however, one can never be too cautious. Just because they don't have ties doesn't mean someone with ties to the market won't wander in," he explained, putting his list and communicator into his own rucksack.

"I see…" Bulma replied, pulling on a lightweight jacket. Arcose had a tropical climate, and was known from going from bright and warm to stormy in a matter of just a few moments.

"Now, Bulma, I have one more thing for you before you go. I don't believe that Lord Frieza would approve of this, so I ask that you only use this as a last resort, should your life be in danger." Beck said, his voice firm and serious. He pulled a small gun-like weapon out from the drawer in front of him, and handed it to her. "It is essentially a ray gun, and requires utmost care. Can I trust you with it?"

"Yes, sir. I was weapons trained back on earth, in fact, guns were my specialty. I can keep it safe and I will be sure it is only used in an emergency situation." She nodded solemnly as she took it from him. A quick glance over the weapon revealed that it required a brief charge period to fire, and it had an engaged safety mechanism. She double checked the safety and then tucked it beneath her jacket and into the waistband of her pants.

Beck shot her an approving smile. "I see you are trained enough to check on safety mechanisms. Smart girl."

"You can rest easy, I know my way around a gun, this can't be too different." Beck chuckled and she flashed him a grin. He then handed her a small card that reminded her of an ID card on earth.

"Lastly, here is your identification card that shows you have permission to be off board the ship, and a brief description of your duties in the force. Thankfully it was completed in time for today's stop."

"I see. So...I just show it to someone if they question who I am?" Bulma asked, flipping it over. It had a photograph of her, one that she didn't remember ever having taken, and basic information about her. Perhaps it had been done on her initial transport from earth to Frieza's planet and she just didn't remember. She shrugged her shoulders and tucked the ID card into the rucksack with her credit cards.

"Basically, yes. A shop owner might ask for it along with the credits cards to ensure that the right person is using them, or if you run into any trouble, a galactic patrol officer might request to view it," Beck explained.

"That makes sense, Earth has similar protocol."

The two engaged in small talk as they watched out the far window where a large, greenish-aqua planet loomed, getting closer and closer as time passed. Eventually, the automated announcement system engaged once again, alerting them to prepare for entrance into the atmosphere and the subsequent landing on the surface. Bulma clicked herself into her bench seat and went through her rucksack once more, ensuring her list was in place and her credits cards were secured in a safe location.

The ship shuddered and lurched as they entered the Arcosian atmosphere, slowing to prepare for landing. The heiress noted that Arcose had one very large sun, with an orange hue, giving the atmosphere a strange glow. In galactic standard, it was just past 9 hours past the beginning of the day. She was curious to find out if Arcose had their own calendar and time setup based on their solar system, but she figured they wouldn't be planetside long enough for it to matter. Once they landed, they'd have 24 hours to complete their tasks before the ship departed.

The scenery changed once more and they entered the lowest part of the atmosphere, the ship's motion evening out as they came into the docking bay. There were a few brief lurches and a thud as the ship was anchored into its station, and an alarm sounded on board the ship.

Zarbon's voice came over the com once more. "Crew, we have arrived on Frieza Planet F56B, the planet commonly known as Arcose. The current galactic standard time is zero 900 hours and 34 minutes. The ship will be at berth for exactly 24 hours and will depart at this time tomorrow. If you do not have business off ship, you are not permitted to leave and are required to stay aboard. All conduct on the planet is expected to be done appropriately with the mind that you are Frieza Force crew members, act accordingly. Any deviation past what would be considered acceptable behaviors will be met with the harshest consequence possible. You are dismissed." A click, and the announcement system shut off.

"Alright, that's our cue, Bulma. You have your instructions, your list and your map. I will see you back here within 24 hours. Remember, if you have any issues at all, you use that communications device and contact me immediately, you hear me?" Beck said, his voice firm, face reflecting the sentiment.

"You got it, you can count on me!" Bulma replied, giving him a thumbs up despite the nervousness creeping up in the back of her mind. She shouldered her rucksack and made her way out of engineering and out of the ship.

------

The sunlight was bright, a very stark contrast from the relatively even lighting on the ship that the heiress had become accustomed to over the past month. It was glaring, and hot. Oh, it was hot. Much hotter than she had expected, space had been far colder than she'd realized. Bulma pulled off her light jacket and stuffed it into the rucksack, a bead of sweat forming on her brow. Arcose was indeed a tropical planet, the humidity was high and so was the heat. If it hadn't been a trade planet, it could have made a particularly good resort planet, although she certainly didn't see much in the way of plants or life besides a whole host of various alien life forms.

She looked around at the various sized buildings that made up the large city of Aleetan, some tall, some small, some grand and some not so grand. It was, for lack of a better explanation, somewhat of a contradiction. On the one hand there were large, fancy buildings that looked like they were extravagant corporations, and then tucked in between them were these smaller ramshackle buildings, held together by a smattering of cement, randomly placed boards and a barred window here and there. The reality of it was a stark contrast, as if you'd see criminals running amidst businessmen like it was no big deal.

Bulma made her way down the busy streets, passing other bipeds like herself, some furred, some not, some four-legged creatures, and even some blob like creatures that made her cast a second look. This was really the first time she'd had the freedom to actually explore another planet, and to take in the sights.

She briefly pulled out her map to check her location and ensure she was headed in the right direction, and checked the time on her communications device. Her first stop was just down the street, at a small tool shop. She made her way to the older, but well kept building, which was adorned with a bright, neon sign in galactic standard that said The Tool House. She suppressed a snicker, and went inside.

Despite its outward appearance, Bulma had never seen a place so cluttered in her entire life. While the shop wasn't particularly large, there were small aisles with shelves from the floor to the ceiling, absolutely crammed full of items. Items stacked haphazardly on top of other items, items crammed into bins, larger items leaned against the walls and entwined with other items. It reminded her of the old antique shops on earth where they tried to fit as much as possible into one little section. She meandered her way cautiously through the narrow aisles, peering into containers, and wondering how many of these items passed as tools.

Finding what she was looking for would prove to be a challenge, so she opted to ask the portly four armed, horned creature that resembled a toad behind the counter at the back of the store.

After a few grumbles and some knocked over merchandise, they'd found what she needed. The toad creature wasn't in the best of moods, and Bulma was antsy to get out of the shop. She handed over her engineering credits card and her ID card, completed the transaction and then placed the purchased items in her rucksack before making her way quickly outside. She took a deep breath of the muggy, stale air and coughed, it was much less satisfying than she had hoped it would be.

The heiress pulled out her map; she had two more stops to make. The first was an electronics shop not too far away where she needed to find a material similar to lead for soldering, and some connector wires. The second was a PTO outpost shop that Beck had requested she stop at to pick up some uniforms that would fit her properly and comfortably for working in the engineering department. The two shops weren't too far from each other, and she figured she'd be able to get to them relatively quickly. Perhaps she'd have time to stop at a small trinket shop she saw near the ship on her way back.

With a huff, she put the map away and re-shouldered her rucksack, heading off toward the electronics shop. Her stop there was somewhat brief, and in contrast to the tool shop, it was clean and organized. She quickly found what she needed, and the shopkeeper, a very tall alien with batlike wings was quite pleasant and occupied her with friendly chatter for a short time. Once she was finished, Bulma put her purchases away and went off to find the PTO outpost.

Arcose's day was coming to a close, as the sun was nearing the horizon, casting an eerie glow through the city. Some sort of bird or critter was chirping loudly, its sound echoing through the streets. Bulma peered down at her shadow, its dark form elongated in the sunset, and picked up the pace a little. She wasn't sure how comfortable she was wandering the streets of a completely foreign planet in the dark. Pulling out her map again, she checked her location and confirmed that the PTO outpost was just down the street, and hurried her way there.

The outpost was a larger building, with metal double doors and a large sign above them. A handful of men wearing the same armor the crew members on Frieza's ship wore were standing under a street light just outside the building, speaking in hushed voices. Bulma lowered her head to avoid eye contact with the group, pushed the heavy doors open and ducked into the building.

The interior of the building was not quite as impressive as the outside, in fact, Bulma thought it resembled more of a high school locker room than anything else. There were benches scattered around the room, with oddly placed shelves and a bank of lockers on one wall. A large counter sat at the back of the room, where a handful of PTO officers were helping a line of customers. The room was dimly lit, and smelled of stale sweat and smoke. Bulma suppressed a gag, as she got into the line, finding herself behind a large Arcosian in Frieza force armor. He gave her a look up and down and grinned, and she pinned him with her most intimidating glare. The smirk stayed on his face, but he turned around.

The line moved slowly, and eventually Bulma made it to the counter, where she requested a uniform for engineering. The Arcosian helping her informed her that he did not have any engineering uniforms tailored specifically for females, but if she was interested he did have some comfortable pants and shirts that would be acceptable for working in the trade. She agreed, and held them up to herself to ensure they'd fit. Someone in the line behind her wolf whistled as she did, and she rolled her eyes as the man behind the counter warned whoever it was to knock it off. The rest of the line laughed. She agreed to three sets of the uniform and passed the credits card to the man, paying for her purchase, stuffing them into the rucksack. With everything already in there, it barely fit but she pushed it in and snapped the bag closed. Throwing it over her shoulder, she shot a handful of glares to the men waiting in line and started toward the door, but the door opened before she could open it herself, and a familiar voice stopped her in her tracks.

"No, Nappa, I specifically told you that your new boots would have to wait until our next stop. We just can't do it right now."

Bulma stood there, eyes wide as Vegeta and Nappa walked into the outpost. The Saiyan Prince looked furious, and it was clear that the two had been arguing. His gaze fell on the bluehead as the door closed behind him. Nappa, unperturbed, also seemed to notice Bulma, and let out a hearty chuckle.

"Well, Vegeta, look who it is." Nappa said, a sardonic grin on his face.

The prince growled low, shooting her a vicious glare. Bulma suddenly became aware of the tangible silence that had come over the room after Vegeta had entered, and all eyes from those in the line had fallen on the three of them.

"Uh...hi?" Bulma supplied, giving a small wave of her hand.

"Don't you have other business to attend to, earth woman?" Vegeta snarled.

"My, Vegeta, is that really how you treat a lady in public?" Bulma asked, putting her hands on her hips, eyes narrowing.

While her eyes narrowed, his widened at her audacity, and he clenched his fists. "That's Prince Vegeta to you, woman. Now run along, I imagine you've got some sort of work to be doing instead of disrespecting Saiyan royalty."

Instead of running along, Bulma just laughed. "You know you don't intimidate me, right, Badman? You're all bark and no bite. Now, I don't know what crawled up your ass today, but take a deep breath and relax." She flashed him a smile, and someone in the line gasped.

He snarled again. This woman...something about her both enraged and intrigued him at the same time. Never in his 20 short years had anyone ever dared speak to him like that except for a few of Frieza's cronies. On the flipside, he could crush this earth woman in a split second, yet she had no qualms about mouthing off to him. It was an absolute enigma to him, and despite his attempts to stop it, there was a small piece of him that was completely and utterly aroused by it. This earth woman was fucking hot, by physical standards and mental standards. She stood there in front of him, with her hands on her hips and that smirk on her face as if it were a challenge, and it made his blood boil.

A moment passed and he looked at Nappa.

"Come on, Nappa. We have our own business to attend to. I don't have time for petty games like this."

He turned on his heel to get in line, but not before Bulma saw the faintest hint of a blush on his cheeks. She smirked.

"No games, prince. Just telling the truth. See you back on the ship." She shot a wink in his general direction, and went out the door.

Full dark had settled on the city by now but Bulma was surprised how bright it was, the lights of the buildings did a particularly good job of illuminating everything as they reflected on the sides of the taller buildings, casting a glow into the streets below. She pulled out her communications device and sent Beck a message, first making it clear that there was no emergency but that she had finished all her errands and was heading back to the ship. She received a quick reply, saying he'd meet her back there soon. She smiled and put the device back in the bag and meandered her way through the streets, a hand on the ray gun tucked beneath her shirt, just in case. The bluehead thought she'd seen someone following her, but every time she stopped to look over her shoulder, there was no one there, at least no one seemingly suspicious.

Bulma made it back to the ship in good time, it was 18:26 when she arrived. Plenty of time to spare. The guard at check in station at the docking bay requested her ID before allowing her access to the ship, and after confirming she had clearance to go aboard, he waved her on with a huff. She ducked onto the ship and went to the engineering department, where she unloaded her bag full of purchases, setting each item out onto the table for Beck to inspect.

He wasn't too far behind her, and came in about an hour later with his own bag of purchases that he emptied out onto the table beside her own.

"Good job, Bulma. I trust you didn't run into any problems while you were out?" Beck queried, looking over her purchases.

"No, no troubles. For all the hullabaloo you made about making sure I was careful and had the ray gun, I expected to be jumped or something. No, my only issues were just a grumpy salesman at the tool shop and an awkward Saiyan Prince at the outpost," Bulma said with a short laugh.

Beck glanced at her. "Well, one can never be too careful on Arcose, especially in Aleetan. And what do you mean an awkward Saiyan Prince? I'm not sure I've ever heard that term used in reference to Vegeta before."

"Oh, he's just easy to make uncomfortable. Stand your ground and he's blushing like a schoolgirl," Bulma chirped confidently.

"You shouldn't play with fire like that, Bulma, you're likely to get burned," Beck admonished.

"Awe, Beck, don't worry. He's nothing I can't handle," she assured him, as she handed over the communications device, map and ray gun.

"I hope you're right. Anyway, you did well, Bulma, you got everything that was on your list. Thank you." The namekian began putting away the purchased items into their appropriate spaces around the room.

"No problem. I'm going to head off to my quarters now to get some rest, it's been a long day," the bluehead said with a yawn and a stretch.

"Yes, well deserved. See you tomorrow for takeoff, Bulma."

"Night, Beck."

-------

Vegeta and Nappa had arrived back to the ship with only a few hours to spare before the intended take off time, and both were increasingly perturbed by the other's presence. The larger Saiyan immediately dismissed himself to the canteen for a quick meal, and Vegeta found himself ambling back to their quarters, hauling a large sack of their purchases, much to his chagrin.

He pushed open the door and flung the bag on the table beside his comrade's cots with a huff, and eyed the room, spotting Raditz looking out the small window on the far side.

"Well, how did it go?" He growled, pinning the long haired Saiyan with a stare.

"I'm not sure exactly why you wanted me to follow the girl. It seems like you ran into her anyway," Raditz replied with a small laugh.

"Tch, you'd be wise to bite your tongue, Saiyan. Did you learn anything interesting or useful while tailing her?"

"Nah, not really...besides that she was buying some odd things," he trailed off, scratching his head.

"Of course it would be odd to you, mechanics of anything other than female anatomy has never been your specialty." Vegeta said with a snort.

"Hey now, 'Geta that's not fair!" Raditz groaned, as he was hit in the face with a new armor piece they had picked up for him at the outpost.

"Everything is fair when I'm in charge. Now shut your trap, I want silence so I can rest. Oh, and put away the rations." The Saiyan prince snapped as he disappeared into his private quarters.

He put the few things he'd purchased for himself away, and then flopped down onto his bed, letting out a sigh. Vegeta was pleased that the girl had made it through Aleetan safely, although it may have had something to do with Raditz following her. He'd used the front of information seeking as his request for his comrade to follow Bulma, but deep down, he knew that was not the true reason why he wanted her tailed. One moment, he hated her with the fury of a thousand angry hornets, and the next, he felt an overwhelming desire to protect her and ensure she was safe and cared for. His inability to make heads or tails of the situation felt as if it would drive him to the brink of insanity, and when he'd run into her at the outpost and she'd tested him, it felt as if it was just another nail in the coffin.

Vegeta closed his eyes, knowing that whatever sleep brought him, it would likely be full of dreams of the blue haired beauty haunting him.

Chapter Text

The ship had taken off back into space again after the 24 hours on the surface of Arcose had passed, and shortly after Vegeta had received word from Frieza that he and his comrades were to ship out within an additional 48 hours for a planet purge. The tyrant had plans to acquire a nearby planet, one just outside the star system that Arcose resided in.

The message that Vegeta had received detailed out the mission, stating that the life forms on this medium sized planet were primitive at best, and the atmospheric conditions were cool and stormy. It was suggested to eliminate all life swiftly to prepare the planet for terraforming, as it was intended to be the location of a small Planet Trade Organization base in this space quadrant. Close enough to Arcose to keep an eye out, but yet not quite so close that it would seem particularly suspicious.

Vegeta drummed his fingers on his desk, wearing his usual deep scowl. He'd just finished logging their purchases and rebalancing his finances after their spending on Arcose, and now he had to pack what he'd just put away for a purge. He growled and stood, grabbing his travel pack from beneath his bed. He then began clicking through the database in his scouter until he found the number for the engineering department, and hit the call button. The prince held his breath, hoping that the earth woman wouldn't be the one to answer. He didn't think she had her own scouter device, but nothing shocked him these days, especially when it came to her.

Vegeta's heart slowed in relief when the older Namekian's voice came through the earpiece. The Saiyan informed him that he needed inspections completed on he and his comrade's pods right away before they shipped out. The Namekian consented and assured him they would be checked over and ready to go within a day. He growled, warning him that if they were not ready as promised, there would be hell to pay. He clicked the scouter off and returned his attention to his travel bag.

Tossing the bag on the bed, he turned to leave his private quarters. Raditz and Nappa were sitting at their small table, playing some card game that they enjoyed in the downtime they had on occasion.

"Raditz. Nappa. I've just received word from Lord Frieza that we are to ship out for a purge in 48 hours. Prepare your things. I sent a message to engineering to have our pods checked over before we depart. I expect you to be ready in 36." Vegeta snapped curtly, arms crossed.

The other two Saiyans looked up at their Prince, surprised.

"A purge, so soon after we've just left Arcose?" Raditz questioned.

"Rumor has it that Frieza wants another PTO base out here in this quadrant, that's probably what this is all about." Nappa explained, and paused briefly. "Isn't that right, Prince Vegeta?"

"Yes, something like that." Vegeta replied, his clear disinterest in their continuing of the conversation written all over his face.

"I figured as much. Well, hey, at least you sent to have our pods checked over. Maybe it'll be your favorite earth woman giving them the rundown," Nappa said with a hearty chuckle, Raditz' laughter joining him.

Vegeta snarled. "I don't find your jokes funny. The girl is not of my concern. If she is the one that works on our pods, she better hope that they are in top shape...even better than top shape, because if they aren't, there will be hell to pay."

Nappa shot him a knowing smirk, and Vegeta seethed inwardly.

"Pack your shit, you fools, and keep your mouths shut. You better be ready for this purge, we cannot afford to mess this up," the Saiyan Prince commanded, before slamming the door as he returned to his quarters.

