Nasu glared at the apparently peaceful globe spinning beneath his pod; from space one couldn’t see the smoke rising from the ruins of the devastated cities. “I can’t believe we pulled such a baby assignment,” he complained. “They hardly put up a fight.”
Over in his own pod Radditz shrugged. “You and I are the only ones in the squad who aren’t laid up with growing pains,” he pointed out. Nasu winced as he remembered his own primary growth stage the year before.
A light started blinking urgently on the two Saiyan’s scouters. “We’re being recalled to Frieza’s nearest base?” Nasu read. “Looks like a big deal, maybe they’ve got something important for us this time.”
“We can hope,” Radditz said as he laid in the coordinates.
An hour later Radditz was dragged out of his dreams by a persistent trilling. He glanced out his view port and saw the stars drifting by lazily rather than at a blur. “Hey! Hey Nasu!” he called. “There’s something wrong with my pod.”
After several minutes Nasu replied. “We’re not too far from a planet. I’ll push you there then send back a new pod once I get to the base.”
“I’m gonna miss all the excitement,” Radditz whined.
Nasu brought his pod around and carefully bumped Radditz’s damaged craft until it was coasting toward the planet. Several more nudges and the planet’s gravity took hold and drew Radditz in.
“Don’t have too much fun without me,” Radditz called.
“See you in a few weeks, kid,” Nasu replied.
Radditz watched Nasu’s ship streak away then turned his attention to the planet that would be his temporary home.
“There were supposed to be two of you,” the base’s traffic controller informed Nasu.
“Yeah, I know. My partner had a problem with his pod,” Nasu reported. “He couldn’t make it.”
“Well you better check in, you were called back with highest urgency.”
Nasu grinned. “Sounds like someone finally recognized my talents.”
“Just get a move on it. You don’t want to keep a member of the Ginyu Force waiting.”
Nasu all but ran across the base, but the moment he stepped into the mission briefing room he froze at the sight of nearly a dozen Saiyan corpses.
“Ahh, you made it to the party after all.”
Nasu turned to see the red skinned alien toss a main of silvery hair over his shoulder.
The seventeen-year-old’s eyes went back to the bodies. “Why?” he asked.
“Does it matter? You’ll be joining them shortly,” the silver haired fighter said.
“I’ll kill you!” Nasu exclaimed but the other fighter moved so fast that Nasu was dying before he finished his threat. “Why?” he repeated as he sunk to the floor coughing up blood.
“Well, if it makes it easier for you. You Saiyans were always too unified,” the fighter told Nasu. “Lord Frieza has no need for soldiers who serve their King first and him only a distant second.”
As Nasu’s vision blurred to darkness his last thought was to be glad he hadn’t taken the time to report Radditz’s exact location. “Good luck kid, hope you survive,” he murmured and the life left him.
King Vegeta’s attention drifted as the audience session wore on. Dealing with Paragus and his son had been a nasty business and it left the king with no taste for hearing his people’s petty complaints. After a time he found his gaze drifting toward one of his concubines. Her posture radiated cold disdain; Vegeta signed, their son’s birthday was approaching, reminding her of all the reasons why she hated him.
He found himself remembering happier times when she would have had her son sitting at her knee. While the people came and went she’d be whispering with him, asking him how he’d decide the matters brought before the King and pointing out the foibles and weaknesses of the court so the Prince would become skilled at spotting them for himself.
The king felt a tired sigh trying to escape him. He’d never expected her to give him his heir. He had a half dozen other concubines selected for genetic compatibility, for the all important cause of maintaining the viability of the bloodline that had produced the Legendary, but he’d picked her for her looks and kept her near him for her wits. He had missed her these last six years.
The guard standing behind King Vegeta’s throne stiffened as he listened to the incoming report on his scouter. “Sire, in the past two hours we’ve lost contact with every off-world team!”
“The audience is ended,” King Vegeta declared. “Have my personal guard assemble at the launching pad.”
The King left a surprised petitioner kneeling in front of an empty throne.
Only a matter of minutes later King Vegeta stood before his most elite fighting unit. “We have run out of time for preparations,” he said quietly. “Frieza has made his move. If it is as I suspect there are already over a hundred Saiyan warriors who have died at Frieza’s order and his flag ship is en route for the planet.”
“We go to head him off. Make no mistake about this; our success or failure will determine the fate of the Saiyan people.”
‘Another planet, another purge,’ Vegeta thought callously. After five years he didn’t have to fight to cover his reactions anymore. He barely had any reactions left to cover. ‘After the first couple billion executions the faces all blur together anyway,’ not that he really had to look at the faces anymore. Over the years Vegeta’s ki reserve had grown to the point where he could afford to waste ki blasts taking out cities of non-combatants in a single moment rather than walking through the streets killing them one by one.
