The boy who stood surrounded by four larger pink-skinned monstrosity was a tiny thing. His face was still round with baby-fat and his tail lashed wildly behind him expressing emotion he couldn’t contain. But the boy stood with a grace and confidence that belied his age. The grin on his face was playful if a touch feral.
He raised one hand and a burst of energy shot out of it to blow a hole nearly as large as the boy’s head through the chest of one of his opponents.
The creatures stared at their minuscule opponent in shock. The boy took full advantage of their hesitation. He scrambled up the nearest’s body, wrapped his legs around it’s torso then grabbed it’s head with both hands and twisted viciously.
As the boy launched himself off his erstwhile opponent’s body he fired a second ki blast. The second blast was much weaker than the first, it exploded in the third creature’s face but did little more than temporarily blind it.
The boy drove his hand into the last creature’s chest, he aimed just below it’s rib cage then angled upward to spear it’s heart.
That done the boy dropped into a crouch. His breath came in almost painful gasps. His eyes stayed glued to his last living opponent, tracking the creature’s recovery as he fought for his second wind. He let his last opponent come to him. When it was looming over him the boy exploded out of his crouch and nailed it on the chin. The creature staggered back then settled into a fighting stance. The boy grimaced and took his own stance.
“He stretched himself a bit thin with that first blast,” a cool voice commented.
The tall warrior staring intently at the monitor screen spun around then dropped to one knee and bowed his head. “King Vegeta,” he greeted his sovereign respectfully. “I’ll see that the Prince begins work on improving his ki reserves immediately.”
“For a four-year-old his reserves are impressive enough,” the king replied. “But that first blast was overkill Nappa. Also make sure you spend some time training him to deal with a stronger single opponent instead of focusing exclusively on weak enemies attempting to swarm him.”
“Yes my Lord?” Nappa replied but his tone betrayed confusion.
“Why do I want him trained for one on one combat when we’d never be sent to purge a planet who’s warriors were strong enough to stand a chance against us in single combat?” King Vegeta asked for his subordinate. A troubled look entered the king’s eyes. “Frieza has... graciously offered to see to the Prince’s training.”
“You’re not going to- But he’s our Prince! He’s got more potential than anyone I’ve ever seen, let alone trained!” Nappa exclaimed then prostrated himself again. “Sire; I apologize for speaking out of turn.”
The king’s attention strayed to the boy on the monitor as the boy managed an awkward throw despite his opponent’s greater size. With predatory glee the boy drove his knee into the creature’s throat ending it’s life in a crunch of cartilage and bone.
“He should stay here, he should learn to lead from me, he should be known by his people and he connect with them,” King Vegeta said. “We can use the memory implants to cram his history into his head, he can learn to fight anywhere but he should know the people he is going to rule and memory implants are a poor substitute for actual experience... But one doesn’t refuse Frieza’s ‘requests’ lightly.” The king laughed bitterly. “I don’t believe the lizard trusts us Nappa.”
“He’s smarter than we gave him credit for,” Nappa muttered.
“Yes, and he wants my son at his side to ensure my good behavior and by extension the good behavior of my subjects.”
The king broke off abruptly as his son joined them. The boy’s eyes widened in surprise and pleasure as he saw his father. “Sir!” he greeted the older man as he bowed. Then the young Prince’s voice rose excitedly. “Did you see me?” he exclaimed. “I killed ‘em real good!”
“Proper language Vegeta. You are a prince, not a common soldier,” the king rebuked him then his expression softened. “Yes, I saw you. You did very well son.”
Vegeta glowed at his father’s praise.
The king hid a troubled look from his son. “Vegeta, I’m going to send you off planet for some special training so you’ll get even stronger. You many even see combat soon.”
“Really?” Vegeta exclaimed. “Will you take me?”
“You know I have important responsibilities here,” the king said. “But I am sending Nappa with you, you won’t be alone.”
Vegeta’s expression clearly indicated his lack of excitement at being accompanied by his bodyguard and combat instructor.
“Nappa, see that the boy gets a full physical before he leaves.”
Vegeta’s expression changed from annoyance to flat out betrayal at that.
As the boy stomped out King Vegeta said quietly “Make certain the doctor takes a DNA sample.”
Nappa looked confused but nodded and hurried after his charge.
A week later Nappa sighed, he’d finally gotten Prince Vegeta settle down enough to stay in bed. Nappa was certain that no one had told Vegeta what he would be facing when he went to Frieza but the air was thick with tension around the boy and Vegeta soaked up the atmosphere like a sponge.