Vegeta didn't know why he put up with their behavior sometimes, it was as if they lived to mock him and it drove him utterly insane. If they weren't the only other remaining Saiyans, he'd have wiped them out of existence already.

He threw a handful of ration bars into his bag, and a small emergency aid kid next. It wasn't often that he'd had to treat an injury in the field, but better to be safe than sorry. They were lucky to have access to the regeneration tanks here in the PTO, but sometimes you just had to hold someone together until you could get to one. Gruesome, perhaps, but it was occasionally necessary when you worked in the planet purging business.

Vegeta grumbled as he continued going through his things, organizing and prepping for their mission.

------

 

On the other side of the ship, Bulma had just finished upgrading her first small batch of scouters. It had taken her only a few hours to make the changes to the first three scouters brought to her. She wasn't sure who they belonged to, as they were programmed with names she did not recognize. Beck had given them to her, letting her know that Frieza had given the go ahead on the project and sent in these first few scouters. The bluehead suspected they belonged to higher ranking crew members, so she made sure they were completed properly and then gave them a once over to ensure all other functions were in working order. Once she was satisfied, she brought them back to Beck.

"Here you go, they're done!" She exclaimed, with a proud smile as she handed the small box containing the scouters over to the Namekian.

"Wow, that was quite timely, Bulma. Are you sure they will be sufficient?" Beck queried, as he picked one up and looked it over. "They don't appear any different externally."

"Oh, they won't look any different outside, all the changes are done inside in the memory and within the processor." Bulma explained confidently.

"Ah, well, I trust you know what you're doing. I do not believe Frieza would entrust scouters to you for no reason." Beck replied with a chuckle, and set the box down on the counter. "Oh, that reminds me, before I take these back to Zarbon, I have your next task. We need to do a preflight inspection on the three Saiyan pods before they leave for a planet purge. The promised turnaround time is 24 hours, and I'd like to have them done well before that. Those Saiyans are brutes and I despise having to do these inspections."

"Ok, you got it. Just show me what we need to do." Bulma said enthusiastically, rolling up her sleeves. She had been waiting to get a chance to look at PTO space flight technology.

"Well, first we need to check over the navigation systems and make sure they are functioning properly. The pods put the pilot into cryosleep depending on the length of travel, so it is crucial that the nav system functions correctly without direction. After that, we need to give the thruster systems a once over to be sure that those are also working properly. Beyond that, we just need to ensure that everything is in working order and nothing needs attention. Make sense?" Beck explained, grabbing a large folder from a filing cabinet beneath his desk. Bulma nodded, and he handed her the folder. "I have older blueprint schematics from the PTO for these pods, if you'd like to look them over. They are in that folder."

"Great, that will be helpful. Thanks, Beck."

"You're welcome. I figured we could do the first pod together and then take one each of the remaining two. Sound like a plan?" He asked, grabbing two tool bags, handing her one.

"Sounds great." Bulma replied, as she took the tool bag from the Namekian.

"Alright, follow me to the launch bay. On this ship, because it is rather large, there is a small bay on the port side for launching small pods, like what the Saiyans have. Most of the Frieza Force PTO ships do not have launch bays like this. We are one of the lucky ones, I guess." Beck laughed, and gestured for Bulma to follow him.

They made their way through the hallways, and came to two double doors, much like the ones that led into Frieza's chambers on the other side of the ship. Beck scanned his ID card against a small black scanner bar on the wall next to the door, and there was a beeping sound, and then a click. He opened the door, and allowed Bulma inside.

The room was relatively large, with big bay doors on the far outside wall. The three Saiyan pods sat in rounded docks in the center of the room, connected to overhead cabling systems.

"The bay doors open after this room depressurizes, a command which can be executed from directly inside the pods. The overhead cabling keeps the pods secure and allows them to stay charged, although they will hold a charge for many months, one of the nice things about PTO technology, as they run on solar power as a main source of energy, but have a backup battery system just in case." Beck explained, knowing the questions that Bulma would have right off the bat.

"Wow, how cool is that?" Bulma breathed, as she walked up to one of the pods, laying her hand on the side.

"Let's start with this one, Raditz' pod." Beck said, as he typed in a code to the small numerical pad on the outside. A small beep, and then a large door opened, exposing the surprisingly roomy interior of the pod (well, if you weren't Nappa, Bulma thought to herself), despite their small exterior appearance.

Beck climbed in, and pressed a button on a panel adjacent to the seat. The screen came to life with a display in galactic standard, with a map and various other components.

"Bulma, come watch so you can see what I'm doing. There isn't enough space for both of us in here but you can look over my shoulder. I'm just going to program the coordinates for Arcose in and make sure that everything responds properly. You always want to make sure that you never engage the launch system. The last thing you want to do is initiate that sequence when you're not intending to actually launch a pod, understood? In order to launch, you would hit this button over here," he explained, pointing to a green button on the console, "and would then follow the onscreen instructions from there. Obviously I don't think you'd ever have an issue with that, but just in case, I thought I'd mention it anyway. I don't want you blasting out into space unprepared."

Bulma giggled. "Don't worry Beck, I've at least got a little more common sense than that. Well, I sure hope I do."

"Oh, I'm sure you do, I'm just covering my bases. Anyway, I've programmed in the coordinates for Arcose. It's currently calculating the trajectory, and you can see it thinking through the process onscreen, which tells me that part is functioning properly. There, now it has it locked on, and it is ready to go. I'm going to disengage it now and then just run through the other functions of the system to make sure they are all up and running properly, such as communications and video calling to the other pods." Beck explained as he showed Bulma the various menus within the console system, detailing out what needed to be checked in a preflight inspection.

Once they'd completed checking through the console and Beck had determined everything was ready to go, he popped open an external panel.

"This is where the main thruster engine is. You just want to look it over to ensure everything looks intact and that nothing is burned out or missing."

"Gotcha." Bulma leaned down to take a look inside.

"This one looks fine. It is a very simple design, if you have had any basic experience with engines, you'll know if something seems off." Beck said, running his hand over the engine, and then reached down to close the panel. "Do you feel comfortable working on one on your own now, Bulma?"

"Yes, I think so. You'll be here working on the other for a bit, right, in case I have any questions?" She asked, grabbing her tool bag.

"Yeah, I'll be around. I'm pretty quick at doing these inspections now, but I want you to take your time. Don't rush. If I'm done before you and you need help, you can always come get me and I'll assist you." Beck replied, climbing into the middle pod.

"Thanks, Beck." Bulma said, and walked over to the remaining pod. "Oh, hey, what's the code to get in?"

The Namekian stuck his head out. "Each pod has a different code. That one is Prince Vegeta's. The code will be on the inside cover of the folder I handed you." With that, he disappeared back into the other pod.

The bluehead opened the folder and found a small list of codes on the cover, just as Beck had said. She found Vegeta's name, followed by a handful of numbers, and she typed them into the keypad on the pod. It beeped, and the door consequently popped open. She took a deep breath and climbed in, finding it rather odd to be in one of his private spaces. Bulma wasn't sure if her mind was playing tricks on her, but for a faint second, she could swear she smelled him. But why, when had she ever SMELLED him to begin with? Her mind reeled with the thought, as she booted up the console. It was not an unpleasant scent by any means, it was a heady, manly smell. The other pod, the one belonging to Raditz, had smelled of stale sweat, reminding her of a gym locker room or running shoes that had been used and abused.

Bulma shook her head and told herself to focus on the task at hand. She went through the navigation system, slowly programming in the coordinates for Arcose, ensuring that everything worked properly.

As she was checking through the additional console components, Beck stuck his head around the corner of the pod.

"How's it going?"

Bulma jumped in surprise. "Jeez, Beck, you startled me. Uh, it's going good. Just checking it all over. Are you done already?"

"No, not quite yet. I'm done with the console check, I'm about to check the engine. As soon as I'm done with that I need to head out, I just got a message from Frieza requesting my presence on the bridge to fix an error in the coding on the ship's transmissions system." Beck told her, watching as she scrolled through the console database. "Just wanted to make sure you had everything under control."

"Yeah, I'm good. Just moving slow to make sure I get it right."

"Good girl. Finish up and then head back to engineering when you're done." Beck replied, as he went over to check the second pod's thruster engine, giving it a quick once over before closing the panel. "Alrighty, miss Bulma, I'm out. If you need anything, I'll be back in engineering as soon as I figure out this error on the bridge."

"Ok. Thanks Beck." Bulma said with a nod. With that, the Namekian smiled and took his leave from the launch bay.

The bluehead finished up her inspection on the console, and climbed out of the interior of the pod to check on the engine. She popped open the panel, and bent down to look at the components.

The sound of the interior launch bay doors slamming shut broke her concentration, and she looked up in the direction of the sound. Her eyes widened when she saw a glowering Saiyan Prince, arms crossed, standing in front of the doorway.

"Earth woman, I sure hope you know what you're doing, inspecting our pods." Vegeta snapped, eyes narrowing.

"Yes, I do, I was trained on the necessary steps to take in an inspection. Plus I have plenty of experience with technology, your highness." Bulma responded, putting emphasis on his title.

He growled low, and closed the distance between the two of them.

"I find it strange that you'd be left in here on your own to work on these pods when you've only been working in the engineering department for a few short weeks. That Namekian must have a lot of faith in you to trust you with such a large job," the Saiyan Prince said, voice dripping with condescension.

"Well, I'd think you'd have a little more faith in me too, considering the upgrades I made to your scouter, you jerk." Bulma said, her voice rising as she crossed her own arms to match his stance.

"Tch. I've never met someone with the guts to speak to me the way you do, woman. Everyone else fears me. Why don't you?" Vegeta asked, his voice low.

"Because you don't scare me. I'm a pretty good judge of character, Vegeta, and what I see in you is not what everyone else says they see." Bulma replied.

Vegeta stared at her, silent, for a moment.

"I do not understand you, earth woman."

"I didn't ask you to understand me, did I?" Bulma said, a small laugh escaping her lips. "I don't know much about your past, Vegeta, but I've heard a little, and I have no doubt that it probably makes you angry knowing that. But you know what, I don't care. I also know you don't want pity, so I am not going to give you it." She paused. "I think you act the way you do because of what you've been through. It is as simple as that. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand. And if you were going to kill me, you'd have already done it."

"Tch. You don't understand me at all, woman." Vegeta seethed, refusing to let her know how accurate her statements really were. Being raised in the PTO and trained as a killer, he knew nothing else and anger was what he turned to in almost every situation. He gritted his teeth.

"Think what you want, prince." Bulma said, a knowing smile on her face.

If Bulma hadn't looked away for a brief moment, she would have noticed the fleeting blush that crept across the Saiyan Prince's cheekbones. He knew she was right, but he refused to admit a single word of it to the infuriating woman. Instead, he tried to redirect the conversation.

"So, woman, you're sure our pods are ready for our purge?" He asked bluntly, staring her down.

"Yes, Vegeta. We made sure everything is running properly. The consoles have been checked, the navigation systems are fully operational, so are the communications and video calling systems. All thruster engines are in operational condition as well and have been checked over." Bulma ensured him, as she closed the door on his pod.

"How do I know you didn't rig my pod to explode as soon as I get far enough away from the ship?" He asked, pinning her with a deadly stare.

"Vegeta!" She breathed. "Stop with the nonsense. I have no reason to kill you, why would you even ask that? Just stop."

"Tch." He turned his head away, looking the other direction.

Bulma was acutely aware of his extreme mistrust of others, especially after their debacle with Frieza and the scouter. The little she knew about his past made her heart break for him, knowing that he'd likely been abused and beaten by Frieza and his men, so it truly didn't surprise her that he'd jump to the extreme conclusion that she'd rigged his pod, but it still made her sad that he'd even think that she'd do such a thing. A part of her wanted to get to know this wild man more, to help tame his demons, but she wasn't sure how.

Vegeta was still looking the other direction, and Bulma dared to reach out, laying her hand on his arm. Instead of jerking away, he looked up in surprise. His onyx eyes were wide, and they met hers for a few moments. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out, and instead he took a few steps backward, before turning on his heels and disappearing out of the launch bay.

Bulma had tried calling his name out after him, but he was gone before she could do anything else. She looked at the once again closed doors, and sighed. She grabbed her tool bag, and made her way back to engineering.

Chapter Text

Nappa, Raditz and Vegeta were standing outside their pods in the launch bay, waiting to receive the final word from Zarbon that they had clearance to take off from the ship. The two larger Saiyans were discussing protocol and the Prince was scowling his opinions instead of speaking them. Their belongings had been stowed in the very small storage bins within each pod, and there was nothing left to do except wait for the clearance authorization.

"Well, this purge should be nothing but a piece of cake, with such primitive life. We'll just do what we always do, right? Split up, cover the planet equally and wipe out whatever we find as we go?" Raditz quipped, looking at Vegeta.

"Yes. It does not appear to be a particularly large planet, it is of medium size, so that method should be effective. Just remember that it is a candidate for terraforming, so you don't have to be particularly cautious with your attacks this time around. We aren't trying to preserve the flora and fauna by any means. Whatever is left once we are through will just be changed anyway." Vegeta explained, his gravelly voice low.

"Excellent, I love it when I can just double sunday my way through everything." Raditz replied with a hearty chuckle.

"What a stupid name for an attack," Nappa said, rolling his eyes.

"Hey now, at least it's not the big bang attack! That just sounds like I'm…" Vegeta's gloved hand connected with Raditz' face, effectively cutting off the remainder of what he was going to say.

"Nnugh, Vegeta, hey!" Raditz whined. "I was just joking."

"Now isn't the time, you idiot. You know that everything depends on us successfully completing these missions. Don't you dare mess any of this up, because you know godsdamned well who pays the price!" Vegeta snapped, leveling Raditz with an angry glare.

Silence fell over the small group momentarily, before a series of shrill beeps came from the intercom system, and then Zarbon's voice filled the room.

"Well, well, monkeys, you have received your clearance from Lord Frieza to launch your pods. I am initiating the countdown sequence. You will have 60 seconds, at the end of that timer you may launch. I do hope you will be successful." His airy laughter was cut off by the end of the intercom transmission, signaled by another series of beeps, and the 60 second countdown began.

"Alright, that's our cue." Nappa grunted, climbing up into his pod, squeezing his large frame into the seat.

43 seconds remaining.

Raditz and Vegeta followed suit in their own pods, and as they booted up the interior consoles, the doors shut behind them. The Saiyan Prince opened the communication line between the pods, and each typed the coordinates for the planet they were expected to purge, listed in Frieza's records as P317a.

29 seconds remaining.

"All navigation systems are go, communication is open, we are ready to launch as soon as the countdown completes. Total travel time is 4 days, but cryosleep stasis will take over once we have reached hyperdrive speeds, bringing us out just before entry into the planet's atmosphere and then subsequent landing." Vegeta said, as he routinely did before each launch.

14 seconds remaining.

"Nappa, Raditz, are you both good to go?"

"Yes, sir." They responded in unison.

The countdown hit 3 seconds, and Vegeta hit a sequence of buttons on his console screen, and then pressed the green button beside it. The launch bay doors opened as the countdown reached zero, and he felt the cables holding the pod release. It was a familiar feeling, but it always sent a brief shot of adrenaline and unease through his body. The pod thruster engines kicked on, and the three pods took off out of the bay, picking up speed rapidly.

As usual, Nappa and Raditz were chattering about pointless and unrelated things over the comm line and Vegeta sighed in annoyance. He looked out the tiny pod window, watching as the stars streaked by as long white lines.

A short time later, they had reached hyperdrive speed, and the pod's robotic voice announced that it was initiating stasis mode. Vegeta leaned back in his seat, getting as comfortable as he could for being in a small spacecraft. He could smell the strange scent of whatever gas was used for stasis as it began to permeate the air, but he also thought he noticed the smell of something sweet, ever so briefly as his eyelids began to droop and his limbs grew heavy. The sweet scent grew stronger, and it was the last thing he thought of as he drifted off to sleep.

------

Vegeta's eyes opened a sliver, with the feeling of something stroking his arm. When he opened his eyes fully, they met deep blue ones, and he could barely contain the gasp that tried to leap from his mouth. How? He thought to himself. A quick glance to the side revealed stars still streaking by. He returned his gaze forward, and he became aware of the body straddling his as he sat in the pod's seat. The blue haired heiress' knees were on the seat over his thighs, her hands resting on his upper arms, and he could feel the radiating warmth of her lower region on his legs, dangerously close to his manhood.

She smiled at him. His heart skipped a beat as she closed the small distance between them, her lips taking his. She nibbled lightly at his lower lip, and pressed deeper into the kiss, rubbing her hands up and down his arms. Her kisses left his lips and began tracing down his strong jawline. He tilted his head backward in response, with a sharp intake of air. His tail wound it's way around her thigh.

All wonder of how she had ended up in his pod and how he hadn't seen or noticed, faded away as he melted into her touch. She rocked her body forward, grinding her center on his growing erection, and he moaned in response.

In his handful of years serving beneath Frieza, Vegeta had been given a handful of opportunities for sexual encounters, but he'd always refused to take them. Nappa and Raditz had brought him to a brothel on some strange planet when he'd hit puberty, but he'd taken off in outrage. And a number of years later, Raditz had even gone so far as to bring a female Arcosian back to an outpost they were staying at in hopes that Vegeta would take her to bed. Instead, it ended in a shouting match, a once again infuriated Vegeta and Raditz owing the female a pretty penny for her time wasted.

As the blue haired beauty continued to rock her body against his erection, he reached a hand up and grabbed at her breast.

"Do you like that, Vegeta?" Her small but sultry voice asked.

He could only moan in reply as she continued to tease him. She shifted her body off to the side, and reached down, pulling his tight bodysuit down just enough to free him. His erection sprung out, and she grabbed him in her hands, pumping his hard length up and down. He gripped the seat as she worked him, and it wasn't long before the waves of his climax were struggling to break through the dam. He came hard in her hand, and the wave of pleasure caused his vision to go blurry, before fading out completely.

------

Vegeta awoke with a start; the pod was beeping signaling their imminent arrival to planet P317a and entrance into the atmosphere. He sucked in a breath, and looked around, suddenly remembering a very vivid, very elicit moment…or perhaps it was just a dream? The blue haired earthling was nowhere to be found, and really, there was nowhere for her to hide aboard the tiny pod. He shook his head, feeling the flushness of his face and thinking of exactly what had happened in whatever that dream had been. The flush deepened.

He looked down at his waist, and noticed a damp spot at his crotch. It had been a long time since he'd had any sort of wet dream like this, and fuck, this was embarrassing. They'd be landing in just a few moments, and how the hell would he pass this one off? A grown man pissing his pants wasn't funny either, so maybe just a spill? Vegeta growled in embarrassment and humiliation, knowing that Nappa and Raditz weren't stupid. What was there to spill in a pod? A whole lot of nothing, that's right. His tail thumped the seat next to him in annoyance.

