CHAPTER SIXTY: APPOINTMENTS AND DELAYS

 

 

 

 

 

            "Where the Hell are they?" Zarbon shouted to no one in particular. Sauzaa rolled his eyes. Everyone else cringed in the far corner of the room.

            "I don't know," Sauzaa said in a semi-irritated monotone. "But if you don't get them back here and at King cold's palace in under two hours, you'll have to wait a lot longer for that interview- and I mean a Lot."

            "Zarbon sighed and collected his thoughts. "Two hours... we might be able to get by without Bardock and Piccolo, although that's doubtful. But now Gohan's missing, too..."

            "If I were you, I'd start searching right now," Sauzaa replied. "You just MIGHT be able to get everyone there in time, and I also just MIGHT be able to delay Cold a bit."

            Zarbon nodded, then turned to the others.

            "We'll separate into groups of two," He said, looking at them.

            "Salad, you go with me. Zangya, you're with Gokou. Sauzaa... you just keep Cold waiting for us, okay?"

            Sauzaa gave a head nod and went out the door.

            "We'll spread out, and cover the entire city if we have to. Gokou, I need you to check with Bardock's friends- maybe they know where he is. Don't leave a single stone unturned, anyone!" he shouted, simultaneously getting up to rush out of the hotel room and into the mad search. Salad barely had time to think about what was happening before she was following her husband at speeds normally out of range for someone with no ki.

            The mad search began.

 

***

 

            Seripa wondered what Bardock was thinking of. That man mystified her. it was a large part of her initial attraction to him- the fact that he really wasn't your typical blow-up-the-world-and-eat-a-dead-cow Saiya-jin warrior. But then, he wasn't as far gone the other way as, say, his beloved son. bBardock's mentality was perfectly Saiya-jin, but also contained a grain of something deeper. Not only deeper, but possibly more dangerous. It was a kind of hidden potential, like the embers of a smoldering fire, just waiting for the right moment to ignite itself and start consuming the countryside.

            Little signs of that tended to jump out from time to time, whether they were manifesting themselves in angry rages, or in sudden, strange, Saiya-jin-like twists of personality, much akin to what happened on Earth. The most disturbing effect was when he would become quiet and near-antisocial, apparently thinking hard about something. Some of those times, it was good. Other times, he could become terrifying. Bardock was a Saiya-jin, which meant that, in heart, he was a truly cruel monster as well as a noble warrior. Whatever happened to him in his life, that one side of his personality would always be there, just waiting for the perfect moment to spring out.

            Right now, though, Bardock was thinking of coffee, and how Seripa had run out a few days ago, and how hard it was probably going to be to get through an entire day without a full caffeine intake at his age.

            Seripa crept up behind him.

            "Boo." She said rather quietly.

            He turned around and regarded her for a second. "I don't respond well to ordinary attempts at surprise. Next time, try blasting me from behind instead. You'll get better reaction, trust me."

            She gave him a light shove.

            "You are a piece of work," she commented, walking away a bit. "You do realize that most races would consider you over the hill by now."

            "And in the human race, I'd be geriatric. Your point being?"

            "Even for an over-the-hill Saiya-jin, you're remarkably well-preserved. You look about ten to twenty years younger than you really are."

            "So? he same applies to you. You're two years my senior, and I still don't see any grey in your hair."

            She brushed a hand though her short, straight hair. "I could be dying it, you know."

            "If you were, I would have smelled the chemicals from a mile away."

            She grinned at him. "Of course you could. And next you'll tell me that you've become a Super Saiya-jin."

            He grinned back at her and plucked out one of his grey hairs. "Well, it does seem to be changing colours, and white is only a few steps off from gold..."

            She showed her appreciation for the joke by yanking his chair out from under him. the Saiya-jin fell on his rump with a muffled thud.

            "A Super Saiya-jin would have seen that one coming," she commented wryly, balancing the chair on her thumb.

            "Watch out, a chair can be considered a dangerous weapon," He quipped, standing straight up.

            "I know how to use it," she replied back.

            A loud knock on the door completely shattered whatever kind of intimate moment they were going to have.

            "You get it," Seripa muttered under her breath at the loud, chaotic pounding sound on the door.

            "It's your house," Bardock responded back in the same grumbling monotone.

            The knocking resumed and increased again. Both Saiya-jin looked at each other. Neither wanted to answer it. The knocking finally diminished, and disappeared completely.

            Seripa turned back to Bardock. "Now you've done it," she said, slipping her arms around his neck. "They left."

