Chapter Four: Red Ribbon Army
Chi Chi ended up leading them through the slopes and trees of the mountain range. It soon became apparent that she knew the location very well. Yamcha also noticed that Chi Chi took them by paths she had a lot of trouble getting through. Several times, Yamcha had to carry Bulma up some of the slopes.
But, at last they came to a slope overlooking a great waterfall. It poured down into a foaming pool below them. Chi Chi looked down on it while Bulma made sure not to fall.
"Is this the place?" asked Yamcha.
"One moment," said Chi Chi, taking out two maps.
"What's the hold up?" asked Bulma.
"I'm comparing my current map to yours," said Chi Chi. "I think, yes it should be... right there." She pointed to the waterfall.
"Underneath the waterfall?" asked Yamcha.
"Maybe there's some kind of secret base camp behind it," said Puar.
"Maybe," said Yamcha. "Puar, Bulma, Chi Chi, stay out here and keep watch. I'll head down and see if there's any danger."
"I'll go as well," said Chi Chi.
Yamcha looked to the dark-haired woman in surprise. "Chi Chi, I don't mean to be impolite-"
"I want to see what's inside," said Chi Chi simply. "And I have been keeping in practice."
"Yeah, but, well, no offense Chi Chi but you're probably nowhere near my league," said Yamcha. When did he become the most powerful person in the room anyway?
"I'm stronger than when Goku was when he destroyed the Red Ribbon Army base," said Chi Chi simply. "And that should be strong enough. Now stop coddling me, I want to go in there."
Yamcha thought about the prospect of arguing with Chi Chi. Finally, he sighed. "Fine, let's go."
Then he sprang forward and dived toward the water. Plunging into the water, Yamcha swam under the water. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Chi Chi swimming just behind him. Coming under the water, he found a ledge and pulled himself up.
Sure enough, there was a platform of stone where the water didn't rise. At the far edge was a door of yellow and gray steel. Looking back, Yamcha saw Chi Chi rising out of the water. Standing up, she rang the water from her hair.
"Looks like Puar was right. There's some kind of door here," said Yamcha.
"Bulma and Puar might not be able to get down here, though," noted Chi Chi. "Can you get them?"
"I could," said Yamcha. "But I don't like the idea of them getting soaked in the mountains. No Chi. Chi Chi, could you get them while I hold up the waterfall?"
"Hold up the waterfall?" asked Chi Chi. "You can do that?"
"Yeah, any of us can," said Yamcha. "Didn't Goku tell you?"
"He..." Chi Chi paused. "Well he never tells me anything. I'll get them."
"Right," said Yamcha. Then he put a hand underneath the waterfall. Sending out a wave of chi, he sent the river flowing backward. The pressure was against him, but putting a little more effort saw it held back. "Hey, Puar, you were right! Chi Chi's going to come get you and Bulma, okay!"
"Okay!" said Puar.
Chi Chi ran forward and sprang upwards. Landing behind Bulma, she picked the blue-haired woman up in a bridal fashion. As Puar landed on her shoulder, Chi Chi jumped back. Bulma blinked at how quickly it had happened, and quickly stepped off.
"Okay, you've got to tell me Yamcha, where did you learn to do that?" asked Bulma, shifting awkwardly.
"Oh, you just send a current of chi against the current of the water," said Yamcha, letting the water fall again. "Krillen figured out how to make it flow in reverse and I did the rest. The real trick is redirecting it so it doesn't do any harm to the enviroment.
"Do it too long and it's like creating a dam."
Then he walked toward the door and drew back a fist. However at the moment Bulma caught him. "Whoa, whoa, Yamcha, what are you doing?"
"Breaking down the door," said Yamcha.
"Don't do that," said Bulma. "If we blow it open, there could be security bots or something?"
"So what do you suggest, Ms. Genius?" asked Chi Chi.
"Let me see if I can hotwire this thing. Give me a sec," said Bulma. Taking out a capsule, she created a toolbox. Moving over to an access panel she started working on it. "Hmm, switch the wires, change..."
Yamcha moved back over to Chi Chi, who was staring in interest. "She knows a lot about technology, doesn't she?" asked Chi Chi.
"Yeah, Bulma knows more about the stuff than I ever managed," said Yamcha. "I uh... don't take this the wrong way, but how do you not know all this?"
"I knew Bulma was the heiress to Capsule Corp," said Chi Chi. "That just meant her father was good with tech. Goku's stories about what happened don't really focus on mechanics. I um... well I'd always assume Bulma was there for the ride."
Yamcha realized how isolated Chi Chi really was.