The console display dimmed as the pod began its descent through the atmosphere. Vegeta braced himself for impact, these planet landings were rough even for a trained warrior.

A few moments later, the pod impacted, producing a large crater in what appeared to have been a dense forest. Once he'd gotten his bearings back, Vegeta raised his power level, and clicked on his scouter to check for any sentient high powered beings in the general vicinity before opening the pod's door. Relief briefly washed over him, as he could only pick up Nappa and Raditz. He needed a few more moments to control himself and re-center his thoughts.

But before he could do any of that, Nappa had already overridden the controls on his pod and the door was opening. Vegeta scrambled to his feet, attempting to face the other direction from his comrades.

"Hey Vegeta, you better get out here. The weather on this planet is nuts, we should probably get this done as quick as we can." Nappa rumbled.

"Give me a minute, Nappa." Vegeta snarled.

"What for, little man? Something the matter?" Nappa asked, walking toward Vegeta.

Before the Saiyan prince could respond, Raditz came around the other side of the pod, facing Vegeta head on.

"You know, I don't think I've seen you this nervous since Frieza said he was going to throw you out the airlock." Raditz paused, "What's wrong?"

"It...its nothing!" Vegeta snapped venomously. Pull yourself together, he thought to himself.

Raditz must have noticed his predicament at that particular moment, because suddenly, the long haired Saiyan was laughing. "Hey uh, 'geets, did you have an accident in the pod? Is that why you're all worked up?"

"Shut up, you moron."

"Well, I'm pretty sure you're potty trained at your age, so if that's what I think it is…" he wolf whistled, "You've got the hots for someone."

Nappa joined in laughing with Raditz, but before they could do anything else, they were suddenly stunned into silence when Vegeta powered up in anger.

"That's enough. Quit mocking me, both of you. You know I have no experience with any of this and the last thing I need is you both using me as your joke. I will not stand for it! We are here for a job. Now do what you are supposed to do!" Vegeta seethed, his aura pulsing around him erratically as he pushed off from the ground, taking off into the darkened purple colored sky.

The prince left the other two Saiyans to take care of their own quadrants, and went to eliminate life as ordered in another. Reddish lightning flashed around him, and deep, rolling thunder permeated across the planet's surface. The vast majority of the planet seemed to be a giant, swampy forest. As Vegeta flew to the east of the planet's northern pole, and used his scouter, he found a grouping of energies not far off. His first target.

A reasonable sized village was tucked into a hillside, and he could see the lights from within. Primitive for sure, he thought, it seemed most of their light was in the form of fireplaces or candlelight, if his top notch vision served him well. He flew closer and then rose above the village, raising his power level once more as he charged a galick gun attack.

Releasing the beam, it crashed down into the village below, reducing the majority to a smoldering rubble. Oh, this was always the fun part, he chuckled to himself. The screams erupting from the villagers not decimated by the blast began to reach his ears, and he flew down to seek them out.

The Saiyan prince flew through smoldering piles of timbers and stone as flames licked at his heels. It seemed that the inhabitants of this planet were bipedal, much like himself…and the earthling. He shook his head, no, he can't think about that now. Similar in that regard, except they were entirely covered in fur and had long snouts and pointy ears. More dog like than humanoid, if he had to guess. But it didn't matter, they'd be eradicated soon enough, just like so many other species had been by his own hand.

He shot a ki blast from his hand, taking down a straggler running through the rubble, and then another trapped beneath a wooden beam screaming for what he assumed was help. He snorted in derision. No help was coming for these people, they would meet their end at the feet of the PTO empire.

Vegeta landed atop a large pile of rubble, he pressed the button on his scouter again to seek out any remaining lifeforms. When Frieza said all life was to be eliminated, he was absolutely 100% serious and there was no room for error. Vegeta and his crew had returned from a purge a handful of years ago where they had thought they'd eliminated all life on their target planet in preparation for terraforming, just like what they were instructed to do with this planet, however, they had missed a small rogue faction of beings hidden away. When Frieza's terraforming crew arrived a few short weeks later and was attacked by the rogue faction, he had been infuriated. Even though it was only a small blip on the radar and easily handled, it was another step to the process and ultimately, Vegeta and his crew had not followed orders as expected. As a result, Frieza had ordered that Vegeta be thoroughly lashed and his meal credits revoked for a week. Since then, the Saiyan Prince refused to make that mistake again.

As Vegeta stood on top of the pile, he scanned out a few fading lifeforms a few hundred meters to his right, and he intended to eliminate them. Despite his best efforts, however, his mind kept wandering to the woman. That dream...it had worked him up in a way he had not been worked up before, and he still felt a strange sensation tingling through his body. He realized he was still half hard, despite his earlier release in the pod, and he growled in frustration. In response, he charged a quick ki blast, and flew toward the energy sources, but as he did, something struck him in the shoulder, hard. It knocked the wind out of him and threw him backwards, diminishing the ki blast that he had built up in his hand, sending it back inward with a jolt. He skidded into the ground and slammed into a pile of rubble, causing embers to rain down around him. He grit his teeth, pain radiating through his body.

He glanced down, and his eyes widened as he saw an arrow protruding from his shoulder.

"Primitive, alright." He bit out, as he grabbed the arrow and pulled, yanking it out of his chest with a yelp and then a growl of anger. The arrow had hit just above his armor. Thankfully it would not be fatal, but it would certainly slow him down without full use of his arm.

Vegeta stood, his arm hanging limply at his side, and he pushed off from the ground once more. Charging a ki blast with his other hand, he released it toward the area the arrow came from, and consequently charged a few additional blasts, releasing them into the same area. When he was absolutely certain all of the life forms were diminished, he moved on toward the next village.

Blood from his wound was seeping through his bodysuit, and while Vegeta was no stranger to pain, blood loss would indeed be a problem if he didn't finish this process up quickly. In afterthought, he realized he probably should have left the arrow in but broke it off low to reduce bleeding, but in his anger he had ripped it out. Without his medical supplies handy, he couldn't pack the wound and he certainly wasn't going to search around in a village or chance packing it with poisonous flora.

He took out the next village, albeit smaller, with more ease than the previous. One good galick gun was enough to wipe that one off the planet entirely, and after flying through to confirm that all life was gone, he started toward the next grouping of energy sources. As he drew nearer, he noticed that the amount of blood he had lost was causing him to become light headed, and his vision was beginning to swim. He flew low and landed next to a tall tree, his body crumpling up into a heap.

With his good arm, Vegeta clicked the call button on his scouter. "Nappa...Raditz...can either of you...hear me?" His voice wavered. Static came across the receiver.

"Vegeta...is….you? Can't…understand. Storms…interference." Vegeta could barely make out Nappa's voice as he faded in and out of consciousness. He berated himself that something as simple as an arrow could take him down like this. He was Prince Vegeta, the Prince of the Saiyan race. How could something so simple bring him down so easily? He snarled into the darkness of the woods, as a heavy rain began to fall.

He pressed the call button on the scouter one more time, before he faded out completely. "Nappa...Raditz. Need...Help."

-------

When he woke up, it was because of agonizing pain shooting through his shoulder and arm. He growled and his body tensed up in defense.

"Hey, hey, little man, calm down. We're here, we found you. Gonna get you patched up and back to the pods, okay? Just hang on." Nappa explained, ripping the fabric of Vegeta's bodysuit away and then wiping at the arrow wound on his shoulder with a strong antiseptic cleanser.

"You're lucky you are alive, and that we were able to find you so quick. If we hadn't, who knows what might have happened." Raditz said, as he handed Nappa a gauze pad.

Nappa packed the wound with gauze and taped it over as tight as he could.

"That'll have to hold until we can get back to the ship and get you into a regen tank. It looks like whatever it was nicked your artery, I'm amazed you didn't bleed out." Nappa rumbled as he held his now bloodied hands out into the cascading rainfall, rubbing them together to clean them off. "You're soaked through from all this rain, we need to get you back and get you warm or you're going to go into shock. I'm going to carry you back. Raditz, let's go."

"But...Nappa, we're not finished here…" he trailed off, knowing what would happen if they returned, the job unfinished.

"Raditz, we don't have a choice. Either we stay and finish and Vegeta dies from going into shock, or we go back and hope that Frieza shows some sort of mercy. Those are our only options," Nappa hissed, voice low.

"You know I can hear you, right?" Vegeta grated out.

"Yes, sorry little man, we're doing our best. You're gonna be ok." Nappa replied, as he lifted the small form of the Saiyan prince over his shoulder carefully, as to not disturb the wound any further. "We've got your back, no matter what happens." He took off carefully info the air, as the storm continued to rage around him, heavy rain falling and lightning flashing through the clouds, with Raditz in close pursuit.

It didn't take them long to get back to the pods, and Nappa loaded Vegeta into his pod, adjusting the inside climate controls to an overridden setting, warmer than normal, to counteract the shock that was setting in. The prince was in and out of consciousness.

Nappa and Raditz climbed into their own pods, and Nappa remotely initiated the launch sequence on Vegeta's pod first before initiating his own. Before long, all three pods were in space, increasing in speed to reach hyperdrive.

Raditz' voice came over the comm into Nappa's pod. "Do you think he's gonna make it back? 4 days in stasis with an injury is a long time."

"I don't know, Raditz. All we can do is hope for the best. Stasis will allow his body's systems to not have to work so hard to sustain him, so hopefully it will help. But it could do the opposite. We will have to wait and see." Nappa said somberly, double checking the return navigation on his pod before going into stasis.

"Oh…..well, I hope he makes it." Raditz mumbled.

The gas responsible for stasis overtook the pods, and both Nappa and Raditz were drowsy.

"Me too kid, me too." Nappa said, with a snore.

In Vegeta's pod, his chest rose and fell evenly, small breaths escaping his lips every few moments as stasis settled into his body, allowing his systems to calm.

This time, he did not dream.

------

When he awoke, once again...Vegeta was immersed in the viscous liquid of a regen tank, the rebreather attached to his face. His eyes shot open, and he lifted his hands, one immediately rising through the water to his shoulder. The hole was no longer there, and his energy had returned, perhaps boosted once again by another zen kai. A lopsided smirk crossed his face beneath the mask. He pounded on the glass, getting the attention of one of the med bay staff members.

With a few clicks on the console, the water began to drain, and in a few moments, Vegeta was able to emerge from the tank.

"Thank you, Dr. Rano. Where are my clothes?" Vegeta said, his voice shaky from disuse and from the artificial air in the breather tube.

"You'll find your comrades left you a new bodysuit on the table over there, along with your armor. However, I do have a message for you, that you are to report to Lord Frieza immediately. I was told to inform you of that immediately upon your awakening." Dr. Rano, an Arcosian, replied, indifferent.

Vegeta's mood sank. His thoughts returned to what happened on the planet, and he remembered Nappa and Raditz saying that they had not completed the mission, and were choosing to leave to save him. He gritted his teeth. He wasn't sure what would be worse, being left to die on some remote planet, or being humiliated and possibility beaten once again by Frieza for making yet another mistake on a mission. Maybe if he hadn't gone into it with such an unlevel head, this wouldn't have happened. His mind wavered back to the unbidden dream he'd had while in transit to the planet, and his face flushed once again. It had thrown him entirely off his game, and now he would have to suffer because of it. All because of that infuriating, stupid, beautiful blue haired earth woman. Vegeta snarled as he pulled on his body suit and armor.

Without another word to the med bay team, he turned on his heels and took off toward the bridge to face his punishment from Frieza, whatever it might be.

Chapter Text

The Saiyan Prince was pinned to the floor, beneath the cold, leathery foot of the lizard tyrant he had come to hate over the many years of humiliation he'd served under him. Vegeta sucked in a painful breath, and his body convulsed involuntarily as Frieza pressed his foot harder into the side of the Saiyan's skull.

"You were given explicit orders, Vegeta. Explicit orders and a deadline, and you failed me once again. I struggle to see why it is such a challenge for you to complete these simple missions." The lizard clicked his tongue, and pressed his mouth against his palm, peering down at the shock of dark hair beneath his own foot. "The beings on that planet were worthless and essentially powerless. You should have had no trouble at all eliminating them. But yet, here we are." A chuckle escaped Frieza's lips, and he lifted his foot up off of Vegeta's head.

A door slammed as Zarbon entered the room. He cleared his throat. "My Lord, I hope I didn't miss anything?" The green haired alien drawled, twirling his braid anxiously in his fingers, a sinister smirk dancing across his face.

"Oh ho ho, no, no, Zarbon, you are just in time. Our little Prince of nothing here was just getting a lecture first. I made sure to tell him that the beings on P317a were about as primitive as they could possibly get, and yet they bested this little monkey and his ragtag group of flea infested simians. I'm pretty sure Cui and Appule could have done a better job, hmm, Zarbon, do you agree?" Frieza drolled, his head lolling from side to side as his own smirk played across his face.

Zarbon snickered in amusement. "Perhaps you're quite correct, my Lord. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Well, not that you were ever mighty to begin with, stupid Saiyan, but just look at you. You look pitiful down there on your knees." He paused for a moment. "What was that you called him, Lord Frieza? Ah, yes, that was it. Prince of nothing. Look at you, prince of nothing, on your knees. Prince of a destroyed planet, a dead race, and a whopping two other Saiyans. Aren't you ridiculous?" He threw his head back in laughter, and Frieza joined in with him.

Vegeta had pulled himself onto all fours, his hands down in front of him and his head hanging between his shoulders. His anger was boiling like a bubbling cauldron, ready to boil over at any moment, but he knew he must keep it in check. Both Frieza and Zarbon were stronger than he was, there was no way out of this. Whatever punishment they had in store for him, he would have to take it. He grit his teeth and snarled as the two stood above him and laughed.

Frieza and Zarbon heard the snarl come from the Saiyan Prince, and their laughter abruptly came to a halt.

"Oh, I'm sorry little prince, did we touch a nerve?" Frieza trilled, as he began to walk a slow circle around Vegeta. Vegeta lifted his head, met Frieza's red eyes, and glared. "You've always been a fiery one. No matter. Once I'm done with you, you'll see it my way. Perhaps you'll finally realize the importance of doing things right the first time. Then perhaps we wouldn't have to have these little... heart to hearts."

Vegeta didn't have a moment to process what the lizard had said before he felt the trent's foot connect with his chest, sending him flying across the room. The prince slammed into the side of a control panel, and fell to the floor in a crumpled heap.

"Get up, Saiyan trash. Come back over here so you can get what you deserve for your mistakes." Frieza barked, his effeminate voice echoing back and forth across the walls of the room. The darkness of the expanse of space beyond the large bay windows felt as if they were bearing down on the prince at that moment, almost as if it was threatening to eat him up like he was nothing. He swallowed down his anxiety as his nausea rushed to the surface, an overwhelming urge to vomit hitting him like a brick wall. With a grunt, he staggered slowly to his feet, the wind knocked out of him.

Vegeta kept his head level and walked over toward Frieza, refusing to let go of his pride. He shot Zarbon a sidelong glare, before stopping a few feet in front of the purple skinned lizard.

"Now, Vegeta, I think fifty lashings will suffice, don't you? That, and you will not recover by use of the regeneration tanks afterward. I hear you already used one without express permission after this last mission anyway, thanks to your simian friends. You can thank them for the status of your recovery this time around. No doubt you'll be needing their help when we're through with you." Frieza said, pinning him with a stare. "Now, back on your knees where you belong, and I'll let Zarbon take it from here. I think I'll rather enjoy watching this spectacle."

All the blood drained from Vegeta's face as he listened to Frieza dole out his punishment. While the Saiyan was no stranger to pain, it didn't make it any more tolerable. The only benefit was perhaps he'd gain yet another zen kai boost from it. At only 20 some odd years of age, he had endured so many beatings and had been through innumerable battles that his body was riddled with scars, and he'd probably broken a good half of his bones at some point in his short life. Vegeta grit his teeth and dropped to his knees, balling his hands into fists.

"Whenever you are ready, Zarbon, you have my go ahead. Fifty lashings, the monkey himself will count them out," Frieza said with a sneer, crossing his arms in anticipation.

"My pleasure, my Lord." Zarbon replied, taking his place a few feet behind Vegeta. Unlike a leather whip, Zarbon had perfected a ki lashing technique that Frieza loved to put to use on his insubordinate crew members, particularly his unruly Saiyan prince.

Its energy like a heated blade, the ropes of ki that Zarbon began to spin suddenly crackled into existence in the room, the air becoming hot and charged. The first connected with the fabric of Vegeta's bodysuit and the skin beneath it with a hiss and a crack, and the Saiyan snarled, his body tensing as the energy coursed through him and flooded out into the floor.

"One." Vegeta's voice was smaller than usual, but he refused to let these beasts strip him of the only thing he had left… his pride.

The smell of burnt clothes and flesh began to permeate the room, and the sounds of Frieza and Zarbon's laughter at the crackling of the ki ropes as they crashed down across Vegeta's back filled his senses. He fought the urge to vomit and his vision swam from white to black. But, dutifully, he counted. After each hit splintered across his skin, he cried out the number, with a snarl of agony as small cracks began to spread on the floor beneath his hands. The energy diffused below him, and his body quivered in pain.

"Twenty two." He cried. The hits kept on coming.

"Thirty seven." His voice cracked as another ki rope connected with his upper back.

Finally, "Fifty." His vision swam, and his body wavered, as he collapsed onto the floor. Specks of blood, flesh and fabric surrounded his now unconscious body.

Frieza strolled casually over to him, and used his foot to flip the prince onto his back. After a moment of observation, the lizard noted his chest slowly rising and falling. "Oh good, he's still breathing. I, for a moment, thought you might have killed him, Zarbon. You'd have taken all my fun away. Now, go fetch his monkey friends to remove him from my presence. I must go wash off this mess from my feet."

"As you command, my Lord." Zarbon replied, tipping his head in a bow, before disappearing out of the room.

---------

Bulma had been tasked with repairing a broken console in the medical bay, and she was about halfway through with the necessary repairs when two of the med bay crew members emerged from one of the lab rooms, speaking in hushed tones. They were both Arcosians, wearing white lab coats. One was taller than the other, and significantly older. The other was shorter and younger, and was carrying a clipboard full of paperwork.

Being the curious one, Bulma couldn't help but listen in on their conversation. She kept her head low and continued to work on replacing the broken chip terminal, but turned her head at a better angle to hear what they were saying.

The taller one was doing the majority of the speaking. "You know one of these days Lord Frieza is just going to kill him, he can only make so many mistakes before he'll get tired of the excuses. Plus, his crew never even got clearance to use one of the tanks for him when they got back. They just brought him here and put him in. Didn't even ask permission."

The one with the clipboard's eyes widened in surprise. "That's quite bold. I heard that the planet they were supposed to be purging was extremely primitive, and that it should have been very easily taken care of. I wonder what their excuse for fucking up this time was."

