Chapter 1: For His People
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.
Chapter 2: Innocence's Death
The sun was shining and the bird-like creatures were chirping, it was another peaceful morning on Planet Dairy. Or it had been another peaceful morning then three spherical pods split the atmosphere and slammed violently into one of the planet’s no longer quite so peaceful meadows. It was the last peaceful morning the inhabitants of the planet would ever know.
The first of the three pods popped open and a small boy looked around with wide-eyed curiosity. One of the braver birds resumed singing. The boy zeroed in on the sound and in a lightening-fast move, darted across the meadow and snatched it before it could take flight.
The other two pods opened to spill out a hulking warrior with a shock of black hair perched on top of his head and a blobby, pink fighter.
“Nervous little Prince?” the pink fighter asked.
The boy scowled at how he’d been addressed. “Why would I be?” he snapped.
The third member of the trio shrugged nonchalantly. “He’s Saiyan Dodoria, the battlefield is like a second home to us.” He turned to the boy. “Prince Vegeta I want you to stay close to me. This is your first real battle. You can never be sure what the enemy will pull out of their sleeve.”
“You keep up with me Nappa!” the young prince commanded. He tossed the brightly plumed bid into the air then turned on the scouter covering his left eye and flew toward the highest ki reading.
“Prince Vegeta!” Nappa shouted and took off after his young charge.
Dodoria followed them.
“Don’t you have business of your own to take care of?” Nappa snapped.
Dodoria smirked. “Lord Frieza sent me to observe the little prince in action. You’re to clear the planet by the way.”
Nappa glanced toward where Vegeta was rapidly disappearing. “But there’s no moon on this planet,” he said. No Saiyan was born with the ability remain aware while in their Oozaru form and no Saiyan child was involved in a purging mission unless they were in their Oozaru form.
“Are you monkeys helpless without the moon?” Dodoria sneered.
“Try us and find out,” Nappa snapped automatically but a worried look remained in his eyes. Vegeta wasn’t ready to accept the necessity of the purges, it was the sort of thing where acceptance had to be grown into gradually.
Alien world or not Vegeta instantly recognized the building he’d been led to as a Martial Arts studio. He glared at the man meditating at the front of a room full of disciples. “Fight me,” Vegeta demanded.
A few of the newer students glanced around. They saw a tiny child, hardly more than a toddler challenging their master and snickered. Their more experienced colleagues sighed at their behavior and silently wondered where the kid’s parents were. The school’s mater gave Vegeta a longer look than his students had, he could sense the raw power pouring off of his tiny challenger. “Why?” he asked.
“Because I said so!” Vegeta snapped, unused to people questioning his demands.
“Why do you want to fight me?” the Sensei clarified.
Vegeta hesitated. “To show Frieza that I’m strong. Because I’m Saiyan, it’s what we do. We’re going to conquer this planet.”
“Try if you must,” the Sensei said. He stood and gestured for Vegeta to join him at the front of the room.
Vegeta warily made his way through the man’s disciples. Once he faced the dojo master the sensei bowed to him formally and fell into a fighting stance. “You may begin,” the sensei told him as he were teaching a lesson.
Vegeta crouched slightly, he took several deep breaths as he and launched himself at his enemy in a blur of kicks and punches, each blow intended to cripple or kill.
The sensei blocked every blow but fell back as he did so. He was far beyond the child-prince in terms of skill but had been caught off guard by Vegeta’s murderous determination even though he’d sensed the boy’s potential.
The students watched in shock as a child forced their master to give ground.
“Go home child,” the sensei said.
“Don’t call me that!” Vegeta snarled and hurtled a ki bolt at the man.
The sensei gritted his teeth and with a grunt of effort batted the blast aside. It blew threw the wall and left a gapping hole behind as it flew off into the sky.
Pedestrians screamed and pointed at the hole, the ki bolt and the fight which had spilled out into the street.
Vegeta renewed his attack with a vengeful fury, undeterred by the failure of his ki blast. It was, by far, his strongest attack but he wouldn’t lose, he couldn’t lose. What Vegeta lacked in experience he made up for in natural agility, strength and speed. He knew instinctively how to make his small, compact body into an advantage; Saiyans were born to fight and even at five years of age Vegeta showed that.
But the other fighter was an expert; a veteran who had honed his skilled in thousands of battles. He matched Vegeta in strength and speed. His movements were smooth and practiced, he wasted no effort in turning aside and returning Vegeta’s attacks.
Bystanders scattered as the fight moved down the street. Armed officers of the peace moved into contain the disturbance.
The Sensei caught Vegeta’s wrists, lifted him off the ground and pinned him against the side of a building. Vegeta tried to kick his way free but his opponent predicted the attack and leaned his weight into Vegeta to render further struggles useless.
“So young and yet you don’t hesitate to use killing attacks. Child, I pity you,” the Sensei said. “What sort of person would teach a baby to kill?”
