Chapter 8: Daemon
Author: Rocket (a.k.a. Roketto/RyunoOhi); Editors: npberryhill & Saucemonkey
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Warmth. Sunlight streaming through a window. Sounds of the outside world, filtered through sleep, coming to him. Frieza shifted, still half-asleep, unsure if he was dreaming. "Nngh..." he rolled over with a sigh, pulling the covers closer with his left hand. For a moment, he lay there, absentmindedly feeling the texture of the sheet covering him, wondering why this seemed important. Then, all at once, the last clouds of sleep were banished from his mind, as he sat straight up, holding his left hand out in front of him. 'This...this must be a dream!' he thought with wonder. "I'm...whole..." he said quietly to himself, experimentally feeling his face and looking down at his chest, now free of the mechanical additions and metal plating. Pulling back the white sheets over his body, he could already feel everything, but he had to be sure, had to behold everything with his own eyes. "I don't believe this..." he said out loud, seeing his extremities, no longer an unnatural amalgam of metal and armor plating, but smooth, white flesh. He twitched the long, white tail, feeling the natural sensations of his lost body coming back to him, like a longed-for, half-remembered dream. Anyone watching at that moment would have seen the Arcosian's face curl into a slight, but genuine, smile — not one tainted by malice, facetiousness, or arrogance, just happiness. Had others been present though, he surely would have hid such indiscretion.
That was the next thing Frieza took note of, after admiring his body: he was alone. 'It's odd, that they'd leave me alone like this...I still don't know exactly what happened to restore my body, but...' he thought distractedly. He tried to remember what had happened after his last clear memory of collapsing at Capsule Corp. He vaguely remembered...lying in a bed. 'This bed, in fact,' he assessed, 'Then there was a human, who told the others that I was dying.' He clenched his fists slightly at the shameful memory, of appearing so weak in front of his enemies. After that recollection though, it was foggy, indistinct. 'There were Nameks, weren't there? No, that can't be, there aren't any on Earth but the one renegade Goku allies himself with.' He scrunched up his brow in thought, trying to make sense of what could be fact, illusion, or hallucination, for all he knew. 'Father was...trying to take me away...and then...lots of Nameks around me...' he shivered at a flash of some image, seeing himself, with his heart ripped out, before dismissing that as a definite nightmare. 'Something enormous and green, and the sky behind it was dark...' He frowned. After that point, he could remember nothing else.
Frieza sighed, "No point in trying to force it..." as he swung his legs out of the hospital bed. As disconcerting as not being able to account for his mind's blank spots was, it was a familiar feeling of dread, nonetheless. "Krrgh..!" he winced, bracing himself on the bed as he attempted to stand. 'Looks like I'm weak; I can barely stand...that makes me wonder how long I've been asleep...' he worried. A few shaky steps took him to the door, and he cautiously peered out into the hallway. It looked deserted, at the moment. He let the door click shut behind him as he ventured out. "Now then, I suppose I should —" he started, before his stomach made itself known with a gurgle. "Well then, that will be the first order of business," he shrugged, slowly making his way down the hall. 'It's been...let's see...far too long since I've eaten,' he thought, unable to accurately recount how long since he'd had a proper meal. 'No wonder I'm so weak!' As annoyed as he was that he was beginning to learn the layout of the building, he begrudgingly brushed aside his familiarity with the thought of finding food faster. His steps felt stronger as he proceeded further, searching until he found one of the many kitchens in the complex. Frieza hadn't taken much notice of anything in this room before, besides trying to consciously ignore the temptations that, at the time, he could not partake in. He opened a cabinet experimentally. Various cans with Earth's peculiar brand of writing greeted him. Too much trouble. Several drawers only held what looked like eating utensils, though he could swear he saw what looked like a wine opener in one. 'File that away for future reference.' he thought. Finally, he came to the large, white structure that took up precedence in the room. Pulling on the handle, he hissed as a tumult of cold air rushed out at him. "Ghh..! Well, I suppose this means that the humans have discovered refrigeration..." he muttered, simultaneously cursing his lack of intel on them, and putting up a shield of insulating ki around his body. In the next moment, he dropped the shield, reconsidering that the humans — as well as Son Goku — could readily find his ki. Gritting his teeth against the discomfort, he reached into the fridge, quickly piling things that looked promising on the counter behind him.