"Well, the big one told me when he was shoving him into the tank that he was hit with an arrow. If Prince Vegeta was taken down by something as simple as an arrow, maybe he is not as strong as people think he is." The taller one laughed.

Bulma's eyes widened at the mention of Vegeta's name, although she had pretty much guessed he was who they were discussing even before his name came up. She had been hearing rumors floating around the last few days that the Saiyans' purge had not gone well.

"Who knows. It sounds like he caught it good from Lord Frieza though. Rumor has it he got fifty lashings from Zarbon's ki technique." The younger Arcosian said with a shudder.

"Yes, that is correct. Lord Frieza sent me a scouter message informing me that Prince Vegeta is not allowed to use the regeneration tanks for recovery as part of his punishment." The older Arcosian had a solemn look on his face. "I may not be the Saiyan Prince's biggest fan, but I can't imagine healing from fifty lashings without a regen tank being any sort of fun."

"No, no, that sounds horrible." The other gripped his clipboard tighter, opened the door to another lab room, and both disappeared inside, leaving Bulma alone in the main med bay room to finish her work.

Her thoughts were racing after what she had just heard. If it was true, she couldn't imagine the pain Vegeta was in. She clipped the new chip terminal into place, and put in the locking screws, tightening them down. The heiress rebooted the system, and ensured that everything was working properly.

At that moment, she decided she needed to help the Saiyan Prince. He had done her a favor, and she couldn't bear the thought of him in pain. She glanced around the med bay. Of course there had to be something in here that could help. If he wasn't able to use the regen tanks, she'd just have to provide medical aid the old fashioned way. No doubt his comrades Nappa and Raditz were likely trying to help, but she doubted they had any real medical training beyond field dressing.

Bulma knew there were likely cameras set up within the room so she'd have to be discreet, or find a way to clear or overwrite the footage as she quickly searched for supplies. She casually inspected a cabinet near one of the unoccupied lab rooms, and was pleased to find a small bag, as well as what would pass as gauze, and a bottle of liquid labeled antiseptic in galactic standard. She put the items in the bag and slung it over her shoulder, moving on to a counter of drawers in the center of the room. The heiress could hear the Arcosians still talking in the lab room on the opposite side of the main med bay, and she kept a close eye on the door to ensure they didn't catch her off guard.

In the top drawer, she found a suture kit, burn gel, a handful of other miscellaneous items that could be useful and tossed them into the bag. The drawer below the first had different labeled bottles of painkillers, vials of various local anesthetics, and prepackaged needles. She grabbed a few of each and put them carefully into the bag as well. When she was satisfied with her accumulations, she strolled back over to the console she'd been working on, and pulled up the ship's mainframe database.

With a few minutes of tinkering, she found the files with the camera recording data. One short adjustment later, she had looped the previous half hour of footage over the last half hour, making it appear that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Satisfied with her work, she covered her tracks by removing the usage history on the console, and signed out of the device.

The younger Arcosian had just exited the lab room as she was logging off the console. "Engineer, are you finished with your repairs?" He queried, looking over at her as he clutched his clipboard to his chest.

"Yes, yes, I just finished. The new chip terminal is in and the console is fully operational again. You can now log patient data into the system again instead of using paper." Bulma said, thankful that he hadn't come out a few moments earlier.

"Good. What do you have on your shoulder?" He asked, gesturing at the bag of supplies she had gathered.

"Oh...uh, this? It's just my tools from engineering." Bulma said, a lump growing in her throat.

"Ah. I see. I guess we have similar bags in the med bay and in engineering," the Arcosian said, his voice carrying a hint of skepticism. "Well, you best be on your way if you've finished your work. Report back to the engineering department. Thank you for your work."

"Yes, you're welcome sir." Bulma replied, a bead of sweat forming on her brow. She turned on her heel and did all she could to not take off running out of the med bay.

When she arrived back in engineering, she gave Beck a rundown of what she repairs she had completed in the med bay. She carefully set the bag of medical supplies down beneath her table and pushed it underneath, where it would be out of sight until she was finished for the day. The Namekian then showed her how to fill out a repair order on the ship's log system, marking it completed.

"Bulma, is something bothering you? You seem anxious." Beck asked, raising his eyebrow.

"No… why?" She responded, scratching the back of her neck.

"I'm not sure, you just seem disconnected from your work today. Your thoughts seem to be elsewhere." Beck explained, resting a hand on her shoulder. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'm just tired, or maybe I'm starting to not feel well. I don't know." The blue haired heiress said, as she let out a sigh.

"Why don't you call it a day? If anyone asks you what you're doing out of work, tell them I told you to take some personal time. If they give you grief, send them to me." He said, giving her a smile. "Sometimes we all need a break, and I know it's been an adjustment for you getting used to being on the ship. There isn't much left to do today, so you may as well take off early. Get some rest."

"Hey, thanks Beck. I appreciate it a lot." Bulma said, smiling at him.

"No problem, little one." He returned her smile, and then turned back to the ki blaster he was repairing.

When she was sure he was occupied, Bulma reached down, grabbed the medical supply bag, and took off toward the Saiyan's quarters.

---------

Nappa and Raditz had been thoroughly disheartened, but not surprised to find their Prince beaten once again by Frieza after their disappointment on P317a. It was always him that took the fall for their shortcomings, regardless of what happened. They had been summoned by that bastard Zarbon to retrieve Vegeta's battered body from the bridge room, and were told that under no circumstances were they to put him in a regeneration tank. All his healing was to be done naturally, no exceptions. It was all part of the punishment.

Raditz had tried to argue, and Zarbon shut him down quickly with a punch to the chest. Nappa hissed at him and told him it was pointless, as the bald Saiyan clutched Vegeta's tiny, helpless body against his own. He carried him back to their quarters, Raditz following closely on his heels.

Nappa had instructed Raditz to wash his hands and put a clean sheet on Vegeta's bed immediately. The long haired Saiyan did as he was instructed, and once the sheet was in place, Nappa put their Prince face down on the bed, and asked Raditz to find the med supplies. After digging around their quarters, they found only a small handful of supplies, barely enough to clean a small wound. Nappa sighed in frustration, but set himself to the task of cleaning out the fabric from Vegeta's wounds. The prince was still unconscious, but breathing.

Raditz was pacing the outer room of their quarters, when there was a knock at the door. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He came to the door, but didn't open it.

"Who is it, and what do you want?" He snapped through the closed door.

A small, feminine voice responded. "Its Bulma. I'm here to help Vegeta. Let me in, please?"

Raditz had a million different thoughts pass through his brain in the span of a few moments, but he cracked the door open.

"Why? And how do you know he needs help?"

"I overheard a conversation in the med bay. I heard he was lashed by Zarbon. I can help, I have medical supplies. Hurry up and let me in before someone sees me." Bulma hissed.

"Fine, fine. But you better actually be able to help him, earthling." Raditz chirped skeptically as he opened the door for her, pulling her inside.

The heiress shot him a wry smile. "Well, let's see how bad it is. I'll do my very best to help."

She followed Raditz to the door to Vegeta's private quarters. He knocked lightly.

"Nappa, I've got the earthling girl here. She says she's got medical supplies and can help 'Geta."

They heard some shuffling, and a few moments later, the door opened. A bleary eyed Nappa peered out at her.

"Why do you want to help him, earthling?" Nappa asked, looking her over.

Bulma cleared her throat. "Well, he helped me when I needed help. I want to repay the favor. And, no one deserves this. He doesn't deserve to be in pain."

Nappa appeared to be thinking on it for a moment, and then he nodded. He stepped to the side, and gestured for her to come in. She entered the room, and the first thing she noticed was the scent. The smell of charred flesh hit her, and she gagged. She fought back the need to vomit, and her eyes welled up with tears as she came to the side of the bed.

It was a stark contrast, seeing the unconscious battered form of the prince, versus a lively, grumpy one. Nappa had done a decent job of cleaning out the fabric from his wounds, but the deep trails the ki ropes had left on his back were angry and red, oozing blood. When she heard lashing, Bulma had envisioned an actual whip, not a ki based energy whip. This had not only gouged his skin, but the energy had burned him, much like a hot iron rod would. There were charred spots, the wounds beginning to darken and fester. She was suddenly grateful she had grabbed the burn gel. Infection could be a real problem while he was healing, and finding an antibiotic would likely prove to be a challenge.

Vegeta suddenly shifted, and let out a pained moan. He lifted up onto his arms, raising his head and opening his eyes. A massive wave of nausea hit him, and he vomited over the side of the bed, but nothing except bile came up. He collapsed back down onto the bed, grunting in pain.

Bulma stumbled backward. "Nappa, Raditz, get a rag or a towel, now," she muttered. The two Saiyans stumbled out of the room, looking for a towel.

His eyes shot up at the sound of her voice, and another wave of utter humiliation hit him. Of all things for her to see, the earthling had to see him like this. "What are… you… doing in here, woman?" He growled through the pain.

"I'm here to help you, Vegeta. I owe you, and I heard what happened, so I came to help. It sounds like you guys are out of medical supplies, so I'm glad I came. I've got a big bag of stuff. Can… can I help you?" Bulma asked, meeting his angry, pained gaze.

Raditz returned with a towel in hand, and thrust it at her. "Here."

"Thanks, Raditz. Well, Vegeta, will you let me help you?" Bulma asked again.

Vegeta groaned as another wave of pain hit him.

"Hey man, I think you should let her help ya. What's there to lose?" Raditz pressed, giving him a lopsided smile and shrugging his shoulders.

"Unhhh, fine." Vegeta said.

Bulma smiled, and sat down in the chair that Nappa had set beside the bed. She took the towel and wiped up the vomit off the bed, and wiped his cheek and face. "Now, I know you're stubborn, and this road to recovery is going to be rough without a regen tank. But, I will help you as best I can, okay? Back on earth, I majored in technology, engineering, science, and my undergrad degree was going to be medical. I know quite a bit, but I'm not a doctor. I will do the absolute best I can."

Vegeta nodded weakly, his pride fighting him every step of the way. Even with Saiyan healing, it would take at least a week, if not longer.

"First, let's get you some painkillers, so you're not hurting so bad." Bulma pulled out a vial of pain medicine, labeled in galactic standard, and followed the instructions as she drew the appropriate amount into a needle. After explaining what she was doing, she administered the medicine straight into a vein in his arm. She instructed him to lie on his stomach so she could finish cleaning his wounds and dress them appropriately.

Bulma finished cutting and removing the remaining pieces of his torn bodysuit, leaving only the lower half, just above his hip line. Once she'd removed all the fabric, she set to cleaning the wounds with antiseptic, doing her best to avoid any of the burned spots. A few of the wounds were quite deep and would probably need to be stitched.

After a few hours, she had finished cleaning and suturing his wounds, as well as applying burn gel and bandages where necessary. He had drifted in and out of sleep, muttering random nonsense as he slept.

The heiress instructed Raditz to go to the canteen and pick up a hot meal for him, and it wasn't long before the long haired Saiyan was back with a tray full of some sort of soup, bread, vegetables and water. The prince was still in a painkiller induced sleep, but she gently rubbed his arm.

"Vegeta, wake up. We've got a hot meal for you. You need to eat to keep your strength up." Bulma murmured, refusing to acknowledge to herself how much she enjoyed the feeling of his muscled arm beneath her soft fingers.

His eyelids fluttered open, and onyx eyes met deep blue. She smiled at him. "There's soup and bread here for you, Vegeta. Can you sit up and eat?"

He nodded, and carefully tried to sit up. Bulma put her arm beneath his, and he shot her a glare.

"Okay, fine, I was just trying to help. Well, it seems like the pain medicine is helping."

"Tch. It is helping some, yes."

Eventually, he got into a somewhat comfortable sitting position on his bed, and Bulma climbed up next to him, pulling the tray of food onto her lap so he could get to it easily. He ate his food in silence, as Bulma observed him. She reached out a hand and rested it on his forehead, to check for a fever. Vegeta looked at her quizzically, and his upper lip twitched as if he wanted to snarl at her.

"I'm just checking to make sure you don't have a fever. You're awful warm though, I'm worried you might already have one." Bulma said quietly.

"Saiyans have a higher body temperature than many creatures. I wouldn't base your determination on whether or not I have developed an infection on my body temperature. The wounds themselves will be your best information on that." Vegeta muttered, as he bit into his bread.

"Oh. Well, that's good to know, I guess." Bulma said.

Another brief bout of silence passed, until Vegeta spoke.

"I still don't understand why you want to help me. I've told you before, and I'll tell you again, I am the Saiyan Prince, I could kill you right here and now. You should be terrified of me." He said, quietly.

"But yet, you haven't, now have you? And how many opportunities have you had where we've been alone and you could have gotten away with it? At least a few." Bulma replied, but then she paused. "And Vegeta, no one deserves to be treated this way. You made a mistake. And frankly, I don't give a fuck what that mistake was. Either way, it shouldn't result in you being lashed within a few inches of your life. It is not okay."

"Tch. You don't know the half of it, woman. The lashing is nothing. The verbal humiliation is worse." Vegeta replied, and then blanched when he realized that he'd said too much.

"What do you mean?" Bulma asked, trying to catch his eyes with her own, but he refused to look at her.

"Never mind. It isn't any of your business." He snapped, looking the other direction.

Bulma reached her hand up, and gently cupped his cheek. He tensed, and he still refused to look at her, but yet he did not move from her touch. She gently rubbed his cheek, and she watched as his eyes closed. He let out a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding.

The heiress moved the tray of food onto the nightstand next to the bed, and leaned forward, pressing her lips gently against the Saiyan Prince's. His eyes flew open in surprise, and before he realized what had happened, Bulma had stood up and was putting away the medical supplies back into the bag.

"I have to head back to my quarters for the night. It's getting late." She said as she set the medical bag next to his nightstand. "I will come by in the morning on my way to engineering to check on you, okay?"

Vegeta was sure his mouth was hanging open like a fish, and he nodded.

"Goodnight, Vegeta."

She turned, and walked toward the door. But before she closed it his voice stopped her in her tracks.

"Stay with me."

She paused.

"What?" She turned and looked at him. His facial expression was almost as shocked as she felt, if he meant what she thought he meant.

"I said... stay with me, here... tonight." Vegeta said, his voice quiet.

"Vegeta, are you sure?"

"I don't want anything, I just don't know how to give myself more pain medication if I need it. So... I need you to stay." He muttered, face flush.

"If you insist." Bulma said with a soft smile. She turned around and came back over to the bed.

The blue haired heiress clicked off the small light on his nightstand, and climbed onto the bed next to him, putting her back against his bare chest. The bed was small, but the two of them could comfortably fit on it, thankfully.

Vegeta was not quite sure where he'd lost it in his thought process, but he was more than willing to blame it on the pain medication. He loosely draped his arm over her upper thigh, and they drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Bulma awoke sometime in the middle of the night, and for a moment was unsure of where she was. After a few seconds, it all came back to her, and she remembered her last minute decision to throw all caution to the wind and stay with the Saiyan Prince overnight after his rather unexpected request. His arm was still over her, but it had drifted up and was resting lightly on her side next to her arm, his calloused fingers resting lightly near her elbow.

His breathing was laboured, and she guessed that was what had woken her up. Carefully, she climbed out of the bed and out from under his arm. A quick glance at his scouter, resting on the desk across the room, told her that it was still early. She had at least a few hours left before she'd need to report to work in the engineering department. The heiress turned back toward Vegeta, and found that he too, was awake. His eyes were open, and he was regarding her cautiously.

"Hey…" Bulma offered, lightly. "How are you feeling?"

She reached out and went to brush a stray strand of hair back into his flame-like hair, and was taken aback when he flinched away from her hand. Bulma quickly pulled her hand back to her chest.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." She murmured.

"Tch." The prince grunted, and averted his gaze, embarrassed at his reaction. For him, almost any physical contact had always come with a price, and an often exceedingly painful one at that.

Bulma shifted her weight onto one foot, and peered down at the Saiyan. "Can I check your wounds? They should probably be cleaned again, and some of the bandages changed out, to avoid infection." She asked softly. "Also, how is your pain? It's probably time for another injection if you need it."

Vegeta only nodded his assent, and moved onto his stomach with a pained grunt. The heiress reached over and grabbed her bag of medical supplies, and then mindfully sat down on the edge of the bed, careful not to jostle it or the coverings.

"Can you tell me how your pain is?" Bulma tried again, not wanting to give the Prince an injection if he didn't need it. She had such little supplies that she didn't dare waste any. Given his reactions thus far, though, she was certain his pain level was running higher than he'd like to admit.

"I'm fine." He growled, although it came out mumbled through the tiny pillow he had his face buried in. The elite Frieza Force soldiers weren't given a whole lot more in the way of accommodations, but Bulma had at least noticed that the bed was far more comfortable than her plank-like bed was. And at least they had pillows that had some poof to them. Her pillow was as flat as it got, how it was still called a pillow was beyond her.

The heiress began gently removing some of the bandages, and as she worked, she took notice to how frequently the Prince's body would tense up beneath her small hands. Whether it was from pain, or something else, she wasn't sure. But she was certain that this elite Saiyan warrior in front of her was indeed not what he seemed, at least not entirely. She grabbed the bottle of antiseptic and washed each wound, checking for infection.

Occasionally, Vegeta would wince in pain as the sting of the astringent seeped into his injuries, and she would gently wipe at it with clean gauze. A short time later, she had cleaned each one and had reapplied clean bandages. Satisfied with her work, she set the medical bag back down on the floor beside the bed.

"Are you certain you don't need another injection for pain? I remember you saying something about needing me to stay overnight because you didn't know how to do it yourself." Bulma queried, gently pulling the light blanket back up over his body.

The Prince lifted his head slightly and shot her a glare. "Apparently my judgment was severely impaired." He snapped.

Bulma gaped. "Excuse me. I have taken time out of my day to help you and to clean your wounds. Do you really think those two bumbling Saiyan comrades of yours could have actually sutured these wounds and cleaned them appropriately?" She snapped, rising up from the bed and crossing her arms, glaring down at him.

"No one asked you to help, Earth Wwoman. You barged in here on your own and insisted. And for your information, my 'bumbling comrades' may be idiots, but they aren't entirely useless. How do you think I've survived being beaten over and over by that monster for so long?" Vegeta snarled, leveling her with an uncomfortable glare. It took a moment for his words to sink in, but when they did, his eyes widened. He realized what he'd said, and Bulma could suddenly see panic in his eyes.

"Vegeta…" she started, but he cut her off.

"Shut your mouth, woman. Don't you dare repeat a word of that to anyone. While some on this ship know the hardships I've had to endure, many of them do not. Nor do they need to. It shouldn't be any of your business either, but alas, here we are." He low-growled, narrowing his eyes at her.

Bulma looked away from him, and then at her feet. "Is it such a bad thing that I want to help you?" Her reply was soft and quiet.