Vegeta screamed, inarticulate with rage and lunged forward. His teeth snapped shut on his capturer’s throat and the boy bit and torn with a savage abandon. A coppery taste filled his mouth and blood gushed over both of them.
The man blinked at Vegeta disbelievingly as his knees buckled. When he dropped Vegeta the boy landed in a crouch.
Vegeta stepped over the body of the first challenger to contest his conquest of a planet, he was painted in blood from the jaw to the waist. “Who’s next?” he demanded.
It had been three days. There were no more great warriors to challenge the invaders but Planet Dairy’s army still remained.
Nappa glanced around the battlefield and groaned. After three day of near constant fighting his young prince was distinctly hyper.
Vegeta charged a group of enemy tanks with no regard for safety or common sense. The boy laughed joyfully as he treated mortar shells like dodge balls. He leapt into the air and caught himself on the first tank’s primary gun using his tail. His momentum swung him around, he released his hold on the gun barrel and flew to the body of the tank. He drove his tiny fist into a supposedly insignificant chink in the tank’s armor, released a ki blast then threw himself on to the next tank. The boy shrieked in delight as sparks and explosions rained down around him like fireworks.
Two more days passed. The military was no great challenge, but they were numerous and Vegeta’s reserves were far from inexhaustible. Five days with little sleep and the constant drain on his resources had pushed Vegeta near his limits. He’d long since forgotten anything he’d learned and had fallen back on instinct.
Dodoria watched the young prince with superior disdain. “He’s nothing but a trained monkey,” the pink fighter sneered “It’s a wonder Saiyans can even speak.”
Six days after the invasion of Planet Dairy began there was no one left alive with the ability or will to fight the two Saiyans.
Nappa glanced nervously between Vegeta and Dodoria as they surveyed the smoking ruins of the last of the planet’s military forces.
“Prince Vegeta, go back to the pods and wait while I finish up,” Nappa ordered.
Vegeta scowled. “What’s left to be done?” he asked. “There’s no one left to fight.”
Nappa glanced toward the horizon where a city’s skyline could just be made out.
“Them?” Vegeta asked scornfully. “I was there, the only ones left just run and hide.”
“My prince, we’re here to clear the planet,” Nappa said uncomfortably. Vegeta was much too young to be told this, he thought. They only sent Saiyan children to planets with moons so they wouldn’t remember this part. Even the children set on infant missions were set to planets with moons and they were hardly considered to be Saiyan unless they survived and returned. At Vegeta’s age he should wake from the Oozaru transformation without giving any thought to collateral damage, in a half dozen years or so he’d start to realize that it happened, that when he went Oozaru and smashed a city not all of the people who died had been fighters but he would think of it as an accident. As he got older, like all Saiyans he’d gradually come to realize the truth of planet purging, that the death of non-combatants was the goal of a purging mission and not a side-effect, but Saiyan children were raised on stories of glorious battle, not on the cold fact of mass executions.
Vegeta looked shocked and confused for a moment then he noticed Dodoria watching him like a hungry vulture. “If I wasn’t doing it right you should have told me,” he scolded Nappa. “You go back to the pods. I’ll finish my part of the job.”
Nappa and Dodoria followed Vegeta to the city and watched as the little boy went from house to house methodically slaughtering every living being.
Back in Vegeta’s quarters on Frieza’s ship Nappa watched as his young charge scrubbed at his skin until it was raw.
Frieza walked in unannounced and without invitation. He tsked sadly at Vegeta. “After all I’ve been told about Saiyan Warrior prowess you, the Saiyan Prince, balks at killing. I am sooo disappointed little Prince.”
Frieza met Vegeta’s eyes and Vegeta remembered Frieza threatening to destroy Vegeta-sai should he be disappointed in Vegeta. The boy looked down at his chaffed hands. “I don’t like blood getting beneath my nails,” he said arrogantly. “Next time I’ll have gloves added to my uniform.”
A child peered cautiously out of his hiding place, a building that hadn’t been boarded up quite well enough to prevent him from squeezing inside. His dark hair hung nearly to his knees in a ragged mane, his clothes were tattered scrapes and his manner was feral.
There was very little the boy was certain of. His own name was a mystery to him but he knew They were his enemy and he had to kill Them.
For as long as he could remember ‘They’ had consisted of everyone who was not him but recently he’d begun to think that there might be others like him somewhere out there. He’d been drawn back to the place of his earliest memories and had found a spherical chamber that fascinated him. Soon, soon he’d come back to stay and make full examination of the oddly familiar thing but first he had a job to do.
He had vague, unfocused memories of a before, of people looking down at him, of black scattered with diamonds outside a round window.
He remembered eight cycles of the seasons here. When he’d first come here the Thems had been everywhere he looked. They had taken him to a shiny sterile building and put him in a cage. They had poked and prodded and taken samples from him for weeks until his savior moon had come and freed him from Their clutches. He had awakened in the smoldering ruin of one of Their cities the next morning and had quickly hidden himself away before They could capture him again.
