Thursday, predawn, outside a small town in the great northern forests…
With the stars shining down through a clear night sky, Tien curiously examined the watch he was holding. "And the costume really comes out of this little thing?"
"It's like a capsule," Gohan nervously clarified. It had taken him hours, plus a trip to Dende's Lookout, to locate Tien and Chouzu, and the search had left him on edge. Not only was he conspiring to fool Videl—again—but he was outside after hours without his mother's permission, he had already blown his timetable for getting his homework done, and he was loosing valuable sleeping time in what was turning out to be a very stressful week. "You put it on, hit the button, and the costume will appear around you."
Tien looked over at the younger boy. "At my size?"
"It should," answered Gohan, to stressed too care about using the wrong tense in his answer. "Now, Videl is planning to set the trap on Saturday, so—"
"Gohan," Tien interrupted, with a wry grin on his face. "I know. I heard you the first two times." The three-eyed fighter chuckled at Gohan's haggard reaction. "I'll be there, Gohan. Now you go home. You look like you could use some sleep. Really…"
Gohan looked at Tien for a moment, then shook his head quickly. "Sleep," he muttered. "Why bother? By the time I get back, I'll have less than two hours before I wake up, and it'll take me at least fifteen minutes to calm down enough to…" Seemly unaware that he was thinking out loud, Gohan took off and flew into the horizon.
Tien chuckled as he watched the boy go.
"I hope he gets through this," Chouzu commented.
"Oh, I'm sure he will. At his age, things always seem more dire than they really are…" Still chuckling, Tien cheerfully affixed the watch over one of his gauntlets. "So Gohan became a super hero. Who would have thought it?"
Chouzu blinked, and stared at Tien for a moment. "What does that mean, Tien? Su-per hero?"
"You don't know?" Balked Tien, honestly startled. But after a moment, he shook his head. "Right, you grew up as a prince. You never got exposed to any 'low' culture…"
"Comics, Chouzu. Super heroes are from comics. I had a few of 'em back before I became Master Crane's student. Including a couple of dog-earned four-color ones…" Tien trailed off for a moment at the memory.
"So… What are they?" Asked Chouzu.
Tien rolled all three of his eyes. "They are people with super powers, Chouzu. They fly, or have a magic ring, or just fight really well, and they protect people from evil."
"Kind of like us?"
"Eh, kind of," conceded Tien. "They usually have a hometown where they fight off minor bad guys as well as well as the big world threatening villains. And they dress differently. Less practical, but more iconic looking. Super heroes are like roll models; people for everyone in their city to look up at and admire." Tien snapped his fingers. "Take one of us, and then exaggerate one power or aspect of our personality, until that one aspect defines everything we are. That is a super hero."
Chouzu blinked. "Okay, but… Iconic looking?"
Walking up to the nearby lakeshore, Tien smiled to himself. "Oh yeah. They dress in bright colors, skin-tight fabric, usually a cape, and they always—always—have a big emblem on their chest. So people know exactly who they are." Tien chuckled to himself. "And if Gohan is calling himself 'Saiyaman,' I think I've got a pretty good idea of what he looks like…" Tien paused and smiled at Chouzu's curious expression. "Trust me. It'll be a blue suit, with red trim and a red cape… And an awesome emblem of an S inscribed in a diamond…" Tien took a moment to examine the watch. "Heh, Shazam," he joked as he pressed the appropriate button.
A holographic distortion obscured Tien for just a moment before the Saiyaman costume solidified around him. Upon seeing his reflection in the lake, Tien abruptly frowned. He immediately took off the helmet, and looked at it in a type of horrified fascination. Dropping it, he looked down at his chest, and pulled apart the sides of his green vest.
"Well," casually observed Chouzu. "You were right about the cape."
"Where's the S?!" Tien angrily demanded. "I'm supposed to be wearing a giant golden S!"
Saturday, in the market plaza of Satan City…
Sitting on a street bench and feigning reading a novel, Gohan glanced anxiously around the street. He was dressed in some beat up street clothes he had borrowed from Sharpener, with dark sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap covering his spiky blond hair. Across the plaza, Videl was causally leaning against a lamp pole. Not for the first time, Gohan took a deep breath and hoped his scheme would work.
Glancing up again a moment later, he saw a young man in a navy Italian suit and tinted sunglasses strolling casually through the plaza.
"Videl," Gohan whined to himself. "Did you really have to bring Sharpener in on this? He didn't have to know about me…"
The man stopped in the center of the plaza and looked around. Finding who he was looking for, he raised his arm and snapped his fingers a few times. Following the man's gaze, Gohan spotted a young woman carrying a pair of violin cases and wearing a miniskirt/suit combo that perfectly matched Sharpener's. Upon seeing the signal, the woman hurried over to join the man.
Breaking character, Gohan buried his face in his hands. "…And did you have to tell him in front of Erasa?"
Gohan only looked up again when he heard the twin clicks of a couple of Tommy Guns being loaded. Smiling like a man who was about to have the time of his life, Sharpener raised his gun to the sky and squeezed the trigger. Gohan knew the gun was firing blanks, but the shots sounded all too real to everyone else. Instantly, the mood of the plaza changed as everyone either threw themselves to the ground or ran for cover.