Now that things had quieted down in the days since Frieza and Goku had returned from New Namek, Bulma had finally had time to work on her neverending backlog of projects. After pulling an all-nighter following a bout of inspiration last night around 4 a.m., Capsule Corp.'s resident genius decided that now, at nearly 11:00, it was time to refill her coffee mug. "Geez, it's a good thing I'm already unnaturally good-looking, otherwise staying up for seven hours straight, with only four hours of sleep to boot, would do a number on me..." she groaned to herself. Still, it was good to take advantage of her youth and brilliance while she could, right? 'Nothing like having your cake and eating it, too...' she mused, wondering who else but her father could even compare to the hours she typically kept, and still look presentable at the end of a session. Distracted by her thoughts, she carelessly swung open the door to the small kitchen and took three steps into the room before registering that the refrigerator door was wide open, and someone was rummaging through it. 'Probably Goku...' she thought. With a muttered curse at the cold air emitted from the machine, someone who was definitely not her childhood friend closed the door, freezing mid-step with a slice of salami half in his mouth when he saw her.
"You're awake, I see." Bulma said neutrally to hide her surprise, eyes traveling up his body, taking in what she assumed was his normal appearance. Frieza seemed to briefly choke on his mouthful of lunchmeat, swallowing hard and coughing before responding.
"...Yes, well, unless this is all a dream, I would appear to be awake, would I not?" the Arcosian said with an air of sarcasm and annoyance. He moved to gather up an eclectic pile of food he had liberated from the fridge.
She giggled at his poor attempt to regain his composure, after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar — or in this case, his head in her fridge. "Well, considering how long you've been out, it's not a good idea to gorge yourself right off the bat, okay?" she said, eying the pile of food he'd amassed.
"I am not a fool," he responded, "I know the dangers of overeating after a period of fasting, and I was merely trying to figure out, what, if anything in this place, won't kill me."
"Still under the impression that we're trying to assassinate you, 'your highness'?" Bulma teased, raising an eyebrow as she made her way to the coffee maker.
"No," Frieza huffed indignantly, "I'm merely trying to avoid anything that may be toxic to my kind. For all I know, you humans can eat what would be poison to my species without batting an eye. In fact, I seem to recall from what little intel I had on Earth's radio signals that you eat quite a lot of questionable things..."
Bulma raised her eyebrows, conceding defeat. "Oh." In her head, what had been a witty barb was suddenly a clearly stupid remark. Damn, this is why she needed coffee. "Well," she said, trying to salvage her dignity, "since I need a break from working, why don't you ask me about...all of this—" she gestured to the pile of food — "and I'll tell you what's in it." As she waited for him to respond, a thought suddenly occurred to her. "Wait...why didn't you just come get me when you woke up, anyway?"
"For one, it would have been inconvenient to go hunt for you," Frieza said, "and also, it didn't occur to me. I'm used to obtaining and preparing my own food, usually. You should be grateful that I am exercising my manners." he chided, as though the idea of bothering one's host was unthinkable.
Bulma voiced her thoughts on that last sentence. "Manners? So what, where you're from, hosts don't prepare meals for guests...or something..?" she trailed off, pressing him to fill in the blanks.
With a sigh, he stated, "Normally, we don't eat more than one formal meal a day, and in between that, guests are expected to...what is the expression...'fend for themselves' so as not to disturb their hosts."
'Doesn't sound real friendly to me...' Bulma thought, but she kept that assessment to herself. "Alright, fair enough. But here on Earth, we eat three meals a day, and you are expected to bother me if you need anything in between, got it?" He stared at her, probably processing the novel idea of three meals a day.
"Fine," Frieza finally said, "So...what is this?" He held up a package of sliced turkey. "It looks like meat, but I can't be sure. It didn't taste like it. It's more like a bird, or a reptile, but I don't recall humans eating those."
Laughing at his half-correct assessment, Bulma poured herself a cup of coffee and, her previous project forgotten for the moment, set about educating her alien guest on Earth edibles.
Fifteen minutes later, a rabble of voices outside the kitchen heralded the arrival of Goku, Krillin, and Yamcha. "Whoa!" the scar-faced human involuntarily jumped as he pushed open the door, seeing Frieza upright, awake, and looking none too friendly, to his eyes. "Bulma! Why didn't you tell us he was awake?!" he said with a slight edge of fear to his voice. If his girlfriend noticed, she ignored his concern, pointing at the Arcosian.
"He was hungry, so I had to intervene, otherwise he would have torn up my kitchen in the process of figuring out what to eat." Bulma said simply, as though it was an obvious course of action, and not at all dangerous.
"Hehe, guess you're feelin' better, huh Frieza?" Goku said, taking in the scattered food on the counter. "We were just coming in for some lunch after training anyway, so this works out great!" He casually reached out for a sandwich, already sitting assembled on the counter, only to withdraw his hand at a guttural snarl from the small alien. "Uh..." Goku said uncertainly.
Frieza's tail twitched stiffly, his red eyes narrowed in an unblinking state of challenge. "That is mine, Saiyan. And what is mine, you will not take. Am I perfectly clear?" he said, in an absolutely calm voice at odds with the aura of intimidation he radiated.