Deep down he’d know it wasn’t enough just to hide. So he had hunted the ones of Them that went to lonely, isolated places in case they were hunting him. As he learned the cycle of his savior moon he began to make his way to Their cities to allow it’s power to find a conduit in him so that it might work it’s will on the Thems.
Every season he got stronger and more confident in his abilities but he stayed cautious. The Thems had devices that made burning lights; his hand strayed over his other arm brushing extensive scar tissue, They had little flying needles that made him weak, They had nets and cages he couldn’t break free of without his savior moon and he always remembered the way They had hurt him when he was at his weakest.
They were much fewer in numbers now, after eight cycles of the seasons. They had learned to scatter, to abandon Their cities when the savior moon shown in the sky. They hunted him when she was away and he hunted them right back; so far he was winning.
And when They were all gone he would- he would... Well it had something to do with the spherical chamber. He assumed he would remember when the time came.
Chapter 3: A Soldier's View
Raditz was pretty quick to conclude that Goku's memory loss was due to a bump on the head. Maybe it's a common issue with Saiyan infant missions.
A five man team of Saiyan warriors lounged near the launch pad on Frieza’s Planet #43 watching the ships come and go while they waited for permission to take liberty on the planet.
“Hey Bardock! Take a look, isn’t that guy one of our Elites?” A heavy-set male asked jerking his thumb toward two spherical pods which had just come to rest on the springy catch-pads.
The group’s laconic commanding officer let his chair settle back on all four legs then glanced in the direction indicated. A tall warrior with a shock of black hair sitting on top of his head as if it didn’t know what it was doing there had climbed out of the first pod and was all but wringing his hands as he waited anxiously for his companion to debark. Bardock’s eyes widened slightly. “Hell, I know who that is. And if he’s here that means...”Bardock trailed off as his gaze fixed itself on the second pod.
The rest of the team took note of their commander’s unusual degree of interest and turned their attention toward the new arrivals as well.
The second pod hissed open and a much smaller figure hopped out. A puddle of blood started forming at the smaller fighter’s feet.
“Vegeta you have to get to the infirmary now!” the Elite insisted.
“Oh stop being such a hen Nappa!” the smaller fighter snapped. “I already told you it’s not mine.”
“Did he say ‘Vegeta’?” the team’s lone female exclaimed. “As in Prince Vegeta?”
“Shush Celipa, I’m eavesdropping,” Bardock remarked.
Zarbon, Frieza’s second, joined the Saiyan Prince and his towering bodyguard on the launch pad. “You’re not reporting to Lord Frieza in that condition,” the emerald haired man announced.
Vegeta grinned and shook himself off like a dog. Blood sprayed everywhere. Zarbon leapt back fastidiously.
“I think I like this kid,” Celipa remarked. “He’s cute.”
“Thinking of getting one of your own?” the heavy set fighter asked.
Celipa looked him up and down then grinned mischievously. “Maybe... I f I get a better offer then you Panbookin.”
“Aww, I’m wounded,” Panbookin laughed.
“You donated eggs right?” the towering, bald fighter remarked.
“Like it’s voluntary,” Celipa snorted. “‘Not enough females make it to maturity. Maintain sufficient genetic diversity, blah, blah, blah. What’s your point Borgos?” she snapped.
“Well, I was just thinking, you’ve probably got kids. If you asked you could probably find them.”
“That doesn’t count,” Panbookin said. “If you want count that then we’ve all got kids, it’s not like actually finding a mate and all. Speaking of that- Hey Bardock heard anything about your brat?”
Celipa punched him in the shoulder. “Idiot,” she hissed in his ear. “The kid still hasn’t made it back from his first assignment.”
Bardock waved off the inquiry and continued watching the scene unfolding on the launch pad.
The young prince had turned on one of the fire-hoses around the launch area and was giving himself an impromptu shower. “Sufficiently presentable?” the boy asked sarcastically.
Zarbon turned up his nose. “How did you manage to get yourself in that condition.”
The boy shrugged. “You said there were warriors worth fighting on that planet. I was conserving my ki for them... but I never found anyone worth expending it on. Next time try to find a challenging assignment for me.”
Bardock’s second grinned at the rest of the team. “You guys haven’t heard? Bardock’s kid is why we’re getting leave.”
Celipa forgot all about the young prince. “What do mean Toma?”
“A patrol picked up the kid’s pods a few days ago,” Toma said. “The kid’s primary implants got screwed up, probably hit his head or something. We’re intercepting them so Bardock can be the one to trigger his back-ups.”
“Is Ko-n going to be coming too?” Celipa asked curiously.
“Naw,” Bardock said. “Her team’s on a long campaign against the Starch Empire. Ko-n’s team and eleven other lower level teams are backing six elite fighters.”
“Sounds like a real war,” Toma said.
Bardock grinned proudly. “Ko-n says she’s teaching her Elite a few things about tactics.”