Goku had made a lot of friends in the days before the Saiyans. Most either faded out or entered his circle of friends. But Chi Chi hadn't done either, had she? For most of them, she'd just been someone who was keeping Gohan from his training. Something to talk and laugh about. Krillen had apparently met her once or twice, but he'd always been afraid of her. So much so that he'd been too scared to even tell Chi Chi that Goku was dead.
Other than him and Goku, the only real connection Chi Chi had with the group was Roshi through her Father. But Roshi was terrified of her as well, and not the sort of person a proper housewife should interact with.
And Goku lived miles and miles away from any real civilization.
It occurred to Yamcha that Chi Chi might be so obsessed with Gohan because he was literally all she had. Up until now, Chi Chi hadn't really been a person to him or anyone in the Dragonball Gang. More an extension of Goku's ongoing happy ending.
If you saw Chi Chi as a person you saw someone who was completely alone.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" asked Chi Chi. "Is my hair a mess?"
"Oh no, nothing like that," said Yamcha. "I just... zoned out for a minute there."
That settled it, he was going to talk to Goku about all this the next time he saw him. It was obvious he'd completely neglected Chi Chi, even if it was probably by accident. And Goku needed to shape up. Yamcha had once or twice toyed with suicide, and it had happened before he'd met Puar.
There was absolutely nothing worse than being alone in a crowd.
"And done!" said Bulma, opening the door. Beyond they saw a hall of yellow metal. There were two doors to either side.
"Nice work, Bulma," said Yamcha. "Okay, now let's see what we can..."
Even as he stepped forward, however, panels opened in the wall and guns came out.
"Look out!" said Chi Chi.
The guns fired and came toward him in what seemed like slow motion. Yamcha raised a hand and caught the bolts of energy as they came. Instantly they were absorbed into his hand and he focused them into a Spirit Ball.
Tossing it down the hall he moved his hands back and forth. It blasted through each of the guns even as they charged a second shot. A moment later he was looking down a completely wrecked hall.
"...You did it," said Chi Chi.
"Alright Yamcha! Now come on, let's find a console!" said Bulma.
Yamcha looked at his hand. "Hang on a second, did one of my special attacks just work?"
"Of course it did," said Chi Chi. "That was amazing."
"Yeah, why wouldn't it?" asked Puar.
"...I don't know," said Yamcha. "I just uh... I haven't won a real fight in a long time. I mean, yeah, I totalled Recoome in the afterlife but there were no stakes there."
"Look, can we just find the console?" asked Bulma. "We're on a mission here."
"Yamcha, you go first," said Puar.
"Yeah, probably wise," said Yamcha.
They ran into several other defenses on their way in. All of them were easily destroyed and Yamcha got quite a bit more praise. It was a unique experience, he was used to being dead, or on the sidelines speechless.
At last they came to a computer and Bulma set to work hacking it.
"Welcome, Dr. Gero," said the computer.
"...This computer is much more recent than the one in the Red Ribbon HQ," said Bulma. "Gero must have had it retrofitted at some point. Which means he must have some money to spend."
"Didn't the Red Ribbon Army get robbed by Colonel Violet?" asked Chi Chi. "I read that she retired with an obscene amount of wealth to a tropical island."
"Maybe he's got other sources of income we don't know about," said Yamcha. "Puar, if you were going to fund this kind of operation how'd you do it?"
"Maybe uh..." Puar had always been the one who came up with plans when they'd been partners. "Maybe get some wealthy donors who also hate Goku?"
"Why would anyone hate Goku?" asked Chi Chi.
Everyone stared at her.
"Alright fine, but I know him well enough to know all his worst traits," said Chi Chi. "Everyone else only sees his best, so them hating him is unreasonable."
"It's probably some of the same people who were financing Commander Red," said Bulma.
"Or maybe a bunch of people who Goku foiled pooled their resources or something?" guessed Puar.
"Will you guys be quiet?" asked Bulma. "I'm trying to access Gero's files. Do me a favor and take a look around here. See if you can find any of the scientists who were supposed to be living here."
"Fine, but I don't think anyone has lived here for ages," said Yamcha. "Come on, Chi Chi. Puar, stick around here with Bulma."
Yamcha and Chi Chi went through the other door and walked. But they found no sign of anyone at all. It was eerie, and Yamcha didn't like it one bit. Still, to pass the time, he decided to ask Chi Chi some questions. "So um, what kind of training are you doing anyway?"
"I mostly factor my training into my everyday routine, to be honest," said Chi Chi. "So I wear weights when I go places. I also paint the house, do maintenance and cut back the weeds and fell trees and such.
