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In what you’d call a puff of smoke, the motorcycle in its assemblage of bulbous silver components receding into the pocketable capsule from which its now-miniaturized form is stored, now into the hand of one Bulma Briefs, who pops Capsule Corp model CC#11, vintage ‘cycle, into her jeans pocket, readjusting her bag as she checks her CC#17 Dragon Ball tracker for directions to what she’s half sure will be an unintended rendezvous. Like old times, she reminisces of the scent of forest, now plodding a dirt path, the stress of her old, leathery bomber jacket--upon whose back the capsule logo sits embossed, natch--now peering over into the river, across which lies, at least within the terrain of her memory-wise, the same kind of classical Eastern myth-inspiring woodsy setting as the scene in which she first met the kid. The kid now, she reminds herself, long as its been, something she still has to on occasion do to her brain, a man. Well, more like, an additional, more objective reminder, the man.

Or, was the man? Is the man? Her to-be-perfectly-frank genius (also objective) -level brain nudging around the infinitive for the right form to fit the peculiar situation they once again seem to find themselves in, each time the stakes higher though somehow seemingly exactly the same, although this time a little weirder, a bit different, some piece missing that makes Bulma that much more urgently click to magnify the trusty ol’ monochrome green grid on her device.

Will be the man again?

Another bleep, bleep, as she crosses over an outcropping of ridge over the lax current, settling on just the man for now, scrunching down her knees for momentum, the tick of worry that she can’t quite go macheteing around these kinds of places like she used to sufficiently--thank god--canceled out by the wisened experience that means she doesn’t have to. Punctuated by a drop of CC#748, by far the newest Capsule Corp contraption she’s used on the trip, designed by her for just such an occasion in fact, followed by the sudden expansion of a large, much more stable bridge that takes her the rest of the way across, with the bonus of frightening some rather curious large frogs away in the process. A younger Ms. Briefs, surmises the older one, would have tried some shit somewhere around the neighborhood of a motorcycle jump, no doubt provoking yet again the kid’s help when some unforeseen bandit or dinosaur inserted itself into the process.

And, despite it all, the demons battled, worlds traveled, the unforeseen alien ancestry (i.e. terrestrial, extra), imperialist genocide-squad leader-turned husbands, the children, both of time-traveling-back-from-the-future variety and otherwise, and whatever is up with the pink dude, the truth, she guessed, was that to her he would always be: the kid. One Goku, Son, at whose apparent behest she finds herself here now, along with, she, as usual, suspects, the implied behest of the rest of the world, and maybe even the universe.

She can, as they say, remember it like it was yesterday, the first time they met on that seldom-trod country road. She: the teen prodigal scion of tech giant Capsule Corp setting out on the road for adventure, treasure-hunting, and--as she weaves her way around the trees, she still blushes, though today the only source embarrassment at youth--a boyfriend (which to even more shame, she found anyway--Yamcha--lol). He: a super strong kid with a tail, we’re talking Superman strong here, who outside his deceased grandpa had never even seen another human before, let alone a girl, and yes, complete with all the total lack of social skills that that implies. Bearing in it’s four star variety the Dragon Ball, that glassy orange sphere, to the touch warm with magic, real magic all-too-rare in this world or any other (pour one out for Namek--or was that one back now? well either way those dudes certainly deserved a pour).

And so her gaining the standard practiced ingenuity and courage and him the less traditional but still important basic level of socialization along the way, did they Journey To The

West it up ’til all were collected, summoned the titular dragon Shenlong for a wish that these days, after all the friends, family, whole planets and entire galaxies wished back to life itself after horrible fiery deaths, seems almost hilariously innocent to her.

Well, she successfully pushes some bramble out of the way with her CC#47 gloves (can’t beat a classic) as she less successfully tries to do the same to the more sinister undertone of that last thought, those were the days, right?

Yeah, a glimmer, and she grabs it, and counting the amount of stars just for kicks to find it’s once again the four, and is surprised to find the feeling of another, different glimmer building lightly in her eyes, which she is quick to take care of with a roll, that is certainly something you could call them.

...