Celipa rolled her eyes, she knew from experience that Bardock could happily go on about his mate’s missions for hours. “So you’re on your own with the ankle-biter,” she commented. “Now don’t you wish you’d gone to see him before he got shipped out?”
“Oh give him a break Celipa,” Toma said. “The return rate for infant missions is less than thirty percent.”
“What do you expect,” Bardock said irritably. “We send brats with below average power-levels and nothing more than implanted memories to fall back on. Of course, most of them die.”
Two days later Bardock found himself walking down a long featureless hall on his way to meet his nine-year-old son for the first time.
“Bardock,” the medical technician greeted him.
“Where is he?” Bardock asked tersely.
The med tech jerked his thumb toward a holding cell. “We told you the kid got a bit banged up and that some of the memory implants haven’t taken hold. You know how to trigger the back ups right?”
“Give him his name; try to get him to report on his mission. If all else fails fall back on racial pride, ‘cause Saiyan generally have plenty of that,” Bardock said.
“Yeah, that’s the drill,” the med tech said. “He remembered enough to complete his mission and get his pod back into space but he doesn’t have conscious access to the Saiyan-jin memory implants.”
“So he doesn’t know that he’s with his own people,” Bardock surmised. “He’ll still be acting under his mission parameters which tell him that everyone is an enemy.”
The med tech nodded.
Bardock walked across the room to watch his son through the one-way observation window. The boy was pacing the room like a caged animal, the wild mane of black hair cascading down his back added to the air of ferality about him. Bardock chuckled softly, “He inherited his mother’s hair,” he said to himself. “Ko-n’s gonna skin me; she hates her hair.”
“Never mind,” Bardock said waving off the man. He triggered the door and walked inside to confront his son.
At the sound of the door opening the boy spun around and tried to make a break for it. Bardock thwarted his effort and the boy withdrew into a corner with a warning snarl at Bardock.
“ ‘Lo Radditz, I’m Bardock,” the older Saiyan said. “How’d things go on the planet? Fight anyone fun?”
The boy looked puzzled. “Who?”
“Radditz, that’s you,” Bardock reiterated. “No one’s told you your name before but you know it don’t you? You are Radditz of Vegeta-sai, a Saiyan.”
The boy’s eyes went distant for a moment. “Yess,” he hissed almost as if the word were being forced from him.
“Give it a minute,” Bardock advised. “Let the memories settle.”
“Bardock, my father?” Radditz asked after a few minutes.
‘Yep, that would be me,” Bardock confirmed. “So how’d things go on the planet?”
“Took too long,” Radditz complained. “Too long of a lunar cycle, too much hiding.”
“You hid between full moons? Smart boy,” Bardock praised.
Radditz relaxed slightly.
“It’s maddening when the mission objectives are pounding through your brain but the direct route isn’t the smart one. I’m proud you fought it,” Bardock told the boy. “Better to take a bit longer and get the job done than to rush in and end up dead; do that and they’re prepared for the next poor sap who pulls the assignment.”
“They weren’t strong but they had machines,” Radditz explained. He held up a badly scarred arm for Bardock to see. “They hurt me.”
Bardock took the boy’s arm. He ran his fingers over the scar as he gently straightened and rotated the limb. “Lost a little mobility huh? Well we can get that fixed up.” He gestured to the scar on his face. “I kept this one ‘cause it looked cool but it’s best to have your full range of movement huh?”
Radditz nodded. The longer he was with his father the more he ‘remembered’ him. “I’m Saiyan?” he asked.
“Yep, best warriors in the galaxy,” Bardock confirmed. “I’ll introduce you to my team later. When you get back to Vegeta-sai you’ll be assigned to your own team.”
Bardock grinned when he saw Radditz’s expression. He knew the boy was thinking about all the times it would have been good to have some one to watch his back. “You’ll see more of them then you’ll see of your mom or I,” Bardock commented.
“Mother? Ko’n right?” Radditz asked.
Bardock nodded. “Your memories are coming back just fine,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Wait a minute,” the med tech called when Bardock led Radditz out of the isolation cell. “He needs a full check up before he can go anywhere.”
Bardock sighed and ruffled his son’s hair. “I guess we’ll have to catch-up later. Don’t give the doctors too hard of a time.”
Radditz grinned mischievously. Bardock chuckled.
Bardock left the infirmary and headed back his team’s assigned quarters. He found Celipa pacing angrily back and forth across the room while the other three watched her.
“He’s just a baby!” Celipa exclaimed angrily.
Bardock glanced toward Toma for clarification.
“Prince Vegeta was sparring against Zarbon,” he said quietly.
“A six-year-old against Lord Frieza’s right hand?” Bardock asked.
Panbookin shrugged. “Yeah it was a pretty uneven match-up. The kid’s a real powerhouse for his age and he’s got spirit but it was still a slaughter.”
“Training match my ass!” Celipa exclaimed. “That was just an excuse to beat him unconscious.”
“The kid kept standing back up again,” Panbookin said. “You gotta respect him for that. Busted leg, dislocated shoulder and he got back up for more.”