"Tch. I am unable to understand why you desire to help me. What will you gain from doing so? In this universe, nothing is done without a reason, or without a price. I have no way to repay you, or give you whatever it is that you want. I'm the prince of a dead race. My planet was blown up into a million pieces, and there's only three of us Saiyans left. I have nothing to offer anyone except the clothes on my back. You would gain absolutely nothing for helping me." Vegeta muttered. "And besides, I've told you numerous times, I could end you with a single punch. Does that make it worth it to you?"

Bulma shuffled awkwardly in place, and anxiously ran her hand through her hair. "Vegeta...it isn't about what I can gain by helping you. I just want to help. I don't need any repayment or anything. What I saw when we were at the bridge before Frieza...it made me realize who I should really be worried about. Beck has told me many things, things I never wanted to know that Frieza has done." She paused. "I don't believe that you would hurt me. The things you've been made to do, they are not your choice...are they?"

The Saiyan looked at her, meeting her eyes with his own. "You mean the purges?"

"Well, yes. Things like that." She replied.

He sighed in frustration. Answering her questions was not what he had in mind for the middle of the night while his pain was running rampant. "No, they are not my choice. We are assigned purges, much like jobs. We mess them up, we don't get paid. Or worse."

"Oh." Bulma said. Then, "worse, like this?" She gestured at his back.

"Tch. You've caught on, woman, bravo. Unfortunately for me, I'm Frieza's favorite punching bag. And he seems to enjoy nothing more than torturing me. But that is beside the point." He paused. "You asked me if the purges are our choice. No, they aren't, but it doesn't mean I don't enjoy them. I was trained for this, to be a weapon. It is what I do." The prince hissed.

"So you enjoy killing people?" Bulma asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Vegeta huffed. "I'm not sure why this conversation is necessary. I do what I have to do to survive. I have never put much thought into it, but I have never balked at the idea of ending lives, if that is what you are asking."

The heiress' eyes met his once more, and they held their gaze.

"There is a reason my nickname is the Destroyer of Worlds." The Saiyan muttered.

"But if you had a choice, would you choose to kill and destroy? Or would you get the hell out of here and live your life?" Bulma asked, her azure eyes searching his onyx ones, seeking the answer she was hoping for.

"I kill because it is what I know. Because it is what is expected of me. If I don't, I myself will be killed. If my life was different, perhaps I would think otherwise. But it isn't."

"If you could get out of here and start over, would you?" The heiress asked.

"Tch. That's impossible. Frieza knows this universe like the back of his hand. Once you are known to him, you'll never get away." Vegeta replied.

"But what if you could get away?" Bulma pressed, voice still barely above a whisper.

"It is impossible."

"Not necessarily."

"What do you mean?" Vegeta raised an eyebrow.

"I have been looking at all the systems that run on this ship, including the communications systems, as we've traveled so far. On my planet, I was what was you’d consider a technical genius. I’m confident that I could override the system and rewrite the tracking program on the pods, allowing the passenger to sneak away unnoticed. And the pod wouldn't be traceable on any system. It would require some planning, but I am certain I could do it." Bulma explained, quietly.

Vegeta stared at her. "You do realize that Frieza would incinerate you on the spot if he caught you planning that, or in the act?

"Yes, I am well aware of the risk. But I believe the chance at freedom is greater than the chance of failure." She said firmly.

The Saiyan Prince stared at the heiress for a few moments. "So you would put it all on the line, banking on a hairbrained escape scheme?"

"Yes." She nodded.

"You are certifiably insane. Am I really having this conversation with you right now, or is the pain making me delusional?" He muttered, shaking his head.

"Vegeta, I'm serious."

"If you say so, Wwoman. I think you're going to end up getting yourself killed." He responded, looking at her seriously.

"Whatever. I didn't say I was planning on it right now. But when the time is right."

"You do realize I could turn you in, to Frieza, and this’ll all be over before it even started?" The Saiyan asked, smirking.

"Yes, I do. But for some reason, I trust you. Perhaps I'm foolish, but oh well. Too late now." Bulma replied with a sigh, averting her gaze and looking down at her feet.

A moment passed, and Vegeta spoke again. "However, even though I could, I will not. Consider us even now. My not turning you in is repayment for caring for my wounds."

"If that is what you wish, then so be it. But if you change your mind on getting out of here, you know where to find me." The heiress paused, and then sat down on the bed beside him once again. She decided to attempt to change the subject. "Now, are you certain you don't need any pain medication?"

He contemplated it for a moment, and then nodded. "If it helps me sleep again, then fine. Sleep is crucial to help aid in the healing process, especially for Saiyans."

"Can you sit up for me? It'll make it easier for the injection." Bulma asked, as she reached into the medical bag for the vial of pain medicine and a syringe. She took the vial and drew out the appropriate dosage into the syringe, and held the needle in one hand.

With a groan, he pulled himself up into a sitting position. The heiress scooted a little closer toward the Saiyan, and reached out her other hand.

"I need your forearm…" she explained, and he cautiously rested his arm into her open palm. Bulma could see the distrust written all over his face, and she decided that it was her new goal to show him that there was at least one person in the universe who wasn't out to hurt him.

She explained to him what she was doing quietly and softly, as she pressed the needle into his vein, injecting the medicine in slowly. It didn't take long for it to flood through his system, and he could feel the sting of the needle as she carefully removed it from his skin.

"There. That should do it." Bulma murmured, setting the empty syringe down on the bedside table. Her hand drifted back to his arm, which was resting loosely across his criss crossed legs. Her soft fingers gently caressed his skin, and he flinched back in surprise.

"I'm not going to hurt you." She told him softly. "Has anyone ever touched you without the intent to harm you?" The question came out quietly, and she met his eyes with her own. His eyes couldn't hide the bewilderment he was feeling, and the confusion, and she offered him a small, forlorn smile.

The Prince's response was slow, but eventually it came. "Not in a very, very long time." His eyes shifted around, falling on her hand, which was now resting on her lap.

"Can I...can I touch you?" Bulma asked.

Silence reigned through the room for a few fleeting moments, before he replied again. "Why?"

"Because I want to."

"Tch."

"And because I think you need to know that there is good in this world, and not everyone wants to hurt you."

Vegeta huffed and turned his head, looking away from her. "Fine. If you wish." He didn't dare admit to the Wwoman that her touch had felt nice, and that he did indeed want her to continue. There was something about feeling her own soft skin against his flushed Saiyan skin that sent small electrical like pulses through his body, almost like ki. He couldn't describe it, but he was surprised to find that he quite enjoyed the sensation.

Bulma reached her hand out once again, timidly stroking his muscled arm. Against his wishes and the direction of his mind, Vegeta's tail unwound itself from his waist, and loosely wrapped itself around her wrist as she continued her ministrations. She suppressed a small inward gasp as the appendage settled onto her, and glanced at the Saiyan. A rosy hue appeared on his angular cheekbones, casting his own glance aside.

The painkiller had started to kick in again, as Vegeta's thoughts flickered in and out, and he wasn't sure what was rational thought versus the latter. Suddenly, a vivid recollection of the dream he'd had in the pod just before they'd landed on P317a flooded his memory, and the rosy hue morphed into a full on blush across his cheeks. He was at least coherent enough to know that the blue haired earth woman was actually sitting in front of him this time, unlike in the dream. Something stirred in his lower belly, a sudden need that he wasn't sure he was ready to fulfill. Her feather light touch on his arm shot those strangely satisfying sparks of electricity, or whatever it was, straight to his core. He gulped, and took in a breath.

With her free hand, Bulma reached up and gently tipped up his chin, so he was looking at her. "You've never been touched by a woman either, have you?" She questioned, sensing his erratic emotions.

"Nn...no." He sputtered awkwardly. 'The mighty Saiyan Prince, reduced to a confused mess, at the hand of an Earthling female. What an embarrassment,' he thought to himself.

"Do...do you like it?" The heiress asked shyly.

"I...am not sure what to make of it. It feels...nice." He replied, voice uncharacteristically soft. Not only was the medicine blurring the lines between rationality and dreams, it was also beginning to make the Prince sleepy.

Sensing that he wouldn't be awake much longer, and knowing that she shouldn't hold off his sleep any longer for her own selfish desires, Bulma dared to close the gap between them, just like she had before he had asked her to stay.

Her soft lips met his, and his eyes widened in surprise. He knew what a kiss was, although it was not common behavior for most alien races, perhaps it was for her species. The blue haired beauty moved her lips gently against his, and he made the choice to kiss her back. Her own eyes closed and she let out a soft murmur of pleasure, and very carefully snaked her arms around his neck, ensuring that she kept her hands away from any of his injuries. Vegeta's hands found themselves resting lightly on her thighs, then brought one up and buried it in her soft hair. His tail wrapped around the heiress' small waist and pulled her in a little closer.

Bulma's lips parted, allowing his tongue to tangle with her own. He nipped softly at her lower lip, a seemingly instinctual behavior, as he kept pace with her furtive kisses. Eventually, they broke the kiss, and she rested her forehead against his.

"You should get some sleep, Vegeta. I have to go to engineering pretty soon, but I will come and check on you as soon as my shift is over. It'll likely be time for another dose of medication and a bandage change. I'll instruct Nappa and Raditz on what to do if anything worsens, and how they can contact me privately if they need to pass on a message to me." The heiress helped him lie down, and pulled the blanket up and over him.

He nodded, and she ran a hand through his coarse hair. He shivered at the strange sensation, but found it was not unpleasant.

"Can you...can you do that until I fall asleep?" He questioned, and closed his eyes. Inside, he berated himself for trusting the woman, but found that he couldn't force himself to do anything else.

Bulma let out a soft laugh. "Of course." She kept running her hand and fingers through his hair, occasionally stopping to gently scratch his scalp with her fingertips. He let out a soft purr-like sound, and within a few minutes, he was asleep.

She stood up from the bed, and quietly made her way across the room, exiting into the other two Saiyan's’ quarters. She found Nappa sitting up awake, while Raditz was splayed out on his cot, snoring away. The heiress explained to the bald Saiyan what she'd done, the most recent bandage change and medication dose, and told him what he needed to do if the Prince took a turn for the worse. She told him she would be back to check in later on, when she finished with her work, and if they needed to contact her, they could do so privately on a secure line through their scouters, to one she'd built from the scrap pile for her own use. It was tucked away safely in one of her drawers in the engineering department, just in case of emergencies. Bulma was grateful she'd thought ahead, for situations just like this.

Nappa still regarded her with skepticism, but was relieved to hear that the Prince seemed to be doing better. He thanked the Eearthling for her assistance, and escorted her to the door, holding it open.

"Tread carefully, female. The last thing you need is to get caught. Frieza doesn't take this stuff lightly." Nappa admonished.

"I know. I'm being cautious. Thanks Nappa, I'll be back later. Take care of him, ok?" She replied, turning to head down the hallway.

"Of course I'll take care of him, he's all we've got left." Nappa muttered, as he closed the door. "The gods help us, maybe that female is the answer. I don't know how, but maybe."

Chapter Text

The Saiyan Prince awoke a few hours later, as the painkillers began to wear off. He groaned, stretching slightly, as he did, every laceration and burn stretched and tugged, causing him to grit his teeth, letting out a hiss in agony. He was not unfamiliar with pain by any means, but it didn't lessen the fact that it still hurt each and every time he was denied access to a regeneration tank when Frieza physically punished him. The only positive side effect to his injuries such as these was the resulting power boost. Vegeta wasn't sure if the tyrant was even aware of the zen kai, but he certainly wasn't going to let him in onto that secret just in case he wasn't.

With a loud grunt, he pushed himself up to a semi seated position. He glanced around the room, wondering where the Earth woman had gone, before remembering she had reported to her station in Engineering. A glance at his scouter revealed that it was what would pass as midday on the ship, and he realized he was starving.

"Nappa!" Vegeta yelled loudly, hoping to garner the attention of the larger Saiyan. He wasn't positive they were in the other room, but he thought he could hear voices. There was a rustling noise, and then the door to the Prince's private quarters opened.

Nappa poked his head in. "Vegeta? Are you alright? We thought we'd let you sleep until you woke."

"Tch. Wise decision, you know just as much as I do that sleep is the key to healing. Now, I'm in pain and I'm starving. Send Raditz to get me food, and I hope for her sake that the Earth woman told you what to do with that medication." The Prince growled. "Oh, and tell Raditz I don't want our rations meal bars, I want some real food. I can't get my strength back on those crappy bars."

The bulky Saiyan turned towards the other room. "Ya hear that, Rad? He wants food, real food. No meal bars. Now go."

Vegeta heard some grumbling from the other room. He raised his voice and yelled. "Oh shut up you idiot, just go, or as soon as I feel well enough I'm going to kick your sorry ass and you'll be the one in this position!"

Nappa just rolled his eyes. "Sometimes you two make me think that you're brothers or something."

"Brothers! Ha. Only an absolute fool would be related to THAT hair brained imbecile." Vegeta grunted out. "Now, where's that medicine? These burns hurt like hell."

The big Saiyan just chuckled and went over to the Earthling's medical bag, and dug around carefully until he found the vial of medicine she had described, and a syringe. He drew out the dosage of medicine and turned to the Prince, who had already flayed out his arm, waiting impatiently.

"Just get it over with." Vegeta said, voice full of annoyance.

"It sounds like you're feeling at least a little better today, eh?" Nappa asked, as he injected the medicine into the Prince's arm.

"Yes and no. It is still painful, but a different type of pain. Before was more of an intense pain, this is a constant ache and a constant feeling of my skin wanting to sear off where the burns are. Stupid fucking lizard." Vegeta said, eyes narrowing as he gritted his teeth.

Nappa was quiet for a moment.

"The Earth woman says she thinks she has a plan to escape." It came out bluntly, and Vegeta looked at Nappa to see his reaction.

The big Saiyan's eyes widened. "She what? That tiny thing thinks she has a chance against that ruthless monster? He's more powerful than all of us combined."

"We wouldn't have to fight. She thinks she can override the pods and remove the tracking systems. She believes she can completely eliminate any ties to the PTO from our pods and make it impossible for Frieza to find us if we escaped." Vegeta paused for a minute. "I'm not convinced, don't worry. I was just shocked that she even thought about it."

"That bitch is gonna get herself killed. I already warned her about getting in trouble sneaking around to help you, and now she wants to go and do something like that? She's just askin' for it. Stay outta that mess, Vegeta. Let her take the fall, not you. You've had enough, if you got involved, Frieza would probably kill you for good this time." Nappa insisted, putting his big hand on Vegeta's shoulder. "Seriously. I know I'm not your father, or anything, and I'd never want to replace him, but I've been watching over you since you were a boy. I swore an oath to the King that I'd protect you. And I'm telling you, it sounds like that girl is trouble. Let her tend to your wounds, because we need her help with our med supply so low, but after that, keep your distance. It isn't worth your life. I thought maybe she was the key to something, but now, I'm not so sure with a hair brained scheme like that."

Vegeta grit his teeth, and looked away. "You're probably right. There's just no way it would work." He tried his best to ignore the pang of...what was it...sadness, maybe, that flooded through his body for a moment. The Prince knew the elder Saiyan was right, it wasn't worth trifling with, the consequences would be far too great if they were caught. It was like walking into a den of monsters, and never expecting to see the light of day again.

The two remained silent for a few moments, the only sound the faint hum of the ship's core.

"You know, I have half a mind to think you've bonded with the girl, Vegeta." Nappa said, softly.

Vegeta's head whipped around, and he fixed a hard, angry glare on the big Saiyan. "You know I don't believe in that drivel, Nappa. Stop it." He snarled.

Nappa laughed. "Such a vehement response to a simple observation. Bonded pairs on Vegetasei were certainly not drivel, my Prince. Whether you want to believe in them or not, they did occur. They may not have been particularly common, but it did indeed happen. Your parents were a bonded pair."

"Tch. I don't care about my parents." He paused. "But she is an Earthling, Nappa! No. Just, no." Vegeta couldn't hide the flush attempting to light up his cheeks, and he turned his face away.

Nappa smiled knowingly. "I don't believe cross species bonding has ever occurred, but Earthlings are a bipedal species, much like us. Perhaps it isn't impossible. In all your years, I've never seen you take notice of a female. Until now."

Vegeta glared at the wall, willing his flushed cheeks to stop baring his secret. "She is...smart, and useful. That does not mean I have bonded to her."

"If you say so. I've seen the way you look at her, and that incident in the pod before we landed…you were dreaming about her, weren't you?" Nappa asked.

Vegeta's temper and patience were rising rapidly. "It isn't any of your business, you brute! Now get out of my room. When the Earthling comes to check my bandages later, don't breathe a word of this to her, or so help me…." He trailed off, leveling Nappa with a stare that spoke the rest for him without having to utter any additional words.

Nappa nodded, and stood. "As you wish, Vegeta." The door clicked shut as he exited the room.

Vegeta was left to mull over his conflicted feelings, and he was none too pleased to deal with it. Between his muddled mind state, and the overwhelming emotions, he just wanted to go to sleep. He heaved a sigh, and laid down carefully, grunting as he pulled the blankets up.

Nappa was absolutely right about not trusting her and her crazy escape plan. He wouldn't, and couldn't deny that. But what he couldn't deny, at least not to himself, was that he wasn't in fact bonded or at least in the process of bonding with the Earthling. And that scared him shitless.

Vegeta closed his eyes, and waited for Raditz to show up with his food.

___________

The heiress had carefully made her way through the passages of the ship, eventually making it to the Engineering department a few minutes early for her scheduled shift. Beck was busy repairing a device she was unfamiliar with, and he looked up as she entered the room.

"Oh, little one, you're early this morning." He said, offering her a wide smile. "How was your night? I trust you slept well?" His gaze landed on her, and she could have sworn he knew more than he let on. But how could he have known anything about what she was doing? There was no way...right? She shrugged it off.

"Yes, I slept fine. Just awoke a little earlier than normal so I thought I’d get an early start today. Figured there is never a lack of things to do, right?" Bulma replied with a smile of her own. "So, what do we need to work on today?"

"Well, I need to finish repairing the central circuitry on this control panel board for the ship. It is a spare, but in routine checks, it was discovered to have faulty circuits. While I finish this, why don't you keep working on scouter upgrades? I believe Appule dropped off a box of a few of them yesterday. The box is next to your work table." Beck explained, as his attention trained back onto the panel board in front of him. Little sparks flew up into the air as he carefully soldered a wire into place.

"Okay, you got it. A few scouters should be an easy task for the day." The heiress gave a nod, and went over to her table, finding the box of scouters on the floor where he said they would be. There were about 6 of them, which would take her a good portion of the day, but at least it was easy work considering it was her own upgrade design. She set the box on the table, fished one out, and set to work.