‘I’ll have to speak with my staff in the morning,” Nappa thought. They’d been a good group, in the last four years they’d seen Prince Vegeta safely through twenty-seven assassination attempts. After tomorrow the responsibility for Vegeta’s safety would rest solely on his shoulders, Frieza had only allowed the boy one guard.
Nappa snorted to himself, he was surprised that the Prince’s mother hadn’t shown up to verify his fitness for the task. When he’d first been appointed as Vegeta’s primary bodyguard the boy’s mother had insisted on sparring with him to evaluate his skills. Nappa had been dismayed when the King allowed it. It had been ridiculous, he was one of the most powerful Elites, females rarely could match males in terms of raw power and this female wanted to fight him after she’d had only a few days to recover from giving birth. Nappa had worried that he’d accidentally hurt her and anger the King. She quickly taught him that taking her lightly was a good way get his head lopped off. Vegeta had inherited his cunning from her. She was just a concubine and Nappa had been hand-picked by the King but if he’d failed to win her approval that day Nappa was certain he would have ended up as fertilizer for someone’s garden rather than the Prince’s bodyguard.
Nappa made one last sweep of Vegeta’s quarters and was about to turn the Prince over to the night shift when the King walked in. “Relax,” the king said as Nappa dropped to one knee. “It occurred to me that it may be sometime before I will have the opportunity to speak to the Prince without unfriendly ears present.”
“Of course your Majesty,” Nappa said. “The prince just went to bed.”
The king nodded in dismissal and walked into his son’s room. For a moment he just watched the boy sleep. In many ways Vegeta was a prodigy, he’d been born with one of the highest record power-levels in Saiyan history, he picked up fighting techniques effortlessly, he was bright enough to find his lessons dull and drove his instructors to distraction with his mischief. Normally when the king looked at his son and heir he saw Vegeta’s talent and his potential, he saw the future ruler of his people. That night all the King could see was a very young child who deserved a better fate.
“Just think of it as an infant mission,” the King told himself. Hundreds of Saiyanjin parents had to send their children off to an uncertain fate every year, why should he be different just because he was the king? But Vegeta had passed all the test with flying colors and it was difficult to reclaim the mind-set of a parent who’s child was still in evaluation.
Ninty-five percent of Saiyan children were born from test tubes, even the embryos that were conceived naturally were turned over to the med-techs for the gestation period. And it wasn’t uncommon for Saiyan parents to have nothing to do with their off-spring until they’d completed evaluation. If a child’s power-level was too low they were given memory implants and shipped off to distant worlds to prove themselves or die trying; most never came back. If they passed that test the Oozaru transformation was induced. Twenty percent of the males and sixty percent of the females died during their first transformation; it was generally considered better to find out if a child would survive before wasting resources or emotion on them.
But Vegeta wasn’t a statistic anymore. He had passed! He was clearly superior to any of his half-siblings. He was heir to throne, his life shouldn’t be imperiled like this!
The king sat on the side of Vegeta’s bed and shook him awake.
“Father?” Vegeta asked sleepily. He tried to get up and bow but his father stopped him.
“I want to tell you a story Vegeta,” the king said.
Vegeta looked confused but settled back against his pillows.
“A long time ago Saiyans didn’t rule this planet or any other. There was another race, the Tuffles, who were the superior power. Your ancestor looked at this and saw it wasn’t right. He went through many hardships but was made stronger by them. He became the Legendary, a Saiyan with power beyond imagining.”
“Stronger than you?” Vegeta asked, his eyes wide, not believing that such a thing were possibly.
“Much stronger than I,” the king replied, he ruffled his son’s hair and tried to hide that the boy’s faith in him hurt.
“He led our people against the Tuffles and we took this planet as our own. Our destiny is not to serve another. When we first encountered Frieza and his family we saw them as kindred souls, allies, but they seek to rule over us.”
Vegeta frowned darkly.
“The blood of the Legendary Super Saiyan flows strongly in your veins Vegeta, remember that.”
Vegeta’s expression turned smug.
“I am forced to send you to Frieza.” The king looked tired. “I won’t lie to myself. You’ll be hurt Vegeta. Your life with Frieza will be hard and painful, he’ll try to break you. But you’ll stay strong and all the harm he does to you will only make you stronger.”
“As the Tuffles forced the first Vegeta to ascend and become the Legendary to save his people, Frieza will unknowingly be helping you to ascend so that you might free us from him.”
“I wish I didn’t have to ask this of you, son.” the king said. “But you are the Prince of all Saiyans and your people need you to be a hero.”
“I’ll beat him father,” Vegeta promised.
“I know you will,” the king lied. As he left he wondered if he’d done the right thing. ‘At least now he’ll believe his suffering has a purpose.’
The next morning Frieza’s henchmen came for Prince Vegeta.