The planet hadn’t provided much resistance. After the first few hours Vegeta sent Nappa back to the ship. The fighting wasn’t going to be a problem for him but the clients had already called twice to remind him that they expected a discount if the planet took too much damage while they cleared it of it’s native life forms.
Lately Nappa had been showing a distinct lack of patience. It took time to kill everyone without blowing up huge chunks of the real estate in the process. Vegeta had been playing the waiting game for his whole life, he was good at having patience. Of course there was a trick to it, you couldn’t go too fast but you couldn’t go too slow either. Too fast and you ruined the planet. Too slow and they got desperate. Most planets with any sort of technological advancement at all had enough stockpiled weapons of mass destruction to render their world unhabitable several times over. A purger had to keep the natives in the proper frame of mind to keep them from getting it in their heads to use those things, they completely wrecked the resale value. It was generally best when the natives wanted to feel his blood on their hands; weapons of mass destruction were just too impersonal once they got in that state.
Vegeta angled his Gallic Gun attack to turn a thriving marketplace into a scorched patch, he noted with pride that he’d only taken off the top foot or so of soil in the process.
In two more weeks it would be his tenth birthday. Vegeta wondered what sort of presents his mother might send. Mostly the stuff was either lame or editable and it wasn’t like he had much room for junk anyway but it was nice that his mother still remembered. He was starting to have trouble remembering her. Vegeta hadn’t seen her since he’d been four. He remembered that she was pretty, but he wasn’t sure he could have recognized her face. He remembered that she used to whisper comments about the rest of his father’s court that had tended to get him in trouble if he ever repeated them, but he couldn’t remember the sound of her voice anymore.
Vegeta released a few low level ki blasts and a skyscraper toppled over and smashed into it’s neighbor. It didn’t work quite like dominos but when the dust cleared there were almost three blocks of rubble where buildings had stood.
Vegeta realized he didn’t see his father that much less since Frieza had taken him but their relationship had changed. His father used to be able to look him in the eye.
For some insane reason the armed forces on the planet piloted giant robots. Vegeta snorted, ‘Did they believe that making their weapons in their own image somehow covered up their inadequacies as warriors?’ They were surprisingly fast and agile for machines but the oversized robots had the same blind-spots as a humanoid and they didn’t have the other senses a person would develop to compensate for the lack. Vegeta was too fast and too small for the robots to attack effectively and he was powerful enough that their size offered them little protection against him. The robots fell quickly.
Vegeta went back to his methodical destruction of the city. He wanted them to come to him as much as possible, it contained the damage to fewer battlefields. Once they’d lost the will and the where-with-all to fight he’d have Frieza’s low level soldiers handle the clean up. He’d personally purged enough worlds that no one could accuse him of squeamishness anymore if he contemptuously walked away once a planet’s ability to resist was crushed - Well as long as he didn’t make a point of not killing non-combatants he could get away with it.
A helicopter landed near Vegeta. He stopped taking pot-shots at the city’s police forces and watched a richly dress girl who looked only a few years older than Vegeta himself as she stepped out of the helicopter and walked toward him. She radiated fear and determination. Vegeta knew he’d regret not killing her where she stood but decided to let her say her piece since she obviously had more on her mind than begging for her life.
“I am Princess Amily of the Shonee people, the people you are slaughtering. You’ve defeated our strongest defenses, it is apparent that there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves from you.” The girl knelt before Vegeta. She touched her forehead to the ground at his feet. “Ask anything of me and I will do it, but please, I beg you, spare my people.”
The girl shivered. Vegeta could small her tears in the air.
“What would you do if I asked you to kill for me?” Vegeta said.
Amily looked up at him in confusion. “I’m no fighter,” she began.
“I don’t give a damn,” Vegeta snapped. “You said anything, that your people’s lives were worth anything to you. Is that true? If I took you to another planet and told you that your people would be spared if you killed everyone there would you try to kill them or would you cry about how you’re not a fighter while you watched your people die?”
Amily slowly got back to her feet. “I would try,” she said softly.
“Then you understand why your people must die,” Vegeta said. He took one step forward and lashed out at the girl, his hand sunk into Amily’s chest with a wet, crunching sound. The Princess crumpled against his shoulder. For a moment Vegeta held her against him as the life fled her body then he laid her carefully on the ground. Vegeta knew he’d remember her and he hated her for that.
Vegeta straightened and glared at the man who’d brought Amily to him. “Turn on your communication device worm,” he ordered. “Tell your people that your princess is dead. Tell them that I murdered her as she begged for their pathetic lives. Tell them to come avenger her, if they’ve got the nerve.”
Vegeta relaxed out of his defensive crouch when no further attacks were forth coming. He glanced around him, there were bodies piled high in every direction for as far as the eye could see.
He scanned the planet with his scouter to check for signs of life and found almost nothing. “They fought me to the last man, practically,” Vegeta said to himself. “They were worthy of her sacrifice.”