"You'd be surprised how much practice you can get just by factoring it into your everyday routine."
"And Goku doesn't do any of that?" asked Yamcha.
"Well he does," said Chi Chi. "When he's here. We both built the house we live in, though. There was a period where we spent all our time together and he was a lot of help.
"Now though, he's always somewhere else. And he always finds some reason to go away." She halted and looked through a door. "Huh, this looks like a cafeteria. I guess someone used to eat here."
Yamcha walked in and rubbed a layer of dust off a table. "Maybe, but no one has eaten here in a long time.
"This doesn't make sense.
"If the Red Ribbon Army ditched this place, why not scrap the machines and take them with them?"
"They might not have wanted to alert Goku when he lived here," said Chi Chi thoughtfully.
"Chi Chi, Goku didn't even know the Red Ribbon Army was still in business," said Yamcha. "I probably could have snuck all this stuff out in my bandit days. All you'd need is to conceal the stuff with truckdrivers who won't ask questions.
"It's not like we knew to look for them. And some of that tech was pretty darn good."
They moved on through and then Chi Chi let out a shriek as they passed a door. Falling back, Yamcha caught here. "What's wrong?"
Chi Chi pointed through an open door. "Look there."
Yamcha looked inside.
Within were bodies. A lot of bodies, all of them having decayed into skelatons. But recognizable on them were red ribbon army uniforms.
"Why would they just be left here to rot?" asked Chi Chi.
"We'd better go tell Bulma about this," said Yamcha. "Now."
They rushed back and came to Bulma typing busily away in a very good mood. "Find anything Yamcha?"
"Yeah," said Yamcha. "Everyone who used to work here is long dead. Somebody blasted them full of holes and left the bodies to rot."
"What? Who?" asked Bulma.
"Maybe the automated defense systems," said Yamcha.
"No," said Chi Chi. "Those bodies were all complete and undamaged. If someone had been firing chi blasts at them, there would be lost limbs. Remember when Piccolo blasted a hole in Goku's chest?"
Bulma began to type. "Hang on, let me see...
"You could be more right than you know. It says here that a remote order was given to this computer to terminate all lifeforms then shut down. It looks like poison gas was poured into the halls to wipe everyone out. Afterward, it was to continue with present operations."
"What kind of operations?" asked Puar.
"From the looks of things, Gero had this place calculating weapons designs," said Bulma. "It's supposed to formulate possibilities and send them out to a remote computer. See, Gero had a whole bunch of different labs like this one. It looks like each one was designed to operate independently.
"The Red Ribbon Army remnants were used to assemble the things as instructed. And as soon as they were self-sufficient, the automated defense systems wiped them out. No loose ends, I guess."
"Any idea on what they were working on?" asked Yamcha.
"Nothing here," said Bulma. "This one was basically focused on beam weaponry and energy control. Guess it was pretty successful if it gave you guys a run for your money. But the data files hit a dead end. They've been continuing the same circular reasoning, trying to find a better design.
"I guess it evolved the weaponry as far as it could go within the parameters given. But if Gero is collecting data from other experiments, chances are he's got a lot of stuff in the main lab."
"I don't understand," said Chi Chi.
"Basically, these labs were designed to evolve basic technologies continuously. Then they transmit their findings to a home base," said Bulma. "I guess that home base is where the Northern Mountains are.
"They send in daily updates, and sometimes get requests for specific data.
"From the looks of things though, Gero hasn't asked for any data from this lab for a long time. Hang on, I've got an idea." And she began to type furiously.
"What are you doing now?" asked Chi Chi.
"I'm running a trace," said Bulma. "When this machine sends in it's daily update, we should be able to figure out where it's sending. We should be go in about thirty seconds, actually."
"Okay, can't wait to see how this goes south," said Yamcha. He'd been doing too well for his own liking. The last time things had been going this well, Yamcha got killed by a Saibaman.
"Oh come on, Yamcha, not everything we do gets completely botched," said Puar.
"Name one time you muscleheads had a plan that didn't spiral out of control?" asked Chi Chi.
"Well I... if you'll give me a minute I'm sure I'll come up with something," said Puar.
"...Huh, the lab is in the Northern Mountains," said Bulma. "Nice."
Yamcha blinked. "I was kind of expecting something to go wrong."
"Don't tempt fate," said Chi Chi.
Out they walked.
"Come on, Chi Chi," said Bulma. "You've got to be less cynical. We got what we wanted and nothing... went... wrong..."
Bulma trailed off. The entire entrance to the Red Ribbon Army lab was surrounded by humanoid wolves.