By this time, making the upgrades was essentially mindless work for Bulma. Simple busywork like this had been handed off to her father's employees back at Capsule Corporation on Earth, before that fateful day. Once she had proven she was as intellectual and handy with tools as her father, he insisted she assist him with his work, and soon enough she had begun to produce her own projects as well. The Briefs were a dynamic team, and she found herself thinking of her daddy often, especially when she had tools in hand. She missed her mother and father dearly. Bulma doubted they survived the attack on the planet, and it broke her heart to even think about it. She hoped whatever had happened, it was quick, or if by some miracle they were alive, they were somewhere safe.

The heiress sighed as she worked on programming the first scouter with the ki scanning upgrade, reconnecting a few wires and making a change in the control chip. She wondered whether she had made a mistake in bringing up her escape plan with Vegeta. Perhaps she should have waited longer before she mentioned it. Bulma had assumed he would have done anything to put as much distance between himself and Frieza as possible, but he'd seemed less than enthused with the idea. He probably still didn't trust her, she thought.

If there was one thing Beck, Lysea, and Melly had all been right about was that the Saiyan Prince was indeed stubborn, and he certainly had a temper. But Bulma was confident she could handle him, despite how deadly he truly was. Where she should have probably been frightened of him, she was intrigued. His past was a black hole of unanswered questions, unfortunate circumstances, and one very troublesome problem, and she was Bulma Briefs. Her job as a scientist and mechanic was to find answers to questions, and to solve problems. It was in her nature to want to find out more about him and to help.

The heiress couldn't deny that she felt drawn to him. Something, like an invisible thread, kept tugging at her and bringing her back to him. Sometimes it was involuntary, like on Arcose when she ran across him at the PTO outpost picking up her new uniforms. And other times, she could almost feel the tug, like the previous night when she knew she needed to come to his aid after Frieza had beaten him mercilessly for his mistake on their last purge. She couldn't explain the feeling, but it was there, and it kept getting stronger.

The day went by slowly, but Bulma made good progress with the scouters, and was finishing up the last one just as Beck set down his own work and stood up. "Well, little one, I think I'm going to call it a day. I've done as much as I can for now, I need the system to reset on this handheld device and then the updates will process, and that typically takes a while. I don't feel like sitting here and waiting for it, I'd rather go get some rest and a tall glass of water." The tall green Namekian stretched, and looked over at Bulma. "How are those scouters coming along?"

"I'm just about finished. I need to rewire this last one, solder the lines, and then reboot and test it. I'd like to complete it and then I'll be done for the day myself. Shouldn't be longer than another half hour or so." The heiress explained, getting a quick stretch of her own in and smiling at Beck.

"Good, glad to hear it. When they're finished, set the box on my work table and I'll get them back to Appule first thing tomorrow. Thanks, little one. See you in the morning." He said, nodding his head and heading for the door. Before leaving, he turned briefly. "Stay out of trouble, you hear?"

Bulma froze for a second, and looked up at him. "I will, I promise." She replied with a firm nod. Maybe he did know something, she thought, trying to stop a shudder from creeping up her spine.

"Good." The Namekian took his leave, and the heiress was left in the silence of the room.

She quickly finished up the final touches to the last scouter, and placed it in the box. With another stretch, she stood, and went over to place the box on Beck's work table. Casting a glance around the room, ensuring that everything was in place and nothing seemed off or suspicious, she exited the room and into the hall.

It was dim and dark, and she made her way quietly through the halls. She passed one of the crew members, the same species as Appule, who leveled her with a narrow stare before walking by, just as she was moving away from the mess hall. She sighed in relief as he continued on his way, and she kept on toward the Saiyan's quarters, just as she promised.

Bulma arrived at their door, and knocked. Nappa opened it slightly, and stuck his head through. "What do you want?"

"Excuse me, is that how you greet a lady?" The heiress growled, glaring at him.

"Hmph, I could crush you, tiny human." Nappa grunted.

"Uh, I'm here to help Vegeta...like we discussed?" She responded, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh yeah. That's right. He said he doesn't need your help any longer. And he also said to stop meddling with things you shouldn't. I think you'd be wise to listen to him. We appreciate the help you gave him, but we can handle it from here." Nappa explained, his tone indifferent.

"He said what?! That ungrateful jerk!" Bulma said, voice raising.

"I'd stay quiet, if I were you, Earthling. Don't want anyone to overhear you." He chuckled. "Seems you already have a lot to worry about, and getting caught is the last thing you need."

Bulma's glare intensified. "I assume Vegeta told you about my plan." She muttered, angrily. "And you don't think it's a good idea either. No wonder he doesn't want my help anymore. Fine, so be it. Don't come crying to me when shit goes wrong." She turned on her heel and stormed off down the hallway, but stopped about halfway down.

"OH! Please tell the Prince that Bulma says he's an asshole. And that he's welcome for all my help!" She shouted, against her better judgement.

Thankfully no one was around to hear, but Nappa just chuckled as he shut the door. The Prince hadn't actually told him to tell her he didn't want her help, but she didn't need to know that. Vegeta was sleeping again, and that was what was best right now. Raditz and himself could handle taking care of him from here. If the girl was going to come up with crazy escape schemes like Vegeta said, he wanted none of them to have any part in it.

The heiress stomped her way down to the slave chambers, and made her way to her shared quarters with Lysea and Melly. She hadn't seen them in a few days, no doubt they were concerned about her. Bulma would be happy to see them, at least she knew they were her friends.

When she arrived, the other two were sitting on Lysea's bed, talking quietly. As soon as Bulma made it into the room, they both jumped up and Lysea squealed in excitement.

"Bulma! You're alright! Where have you been?!"

"Don't worry, Lysea, I'm fine. Just dealing with the Prince of all Assholes, that's all. He got quite the beating from Frieza yesterday, and I ended up helping him. Beck had me working in the med bay yesterday, doing a console upgrade, and I overheard the doctors talking about what had happened. When they went into another room, I stuffed a bag full of medical supplies, and when my shift was over, I went to Vegeta's quarters to help him. Frieza denied him access to a regeneration tank after Zarbon lashed him 50 times with his ki technique. The poor Saiyan had such horrible lacerations and burns." Bulma explained.

"But get this, after I gave him his medicine, he asked me to stay the night with him just in case he needed a bandage change or more medication. And guess what? We ended up kissing, twice! Can you believe that? Except after my shift tonight when I went back to check on him, Nappa told me Vegeta said he didn't need my help any more. Stupid jerk. I bet he got cold feet because I'm just so pretty." She said with a giggle, and an eye roll. "All boys are stupid, no matter what species."

Lysea just stared at Bulma for a moment. "I...I can't believe that, Bulma! How crazy! I wouldn't trust the Prince as far as I can throw him, and I couldn't even pick him up even if I wanted to! And you KISSED him? Are you insane? That's like playing with fire!" She paused for a moment. "But...was he a good kisser? Do Saiyans even know how to kiss? Not all species do."

Bulma laughed. "He didn't quite seem to know what he was doing. He shied away from my touch as well, I tried rubbing his arm to comfort him and when I reached out, it was as if I was intending to beat him. He flinched away and looked at me like I was crazy."

Lysea shrugged. "Well, I've told you what I know about him...it sounds like he's had a rough life at the hands of Frieza. If this last beating is any indication of what he's suffered through for most of his life...I'm not surprised. It's no wonder he is the way he is." Her voice was small, and sad.

"You're right, Lysea. I've thought the same thing. I don't know him very well but what little I've seen speaks volumes. You're exactly right." Bulma replied.

Melly prodded Lysea's arm, and the tall pink skinned female looked down at the rounder one. Bulma still wasn't certain how Lysea was able to communicate with her, but somehow they did. It was endearing to watch their bond, and the heiress couldn't help but smile.

"Melly here says she's going to go grab a tray of supper, would you like to go to, Bulma?" Lysea asked, peering over at the Earthling.

"Yeah, of course, I'm starving. I haven't eaten anything except a little bit of Vegeta's dinner last night." She said, and realized how hungry she really was as her stomach let out a loud growl. She laughed and smiled at the other two girls as they all got up and made their way toward the door.

The three went through the halls and ended at the mess hall, where they filled their trays with the leftover food from the day. Again, it was some dubiously grilled meat and an unknown vegetable that resembled carrots, but lighter in color. Laughing quietly and talking back and forth, they went back the way they came, and settled into their room for the night, eating and conversing. Bulma was thankful for at least some companionship, but somewhere in her heart, there was an ache and a small space that was left unfilled.

Chapter Text

Nappa woke Vegeta up late in the evening to administer another dose of medication and to check him over. The prince was groggy at first, having awoken from a string of random dreams that hadn't made much sense. His pain had lessened slightly throughout the course of the day, though it had evolved into more of a dull continuous ache all over his body, as his muscles and tissues began the arduous job of healing and repairing themselves. Thankfully Saiyans healed remarkably fast, and between the aid of the medication and his own body's abilities, the process was beginning to pick up speed.

The Prince sat up carefully, and regarded Nappa with an annoyed look. "Wasn't the Earthling supposed to be here by now?"

"Yeah, but I haven't seen her. The bitch probably got caught or something." The big Saiyan responded, careful to sound as nonchalant as possible. He didn't dare mention his earlier conversation with the woman, and how he had sent her away on the premise that Vegeta was the one who didn't want her there. He was beginning to spin a dangerous web of his own, and he was hoping it wouldn't backfire on him. "I'll just give you your meds and then I'm out to go find some grub, I'm starvin'."

"Tch. Stupid Earthling." Vegeta replied, he was quite good at deciphering when someone wasn't being entirely honest, and he sensed that Nappa might not be giving him the full story. He decided to leave it unmentioned for the time being. "Just get this over with. I think by tomorrow I won't need it any longer."

"If you believe you'll be alright by then, then fine. But you'll need those bandages changed out soon, and regularly for a while, I think. Avoiding infection is important." Nappa coached, as he prepped the syringe and injected it into the Prince's awaiting arm. "There. I sent Raditz out to get your dinner, hopefully he will bring you something better than that slop he brought you for lunch. I'm out to get my own now, you bet it won't be nasty like that." He laughed as he rose and moved toward the door.

Vegeta rolled his eyes and settled back into the bed as Nappa disappeared into the other room, and he heard the main door slam as the big Saiyan left their quarters in search of a meal. The Prince was beginning to feel a little stir crazy, perhaps tomorrow he'd get up and move around a little. His legs hadn't been injured, but the aches and pains from ki based lashings were enough to spread through his entire body, keeping the desire to stay in bed around up until now.

He sighed, and after a few minutes of lying there staring out the small porthole in his room watching the stars speed by, he heard a knock on his door.

"Hey, uh, Geets, it's me, Raditz. I've got your supper. Can I come in?" The longhaired Saiyan asked.

"Yeah yeah, get your ass in here. I need food to keep my strength up." Vegeta growled, and pulled himself up to a comfortable sitting position again.

Raditz came in, carefully balancing a tray of food in one hand and closing the door behind him with the other. "Here you go, some meat, vegetables I've never seen before, and two loaves of bread. I know it's not a ton, but it is all they'd let me get for you. Our credits are running low." He told the Prince, hanging his head.

"I'm not surprised, I'm sure Frieza put a hold on our earnings after that last purge." Vegeta said, irritated.

Raditz set the tray of food on the bedside table, and Vegeta snatched up a loaf of bread, taking a large bite out of it.

"Hey...uh, Geets...can I talk to you about something? I feel like you have the right to know."

"Hm? Speak."

"Earlier this afternoon, the bluehead came by. Nappa opened the door for her, and told her that you said you didn't want to see her and didn't want her help any longer. He also said that she should stop meddling with things." Raditz paused, and he watched Vegeta's face go stony, mid bite. "I think he was just trying to protect you, since that’s always been his duty, but I know you didn't say those things. I heard you agree that you wouldn't go along with her crazy escape plan….but I know you didn't say you didn't want her help anymore.”

The Saiyan Prince remained silent for a few moments, and Raditz' nerves skyrocketed.

"Please don't kill me, Vegeta. Or Nappa…" he trailed off.

"I'm not going to kill you, you imbecile. But Nappa...Nappa is another story. Protecting me or not, it was not his place to fill my mouth with words I have never spoken. I absolutely agree that the woman's escape scheme is absurd, and shouldn't be trusted. But she helped me. Nappa had no place." Vegeta snarled.

"I...I just thought you should know." Raditz replied, his gaze on his feet.

"Thank you, at least one of you fools is still loyal." The Prince snapped, shoveling meat into his mouth and speaking between bites.

"Except...I think Nappa might be right, I think you may have bonded with the woman…" but before Raditz could finish his sentence, Vegeta's aura had flared up and was pulsating around him.

"Don't even start, now get out of my quarters!" The Prince raged. While he may have somewhat accepted it internally, he was not even close to ready to admit such a thing to his comrades. The infuriating blush that always came when he thought of the Earthling woman in such a way began to flush across his cheekbones, and he angrily shoved another bite of meat into his mouth.

Raditz had scrambled towards the doorway, but before he exited, he turned one more time. "Vegeta, just remember, we're on your side. I don't know why Nappa would have sent her away if he too thought you'd bonded with her, but that's his business. I don't believe her intentions are poor, but she might be a little crazy. Well, crazy might be an understatement, but at least she's sexy, right? I mean, that hair and that…" Once again, before he could finish, he was cut off by the second loaf of bread flying across the room and connecting with his face. Before Vegeta could get any angrier, he ducked out the door and quickly shut it behind him, leaving a fuming Prince in his wake.

Vegeta had half a mind to throw all caution to the wind, storm out to find Nappa, and blast him into oblivion, but the Prince knew better than that. Even though he may have been justified in whatever cause of action he felt he needed to take for his comrade's disloyalty, Frieza would have the final say. Folly on his ship was never greeted with kind and open arms, regardless of the circumstances. The Saiyan growled angrily, and scarfed down the rest of his food. Both of the other two Saiyans were useless most of the time, except for their purges. If it wasn't for that, and the fact that the three of them were literally the only remaining Saiyans in the universe, he probably would have killed them long ago.

And with what Nappa pulled today, infuriated Vegeta to no end. Who was he to make decisions for the Prince? Maybe when he was a young boy, making decisions for him was acceptable, but not when Vegeta was fully grown adult and capable of making his own rational decisions. Perhaps Nappa believed the Prince's choice would be irrational, but even so, it was not his place. The desire to kill him was running strong, but Vegeta grit his teeth and resolved that now wasn't the time. He needed those two idiots, more than he'd like to admit.

The medicine had done a fine job of making him blissfully drowsy once again, and the Prince found himself lying face down into his pillow. His mind was drifting between two things before sleep claimed him, the blue haired Earthling, and despite his attempts to think about something else, escape.

____________

 

The next morning the three Saiyans were roused by the simultaneous beeping of their scouters, indicating a message was transmitting. Vegeta hissed loudly, and a hand flew out from beneath his blanket to snatch the scouter and silence it. He could hear rustling in the other room as Nappa and Raditz scrambled to quiet their devices as well, and he was certain he heard a few obscenities escape their mouths as they did. He shared the sentiment. They knew what the beeping meant, and they were none too pleased.

It had not even been a full day since Vegeta had been brutally lashed by Frieza, and here he was, demanding they come to the bridge right away. The Saiyans knew exactly what that meant: orders. They would no doubt receive their orders for their next purge. They'd likely ship out in forty eight or seventy two hours. How Frieza thought Vegeta had even remotely had time to heal by now, was a joke. Especially without the use of a tank. But they knew he loved punishment, and putting them at any risk of screwing up once again was worth it for the lizard. Vegeta snarled angrily as he sat up, setting his bare feet onto the cold hull of the ship for the first time since his injuries. He stretched, and he felt the sinewy muscle of his back tug tightly as they worked to knit back together into an angry and reddened network of scars.

They had an hour until they needed to report before Frieza, so Vegeta stood, gauging his strength. For better or worse, he had no doubt gained another zen kai from the ordeal, but there were still twinges of pain radiating out from his wounds. Putting on a battle suit over them was the last thing he wanted to do, but he didn't have much of a choice. Slowly crossing the room, he picked up a small bag that held an extra suit and pulled it out. Carefully, he shucked off what remained of his old suit, and pulled on the new one slowly. Wincing in pain, he worked his way into it, pushing his arms through the tight yet flexible material. Once it was on he pulled on his boots and then subsequently his gloves, and wiped away a smudge of dried blood, sneering at it as if doing so made any difference.

The Prince finished up by putting on his armor, and clicking his scouter into place on his head. With a snort of derision, he made his way to the door and went through to face his comrades.

Raditz looked up immediately and his eyes widened in surprise at seeing their prince up and about. "Vegeta, are you alright? We were just going to come in and see how you were doing."

"I'm assuming my presence speaks for itself." Vegeta replied, curtly. His stomach rumbled loudly, but there was no time for a full meal. Raditz heard it, and dug through his bag wordlessly, and a brief moment later tossed Vegeta one of the meal bars he despised so much.

"I know you hate them, but at least it's something, right?" The long haired Saiyan said, with a shrug of his shoulders.

Vegeta nodded, and then turned and leveled Nappa with an almost deathly glare. "You. I don't care whether or not you've been my father's right hand man for years and my sworn protector...you had no right. What you did yesterday was out of line. I would kill you here and now, but I don't dare trifle with Frieza's temper any more than I already seemingly have as of late. So, consider yourself more than lucky that you get to live."

The big Saiyan had gone rigid, staring at the floor. "I...I was just trying to ensure your safety."

"Nappa. Stop. I am old enough to make my own decisions. While the Earthling's schemes might be out of sorts and dealings we want no part in, you lied on my behalf. That is unacceptable. You spoke words for me that I did not. If you believe in this "bonding" thing you speak of so much, I am unsure of why you would do such a thing. That is not to say I believe in it, but even if I did, your choice does not make much sense to me." Vegeta snarled.

"Vegeta, listen, she's an Earthling. Completing a bonding with her would be wrong, and not to mention stupid. I mentioned it because I saw the signs, not because I thought you should continue it. You are Saiyan Royalty, you of all people should know better than to taint the bloodline." Nappa snapped in reply.

The Prince held up a hand, signaling he had heard enough. "I grow tired of listening to your yapping. My point is, you fucked up, Nappa. You're lucky I haven’t killed you right here, right now. And even if I did want to bond with her, it isn't your choice. There are no more Saiyan females left, so a pure bloodline is not an option. But, regardless, I am not interested in breeding or bonding anyway, so get that shit out of your head. Signs or no signs. The woman has proven useful, that is the only reason I have allowed her continued presence. And thanks to you, you've chased her off." He paused. "Now, I don't want to hear another word from you, do you hear?"

Nappa just nodded, knowing better than to reply. Raditz had sat uncomfortably during the whole exchange, and cringed as Vegeta's eyes landed on him.