“Would have been smarter to stay down,” Toma said quietly to Bardock. “You could see that big bodyguard of his praying for him to stay down.”
“I suppose a Prince has got to have his pride.” Bardock said. “And it takes a rare kid to know when they’re out-matched.”
“Something about that kid though,” Toma said. “I wouldn’t want to be Zarbon when Vegeta comes into his full power. I think our prince has a long memory.”
Chapter 4: Replaced
When Nappa woke up the quarters he shared with Vegeta were empty. He was half-way to the infirmary before he remembered that Vegeta hadn’t needed a regeneration tank the night before. Nappa spent the next hour searching the ship for his Prince. To his surprise he found the eight-year-old Prince staring out a view port at Vegeta-sai, watching the his home planet as they orbited around it.
“I won’t be allowed to leave the ship this time either,” Vegeta said without looking away from the planet.
Nappa nodded. He joined the boy in staring at the one planet Frieza would never permit Prince Vegeta to set foot on.
“Where is the Palace?” Vegeta asked. “I don’t remember what the terrain around it looked like from space.”
“Do you see that mountain range? The one that doubles back on itself? The capital city is in that valley,” Nappa said.
Vegeta nodded. After a moment he turned toward Nappa revealing his bruised, split cheek from his ‘training’ session with Zarbon on the pervious day. “You’ll tell Father that I can handle it here,” Vegeta instructed. “I’m not weak. I’m going to break Zarbon’s nose!” Vegeta grinned evilly at the though of disfiguring the vain warrior.
“Then he’ll kill you,” Nappa pointed out drily.
Vegeta shrugged. Some days the thought of wiping the smug look off Zarbon’s face seemed worth any price. “I wouldn’t have gotten this strong on Vegeta-sai.”
Nappa couldn’t disagree. No Saiyan would have taken their Prince to the verge of death. Frieza’s men did it on a regular basis. “Just stay patient until you attain your full strength.”
Vegeta gave Nappa a twisted smile. “Just another seventeen years huh?”
Nappa winced but he couldn’t argue with the truth. It would only be more than twice the amount of time Vegeta had been alive until he grew into his adult strength.
“Oh go make your report Nappa,” Vegeta said. “Tell Father that he can count on me.”
“Of course my Prince,” Nappa said.
He left Vegeta watching the planet his well-being had been sacrificed to keep safe.
Nappa sighed nostalgically as he walked through the palace on Vegeta-sai. When he’d been here he’d been happy.
He had done his duties well and with pride. He’d protected his young prince from many assassination attempts. Vegeta’s mother wasn’t the King’s only concubine and the others would have done anything to have their offspring take Vegeta’s place but the young prince had been born with an almost unheard of power level and as he grew it quickly became apparent that he was cunning and clever as well as strong, none of his half-siblings had any chance of unseating him through their virtues. So their mothers employed other means to try to dispose of the prince. Nappa had been proud the day when Vegeta had spotted an assassination attempt himself for the first time. He’d stood aside and watched his charge take down the would-be assassin with ease, it had been then that Nappa had known beyond all doubt that his destiny had been tied to a rising star.
Now he was a joke. The Saiyan Prince’s bodyguard but all he could do was stand off to the side and watch while Frieza’s Lieutenants abused the boy in the name of training him. The only protection he could offer Vegeta in Frieza’s court was advise; generally something along the lines of how it wasn’t wise to tick off everyone he came in contact with. Or how it didn’t do Vegeta any good to try to demand respect from those stronger than he was.
All he could do for his Prince was pick him up afterwards and put him in the regeneration tanks so that Vegeta would be healthy the next time one of Frieza’s elite wanted a punching bag that mouthed off.
Nappa turned a blind eye when the boy had skipped meals before a purging mission or threw up after one, although that happened less now than in the beginning. He disabled the bugs in their quarters so that he was the only one who knew Vegeta suffered from nightmares about Frieza and for the sake of the young Prince’s pride he pretended that he didn’t hear the nightmares either.
Before he’d been proud of his job, proud that he had a roll in preparing Vegeta-sai’s next king. Now his job seemed to have been reduced to putting band-aid over bone-deep wounds.
Nappa presented himself at the door of King Vegeta’s study and waited for permission to enter. Once Nappa had made the proper obeisance King Vegeta asked “How does the Prince fare?”
“Prince Vegeta has successfully spear-headed almost three dozen purging missions. His battle prowess grows daily and he is learning to hone his temper into calculation,” Nappa reported. He did not say that Vegeta lost most of the exuberance for life that he’d once had or that Nappa considered it an accomplishment when Vegeta managed to avoid the infirmary for two days in a row.
The King nodded and did not ask for details. “And is the Lord Frieza satisfied?”
‘He humiliates and tortures your son at every opportunity,’ Nappa thought but he said. “Yes, Lord Frieza appears satisfied.”