"Uh..." Goku repeated again, "Sure. Yeah, I think I'll make my own, anyway," he chuckled, hand on the back of his head and a disarming grin on his face, as though he hadn't just been threatened. Grabbing a few packages of deli meats and cheeses, he started to stack the entire contents on some bread.
Krillin had been stunned into silence at not just Frieza's condition — he seemed to be completely recovered — but at the tyrant's demeanor. 'Where does he get off, threatening Goku like that? It's like he completely forgot that Goku can kill him if he makes one wrong move!" Then again...that was the thing, wasn't it? Frieza wasn't acting particularly villainous, and anyone would jokingly warn Goku to back off if he was taking their food, right? Maybe he was overthinking it all, and Frieza was willing to play ball and behave himself. 'Still, I don't trust him.' the monk thought to himself. "So Frieza," he said, addressing the Arcosian, "now that you're alive and healed, I have a question." The alien stopped chewing, fixing those blood-red eyes on him. The unspoken challenge was clear: what makes you think I'll answer your questions, you inferior human? Unfazed, Krillin continued. "I was thinking, and something just didn't make sense to me. With or without the technology on your ship, you would have died of your wounds, eventually. I'd think that someone like you wouldn't want your all-important pride damaged by dying like that. So what exactly was your plan, if you'd won against Goku?"
Bulma added, "Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. In studying the prosthetic arm I got off of you, it didn't look like it was made to last properly for any length of time. The materials are already falling apart."
Frieza's eyes flicked between the two. "Hmph. You humans have a knack for asking pointed questions, don't you? I've been trying to figure out your specialty as a species, and I'm torn between deciding whether it's reading people enough to be vaguely threatening, or dying easily." he said the last two words sarcastically, glaring at the short monk.
Goku took that opportunity to clap his hand on Frieza's shoulder, making the short alien jump. "Frieza..." he mumbled, swallowing the last bite of his sandwich before continuing, "...I let the first threat slide, 'cause it was about food, but this time, it wasn't, and I'm not gonna let you threaten to hurt my friends." he stated matter-of-factly. Frieza looked slightly unnerved, staring pointedly at the Saiyan's hand until he removed it.
'So he wasn't just brushing it off before,' Krillin thought, 'That Goku...he's so nonchalant, you could mistake it for carelessness, but he's watching him like a hawk!' Regaining his confidence, he pressed his query. "Well? You can try to change the subject by insulting us humans, but the fact of the matter is, without us and Goku, you'd be dead right now. So what was your master plan after blowing up the Earth, huh?"
Still recovering from Goku's tacit reminder that he was only the second most powerful person in the room, Frieza took a moment to answer, "I had no illusions of plans, after this world was destroyed." He took a moment to thoughtfully chew another bite of his sandwich, before adding offhandedly, "I was to die with it."
The others gaped at him. "Wh...what is that supposed to mean?" Yamcha finally asked.
"Exactly what it sounds like," Frieza replied, a hint of anger rising in his voice, "With my body mangled, I was living on borrowed time, courtesy of my father's extensive resources. Anyone else would have been afforded a mercy kill, but I have...or rather, had...an obligation to fulfill." The others were silent, and even Goku had stopped eating to listen to Frieza's explanation. The alien prince sighed. "Regardless of whether it was by my hand or by my father's, after the Super Saiyan was defeated, my obligation would have been fulfilled, and my pride restored. As valuable as this planet's resources are, it would have stood as a reminder of...of my failure..." he practically whispered. "Ergo, the plan was for this planet to serve as my funeral pyre, so that not a trace of that broken body I was relegated to would remain." Quiet loomed in the wake of his words, as he returned to eating.
"So... So you were just gonna...blow yourself up, just like that?" Bulma asked, her face awash with disbelief.
Frieza sighed tersely. "The alternative would be a slow, agonizing, dishonorable death, as you witnessed after you...spared me..." he spat the last few words as though repulsed. "People should die when they are no longer useful. Which begs the question, why and how did you restore my body?" He eyed Goku, looking suspicious.
The spiky-haired Saiyan sighed. "I convinced the Nameks, that you almost destroyed, to help you." He let that sink in for a moment, watching Frieza's facial expression shift from surprise to curiosity. "It wasn't easy, 'cause of what you did to them, but when I brought you there, and showed them what a sorry state you were in...they were willing to be merciful to you, just like I was, and let me use their Dragonballs."
Merciful. That weak word rattled around in Frieza's head like a moth seeking light. "I didn't ask for any of your mercy, Saiyan. Nor did I ask for anyone else's." he said bitterly. 'I don't know the greater irony, being saved from sure death by a Saiyan, or being restored by the same power that was denied to me in the first place!' Again, he was reminded of the bitter sting of his ignominious defeat. It was easy to speak of duty, obligation, and dying for either when he was fully healed, but the truth was that he had been afraid to die. 'If I could have gotten my wish, I would never fear, ever again,' he assured himself. Still, a part of him whispered that it would never be enough; he could never quench the flame of paranoia that had burned in his soul for most of his life.