"Raditz, thank you for your loyalty in telling me what happened. At least I can trust one of you to be truthful. Now, since there is some new and surfacing unrest between this crew, and we no doubt will be given purge orders, I expect that none of these personal issues will carry over to our work and to the mission. Is that clear?" Vegeta asked, face stony and arms crossed.

"Yes sir." Both Saiyans replied in unison.

"Good. Now let's go. We don't dare be late." The Prince ordered, stalking past the other two toward the main door and quickly exiting, the other two right on his heels, not daring to anger their leader any further.

The three Saiyans made their way to the bridge, each one internally dreading the meeting. There was never a time where meeting with Frieza was pleasant, regardless of the circumstances. They met Appule at the large doors, who looked at them pointedly, his gaze eventually landing on Vegeta.

"Oh, I'm surprised to see you up and moving so soon, monkey, after that beating you got from Lord Frieza and Zarbon." He said, laughing.

Vegeta steeled himself, and reined in the desire to punch the long headed alien's face through the door.

"We're here for an audience with Lord Frieza. Please grant us entry." The Prince requested through gritted teeth.

"Fine, fine. Go in, he has been waiting for you. Good thing you're early." Another round of laughter, as Appule opened the door. Again, Vegeta refrained from sending the weaker creature flying. He didn't dare play that game.

The three Saiyans filed into the room, Nappa nervously wringing his large hands, and Raditz' eyes darting to and fro. Vegeta was the only one who wasn't outwardly showing anxiety, but inside, his nerves were shot. His veins felt like fire and his guts felt like goo, just like each time he came before Frieza, knowing he'd either be beaten or humiliated in some way or another.

The lizard tyrant was standing, sans hovercraft, across the room. He was peering out the large windows, and Zarbon stood beside him, speaking quietly. Noticing the presence of the trio of Saiyans, they both turned.

"Ah, my favorite group of simians, I see you received my message in good time. I appreciate your prompt arrival." Frieza trilled in his high voice, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. "Now, do come a little closer, we have an order of business to discuss."

The three Saiyans cautiously moved closer toward the lizard, stopping when there were only a handful of yards between them.

"I see you have healed rather quickly, Prince Vegeta. Or are you just hiding your pain, as you monkeys do so well?" Zarbon asked, a sneering smile on his face.

Vegeta narrowed his eyes at the tall green man. "Saiyans heal rapidly."

"Well, Lord Frieza, perhaps he doesn't need the use of a regeneration tank ever again, don’t you think? If he says they heal so rapidly?" Zarbon queried, looking at the tyrant curiously.

"Hmm, well, that would free up my resources some, it would indeed." Frieza said, tapping his chin in thought.

"Lord Frieza...if I may interject…" Nappa asked, clearing his throat loudly.

"Ah, hmm? Speak, monkey." Frieza granted, his red eyes landing on the big Saiyan, regarding him carefully.

Vegeta shot Nappa a glare of his own.

"This last injury of Vegeta's was an easier one to heal from. Others that he has received...have not been so easy. Denying access to the tank would surely kill him if things continue as they have." Nappa explained, choosing his words carefully.

"So you think? How about this...you three monkeys do your damn jobs and we will go from there. If you succeed and do well, yet sustain injuries, it will be discussed at the time of the injury. Until then, I will grant your incapable asses nothing. If your stunt on the last planet is proof of anything, your Prince does not deserve access to a regeneration tank."

"Now...speaking of jobs. I have a planet that needs purging in preparation for terraforming. It is planet P928c, in quadrant 26, which we will be entering in the next 24 hours. You will ship out in 72 hours, and have three days to complete the purge, return and report back. Planet data shows that there is no indigenous life on the planet, just some large dinosaurs and large sea creatures that will need to be exterminated before we can begin the terraforming process. I trust that you can handle a simple task such as this? Considering a single primitive arrow was enough to derail your last task?" Frieza chided, a smirk appearing on his face.

Vegeta's fists balled up in frustration and anger, hating that he was once again being mocked. "Yes, my lord, we can handle it. It will be done as you desire." The Prince replied, though still gritted teeth.

"Good. I am sending through the request for your pods to be readied, I suggest you go and prepare so that we do not have a repeat of last time, eh?" Frieza responded, tilting his head with a smile, and turned back toward the windows. "Zarbon, please see these monkeys out."

"With pleasure, my lord." Zarbon replied, quickly striding past the Saiyans and gesturing for them to follow.

When they reached the doorway, Zarbon held the door for them as they exited. "Now, Vegeta, don't fuck this up. I'd hate to have to punish you again." He said, his airy giggle almost sending Vegeta over the edge. The Prince barely restrained himself as they continued back toward their quarters to prepare for their next mission.

____________

Bulma had reported to work on time that morning, as usual, Beck and her had been working on the repair of a ship's thruster system when the Namekian's tablet beeped loudly. He grabbed it, and read the incoming transmission.

"Hey, little one, I'm going to need to let you finish this up, do you think you can handle it?" Beck asked.

"Yeah, what's up? Sounds urgent if you're needing to ditch this." The heiress replied, looking at him questioningly.

"Lord Frieza requests that the Saiyan pods be inspected and readied for a mission. Usually the requests come from Vegeta, but...this time Frieza put the order through. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it." Beck said, resting a finger on his lip, reading over the order once more.

"Do you need help? We could knock out the pod inspections quicker together, I think." She asked.

"No, it says here specifically that I am the only one to work on them. I'm not certain why." He paused, and looked over at Bulma, regarding her carefully. "You stay here, and finish repairing the system on this thruster engine, and I'll go get through the pods. If you are still working on this when I get back, I'll help you finish up, okay?"

Bulma nodded, and swallowed thickly. Maybe it was nothing, but it seemed strange they wouldn't allow her to work on the pods. And the way Beck had looked at her, it seemed as if he really did know something. But what? And how? The Namekian rose from his seated position and grabbed his tool bag, disappearing from the room, leaving the confused heiress to mull over her thoughts on her own.

Chapter Text

The Saiyan pods had been inspected and readied within twenty four hours after the request had been put in by Frieza, and Vegeta was finishing up making the plan for the mission. He was never one to overcomplicate things, but he didn't like to go into a purge without at least some sort of idea or strategy. The Prince had been held up in his room for hours, but he found it challenging to stay focused on his plans. He had made some headway, despite the fact his mind continued to wander.

He was still angry with Nappa for lying to the woman, and he'd struggled with an internal conflict over whether or not he should go find her and explain. Knowing that his focus needed to be solely on the upcoming purge mission, he shook that notion out of his head and figured there would come a time to discuss it later. And it didn't help that the memories from the last purge kept flooding back to him as well...the last thing he needed was for her to continue distracting him. The worst part being, she didn't even have the slightest clue she was affecting him in such a way.

Vegeta knew better, and he did his best to delve into his plans. Eventually, he finished up a basic mission plan and leaned back in his seat with a yawn. They had less than 48 hours remaining until they'd ship out, and he intended to do some katas to stretch out his muscles, hopefully find a good meal, and sleep. He sighed and rose up, heading out into their shared quarters to go over the plan he'd finished with his two comrades.

After quickly running them through the game plan, he decided to head down to the mess hall in hopes of a meal. Knowing full well of his credit situation, he didn't expect much, but perhaps he'd get lucky. It was late in the day, and maybe there was some extra food lying about that he could convince someone to share with him.

The Prince made his way through the dark corridors and as he entered the mess hall, he heard a voice he recognized. The Earth woman was seated at a table in the corner, with her two companions, the ones from back in her days in the laundry center. She was talking animatedly with the tall pink skinned alien, while the small round one listened intently. He wasn't certain what they were discussing, as the din created by the other diners was too loud and masked their conversation. Vegeta suddenly forgot his original quest of finding food, and quickly found a spot nearby the females where he hoped he wouldn't be spotted. He sat at a table and ducked his head down, appearing to be focused on his scouter. Instead, he was dialing in his keen Saiyan hearing to listen in on the blue haired woman's conversation.

"I don't know why he wouldn't let me do the pre flight inspection on the pods, Lysea, it just doesn't make any sense. I helped him with the last inspection, and he taught me how to do everything." The woman said, looking at the pink skinned alien for her input.

"That does seem strange, Bulma. Are you absolutely certain he doesn't know anything? You have been sneaking around an awful lot lately, and if there is one thing I know about Beck, he appreciates honesty and trustworthiness. You haven't mentioned anything to him about your meetings with the Saiyans, right? I've known Beck for a long time, we've been crew members on various ships for years until we ended up here on Frieza's command ship, and another thing I've learned is that he doesn't take kindly to the Saiyans, especially Prince Vegeta. He doesn't like how rude they are, and how aggressive they can be." Lysea explained quietly, as she took a few bites of her soup.

Vegeta gritted his teeth. He knew Beck was a Namekian, they were peaceful people, it didn't come as a surprise that he didn't like their aggressiveness. But the Prince was curious why the Namekian had such a problem with him specifically, as they'd had very little interactions beyond the authorizations and signing off of pod maintenance and pre-flight inspections.

"Yeah, Beck has told me a handful of times that he dislikes the Saiyans, and that I should stay away from them because they are trouble. That playing with fire will get me burned, as he likes to say." Bulma replied, rolling her eyes.

"You know, Bulma, sometimes I wonder if you don't have that genetically wired 'danger' sensor somewhere in that body of yours. It seems that the vast majority of alien species have it, and most know when they're wading through dangerous waters. You, on the other hand, seem to dive headlong into them. It is as if you don't have something like that. Is that just an Earthling thing?" Lysea asked with a giggle.

"Oh shush, Lysea. I have something like that, yes, and trust me, it does work. Just...not with the Saiyans, and not with Vegeta. I can't tell you why though. But it was certainly working when I had to go meet with Frieza. Let me tell you, all I wanted to do was run and run far away." Bulma answered, giving Melly a soft pat on the head to reassure her that they knew she was still there.

Vegeta continued to listen intently, and was trying to discern why the Namekian would have denied the Earth woman the ability to work on their pods. Sure, the Prince had nagged her about how efficient she'd been with their inspection before their last purge, but it was more of a teasing behavior than an actual threat, if he had to admit it to himself. She had done quite well prepping his pod, and he would have no qualms against her maintaining it in the future. As long as it wouldn't raise suspicions, he had half a mind to go ask the Namekian his reasoning. But clearly, something was amiss and he didn't want to stir the pot any further.

"Well, that's at least encouraging that you were afraid of Frieza...I mean, who isn't? If you aren't, you're crazy." Lysea muttered, quietly.

"Yeah, for sure. Listen, I was thinking of sneaking into the pod bay tonight. I want to double check the pods and make sure nothing weird is going on." Bulma said, extra quietly.

She said it so quietly that Vegeta barely heard her, but once he registered what she had said, his eyes widened. This girl wanted to play with fire, indeed. Not with the Saiyans in particular in this case, but with all the sneaking around she was doing, she was bound to get caught. Especially in the pod bay, since Frieza typically had that area patrolled quite frequently. The Prince low growled, as a wave of unexpected protectiveness flooded over him. He didn't want to see her get caught, or worse.

"Bulma, you're crazy. Someone will catch you, and you'll end up either dead, or locked up in the brig!" Lysea hissed, narrowing her eyes at the Earthling.

"You don't understand, I need to know what's going on, and I feel like there has to be some sort of clue there! I don't want to not trust Beck, but I feel like he's hiding something!" She snapped back.

"Fine, do what you want, but don't blame us when you get caught. Let's go, Melly. I think it's time to head back to our room." The pink skinned alien sighed and rose, followed by the smaller round alien. They both eyed Bulma with cautious regards, and she stared back at them firmly. She was their friend, yes, but she knew she had to do this.

Once the Earthling's friends were out of the mess hall, she stood and began towards the doorway, shifting her glances around the room. Vegeta waited until she'd disappeared into the corridor outside before he rose from his seat, and followed her quietly.

The Prince tailed her cautiously as she snuck through the darkened passages, watching her from the shadows as she carefully peeked around each corner to ensure that there was no one in her way. He had learned the art of sneaking around many years ago here on Frieza's ships, and it had served him well. The Earthling on the other hand was no expert by any means, her footsteps were loud and she was not mindful of her own shadows.

Eventually she came upon the pod bay, and when she was certain there was no one around, Vegeta watched as she quickly removed the cover on the keypad and bypassed some wires, triggering the pod bay doors to open. She ducked in quickly, and before they shut behind her, he too followed suit. The bay itself was pitch black, save for the soft glow of the pod interiors, signaling they were connected and charging on the system. The Prince pinned his body against the wall, and allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness for a moment.

He controlled his breathing to longer, quiet breaths, but was abruptly interrupted by the pod bay doors opening a second time, revealing one of Frieza's other top ranking soldiers, Cui. The other alien overrode the door code, and as he did, Vegeta stepped out into the light from the doorway.

"Ah, Cui, can you help me, I can't get the lights to turn on here in the bay. I came to check on the status of my pod, as I ship out for a purge in about 36 hours." The Prince asked, trying to remain as casual as possible.

Cui narrowed his eyes at the Saiyan, and clicked his tongue. "Oddly convenient timing, eh, monkey? I just happened to be coming down the hallway when I noticed the bay doors closing. This time of day, it seemed strange anyone would be in here. The lights are on a timer, you should know that. They'll turn back on sometime in the early hours of tomorrow. Checking the status of a pod so late? What are you up to, Vegeta?"

"Trying to save myself time tomorrow, I have things I need to complete. I received the transmission saying our pods had gone through their inspections successfully earlier this evening, but I always prefer to check them over myself after inspection as well. Just a habit, I guess." The Prince explained, nonchalant. He took a quick glance around the bay now that his eyes had adjusted to the dark, and noticed the Earthling tucked up carefully beneath one of the pods. He was particularly grateful at that moment that Cui's species had inferior eyesight.

"Ah, I see. Well, get your shit done quickly and get out of here. I don't have time to babysit you and I expect you can manage yourself. If not, you'll find that Frieza will find out faster than you can spell Arcose." Cui responded with a chuckle. "Smell you later, monkey."

The pod bay doors closed behind the alien, and the room was once again awash in only the lightly pulsating glow of the pods. Vegeta remained unmoving and silent for a few moments, trying to calm his rising anger after Cui's slew of insults. That, and the fact that he had to chase after this crazy Earthling out here in the first place. What in the hell was he doing?

The Prince turned toward the pod that Bulma was hiding under. "I know you're in here, Earth Woman. No sense in hiding. Listen to me, you're going to get yourself killed. Whatever nonsense you have planted in your mind, get it out now. I'm not sure what you think is going on, and I don't know either, but what I do know, is that even if something IS going on, you need to stay out of it. You're already too far in it." Vegeta snapped. "I followed you from the mess hall because I overheard your conversation with your friends. Let this be a lesson to you, that if I overheard, it is very possible someone else did too. No one is safe on this ship. Do you understand?"

The heiress had slowly emerged from beneath the pod, and now stood a few feet away from the Saiyan.

"Yeah...I guess so. You really heard us?" Bulma asked quietly.

"Yes, I did. I will admit I have above average hearing, and moved rather close so I could listen in, but I had a reason for that." Vegeta responded, voice flat and devoid of emotion.

"Oh yeah? Listening in on someone's conversation is acceptable? And so is telling someone that their help is no longer needed after all I did for you?" Bulma hissed, shooting a glare at him.

He returned the glare. "I owe you an explanation about that, but first, yes, listening in on your conversation is acceptable, because clearly your decision making capabilities are lacking. Even your friends realized that. Had I not followed you, Cui likely would have caught you. You are lucky I was able to distract him, and he didn't think to scan the room with his scouter for power levels. Even with a power level as low as a common house fly, you would not be able to hide from a scouter scan." Vegeta snapped back, crossing his arms and leveling her with a firm stare.

"Oh...you...you….just shut up!" Bulma all but yelled, balling her fists up and shaking a hand at the Prince.

He just chuckled, and rolled his eyes. "Very funny. Now, what Nappa told you the other day, he lied. He never spoke to me before speaking with you, and frankly, I'm pissed that he put words in my mouth. Let me make one thing clear, I am appreciative for your help. I did expect you to come back, and was surprised when you didn't. Raditz informed me of what Nappa had told you." He paused. "We didn't have the medical supplies to get me through the initial healing without your assistance. So for that, I owe you. But, you must understand that no one gets by Frieza and his goons. Whatever game you're playing at, you need to stop, Woman, before you end up getting yourself killed. I can't, and won't, be around to defend you each time. I stuck my neck out for you tonight, here with Cui. I'm lucky he believed me or I'd likely already be on the chopping block with Frieza."

Bulma just looked at him, but didn't reply.

"Now...we got orders for another purge, as you know. We ship out in about 36 hours. I intend to make sure this one goes as planned. Listen, you need to go back to your quarters, and stop this. That's the last time I'm going to say it. For your own safety. I've let this go too far, Woman. It needs to end here. Your help has been appreciated, but this...camaraderie is over. Do I make myself clear?"

The heiress met his onyx eyes, hers blazing with frustration and anger. For a brief second, his heart clenched at the thought of sending her away under the impression of not seeing her again, but he knew it was for the best. If he ever intended to survive in this game of pawns called the PTO, it was what he needed to do. He could no longer afford the distractions, or the risk.

Bulma still didn't respond, but she threw her clenched fists down at her sides and strode up to the Prince, holding his gaze the whole time. After a moment's pause, she flung both arms around his neck, and buried her face into the surprisingly soft but strong material of his armor.

Vegeta's eyes flew wide, and his body steeled beneath her soft hold. He knew it would take almost none of his power to push her off and away, but her scent was overwhelming and before he knew what he was doing, he had brought a hand up and rested it on her soft blue hair.

"Please be careful, Vegeta." She murmured into his chest. "Even if you don't want to see me any longer, don't let yourself get hurt." She paused for a moment, taking an unsteady breath. "You know where to find me if you change your mind about anything."

She lifted her face up and met his eyes once more, before pulling back from the embrace. Without another word, she all but ran out of the bay.

Vegeta was momentarily stunned, standing riveted in place. Even after she had gone, he could swear he still smelled her, that same sweet fragrance he remembered from the dream he'd had in the pod. Part of him felt guilty, guilty for turning her away, but he knew if he didn't focus, the consequences would be dire. He quickly gathered up his thoughts and turned on his heel, exiting the bay.

____________

The morning of their launch came quickly, and the three Saiyans were standing in front of their pods, waiting for Zarbon to give them takeoff clearance. Vegeta had already debriefed his comrades, and they were ready for the mission.

"I won't accept any mistakes, do you two understand?" Vegeta pressed, voice oddly even and calm.

"Yes, Prince Vegeta. It seems this should be simple, if it is just a planet full of braindead animals." Nappa said, voice full of snark.