The door slammed open and childish laughter filled the room as a young boy ran in just ahead of his harried looking guard. Nappa suffered a moment of serious deja vu, the boy could have been Prince Vegeta five years ago.
“I apologize Sire!” the guard exclaimed as he dropped to the floor... after he’d managed to grab hold of his three-year-old charge. Even coming face to face with his king wasn’t reason enough for the guard to give his charge further opportunities to run amuck.
The boy sketched a quick bow. “Hello sir,” he said as if he hadn’t just been caught misbehaving.
The king frowned. “Cheek won’t get you out of trouble Vegeta. You know better than to behave like that. Now back to your lessons and I will be discussing a fitting punishment with your instructors later.”
“His name is Vegeta?” Nappa asked once the boy and his guard were gone. “Then...” Nappa trailed off uncertainly. By custom only the heir to the throne bore the name Vegeta. If Nappa’s prince had been replaced the boy would have to be rechristened.
“There will be two Prince Vegetas,” the king said. “And Frieza must never suspect that he doesn’t hold my heir.”
“I understand,” Nappa said. His gaze slid back to the spot where the boy had stood and the king could hear him thinking how much the younger boy looked like his charge.
“You’ve served the Prince loyally since his birth,” the king said after a long pause. “I suppose you deserve the truth. Frieza took Vegeta to quell any thoughts of a Saiyan uprising, but the plans move forward. I couldn’t allow one person’s fate to mean more to me than the fate of this planet, even if he is my son and my heir.” The king glanced at the door the young boy had disappeared behind. “But I couldn’t bring myself to allow one of those second rate brats to replace Vegeta. The boy is Vegeta, down to the last DNA sequence.”
Nappa just stood there, too stunned to completely digest what he was being told.
The king looked troubled. “Sometimes I wonder if this is worse. By the time that boy is an adult no one will even remember that he wasn’t the first child I chose as my heir.”
“I want you to stay with Vegeta,” the king said quietly. “I don’t want him to ever think I abandoned him.”
Nappa walked out of the king’s study, his mind reeling. Now he fully understood what his job had been reduced to. He wasn’t expected to protect Vegeta any more, just to see that the boy didn’t die alone.
When Nappa returned to Frieza’s ship he found Vegeta ‘sparring’ with Dodoria.
Vegeta stood up and wiped blood off his lips. “You can’t hit any harder than that, you pink tub of lard? You’re pathetic.”
“Smart mouth for such a stupid brat,” Dodoria growled as he lunged at the boy.
Vegeta evaded his attack and drove his stiffened hand into Dodoria’s eye.
“You can’t do that to me!” Dodoria shrieked. “No escaped lab monkey can do that to me!”
“Looks like I just did,” Vegeta sneered but there was a question in his eyes.
Dodoria lashed out with a ki blast that not only slammed Vegeta into the far wall it also scattered a half dozen spectators like bowling pins.
“Don’t cause a hull breach you idiot,” Zarbon snapped.
Dodoria leapt at Vegeta. He kicked the boy in the gut before Vegeta could recover from the earlier blast then stamped on his chest. Vegeta bit back a scream and the sound of his ribs breaking was clearly audible.
Nappa watched as Dodoria kicked Vegeta in the small of the back.
Dodoria stepped back and let Vegeta try to push himself back to his feet. A look of panic crossed Vegeta’s face when his legs wouldn’t respond.
“Beg me for mercy, lab monkey,” Dodoria snarled.
Vegeta’s expression froze over, all trace of emotion disappeared from his features. “Why don’t you go screw yourself Dodoria,” he suggested flatly. “It’s not like you could get anyone else to do it.”
Dodoria aimed his next kick at Vegeta’s temple with the intent of crushing the boy’s skull. Zarbon intercepted the blow before it could land. “Do you want to incite a Saiyan uprising?” he hissed in Dodoria’s ear. “The brat’s a hostage you moron.”
“Who cares about the damn monkeys?” Dodoria growled.
“Lord Frieza specifically told us to break the brat, not to kill him,” Zarbon hissed. “I’m not getting killed because you can’t follow orders.”
Dodoria glared hatefully at Vegeta out of his remaining eye then backed down.
Vegeta laughed so hard his injuries caused him to black out.
Nappa picked up his prince and carried him to the infirmary for yet another session in the regeneration tanks.
“The one in back is still set for him,” one of the med techs said when he saw the familiar pair entering the room.
Nappa dropped Vegeta into the regeneration tank then stepped back while the tech placed the respirator over the boy’s mouth and activated the tank. “So who was it this time?” the tech asked conversationally.
“Dodoria,” Nappa replied then muttered to himself, “The damned brat is going to get me killed one of these days.”
“Or cause your hair to fall out,” the tech laughed missing the dark look Nappa sent toward Vegeta.
Vegeta was a little surprised not to see Nappa waiting for him when he woke up after healing in the regeneration tanks. He walked back to the quarters he shared with his bodyguard alone. When he got there he went to Nappa’s room and demanded, “What did the pink blob mean by calling me an ‘escaped lab monkey’,” without preamble.