"You okay?" Goku asked, peering down at the Arcosian's face as he was lost in thought. The pure-hearted Saiyan was starting to get that same feeling from Frieza again, a sense of anger hiding pain and fear, that Goku knew was at the root of Frieza's problems. The alien's eyes focused on him with a jolt, then looked away.
"Stop asking me that," Frieza said with annoyance. "You seem to have a misunderstanding about my ability to cope with unfavorable circumstances," he added sardonically, his tail slowly waving back and forth with unease.
"Oh I know you're tough, alright!" Goku said in a more jovial tone, "In fact, now that we're done with lunch, and you're awake, I thought maybe we could spar! Y'know, I didn't forget my promise to teach you how to sense ki. You remember that, right?"
"B-but Goku!" Krillin protested, "You can't be serious; you and Frieza, sparring, here? Do you have any idea what kind of damage that'll do?"
"Yeah Goku, I'm with Krillin on this one. Last time you two tangled, we lost a planet," Yamcha agreed.
"Yeah, but...that was different, 'cause we were goin' all out, and then Frieza blew it up on purpose," Goku argued.
Frieza glared at him, crossing his arms over his chest. "Hmph. Unlike you, I have some control."
Goku gaped at him comically, hands on his hips. "Aw, come on! You were losing energy faster than me at the end there! I even let you power up all the way, and you still lost!"
He was answered by a twitching tail as Frieza growled his displeasure. "Alright then, monkey, bring it on. Keep in mind though, that last time you fought me at my full power, I was already wounded."
Bulma sighed, "Geez, between the two of you..." as Goku led the way outside, followed by Frieza and the others. As reticent as they were to cause damage to the planet, Krillin and Yamcha both wanted to see, with their own eyes, how the fight on Namek really went — and the chance to see Frieza soundly beaten sweetened the deal.
"Okay Frieza, now before we get started, let's lay out some ground rules," Goku said, holding up one finger. "Number one is, it's not a fight to the death, okay?" Frieza nodded, though his expression soured slightly. Goku continued, "Number two, try not to hit the planet with any ki blasts. If you've gotta, aim 'em upwards." He pointed up to emphasize, as Frieza sighed and rolled his eyes. "An' number three," Goku finished, "Don't hold anything back! I want your best!" Without ceremony, he began to power up, the grounds behind Capsule Corp. shaking with the force of his gathering energy. Frieza smirked, his tail quivering in anticipation, and followed suite, his reddish aura growing around him.
"Are you sure it's okay for them to fight here, Bulma?" Krillin asked from a safe distance, "When they get going, I doubt they'll be real mindful of their surroundings..." the short monk said, surveying the landscape overlooking West City — the infrastructure of the taller buildings was far enough away, but he was worried about Capsule Corp. itself. On cue, they felt the ground rumble under their feet. "There goes Goku!" Krillin grinned, his worry banished in favor of cheering on his friend.
"Yeah, sure, they'll be fine." Bulma replied, sipping her coffee without worry. "Goku'll keep him under control." Krillin's face told her that Frieza too had powered up, and the two were preparing to clash.
The wind had died down slightly, as the two warriors stood facing each other. Where Frieza was covered in dust and small bruises, panting with exertion, Goku's gi was only torn open slightly, his face smiling despite the lash mark across his cheek from a tail strike. The small white alien was winded, but the Saiyan was barely breathing hard, a gentle breeze created by his aura rippling through his golden hair. Frieza growled.
"Damn him, how's he still so much stronger than I?!" the tyrant muttered to himself, glancing down at his bleeding knuckles. 'I should have recovered enough to match him, but...he's still besting me!'
Goku grinned widely. "Hey Frieza, you wanna try to feel ki now that we're all warmed up?" he called, as he floated down to the ground. With a frustrated sigh at remembering his ulterior motive, Frieza forced himself to calm down, following the Saiyan to the ground.
'I need every advantage I can get..!' Frieza thought. "So, what do I have to do?" he tried to say in a neutral voice. It came out as a strained growl, but the pure-hearted Saiyan seemed to ignore his restrained rage.
"Well, first, you gotta suppress your emotions...kinda...empty your head, I guess," Goku said, eyes wandering upwards as he explained the esoteric technique verbally.
Frieza barked a short laugh. "Hah, no wonder you Saiyans are so good at this trick — your heads are perpetually devoid of thoughts." At his barb, Goku frowned petulantly.
"Frieza...you gotta stop that, y'know. It's real hard to be nice to you if you're so mean," he clarified, knowing it was difficult to break such habits. "Besides, th' way I see it, aren't you the dumb one, if you can't figure this out? It's so simple, I was taught by a little girl I met years ago. She taught me how to dodge lightning with it!" he beamed, remembering his training.
