Chapter Two: Old Ruins
The Red Ribbon Army's HQ stretched beneath Bulma like a rotting wound. The once-proud white masonry was shattered. The red roofs that had not been caved in when Goku rampaged through the place had fallen.
As Yamcha landed with her in his arms, she stepped down and looked around. She'd wanted to go by flight, not plane. Yamcha could move faster than any vehicle she had, after all. Though it had been less great once, she ended up in his arms for a few hours.
"Geeze, the Red Ribbon Army HQ has not aged well," said Bulma, walking past the wrecked gates. "You'd think somebody would have come in to take over the place since."
"Nah, no good reason to do it," said Yamcha. "Nobody lives anywhere near this part, so there's nothing to steal. And the Red Ribbon Army crushed pretty much everyone who could build in a place like this. So it's probably not worth the effort.
"What are we doing here, anyway?"
"Yeah, Bulma, I'm not sure why we're here either," said Puar, coming out of Yamcha's pack. The cat floated over to the ruins and gazed at it. "Someone probably stripped this entire place clean ages ago."
"Maybe, but that doesn't mean there won't be anything useful," said Bulma. She peered into some of the wrecked buildings. "Dr. Gero obviously has a secret lab somewhere in the world, so maybe he has one here. If we can just find the place, we could probably find some charts or something that could lead us somewhere else."
"Any idea where we should start looking?" asked Yamcha.
"Well, there should be a secret compartment," said Bulma. "So all we have to do is find a place where the floor is hollow or something-"
Yamcha raised a hand. "Hold that thought."
Then he went down into a cross-legged position and closed his eyes. Setting his hands on his knees, he breathed in and out. Bulma looked at him in surprise. "Yamcha, what are you doing?"
"Yamcha?" asked Puar.
"Bulma, I'm meditating," said Yamcha. "I'm reaching out with my sixth sense to try to find signs of electricity. Now could you be quiet? This isn't as easy as it looks." For a moment longer, he stood silent.
Then he stood up. "This way."
Bulma followed Yamcha with Puar into a large building. She followed and thought Yamcha seemed a lot more intense now. "So is there a secret door?" asked Bulma.
"There's one across the building, but it's probably wrecked. No way it's intact after the mess Goku made here," said Yamcha.
"Well, that's just great-," began Bulma.
Then Yamcha smashed a foot against the ground. As he did, a circle of stone fell away inward, and below, Bulma saw what appeared to be a lab. Still, she stared. "Well, I guess having superpowers is pretty handy."
"You're the best, Yamcha!" said Puar.
And they walked down. As they walked, Yamcha led them into what appeared to be an underground lab. It was untouched, and there were signs of hastily abandoned experiments. Several parts of the ceiling had fallen in, though.
"Okay, Bulma, you're the genius. What are we looking for here?" asked Yamcha.
"Well, ideally charts and stuff like that. Look around for any files or whatever," said Bulma. On the far side of the room, she saw a computer system and some filing cabinets. Unfortunately, the cabinets weren't capsule models. They'd have to transfer them by hand. "Puar, check those filing cabinets. I'm checking that computer."
Yamcha ended up searching with Puar while Bulma checked the computer. Fortunately, it seemed to still be workable and began to boot it up. And boot up. And boot up. This was taking forever.
"Find anything yet?" asked Yamcha, checking some files.
"I think so," said Bulma. "There's a computer here, and it operates on an underground generator. Hang on... geez, this thing was state of the art."
"It doesn't look state of the art to me, Bulma," said Puar.
"Was, not is," said Bulma with a sigh. "This was what, ten years ago, tops. That's a pretty big technological jump is all.
"Now, let's see..."
"A lot of maps. Nothing on Androids, nothing specific anyway."
"You probably won't find anything other than a couple of theories," noted Yamcha.
"What makes you say that Mr. Bandit?" asked Bulma.
"The guy developed weapon systems for the Red Ribbon Army," said Yamcha. "When Goku wrecked this place, their trump card was a giant robot. And Goku totaled it.
"If Gero had android technology back then, he probably would have used it.
"My guess he had some theories but stuck to the traditional stuff. Then, when Goku completely wrecked him, and King Piccolo took over, he changed tactics.
"It's what I would do?"
"Huh, that makes sense," said Bulma. "Any luck, Puar?"
"Android theory," said Puar. "Found it."
"Nice work," said Bulma. "Alright, put all the records we find in a capsule. We'll see what we can find after a long search. With this stuff, we now have a list of all the old Red Ribbon Army secret bases. All we have to do now is run some numbers and figure out which ones are still in operation." And drawing out a data storage device, tried to connect it. As it turned out, it had an older kind of jack, so she had to take out an adapter.
"Does anyone else want to get out of here?" The broken ruins gave Bulma an eerie feeling. Goku had killed everyone in this place, or almost everyone, and the rest had fled.
"Your wish is my command milady," said Yamcha, as he transferred the files into a capsule. "Hey uh, Bulma..."
"Yeah?" asked Bulma.
"Want to get dinner and a movie after we get back?" asked Yamcha. He finished storing the capsule and minimized it before putting it in his pocket.