Nappa glared at the boy.
“Monkey I’m used to,” Vegeta continued. His tail unwound from around is waist to illustrate his point. “I’m going to kill everyone who ever called me that one day but I get it, the rest I don’t get.”
“Vegeta, I’m busy,” Nappa said.
“So?” Vegeta asked.
Even though Nappa was still upset about what he’d learned on Vegeta-sai habit made him give in. “I’ve taught you how we over threw the Tuffles and took the planet for ourselves,” he said.
Vegeta nodded. He sat cross-legged on Nappa’s bed and waited for a story. Hearing about his history was something Vegeta always enjoyed. His ancestors had conquered all obstacles and one day he knew he’d conquer Frieza.
“Before the great war for the planet the Tuffles saw Saiyan as being beneath them, an inferior species,” Nappa began, “because we didn’t have technology and they did.”
“The Tuffles kidnaped our people and used them in their experiments,” Nappa grinned wickedly as he got caught up in his story and the way his audience was entranced by it. “They increased our natural ki abilities and created our Oozaru forms. They were trying to make super-soldiers. They were also working on some sort of mind control project to keep us obedient, but it turned out to be a lot harder to control us than to make us powerful.”
Vegeta snickered at that.
“The first King Vegeta organized a mass escape, it almost failed but something happened that went beyond anything the Tuffles’ science could explain.”
“He became a Super Saiyan,” Vegeta interrupted.
Nappa nodded. “The escape was a success. Vegeta the First reunited the escaped Saiyans with those who’d remained free and led them all into hiding. He’d listened to the Tuffle scientists and understood what had been done to the escapees more than most and he constructed a plan. Matches were made to spread the changes the Tuffles had introduced to as many children as possible. When those children had grown Vegeta the First led them to war against the Tuffles...”
“And we crushed them with the weapons the idiots gave us,” Vegeta finished. “We took the planet and all their precious technology for our own.”
“Not at first,” Nappa corrected. “At first we wanted nothing to do with their technology. But the changes the Tuffles had made in us didn’t come without their drawbacks; only four out of ten females survive the Oozaru transformation.”
“Why do only the females die?” Vegeta asked.
“They don’t,” Nappa said. “Males die as well but not nearly as often.” He shrugged. “I heard once that the original group that the Tuffles experimented on were male and that’s why it doesn’t cause them as much grief.”
“Once the Saiyans realized they were dying out they figured out enough of the Tuffles technology to get into space,” Nappa sighed and sat down. He didn’t know why he was bothering to tell Vegeta this, the boy would never become king, he didn’t need to know their full history anymore. “It’s a genetics thing; the Oozaru transformation and the in born aptitude for ki manipulation were spread throughout the population, but no one knew how many people would die from the side-effects. And the truth is it probably wouldn’t have mattered even if we did, we needed the power we gain from the transformation. We do what we have to, we take what we need.”
“The purges.” Vegeta said flatly.
Nappa nodded. “We’re the best fighters in existence, but we needed scientists to figure out what the Tuffles had screwed up when they changed us. So we became mercenaries. And it wasn’t just going into the planetary black market, it’s the infant missions as well. We can’t afford to carry any dead weight, so we started sending away male babies who weren’t strong enough to contribute anything. We need any female who can survive, but the scientists tell us we can’t afford anymore problems, the infant missions cull the weak.”
“We met Frieza’s father and made a deal with him. King Cold was just beginning to conquer his empire; we agreed to become his army in exchange for him finding scientists for us.”
“But we’re not partners anymore,” Vegeta said.
“No, over the years Cold amassed a mercenary army,” Nappa said. “And the less he needed us the less we were treated as equals.”
“And now it’s time to dissolve the deal,” Vegeta said. “When I become a Super Saiyan we’ll give it to Frieza and his father and no one will look down on us anymore.”
“Yeah,” Nappa said without conviction. “Something like that.”
“So what’s the job?” Radditz asked his commander.
At fifteen Nasu was the oldest of the five of them and had been chosen as their leader for basically that reason. Radditz was eleven and the youngest member of the squad.
“Some team of old farts couldn’t get the job done and called for back up,” Nasu reported arrogantly. “Come on, we’re shipping out now.”
The squad quickly geared up and headed for the launch pads. As they made their way there Nasu followed up with some details. “We’re supposed to meet up with the other team on the dark side of the planet’s moon for further instructions but I’m gonna set our coordinates for the planet. We’ll land in their main populations center and come out fighting; show the old guys how it’s done.”
The technician who’d readied their pods had a knowing grin on his face as the five Saiyan boys climbed into their pods. While they strapped in he activated his mike. “I’ve preset your coordinates,” he said. He owed Bardock a favor but the looks on these kids’ faces at being out flanked made him think that maybe he wouldn’t count this one. “I guess the ‘old guys’ are a step ahead of you,” he laughed and launched the pods.