Frieza was momentarily at a loss for words, his anger and pride competing with his better judgement. Rationality won out, as he exhaled an annoyed sigh. "...Whatever, I will try to 'empty my mind'. This had better work, or else—" he stopped, realizing that, despite his habit of threatening in order to achieve a result, there was no threat he could make here that would be meaningful. He sighed again, angrily. "...I'll try."
Goku smiled, watching Frieza begin to concentrate. 'Looks like he's figured out that he can't get what he wants with force. Now he's just gotta focus on his potential, and he oughtta have this down easily.'
After a few minutes, Frieza cracked an eye open. "I don't feel anything," he said in an accusatory tone.
"Oh! Whoops, I forgot — this'll help." Goku said, powering up slightly. Frieza's eyes widened at the feel of the golden energy, washing over and around him like a wave. Goku nodded appreciatively. "Now, I'm going to power back down — slowly. You just try to keep feeling me, okay?" The Arcosian nodded.
Frieza concentrated on the vile aura that pushed at him, his desire for power, an advantage, anything over this ape the only thing keeping him from screaming in panic. 'Nggh...I...have to have this power..!' he thought desperately, 'I have to be calm, calm...and I need to concentrate...' he told himself, feeling the power grow weaker and less insistent around him. Then, it suddenly vanished. "Hey!" he snapped, "It's gone!"
"Huh?" Goku blinked at the alien. He'd been steadily powering down, when Frieza had interrupted. "What d'ya mean, 'it's gone?' I've been decreasing it as smoothly as I can."
"I don't know, but I had it, and then I didn't!" Frieza exclaimed indignantly, looking even more frustrated.
"Hmmm..." Goku hummed in thought, pondering this mystery. "Hey Frieza," he asked, "can you power down more? You're still putting out a lot of ki...maybe that's why you can't feel me easily at this point." The Arcosian looked at him as if he'd just asked him to do the impossible.
"I am powered down." he replied. They stared at each other for a moment, before Frieza broke eye contact, stomping away, tail lashing. "This is ridiculous..!" he hissed. 'He's toying with me, I just know it!' he seethed.
"No, you're not powered down, not really," Goku said. "I think your problem is that you're constantly leaking ki, and you just don't realize it... Yeah, your energy use is really inefficient, now that I think of it..."
Frieza glared at him, baring teeth. "Inefficient, am I? What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"
Goku put his hands up in a placating gesture. "I, uh, just meant that you're not good at controlling yourself. Like on Namek, when you used all your power...you made it to 100%, but then your energy dropped like a rock, and you were exhausted and couldn't regain your power after that!" The Arcosian glowered at him. Goku's face lit up in realization. "Hey, I know! Can you power up, like you did then? Go all the way, and tire yourself out, so you've got just a little bit of energy, and we'll try sensing again." With a growl, and a face that said, I'll show you!, Frieza complied, the ground shaking as he completely unleashed his energy reserves in a rush of blue ki.
This was beyond an insult, Frieza thought internally. 'I'll...show...you...you damn ape...I'll...grind you...into dust..!' he incoherently raged, cursing every Saiyan that ever breathed for being a living affront to his dignity. Within a minute, his power had shot up, and Frieza felt the energy course through his body, now expanded with the sheer output of ki straining on his muscles. "Raaaaaargh!" he roared. As soon as he'd reached his zenith though, the familiar feeling, of being exhausted, drained, his might slipping away, came over him.
'Good, his anger's making this all too easy!' Goku thought, eying the now-hulking Frieza. 'Now, his energy's fading...he's got nothing left.' This could've taken longer if Frieza was as strong as he'd been on Namek, but Goku sensed that the alien had yet to recover his full strength. As such, he was spent soon enough. "Good, Frieza!" Goku said, causing Frieza's head to snap up, as he growled at him, trying to call up more energy where the Saiyan could feel there was none. "Okay, now calm down." he commanded. Frieza's muscles shrank down to their normal tone, the bulging veins receding over his body.
"Now...what..?" Frieza panted heavily. He was trying hard not to shake, feeling the strain on his body screaming through every joint and ligament, protesting such a workout after lying dormant for so long.
"Now, I'm gonna have you try to sense somebody else." Goku said, turning to the humans spectating. "Hey Krillin!" he called, "c'mon over here for a minute! I need your help on something!"
"Huh?" Krillin snapped out of watching the two fighters powering up, powering down, and seemingly arguing, though he couldn't tell at this distance. He and Yamcha were sitting beneath a tree a safe distance away, keeping an eye on Goku, and more importantly, Frieza, after their sparring match. Now, Goku was waving him over, a confident smirk on his face. Frieza, the monk felt, was out of gas entirely, so he cautiously approached.