"Don't get cocky, Nappa. That is what gets you in trouble sometimes. To assume things and then find out otherwise is like grabbing a sword, unknowing that it is double edged." Vegeta chided, checking the time on his scouter. Any minute now they should receive their clearance to load into the pods and take off.

Planet P928c was about 9 hours worth of travel from where they currently were, a much shorter distance than they usually traveled for purges. For such a short trip, stasis wasn't necessary, unless they wanted to make it go faster. The three Saiyans had discussed not using stasis this time around, as they felt it made them groggy upon awakening, and they'd rather be in top condition after their last purge. Even if it was a planet of only animals, they couldn't be too prepared just in case. Regular sleep wasn't as disconcerting as stasis gases, so if they needed a nap, they'd rely on their own abilities for sleep.

Raditz was impatiently drumming his fingers on the side of his pod, waiting, as Nappa shifted his weight uncomfortably.

"I just want to get this done and over with." The big Saiyan muttered, eyes on the floor.

"Don't we all." Vegeta snapped.

Finally, Zarbon's voice came over the comm system, telling them they were clear for launch. All three Saiyans climbed into their pods, booting up the systems and preparing for take off. Their communication systems came online one by one, they tested the comm links, and checked their navigation maps, putting in P928c's coordinates.

Once all was ready, Vegeta sent a confirmation to the bridge, requesting final permission to launch. Their permission was granted, and the 60 second launch countdown began. He ran through their final launch procedures, verbally confirming the nav and comm system connections, checking in with his comrades as the pods released from the overhead cabling system in the docking bays.
The countdown finally hit zero, and the pods launched into the darkness of space.

Little did the Prince know, there was a small blue haired Earth woman watching the three Saiyan pods speed off into the stars from a tiny porthole outside the engineering department, hoping that they'd come back safely.

Chapter Text

As the Saiyan pods hurled through space towards their destination, Vegeta drummed his fingers on the cold metal wall as he watched the stars fly by. He wasn't a fan of transits like this where he couldn't use stasis, it made for a long boring trip, talking to Nappa and Raditz was nothing but useless banter about how they wanted to ravage some females or drink themselves stupid. Both were things that Vegeta found no interest in.

He had shut the comm link off a short time ago, saying he wanted sleep, but really he just didn't want to hear their silly chatter any longer. It was time for the Prince to focus, or at least attempt to get his thoughts back on track. They were about two hours away from arrival on planet P928c and he intended to be in top shape, even if there weren't any indigenous people to be concerned about. There was no room whatsoever for any sort of failure.

Each time his mind tried to wander to the blue haired Earth Woman, he grit his teeth and redirected it. His mind was incessantly trying to bring up those last few moments they'd shared in the pod bay before she'd run off, but he refused to let the thoughts linger. It was an uphill battle, because he could almost feel her soft arms draped around him still, her warm presence and her scent. But no, now was not the time. He shook his head, ridding the thoughts.

"I must focus!" Vegeta growled, balling his hands into fists. He made a decision, and slipped the comm link back on. "Nappa, Raditz, distract me." He snapped.

"Distract you...from what?" Raditz' cheeky voice came across the link.

"Nevermind that. Just talk, you moron." Vegeta replied with a huff.

"Uh, okay. Nappa and I were just discussing the next planet the ship would be landing on, rumor has it it'll be on the planet Marlek. Have you been there, Vegeta?" The long haired Saiyan asked.

"Hm, the name sounds familiar, but I don't really recall anything about it in particular." He responded, trying to remember if he'd been there or not.

"Oh. Well, it sounds like we are supposed to be landing there in a few weeks. Frieza called for a restock of the ship's goods." Raditz explained.

"It'll probably be another short dock stay, likely no more than twenty four hours. You know how Frieza is, he doesn't allow more time for anyone to do anything. So don't get your hopes up, I know what you both are wanting, if your earlier conversations were any indication." Vegeta said with a derisive snort. "One of these days either one or both of you are going to end up with some incurable disease from bedding some female. Perverts."

"Hey now, come on Vegeta. We've been stuck on this ship for so long, we're deprived! And we aren't that careless!" Nappa interjected. "We've been around the block a time or two."

"Yeah, and that's what scares me." Vegeta said sarcastically.

"I still don't get how you have zero interest in any of that stuff, Geets!" Raditz chimed in, with a chuckle.

"Tch. I have more important things to be concerned with." Vegeta snapped back, defensively.

"Well, Rads, I wouldn't say he's got zero interest, he has definitely had his attention on that Earth bitch." Nappa chirped, a little too enthusiastically for Vegeta's liking.

The Prince snarled angrily over the comm link. "Shut your face, Nappa! You're already in enough hot water, don't you think? Making me angrier might not be in your best interest."

"But you're not denying it."

"I didn't say I was denying it. However the whole point of reconnecting my comm link to you two numbskulls was to distract myself from thinking of her, and yet, here we are. Think what you will, but it's time to discuss something else. For a second I thought you both might have had something more important to bring up, but clearly, you’ve proved me wrong." Vegeta sighed.

The three Saiyans shifted into discussing their mission plans one more time before landing, and it wasn't long before the navigation systems on each pod chimed to signal they were on their final approach to the planet. Vegeta cut off the comm link for the final time, checked his restraint systems before the abrupt landing into the planet, and hit the landing sequence authorization button.

The pod quickly entered the atmosphere, shaking as it went, and eventually collided with the planet's surface. The door hissed as it opened, and Vegeta hopped out, taking a look around. The planet appeared surprisingly hospitable from his vantage point, the atmosphere from the surface appeared a clearish blue green color, and he had landed in a large, grassy field. Well, what had been a large, grassy field, as his pod had left a big and indented smoldering crater. Nappa and Raditz' pods had landed about a half a mile apart from his, on either side. To their north there was a tall mountain range, capped with snow, and to the south, what appeared to be forested land.

A few minutes later, his comrades landed beside him. Vegeta pressed the button on his scouter, running a search to find where the creatures Frieza's report had mentioned were. The first scan revealed a grouping of low power levels near the mountains, and a second scan revealed another grouping of low power levels in the opposite direction.

"Alright, just like we planned, we will each take a quadrant and take down any life forms. Understood? Thankfully I don't think we will have any issues with communications on this planet, so if you run into any problems, just send a message." Vegeta explained.

"You got it, boss." Raditz replied, saluting awkwardly.

Vegeta sighed. "Just...stop. You're an embarrassment."

"Fine...fine. See ya later, Geets!" Raditz said, before taking off into the air. Nappa took off in the other direction, shortly after.

The Saiyan Prince took to the air as well, and flew toward the mountains, where he'd picked up the first grouping of power levels. It wasn't long before he had covered the distance, and found a herd of four legged dinosaur-like creatures, eating leaves off the trees. After quickly eliminating them, he moved on and found a smaller group of creatures swimming in a nearby lake, which took nearly no time at all to put an end to. It was like a one sided game of hide and seek, and he found it rather entertaining.

Vegeta flew up and into the mountains, and the wind was whipping snow off the peaks into his face as he soared by. Once he'd cleared the tallest peak, he landed on a snowy outcropping and brushed snow out of his hair and off his armor. He pressed the button, running another scan. The scan took longer this time, but eventually picked up on something.

"This can't be right." Vegeta muttered. He pressed the button again, and re-scanned the area, getting the same result. "Stupid thing, you've worked just fine in colder conditions. Space is colder than this. What the hell!"

For the third time, he pressed the button, and the result was the same.

He pushed the button and connected the comm link to Raditz and Nappa. "Hey, you two. I'm picking up a grouping of rather high power levels over here. Higher than what Frieza's report ever mentioned for anything on the planet. I am certain I can take whatever it is alone, but I thought I'd make you aware just in case."

"Yeah, we gotcha. I'll head that way." Raditz replied.

Vegeta didn't reply, but cut off the link and leapt off the outcropping, flying down toward the power sources. The air on this side of the mountains was foggy and cool, and as he descended through the fog and out into clear air, he noticed tendrils of smoke curling upward in the distance. As he grew nearer, he saw a small grouping of houses, created from stone and wood. Landing in a small flush of trees nearby, he tucked himself up against the trunk of a large tree where he could observe temporarily. He wanted to know what he was up against before he went barreling in. The Prince refused to make any rash decisions that might result in a mistake this time around.

Eventually, Vegeta heard a noise, and a door to one of the small rudimentary homes opened. A small female stepped out, hair dark and spiky. The Saiyan Prince's eyes went wide. As the female walked toward the fire pit, his heart all but stopped. She had a tail. It was swaying lazily behind her as she set a cooking pot on top of the fire. A few moments later, a second figure joined her, a tall male, also with spiky black hair...and another tail. The male had a scarred cheek, and he bent down to leave a soft kiss on the forehead of the female before heading off toward the woods.

Vegeta stiffened as the tall male came near, and the male must have sensed his presence as well, as he too stopped and stood alert.

"Who's out there? Show yourself!" The male yelled, and Vegeta watched as the female by the fire quickly crouched down and her tail wound up around her waist, as she glanced around nervously.

The Prince hesitated for a moment. Clearly, these people were Saiyans, just like himself. They wore traditional Saiyan armor, he had noticed, as well. But, why were they here? Would they want to kill him when they found out who he was? He knew he wouldn't be able to hide for long, and the thoughts of allowing them to live was already in direct defiance of his orders to eliminate all life on the planet. But these were his people, how could he kill them?

Vegeta slowly stepped out from behind the tree, and he watched as the tall male Saiyan dropped into a defensive position.

"Who are you? What are you doing here?" The other Saiyan growled angrily.

Vegeta let his hands fall to his sides, and allowed his tail to unfurl from around his waist. It fell loosely behind him, and he gave it a soft swing for emphasis.

The other Saiyan left his defensive stance, and his eyes widened in surprise. "You're...you're a Saiyan?"

Vegeta took a few steps toward him. "Yes. I am Prince Vegeta, son of Vegeta the Third. I am a captive of Frieza...I was sent here to purge this planet, but I discovered you. I've only been observing for a few minutes. Is it just you and the other female?" He asked.

The other Saiyan audibly gasped. "You look just like your father…" he trailed off for a moment. "Oh, uh, no. There are four others besides myself and my mate, Gine, the woman by the fire." He explained. "My name is Bardock."

Bardock turned to Gine. "Gine, please get the others."

She nodded, and quickly disappeared.

"Bardock, eh? I know I've heard that name before." Vegeta said, thinking of where he'd heard it, but his thoughts were interrupted by Raditz landing beside him.

"I know where you've heard that name. Bardock is my father." Raditz said, a wide grin on his face. "I thought you were dead, old man."

"Raditz, is that really you? You've grown so much since I've seen you last. And...yeah, we survived the planet's explosion, but just barely. We were able to board a ship and get out just before Frieza blew it up." Bardock explained, as he closed the distance between himself and his son, giving him a firm hug and releasing him, then punching him firmly in the shoulder. Raditz barely flinched. "Good, you're tough too, boy."

"Yeah…" Raditz said, scratching his head as he laughed.

"Wait...you said Frieza blew up the planet?" Vegeta's voice cut in.

"Yes, why?" Bardock replied, looking over at the Prince.

Vegeta's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I heard a rumor that it was Frieza that destroyed it. I just never got confirmation that it was actually him. How dare he destroy my planet and my people." The Prince was openly seething. "For years he has told me a meteor destroyed Vegetasei."

At that moment, Gine returned with the rest of the remaining Saiyans.

"Gine, look, it's our boy, Raditz!" Bardock exclaimed.

Gine shrieked in surprise, and flung her small arms around Raditz. He picked her up, and gave her a hug. "It's been a while, mama."

"It sure has, you've grown so big and strong!" Gine said, a grin dancing on her face. "I wonder what happened to your brother, Kakarot. His pod was sent to Earth and we haven't heard from him since. You haven't heard from him, have you?"

"Did you say Earth, mama?" Raditz asked.

"Yeah I did, what of it?" Gine replied.

"Well...there is a woman on Frieza's ship from the planet Earth...she was taken captive right before it was destroyed. She said it was the PTO that destroyed the planet…" Raditz trailed off.

"Oh. That doesn't sound good." Gine murmured.

"That Frieza has destroyed so much. So many lives...our home, all of it. Can't we fight back against him somehow?" Bardock asked.

Nappa had finally found Vegeta and Raditz, and landed within the group. "Hey, hey, what's going on here?" He asked.

"Nappa, look what we found, a group of Saiyans!" Raditz said excitedly.

"I see that. Bardock, Gine, long time no see." Nappa replied, crossing over to shake Bardock's hand. He also turned to the other Saiyans that hadn't been introduced yet. "Fasha, Toma, you as well."

"It has been a while indeed." Toma, a tall short haired male Saiyan replied. Fasha, a female Saiyan stood next to him. Beside them were two other male Saiyans.

"Ah yes, for those of you who have not met, this is Cunber and Cabba." Bardock pointed to the taller, more heavily built Saiyan first, then a smaller, thinner Saiyan second. "The six of us have been living here for a handful of years now. It has been rough, but we've managed. Our ship was damaged extensively on landing, and we don't have the materials to repair it, so we've been stuck here. This planet is such a remote one out here in this quadrant that no one has ever come by, until now. Initially, it was why we came here, so we could be safe, but we hadn't intended on our ship to end up unusable."

"Do you think you can help us?" Gine asked.

"Nine surviving Saiyans...instead of three. That was not what I was expecting to discover today." Vegeta murmured. He cleared his throat and spoke a little louder. "I...I'm not certain right now. We came here in pods, so getting everyone off the planet is not possible right now. And, we are supposed to be here purging the planet of all life. Of course I am not going to kill you, you are my people, but leaving you alive will present risks. We are going to have to approach this very carefully."

"Vegeta, do you have any ideas?" Raditz asked, looking at him questioningly.

"Not yet. For now, they'll have to stay put here." The Prince said. "But, Nappa, I think having you stay here would be helpful. You know a good portion of this group, and I can communicate with you, from the base."

Nappa balked. "But, why not have Raditz stay? His parents are here!" He responded angrily.

"Because in terms of battle experience, should anything happen, it would be better for you to be here with this group." Vegeta explained, not wanting to admit that he wanted Nappa out of the way. He had a feeling that if he wanted to escape the ship and get these Saiyans to a safer place, he'd need to recruit the help of the Earth Woman, something Nappa would be none too pleased about.

"I guess that makes sense." Nappa grumbled. "Fine, I'll stay."

Gine looked at Vegeta. "How much time do you have before you need to leave?"

The Prince checked the time on his scouter. "At least a few hours."

"Then come, I just put on a large pot of traditional Saiyan stew, and Bardock was going to hunt for some extra meat. Join us for food before you leave."

Vegeta, Nappa and Raditz exchanged looks, and Vegeta quickly ran a scan with his scouter. He sighed in relief when the scan picked up a few small groups of power levels on this side of the mountains. They were worried for a moment that they'd wiped out all the life on the planet, effectively extinguishing the Saiyan's food sources.

"Raditz, why don't you join me on my hunt, son?" Bardock said, and the father and son duo disappeared into the woods to search for something to complete their meal.

Gine guided the rest of the Saiyans to the fire, and they all sat down, engaging in small talk. Vegeta, however, was silent as he brooded in his own thoughts. They had discovered more of his people, his own flesh and blood. And now, he was going to disobey Frieza's orders without question to keep them safe. Plus, he'd be returning to the ship short one comrade. Coming up with a story about what happened would be crucial, because of course he couldn't just march in there and tell Frieza he'd found a group of Saiyan survivors, let them live and left Nappa with them. Once he set foot back on that ship, time would be of the greatest essence. It usually took quite a while before a terraforming team would be in place, but he'd need a solution to move them before then.

The planet grew dark, and the light of the fire danced among the shadows of the Saiyan bodies sitting around it. Eventually Bardock and Raditz returned with an animal that looked like a deer, and they carved it up, while Gine roasted the cuts next to the stew.

Vegeta's stomach growled, as the scent of the stew hit him full force. For a moment, it took him back to his childhood, when he was very young and before Frieza had taken him. The cooks in the royal palace must have served a similar dish, because the memory of a similar scent flooded his senses.

Gine dished up bowls of the stew and heaped the charred cuts of meat onto platters, and handed them out to the hungry Saiyans. "Keeping up with Saiyan appetites keeps me constantly busy!" She said with a giggle, as she handed Vegeta a bowl and platter.

His eyes widened at the amount of food, it had been ages since he'd had a meal this size. For years he'd gotten used to tiny portions, and gotten used to the constant feeling of hunger in the pit of his belly. The Prince dug in, savoring each bite of crispy, charred meat that was grilled just perfectly. The stew he saved for last, wanting to savor the memory of times past. Gine went around offering seconds, and Vegeta looked up at her in surprise when she slid more slices of meat onto his tray.

"Go on, there's plenty! What do they do, starve you boys on that ship?" She asked.

Vegeta stared at her for a moment, and then shifted his gaze to the ground and didn't reply.

"Oh...I'm sorry, that just isn't right." Gine said softly. "Well, whenever you're with this group, there is always plenty to eat!"

"Thank you." He murmured. It had been a very long time since he'd felt this full, and content. For that, he was particularly grateful. The ride back to the ship in the pod wouldn't be quite so miserable like usual when all he'd had to eat was a meal bar.

Eventually, it was time for Vegeta and Raditz to leave so that they'd return in time for their deadline. They returned to the area where their pods landed, accompanied by Bardock and Nappa. Vegeta quickly removed the power supply from Nappa's pod and extracted the tracking device so that Frieza couldn't find it if he attempted to track it when Vegeta reported that they'd lost Nappa, and instructed the two Saiyans to take it back to the small village to keep it safe.

Bardock shook Raditz' hand. "Be safe, son. Come back to us soon, you hear?"

"You got it, pop." Raditz replied.

"Take it easy, Vegeta, be careful up there. Let us know when you've got some sort of plan." Nappa said.

"I will. Keep that scouter safe, and don't use it for any reason unless it is an absolute emergency. If you do, he can track you. Be careful, both of you." Vegeta replied, firmly. "Don't do anything stupid, Nappa."

"I won't, don't worry, kid." Nappa chuckled.

Raditz and Vegeta climbed into their pods, and initiated the return takeoff sequence. Before long, P928c was a small dot in their windows, as they raced through space back toward Frieza's ship.

Vegeta couldn't shake the feeling of nervousness that began to flood through his veins, and his hands involuntarily shook as he leaned his head against the back of the pod. He breathed out a sigh of relief and hit the comm link. "Raditz, I'm exhausted. I'm tapping into stasis on the ride back. I'll catch you when we get there."

"Yeah, I hear you. See you there, Geets." He replied.

Vegeta signed off, and engaged pod stasis mode. He needed something to calm his nerves, and artificial sleep would have to do. Soon, he could smell the stasis gas permeating his senses, and it wasn't long before he drifted off into a dreamless sleep.