“Here,” he says, back at the ranch a few weeks ago, the start of this current adventure/mess. It’s big half capsule doubling as home and the Capsule Corp headquarters, and throws down the white envelope marked “Bulma” with a regal disdain she knows by now will never go away. Vegeta, her hubby, pouring himself a bowl of Extra Whole Grain, Senzu Fiber Enhanced Breakfast Cereal+ and munches, heading off to the equipment stress-testing enhanced gravity room, which long ago she had converted into his own personal gym. It’s not even affected really, the haughtiness, he was literally born a prince. Though to say can bet a hard sell to acquaintances or company outside her more familiar Z-Fighter crew. And to them even harder.

She drops the newspaper and takes up the snail mail for inspection. It’s been long enough since she’d received an actual, physical message, but add to that its only marking her name crudely scrawled in what can only be called terrible handwriting, and things are getting curious here.

“Hey, where’d this come from?” she calls after Vegeta, who’s halfway through the door, his gym sweats dangling over his shoulder as he tosses back.

“Some kid on a scooter dropped it off. He said it was a ‘telegram.’” him clearly confused by the term, though for once his non-Earth childhood was not totally to blame. An old, analog message delivery service she’d only ever heard about from her dad as one of those transitionary, pre-capsule technologies, like VCRs, pagers, or parking lots. Though as a scientist she was as a rule into these things.

Her mind snaps back to the impatient-growing Saiyan in the doorway, his sloping brow slowly working through a sloping motion that, she knew, indicated his attempt to hold back

temper, something few but she understood to be on his part a truly loving gesture.

“Cool.” she smiles, and nudges him off with a tick of her head. Silently he turns and goes--like a dog that one, much emotion, very energy, so best to let him blow it off in the gym in the morning first thing. That’s why she put it there after all. She couldn’t inflict her husband on a public gym. Watching him go, it seeps out from under the present the long, all the trying attempts to explain this shocking relationship to friends and fan, remembering with a smile that even then at least the one thing they could not deny was excellence in the booty department, but he’s out of the room, and hey, why’s she been feeling so recap-y recently, anyway?

Bulma opens the letter.

...

“Chi Chi, hey, have a sec? Got a question--“

On the other side of the phone, her yelling, hard to make out, then

“Hi Bulma. Are you--“

A loud noise, and more yelling, something to the effect of, if you’re going to do that then at least go outside, we have 40 acres of land where you can--

Bleep, the call ends. The background laughter, Bulma just

recognizing as she gets the return call, picks up immediately

to preempt

“Oh god Chi Chi sorry I forgot Trunks was sleeping over--“

“No, no it’s fine. Better I watch them than some aliens,

right?”

A pause.

“Chi Chi,” sez Bulma “their fathers are some aliens?” Then another pause, to realize, that’s the point. “Oh,” laughing, “right.”

“So what’s up?

“Uh,” toeing around the most delicate way to put it, “not sure how to ask this but... is Goku... currently...” oh what the hell “alive?

A snort, and the phlegm all but comes through the receiver. “Tell you what, if you find him, you can ask him for me.”

“Whereabouts, uh, non-specified?”

“Some spirit world fighting tournament or something. Dead? Alive? With the people we roll with, who can even say anymore. You can see why I tried so hard to give Gohan a normal childhood.”

Normal, that is, for an academic maybe, but Bulma holds her tongue.

“Not that it worked, of course,” and the sigh, “and maybe I pushed too hard... but..”

“Hey, don’t worry yourself, he’s doing pretty well!” Gohan in a serious relationship--with masked crime-fighting partner, but still, serious, and responsible, nonetheless. “And they’re getting about that age. If you want, we could try looking into some schools, maybe help the meet some friends”

“Settle down with some nice daughters of celebrities--“

“The whole experience.”

A long wait for response.

“Nah,” sez Chi Chi “I’m not going through that one again. Only if he wants to. No more fighting fighters for me. Anyway, why the ask about Goku?”

“Well, I got kind of a mysterious note, claiming at least, it’s from him. Something feels weird about it though. Off. Another crash on the other side of the phone, break for yelling, then finally:

“Well, what’s it say?”

Bulma smirks.

“Well Cheech, this one might shock you but: ’Find the Dragon Balls.’