"Krillin! Hey, I need you to power up for Frieza, okay?" Goku said as the shorter man reached them.
"Power up for him?" Krillin repeated. "What for, Goku? Just what are you..?" he questioned, before looking over at a clearly exhausted Frieza. "...Oh. Right, gotcha," he said, catching on to his friend's plan. 'I guess Frieza can't feel powers lower than his own, unless he's drained like this. Makes sense, kinda,' he reasoned. Krillin began to gather energy, a white aura appearing around him as he cleared his mind and summoned ki.
Frieza, trying to reign in his uneven breaths, stared at the short, bald human as an invisible wind whipped up around him. He couldn't feel the monkey's ki anymore - apparently, he had suppressed it. Instead, a queer tingling started in the back of his mind, unlike anything he'd felt before. He closed his eyes against the wind, and to focus on the odd sensation. As the human powered up, he felt...felt...something, a solid thing clawing its way into his mind, and it brought with it sensations, feelings, alien to him, jumbled up, now mixing with his own, breaking down the walls, it was inside his mind now, probing deeply, invading..! Without realizing it, Frieza was screaming, clutching at his skull, shaking his head back and forth, his ki spiking up again despite his prior state of exhaustion. He needed to get it out, the intruder had to be expelled! He was vaguely aware of the Saiyan grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him — not violently, but rough enough to snap him out of his trance. Frieza wriggled out of Goku's grip, stumbling drunkenly away, away from the presence in his head.
"Goku!" Krillin shouted, "Goku, what happened?!" His eyes were wide, watching Frieza shove Goku away, and stumble a few paces before sitting down abruptly on the grass, holding his head and gasping.
"I...I don't know." Goku said, with concern. He approached the Arcosian, who had curled his long tail around his trembling body, still breathing hard, his red eyes wide and glazed over.
"...Frieza?" Goku asked tentatively. The white-skinned alien numbly turned to look up at him.
"I'm n-not doing t-that again. N-never..." Frieza rasped with a shudder. "It was in m-my head..." he trailed off.
"Well yeah, that's the point," Goku said cautiously, "I told you, didn't I? Sensing ki is feeling other people, an' you've gotta let them into your head. That's why you're s'posed to open your mi—"
"I will not!" Frieza suddenly yelled in a strained voice, "I...I can't...take it...it was like being swallowed up... I thought t-that it was only like this w-with..." he looked up at Goku, then looked away, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth in embarrassment. 'This technique...it would drive me mad...' he thought ruefully, 'I can't compromise myself like this.' With that, his mind was made up, and he resolved to not pursue the technique further.
Leering down at the aftermath of Frieza's foray into sensing ki, the hidden Saiyan prince calculated that the time was right. Igniting his ki, he leapt from the tree he'd been crouched in, sending a blast directly at his two enemies' backs. To his dismay, Kakarot saw it coming, easily deflecting the white-hot orb into the sky to detonate safely as Vegeta landed in front of him. Frieza seemed to finally register his presence, hauling himself up and taking a defensive stance, the tip of his tail twitching. 'He's certainly unnerved! Good...' Vegeta thought.
"Kakarot!" Vegeta challenged, "I see that you're back from your little off-planet 'vacation' with Frieza... Now that you're both here, I want to settle this, once and for all," he snarled, pulling his arms back to his sides, fists crackling with ki. His energy buzzed angrily around him as small pebbles danced on the ground at his feet.
"Vegeta! What do you think you're doing here?" Goku questioned sternly, his eyebrows drawn down into a fierce expression. "I thought I told you that attacking Frieza was off-limits."
"Pah! I'm not afraid of you, Kakarot, nor am I afraid of that pathetic wretch. I just needed a little time to recoup my powers, and now, with the training I've been doing, you will both suffer my wrath!" Vegeta growled, preparing to fire the energy gathered in both clenched fists. Suddenly, however, a wall of orange and navy blue dominated his field of view. Vegeta stumbled back with an involuntary gasp at the Super Saiyan who had appeared directly in front of him, Kakarot's face calm now, but on the verge of glowering. 'He's...so fast!' Vegeta gulped.
"Leave, Vegeta." Goku said in a serious tone. "Like I said, I don't want to kill either one of you, if I can help it." He watched as the shorter Saiyan gaped at him, before a scowl overtook his face.
"I would leave, Kakarot, but you forget. This planet has no outlet for me. I'm marooned on this primitive mudball, with no way to get off!" he yelled, shoving both balls of energy at the easy target in front of him. The ki blasts detonated as he leapt back, a shroud of smoke forming a wall. Vegeta grinned, when suddenly, he heard a cough, and Kakarot nonchalantly walked out of the haze, waving his hand to dispel the wisps of soot clinging to him. His gi was charred, but not as much as Vegeta thought it ought to be, considering how close he'd been — Kakarot himself was untouched. "Ghh..! Damn you...you don't even deserve that power..." he muttered.