            She was proven wrong when one of the windows was flung open, and Gokou popped his head through, smiling like a moron.

            "Hi!" he shouted, still grinning. Both Bardock and Seripa jumped apart as quickly as if they were touching hot coals instead of each other.

            "We almost... in front of your son..." She muttered in a sideways fashion toward Bardock.

            "I know... don't talk about it," he replied in the same way.

            "There you are!" Gokou shouted, head still sticking through the window. "We were looking all over for you! Come on, Bardock- we have to be back at King Cold's palace in fifteen minutes!"

            "What for?" Bardock asked his son.

            "He's granting Gohan an audience today- but we have to be fast!" Gokou shouted again as the door opened quietly. Zangya stepped through. Gokou followed by climbing through the window.

            "You know, Gokou," Zangya commented to him, "Some people use this thing called a door to get in and out of their houses."

            Gokou shrugged and grabbed his father’s arm, yanking him back toward the window.

            "Come on! We have to hurry!" He yanked Bardock through the window after him. Zangya just shrugged and followed them, offering Seripa a slight head-nod before leaving. The female Saiya-jin followed them.

 

***

 

            Gohan hit the ground with the approximate force of a wayward sledgehammer. He stayed there as Piccolo picked him up by scruff of his neck the way one would normally pick up a puppy dog.

            "Don't tell me you're done yet?" He grinned at the boy. "We were just getting started." He flung Gohan to the ground. "Care to try again?"

            Gohan groaned and pulled himself back up. He was halfway to his feet when Piccolo kicked him in the ribs.

            "Not fast enough," he growled. "Try that in a real fight and you'd be dead. Now GET UP!"

            Gohan jumped up to his feet and tried for a flying kick ad Piccolo's jawline. The namek simply dodged it, grabbed Gohan by the ankle, and proceeded to smash him into the walls of the training room that they had rented for the day. Piccolo let go of the boy, leaving him tucked away in a Gohan-sized dent in the wall.

            "Mr. Piccolo... Haven't we trained enough for today?"

            Mr. Piccolo responded with a weak one-handed ki blast that enveloped Gohan. When the smoke cleared, his face was inches from the boy's.

            "Just try to remember how I trained you in the big white room," he grinned at him, "And be thankful that we're not going to do it again here."

            "Yes, Mr. Piccolo," Gohan coughed.

            "Now, Gohan! Defend yourself!" Piccolo shouted, preparing another ki blast. GOhan resigned himself to a day of getting himself trashed like all heck when Zarbon almost literally burst through the door.

            "There you a-" he managed to get out before Piccolo's defensive instinct made him blast the blue alien instead of Gohan. The attack was weak, but the result was hilarious.

            The smoke cleared around a disheveled and disgruntled Zarbon, covered in soot with his cape and braid wrapped around his neck.

            Salad came in through the door, and after one look at the situation, literally fell over laughing.

            The three of them turned around and watched her. Gohan, still stuck in the wall, Piccolo with his "perfect" Warrior's visage, and the mussed-up Zarbon.

            "What's so funny?" Zarbon asked calmly.

            "You!" She shouted in between breaths, "It's you- looking like that, and Gohan- looking like that, and… just and everything wrapped up together!"

            "I'd find it funnier if we weren't strapped for time. Piccolo, take Gohan and get him cleaned up, We have five minutes to be at King Cold's palace," He said as he headed for the door. Zarbon tripped over Salad and went tumbling head-first out the door. He burst into an uncontrollable laughing fit as the complete absurdity of the situation finally hit him.

 

***

 

            Minutes later, the messed-up, disheveled, battered group assembled in front of King Cold's Palace.

            Zarbon took a quick head count.

            "Are we all here?" he asked for no reason at all, since he had just finished counting heads. No one seemed to respond. They were all too nervous to think clearly.

            "Let's go, then, and let fate decide what happens."

            "Quit being Poetic," Bardock muttered from somewhere in the back. Zarbon let out some insult in some foreign language, and led them all into the Palace.

 

***

 

            "What do you mean, He's not in?"

            Neizu grinned at Zarbon from behind his desk. "You heard me," the gangly lizard-like creature said, apparently enjoying his time, "The King is not in. He left about three minutes before you arrived here. So very sorry. If you want, I can try to schedule another appointment for you in... oh... next year, perhaps?"

            Zarbon growled at him and turned around toward the others.

            He muttered something and walked back to the door.

            "Next year, my ass," he said almost calmly. "Let's hope it's not that long."

            Zarbon resigned himself to a long time with the crazies from earth.

 

***