At eleven years old space flight was already commonplace for Radditz, he fell asleep before his pod left the Saiyan System. Four days later their pods landed with bone jarring impacts on the dark side of the Fruit Moon. Bardock and his squad were waiting for them.
Bardock gave his son a quick grin before getting down to business. “We aren’t the first group to try to take this planet,” Bardock told the boys. “They’re prepared for invaders... but the other team wasn’t Saiyan, they’re not prepared for giant monkeys.”
“No one is ever prepared for giant monkeys,” one of the boys commented drolly.
Bardock and his team chuckled at that. “They’re good fighters and if they organize themselves they could overwhelm us but they’ve got a few main cultural and religious centers if those are destroyed in a night there will be chaos.”
The boy beside Radditz elbowed him. “Hey, that’s a girl,” he said as he stared at Celipa.
Radditz nodded without too much excitement, he’d met his dad’s team before.
Disappointed with Radditz’s reaction the boy elbowed his other neighbor and repeated his observation. “A pretty one too,” the other boy responded. Soon all five of the boys were whispering and staring.
Bardock coughed loudly. “Yes, Celipa is a female. You got that out of your systems now?” he asked.
The boys straightened and made an effort to look mature.
“We’ve already scouted the planet,” Bardock continued with a gesture to his team. “Each of you will pair up with one of us to get in position...”
All five boys immediately darted to Celipa’s side; the older four with visions of saving her in the coming battle and having her fall madly in love with them. Radditz with an apologetic glance toward his father. Being the baby of the group ensured that the last thing he wanted was to look like the baby of the group.
Celipa sighed and pointed to one of the boys. “You’re with me and if you don’t stop thinking with your hormones, I’ll rip off your balls so they won’t cause you so many problems, got it?”
“Yes ma’am,” the boy said with a small gulp.
Radditz went to join his father as the other three boys paired off with the remaining members of Bardock’s squad.
“Any of you brats stay in control when you change?” Bardock asked.
He got blank looks in response to that.
Bardock shrugged. “Well it doesn’t matter so long as you’re in position before you go Oozaru. That means you better not go looking at the moon until I give the signal.” He smiled with the light of inspiration in his eyes. “Remember, Celipa doesn’t like guys who can’t get the job done.”
Panbookin and Toma guffawed at the possible double meaning. “Get your minds out of the gutter,” Celipa ordered. As she walked past Bardock she added, “For your sake that had better of been unintentional.”
Bardock tried to smiled innocently at her.
Bardock and Radditz wore heavy, deeply cowled robes to blend in with the pilgrims approaching Planet Fruit’s primary religious center. They kept their heads lowered and the cowls pulled low more to avoid an accidental glimpse of the moon than to hide their features.
Bardock spoke softly into his scouter. “Is it going to be a problem Toma?”
“Well, we had to change our travel plans to accommodate the military but we’re close enough to get a nice view of the capital.”
“Should I have Borgos join you?” Bardock asked. Borgos’ target was of secondary importance and if there was an unexpected military presence in Fruit’s capital city he’d scuttle that part of the plan to ensure that the Capital fell.
“You’re hurting Nasu’s pride,” Toma laughed.
Bardock grinned. “Well, have fun on your own.” Toma wouldn’t have joked if he didn’t think he could handle it.
“You were on Kelp?” Bardock asked Radditz while they waited for the other teams to check in. “I heard they put up some pretty stiff resistance.”
Radditz nodded. “Ki-abilities were pretty common in their fighting forces. We were just there to keep the lower level fighters from swarming our Elites while they took on the top fighters but we weren’t bored. I ended up fighting this one guy who liked shaping his ki into whips. Even glancing blows stung like a son of a bitch.”
Bardock nodded sympathetically.
“Nasu’s getting a tattoo after every battle so he can keep track of his wins. I think it’s kind of neat,” Radditz hinted.
“Battle scars’ll just fuck them up,” Bardock said. “Besides, two dips in a regen tank and the color fades.”
“Not to interrupt, but we made it to our destination,” Celipa checked in.
“Good going,” Bardock replied.
“So where’s Mom now?” Radditz asked.
“I ran into her on Frieza’s planet #36,” Bardock said. “She was going to do a couple of quickie missions then take some leave time on Vegeta-sai. You should stop by and see her.”
Radditz nodded. K’on’s team had a tendency to pull duty in the far reaches of the Cold Empire so it was always an event when she was home.
Bardock looked thoughtful. “Frieza’s been keeping all the Saiyan teams closer to home recently,” he said then shrugged off the coincidence.
“Hey kid, what would you think of a sibling? Ko’n and I were thinking, you turned out pretty good after all...”
Radditz grinned at the praise.
“Last but not least,” Panbookin checked in.
Bardock’s expression turned fierce. “Okay people,” he ordered. “Let’s start the party.”
He nodded to Radditz and the two Saiyans threw back their cowls and turned their faces up to the moon.
Chapter 5: And So the World Ends
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.