"Wow Vegeta, that was pretty good — guess you have been improving!" Goku said with a cheerful tone of voice, hiding his seriousness. Vegeta wasn't a threat to him at the moment, not when he wasn't thinking clearly, but Frieza could be an easy target, and if he wasn't careful, he'd have to stop them from tearing each other apart.
Meanwhile, the Arcosian prince regarded his former pawn with condescension, and a hint of unease. 'Vegeta...he's still the same hot-headed, arrogant little monkey I had to beat into submission constantly...but his power has unmistakably grown.' He had wisely stayed beyond the dissipating wall of smoke, but now, as it cleared, he could see the two Saiyans, sizing each other up. The tense situation was interrupted by Bulma, noisily making her way towards the site of the standoff, complaining of the smoke settling in her hair. Frieza stared at her incredulously as she walked past him. '—What the hell is that woman doing?' he thought.
"Ugh, how can you guys stand to fire those things?" the blue-haired scientist asked, coughing while marching up to Goku and Vegeta. "They stink!" she added, scrunching up her nose. "Smells like ozone and smoke."
"Hehe, well, they're not so bad, once you get used to 'em, Bulma," Goku answered, ignoring a now-silently staring Vegeta. "It's gettin' hit by 'em you oughtta be worried about. It's kinda dangerous right now, so why don't you—" he started to say, before his friend interrupted, turning to face the other Saiyan.
"Vegeta, I overheard what you were yelling about," she stated. "If you want to get off this planet and go somewhere else, don't let a lack of a ship stop you; I can give you one of the prototype ships like the one Goku used to get to Namek." She crossed her arms and stared at Vegeta. "Well? Everyone wins this way, what do you say?"
The prince looked aghast at her boldness, and, Goku thought, maybe a little flustered, as he sputtered, "You'd just give me a ship, no questions asked, woman?" His ki felt agitated still, but somehow more relaxed.
Bulma nodded, "Mmhmm, just let me finish fixing it up so it's ready to fly, and you're free to go." He opened his mouth to respond, but she cut him off again. "But only if you promise to leave Goku, and Frieza, alone. Okay? The ship's not ready just yet, but it should be flight-worthy in two days, assuming you can keep your cool for that long." She jabbed at his chest with one perfectly-manicured nail. He absently pushed her hand away.
"Hmph. Two days. I'll be back for my ship then, and you'd better have it ready." He glared up at Goku. "And as for you and Frieza...I may be leaving you alive for now, but I assure you that when I return, it will be as a legendary warrior, mark my words! Enjoy your pathetic lives while they last, because I will return to rob you of your life, just as surely as you robbed me of my pride, Kakarot." With that threat, he kicked off the ground, blasting off.
Bulma watched him fly away, sighing with relief. "Hmph. Sorry to break up your fight Goku, but I was worried that with three of you fighting, my home — and all my projects — would get caught in the crossfire," she said.
Goku smiled at her. "Heh, well, thanks Bulma. I was tryin' to get him to leave without a fight anyway, but I guess you did better than me at making him leave without a fuss." He turned to look at Frieza, now standing quietly, eyes fixed on the horizon in Vegeta's direction. 'Good thing they didn't get into it, or I'd have had my hands full...with Frieza as weak as he is, Vegeta might have a thought he had a chance, but he'd have lost.'
With nothing more to threaten him, Frieza wordlessly headed back inside, his thoughts frustratingly tense. There was no way he'd ever learn to sense ki. Vegeta was still alive, and daring to attack more boldly. And Goku...he remained a wall that the Arcosian was determined to surmount. Not now. But eventually.
Another day passed without incident, before a new threat, unbeknownst to Earth's defenders, reached its goal. Snow swirled in flurries across a wasteland of glacial ice, as an elderly figure swathed in a heavy coat spoke aloud: "Arise, mighty Shenron, and grant me my desire!" As the enormous dragon lifted itself out of the seven magical orbs, Dr. Kochin's wrinkled face twisted into a triumphant grin. 'Fifty years...' he thought, 'And for the past twenty, I have searched tirelessly for the Dragonballs, a way to reprise what was lost to me...to us...' The dragon, seeming as eternal as the primeval frozen landscape, rumbled its standard greeting.
"YOU WHO HAVE SUMMONED ME FROM MY REST, SPEAK NOW YOUR DESIRE, and I SHALL GRANT UNTO YOU A SINGLE WISH!" Shenron boomed, its voice echoing off the mountains.
"Great dragon!" Kochin yelled, his voice nearly lost to the wind, "My wish is for you to free Dr. Wheelo from his entombment beneath the ice of this wretched and treacherous land!" The wind howled as Shenron's eyes sparkled with understanding, before they glowed a deep red. A glacier rumbled and cracked nearby, revealing a metal dome, the uppermost part of an extensive compound, suspended in the ice.