He sat down tiredly and took a ration bar out of his pocket.
“Prince Vegeta do you copy sir?”
“I’m here,” Vegeta replied.
“Sir, unfortunate news from Lord Frieza. Planet Vegeta was struck by a large asteroid today and was destroyed.”
“And... you’re sure?” Vegeta asked. If Vegeta-sai was gone then everything he’d endured, everything he’d done was for nothing.
For six years Nappa had been telling him to be patient, to endure, to wait until he was stronger. His father told him he had to become a Super Saiyan and save their people from Frieza, his father had told him the hardships he endured would make him a Super Saiyan. But what was the point if the Saiyans were going to be so pathetic as to let themselves be killed by a big piece of rock? He’d done what they asked of him! He’d lived in hell for them! And then they went and died on him before he could save them? Before he could come home?
“Affirmative sir. Lord Frieza sends his sympathies and regrets. As of now, you are the only known survivor.”
“Oh? Really?” If they were that weak they all deserved to die. Why had them made him go through this if they were just going to die anyway?
“Would you like to send a reply sir?”
“No. No reply.” What was there to say? Everyone was dead.
Five days later Vegeta stood in front of Frieza on a ship that orbited Vegeta-sai’s star. “Why have you brought me here?” Vegeta demanded.
Frieza smiled widely. “There’s a secret I want to tell you,” he said. And gestured for Vegeta to enter the air lock before him.
There was a helmet and oxygen tank waiting for them. “Get suited up,” Frieza ordered pleasantly. “I remember how delicate you are.”
“I can’t breathe vacuum,” Vegeta muttered under his breath. “It doesn’t mean I’m weak.” But he pulled the helmet on all the same, he wasn’t an Icejin; his body hadn’t evolved to survive exposure to space.
Frieza led Vegeta away from the ship into the asteroid field that had been Vegeta-sai. After a short time Vegeta began to notice the bodies; many of them fully intact but contorted form the agony of their deaths. Frieza laughed. “Yes, quite a few of them survived the planet’s destruction; a few were still wriggling around trying to breath for up to an hour after the fireworks ended. It was really quite amusing to watch.”
A childish part of Vegeta wanted to ask why Frieza hadn’t saved them but the truth was he already knew and after six years of doing what he had to there wasn’t much child left in Vegeta. He was Saiyan, they grew-up fast and lived only so long as they remained strong.
“You were really quite the disappointment little Prince,” Frieza tsked. “Oh, you might make a decent middle-level flunky but that’s about it. I expected so much more from the heralded Prince of all Saiyans.”
“There was no meteor,” Vegeta said dully.
Frieza shook his head while grinning manically. “Your father tried to ‘rescue’ you,” he told the boy. “King Vegeta knew you weren’t strong enough to handle my training. But really he shouldn’t have bothered. He was too weak to make any sort of difference. I killed him easily.”
Vegeta was left reeling from the double blow; his father had lost faith in him, his father was dead, murdered.
Vegeta felt a crushing pain, he couldn’t breath. For a moment he thought Frieza had ripped away his oxygen tank and was going to watch him suffocate among the floating graveyard that had been his planet. He’d let everyone down, they were dead because of him, because he hadn’t been strong enough.
Then a black fury swept through Vegeta. What the hell had they been thinking? How dare they lay this all on him and then give up on him before he’d had a chance to prove himself? He was ten years old! He hadn’t even entered his primary growth stage yet; no matter how much he trained his body was still a child’s. Even after his body was full grown it would be another decade before his ki potential would be realiezed! They hadn’t given him time! He wasn’t ready yet. Why hadn’t his father trusted him enough to wait until he was capable of fulfilling his promise?
“Zarbon thought we should keep it quite,” Freiza was saying. “After all you Saiyans certainly tried, you just couldn’t live up to the promises you made. He thought it would look bad if word got out that I blew up the whole planet because their Prince was overrated.”
“And Vegeta, don’t let this make you think I don’t like you personally,” Frieza continued blithely. “You really would make a decent flunky and I’d be willing to keep you and your bodyguard on in that capacity. I just didn’t need a whole planet of you cluttering up the place. You understand don’t you?”
Vegeta didn’t remember returning to the ship. He did remember spending the following two days curled up in his bed staring dry-eyed at the wall because he couldn’t seem to remember how to cry.
On the third day it occurred to him to wonder why he wanted to grieve for a bunch of losers who had expected him to save them because they were too weak to save themselves. Vegeta decided that he’d still avenge them. He was the Saiyanjin Prince after all and he owed it to them to avenge their murders. He wasn’t strong enough to take Frieza now but when he grew up he’d be a Super Saiyan. He’d be stronger than Frieza, stronger than anyone. Then he’d show them, he’d show them that they should have had faith in him.