Bulma felt the old flame coming back to her now and liked the idea. When was the last time they'd acted like this together? "Sounds good to me, handsome." She finished download
"Why did I quit adventuring with you guys anyway?"
All of a sudden, a blaring surrounded them; the lights began to flash red. "Intruders detected. Defense systems are inoperable. Activating self destruct sequence in 5, 4, 3..."
"Puar, get in my pack!" said Yamcha.
The downloading was nearly complete.
Bulma finished the download and drew it out. "Yamcha, get us out of here."
A moment later, there was a blur of air, and then Bulma and Puar were high above the Red Ribbon Army HQ. A moment later, an explosion resounded through it. The buildings collapsed as explosions blew them high into the air.
A second later and Bulma would have been dead. "Oh right, now I remember why.
"Let's head back to Capsule Corp."
And head back, they did. Bulma arrived back and stopped only to fix the gravity machine. No sense in letting Vegeta complain any longer; if he left, they'd have one fewer fighter.
It took all afternoon.
By the time Bulma carried out a full-scale analysis of all the data, they had gathered. Yamcha didn't help because he ended up doing training in the gym. According to Puar, he'd thrown himself far more into it than before.
"So, find anything?" asked Yamcha, coming in.
"Yeah," said Bulma. "From the looks of things, Gero has been operating on three different theories of android. The first is a full-on machine, totally artificial. There are two varieties of that, one designed for pure power. The other is less powerful but can drain chi from other people.
"Also, he theorizes that they would be impossible to detect by traditional means?"
"Why?" asked Yamcha.
"It's a bit complicated, but his theory is that most martial artists who sense chi sense life," said Bulma. "A machine doesn't have any, so you can't detect them.
"Gero seems to like the energy-draining model a lot."
"Okay, so what are the others?" asked Yamcha.
"Well, the other kind is a fusion of a human being with artificial devices," said Bulma. "Basically, you use nano-machines or something else to enhance an existing human. In theory, Gero's theory, you could have limitless energy."
"And he thinks the energy drain model is better?" asked Yamcha.
Bulma shrugged. "His view is that it makes you stronger and your enemy weaker. Do it enough, and you're invincible."
"And the last one?" asked Yamcha.
"He calls it Cell," said Bulma. "It really seems like his magnum opus, or he'd like it to be. Basically, this critter is a fusion of all the planet's lifeforms. It is superfast, super strong, and all kinds of stuff. His plans were to get genetic data from all the planet's strongest fighters. Then merge them with animal DNA to create a god or whatever.
"But he never started the project."
"Why not?" asked Yamcha.
"His notes dismiss it as completely impractical to implement," said Bulma. She shrugged, then turned her swivel chair to face him. "Modern genetic tech just isn't good enough to do what he wanted to do. And I can you, he was right.
"Even today, pulling off this kind of project would be... well, I'd have to put in a lot of research to even start."
"Gero has had plenty of time to make advancements, though," noted Yamcha. "Think about how far we've come."
"Well, we can probably say that if Gero is making an android," said Bulma, "it operates on one of those theories. So, which one do you think it is?"
"Probably the fully robotic one," said Yamcha.
Bulma stared at him and asked how he knew so much. "Why do you say that, Yamcha?"
"He's got more experience with it," said Yamcha. "The Red Ribbon Army was focused mostly on that kind of thing, so there's more stress testing. It's easier that way."
"I dunno, the limitless power androids seems pretty good to me," said Bulma, who had thought it would work best.
"No, no, no, that's not the right attitude!" said Yamcha. "Think like Gero.
"You're a super genius who has decided to achieve world domination by proxy. Then all of a sudden, a bold hero comes out of nowhere and wrecks everything. You plan revenge. But you don't just plan any revenge.
"You spent more than a decade plotting to destroy him when he has his guard down.
"And, you're an old guy. You are dedicating the entire rest of your life to killing Goku. You're not going to pick the easy way. You're not going to pick the way you think is going to most successful.
"To use..." Yamcha trailed off. "Them all."
Bulma realized what he meant and put her face in her hands. "Oh my god, Dr. Gero, is going to build them all."
"Now hang on," said Yamcha. "Trunks said there were only two androids. That means at least one of these projects doesn't happen."
"We don't know what happened, Yamcha," said Bulma. "Maybe some of these projects were duds, and only two of them showed up. Or maybe you guys killed some of the Androids in the initial fight and Trunks forgot to mention it. Or, some of them could have killed off the others." Horror crept up on her as she realized that things had just gotten a lot worse. "I doubt Gero wanted his androids to go completely psychotic. He wants to kill Goku, not destroy the world. Maybe... maybe they killed the others..."
And then Vegeta barged into the room. "Bulma! The gravity room has malfunctioned again, and the mechanics-"
Bulma snapped and stood up. "FIX IT YOURSELF! OUT! OUT!"
Yamcha blinked in surprise. "...Huh, I've never seen someone else on the receiving end of your anger before."
"We need to go talk to Goku about this," said Bulma.
This was going to take a lot more work than she'd thought.
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