“Vegeta, I want you to be on your best behavior. You need to do as Nappa tells you,” the king said.
“Yes sir,” Vegeta sighed.
Impulsively the King pulled his son into an awkward hug. Vegeta squirmed, uncomfortable with the unfamiliar gesture. The King released him. “I’m very proud of you Vegeta,” he told the boy. “Be brave.”
Vegeta nodded, his expression held the peculiar seriousness of a small child.
The king lifted him up into the spherical space pod then fussed a bit over the harness. He shut the hatch and stepped back to watch as the pods blasted off into space taking his son to Frieza.
A conceited green skinned alien with a long emerald braid met Vegeta and Nappa at the docking bay. He looked Vegeta up and down then sniffed. “So this is the monkey prince,” he said and Vegeta instantly decided he hated the man.
Nappa caught his charge’s collar and held Vegeta back when he leapt at the man, ready and willing to teach him respect for the Prince of all Saiyans.
“Plenty of time for that later little Prince,” the man laughed nastily. His eyes gleamed with anticipation. “I am Zarbon, Frieza’s second in command. I will escort you to him.”
They followed Zarbon deeper into the ship. Nappa kept a restraining hold on Vegeta’s shoulder just in case the boy was still of a mind to attack the disrespectful alien. Vegeta drew himself up to his full height, pretended ignorance of the fact that his full height didn’t even bring the top of his hair even with his bodyguard’s belt, and stalked after Zarbon.
Zarbon paused outside of an ornate double door. “You may wait here,” he told Nappa. “Lord Frieza would speak with the boy alone.”
Nappa gritted his teeth but nodded and took up a guard position beside the door.
Zarbon announced them and led the boy inside.
“Frieza, Sir,” Vegeta greeted the lizard tyrant politely with a bow somewhat less deep than what he would have offered his father.
“Kneel brat,” Zarbon hissed. His hand clamped down painfully on the scruff of the boy’s neck and he forced Vegeta to prostrate himself before Frieza.
A malicious smile crossed Frieza’s face as he watched the boy snarl and struggle against Zarbon’s hold.
“Prince Vegeta,” Frieza said mockingly. Zarbon backed off and allowed Vegeta to stand.
Vegeta hissed at Zarbon but decided decorum insisted he greet the other ruler first; then he could avenge his pride.
Frieza circled around the boy inspecting him curiously. “Do you know why you’re here little Prince?”
“To train and grow stronger,” Vegeta replied promptly.
“Yes,” Frieza said. “You are here to demonstrate your race’s capabilities. If you prove your people’s worth I will allow you to continue as subjects in my father’s Empire. If not...” Frieza trailed off menacingly.
Vegeta’s lips drew back in a snarl. “Saiyans are the best, we aren’t the ‘subjects’ of stupid lizards!”
Frieza laughed. “Boy, saturate your body with oxygen then empty your lungs and prepare yourself. We are going outside. There is something I want to show you.”
Vegeta glanced uncertainly at the blackness outside the ship. He remembered his helplessness as Zarbon forced him to his knees and did as he was told.
Frieza tugged the boy into an airlock. As it cycled down he said “If you fail to impress me boy, I will destroy your planet and kill every last Saiyan.”
And then they were outside. Vegeta bit down on his lip to keep from screaming at the horrible, burning cold and the pressure as the gases inside his body expanded, eager to fill the emptiness around him even at the cost of ripping his body apart.
“Watch,” Frieza mouthed. He crouched beside the boy and grabbed Vegeta’s chin; directing the boy’s gaze to the large, dusty brown planet floating before them.
A ball of ki formed at Frieza’s fingertip then it quickly expanded to immense proportions. Frieza flicked his finger and the giant ki ball flew at the planet.
The cold vacuum of space was quickly taking its toll on the young prince but Frieza refused to let Vegeta look away as the planet was blown apart. “Watch the fireworks with me Vegeta-chan and remember that planet could have been Vegeta-sai.”
Frieza hummed happily as he watched the planets’ death throes. After several minutes he dragged Vegeta back inside. When the airlock had finished it’s cycle Frieza tossed Vegeta across his throne room.
Vegeta coughed and spat out a mouthful of blood. He struggled to his knees but was shaking too badly to stand. He stared at Frieza with horrified eyes turned blood-red from burst capillary veins. Bruises slowly spread across his skin.
“Please me and your people live,” Frieza told the boy. “Disappoint me and they’re fireworks.”
Zarbon yanked Vegeta to his feet and hauled him toward the door.
“Oh Vegeta,” Frieza called sweetly. “I do hope you settled in well.”
Vegeta doubled over, coughing up blood, and ignored the tyrant’s insincere hospitality.