"YOUR WISH HAS BEEN THUS GRANTED. MY DUTY COMPLETED, I SHALL NOW TAKE MY LEAVE." With that, the sky turned from black to the North's normal slate-grey color as the Dragonballs scattered again.
"Goku!" Bulma came running into the main kitchen, out of breath. "Hey, quit stuffing your face for a sec and listen! Something's up with the Dragon Radar!" she said insistently, waving the round device in the air.
Goku paused to slurp up his mouthful of noodles and swallow, prompting a disgusted-sounding sigh from Frieza, who was sitting as far away from the Saiyan as the table would allow, studying a newspaper with intent. The Saiyan said, "Oh? What's wrong with it, Bulma? Is it busted?" He glanced sideways at Frieza, calculating whether or not it would be bad if he overheard anything having to do with Earth's Dragonballs.
"No, not as far as I can tell...and that's the problem." Bulma said, "If this thing's not broken, then we've got a problem. Some unknown entity was gathering the Dragonballs all this week, and I didn't even notice until...uh...someone else asked to use it, and I noticed they'd all been gathered." She irksomely recalled earlier this morning, when she'd caught Oolong sneaking into her bedroom to try to steal the thing. He'd said it was for a "noble quest", but judging from the lecherous look on his face, it was anything but. It was only after she'd beaten him soundly that she bothered to look at the Radar. Then, it had shown six balls together, with a seventh moving closer. Now, they were all under the radar again, and that meant they'd been used.
"Okay, well, how do we know who used it?" Krillin asked, accepting another stack of pancakes from Pansy Briefs, who was unperturbed by her daughter's distress, continuing to hum to herself while cooking.
"We don't." Bulma answered, "And that's the problem. I'm amazed someone managed to find them all! They must have their own radar, or something... Anyway, I took down the coordinates where the Dragonballs were gathered last. It's a long shot, but maybe you guys can check it out. It's way up north, so dress warm."
"Okay then, it's settled," Goku said, wolfing down a few more breakfast foods, "I'll go check it out — anyone gathering the Dragonballs might be dangerous. Frieza? You're comin' too, so I can keep tabs on you." The Arcosian grumbled under his breath, but didn't fight the decision.
Krillin spoke up. "Hey Goku, I'm gonna come too. Just in case you need some backup." He eyed Frieza warily, before meeting the Saiyan's eyes. Goku nodded, understanding his friend's concern. "We should probably bring someone else too, in case we need to split up or something..." the monk added.
"Ah! Can I come, Dad? Please?" Gohan piped up, swinging his legs excitedly while sitting in his chair. Despite Chi-chi's protests regarding Frieza and Vegeta, he'd been coming over to Capsule Corp. regularly, and his mother couldn't deny him, as he'd missed his father sorely for that long year. In spite of his integrity, Gohan did on occasion use his charm and wit to twist his mother's emotions and convince her against her better judgement, if it meant getting to train with his Dad and his friends. Goku was not immune to his son's persuasion either.
The older Saiyan beamed at his son, "Sure, I don't see why not! It probably won't be anything real bad— I haven't sensed anything stronger than Vegeta on Earth— so Chi-chi won't even be that worried." Gohan grinned, his face mirroring his father's as a boy.
"Thanks, Dad. Even if it's not a big threat, I just wanna get stronger, so I can fight alongside you." Gohan said. Goku reached across the table to ruffle his hair, prompting a laugh from the boy.
Frieza watched all of this with a disconnected sort of interest. In the days since he had awoken, he'd spent much of his time observing. 'Though it isn't my preference, I've got no choice but to be on the defensive,' the Arcosian thought, watching the Super Saiyan and his half-breed child, 'to figure out his weaknesses.'
After seeing off a confident Goku, Bulma decided to head over to her lab, to continue her latest project. 'After Frieza, other forces could attack Earth, and Goku can't be our only line of defense...' she thought, before being interrupted. An intern ran down the hall, phone in hand, saying it was urgent. She took the phone. "Hello?"
"Bulma! Are you okay?!" a voice she recognized as Oolong yelled through the connection.
"Other than catching a certain pervert in my underwear drawer this morning, I'm just peachy," Bulma said angrily, "So what? You call because your conscience was bothering you?"
"No, and this is serious!" the pig screeched into her ear. "Master Roshi's been taken by these weird monsters!"
"...Monsters?" Bulma repeated, her brows drawing into a concerned expression. "I wonder if it has to do with the Dragonballs being gathered..." she trailed off. "Oolong, I just sent Goku and the others out to investigate. Just sit tight for now, and I'll try to call you back when we figure out what's going on." Ending the conversation, she looked out the window, to the north. 'Goku...please be careful...'