"Don't anybody move!" Yelled out Erasa, in a voice more threatening than Gohan would have given her credit for. Holding her own gun in classic mobster style, she fired a few blanks above the heads of a nearby group of teenagers. Ceasing fire, she lowered her gun and swept her aim across the plaza. "Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt…"
Fighting back a laugh and still holding his gun in one hand, Sharpener began casually walking forward. "Well, will yah look at what we'se got here?" Asked Sharpener, rolling his A's. "A bunch a' pedestrian pie-knockahs thinkin' they got's the rights tah this here plah-za… What are yah, a bunch a' lunatics? Ahv'ybody knows this street's is a part a' the Mahmalukes' territory. Ain't that right Bird?"
Following Sharpener a step behind, and keeping her gun leveled at all times, Erasa responded in the same voice she had used earlier. "That's right Joey…"
Thoroughly enjoying himself, Sharpener wagged his head a little. "That's right. Ahv'ybody…" Coming up to a park cop, who was backing away just like everyone else was, Sharpener lowered his gun and mockingly brushed the barrel of it against the man's collar. "Ahcept for them knockahs down in City Hall. Seems they decided not to pay the priv'lage fees that they so rightfully owe us. And that… Well that just don't sit too well with me and the boys…
"So lemme tell yah how it's gonnah be!" Sharpener said, abruptly turning about. "The Mahmalukes is gonnah get they's moneah, one way or anathah! So—" Sharpener cut himself off as a shadow passed over him.
Gohan eyed the sky for a moment. "Thank you," he mouthed. Glancing to the side, caught Videl's gaze and saw her motion for him to get ready.
Still playing their parts, Sharpener and Erasa backed up against each other. "Ah'right, yah knockah…" Sharpener tried to warn as he looked frantically about. "Wha'da yah—"
"Not 'what?'" Cut off an approaching voice. A cheer erupted from the people as familiar looking hero in a green, black and red costume swept through the Plaza. "'Who?' And the answer is…"
"Now, Gohan!" Yelled Videl as she sprinted forward.
Now standing on the ground, Saiyaman struck a heroic pose. "The Great—"
Gohan tossed off his cap and prepared to sprint past Videl.
Then the Great Saiyaman was knocked flat on his face.
"Where do you get off calling yourself 'great?'" Angrily demanded Tien, standing with arms crossed and glaring at the fallen hero.
Videl skid to a stop, and most everyone else in the park gasped in astonishment. Gohan, probably the most surprised of all, just stood where he was and stared.
"Aw, Da—aad…" Whined Saiyaman, in a voice very different from the one he had been using before.
"Don't you 'Dad' me!" Continued Tien, grabbing Saiyaman by his cape and pulling him to his feet. "What were you thinking, boy? Is this what I taught you to do with your life? Is this anything like what I taught you?!" Tien cuffed the back of Saiyaman's head, knocking his helmet clean off.
Beneath the helmet, Saiyaman had a face that looked almost exactly like Tien's, but with a messy crop of black hair falling in front of his face.
Gohan's eye twitched.
Embarrassed, Saiyaman quickly picked his helmet back up. "This is what you taught me, Dad. You taught me to be a hero!"
"Yeah, I taught you to be a hero," Tien yelled back. "But this isn't being a hero! This…" Tien grabbed Saiyaman's vest, dragging the man forward. "Is being a clown! You don't even have an emblem! How do you call yourself a hero without having an emblem?"
"But Dad, I—Ow!"
Holding his 'son' by the ear, Tien started pulling Saiyaman across the plaza. "Don't mouth off, kid. If you can't be a super hero on your own, we're going to sidekick you off to someone who can."
Tien tossed Saiyaman into the air. "Go home! I'll talk to you there." Pouting, Saiyaman rubbed his ear and sullenly flew away. With him leaving, Tien turned on the people of the plaza. "And as for you… Shame on you for encouraging him! You should have all known better…" Tien shook his head in disgust, and took to the air.
Gohan stared mutely at the disappearing fliers.
"That was Tien…" Said Videl as she walked up to Gohan. "I recognize him from the old tournament photos. But I didn't know he had a son…" She turned to Gohan. "Did you know he had a kid?"
Blinking away the worst of his confusion, Gohan managed to shake his head.
Videl shrugged. "Huh. Well, I guess that settles everything about Saiyaman. We know who he is and it doesn't look like he's coming ba—"
"Videl!" Cried Sharpener, in a very muffled voice. "Gohan, Videl, help!"
Startled, Videl turned to face Sharpener, and saw him face down in the dirt, with two police officers trying to restrain him, and a third fumbling for his nightstick. Erasa was close by, already in handcuffs and pressed against a light pole by a fourth cop.
"…Mean anything by it, really!" Pleaded Erasa, back in her usual tone.
"Aw, no…" Grumbled Videl. "Hey stop that!" She yelled as she sprinted to the scene. "The whole thing was a set up, there's no need to—Hey, I said stop that!"
Gohan rubbed his head, too dazed to do anything to help his friends.
As activity in the plaza slowly returned to normal, a well-built man wearing a bandanna walked passed Gohan. "You owe me for this, Gohan," he informed, in a voice identical to Tien's. "You owe me big."
"Uh, sure," stuttered Gohan. "But when did you—"
"That was me in wig!" Interrupted a similarly built man with a cowboy hat. "I used that old Twelve-Eyes technique. There's no way I'd show myself in public in a costume like that." As he passed, he slapped a copy of JLA/Avengers into Gohan's hands. "So if you want to pay me back, you can start by firing your tailor…"
"…Oh. Okay…" Still somewhat dazed, Gohan started at the departing duo. "Thanks again, uh, Tien..."
"Gohan, stop gaping and get over here and help me explain this!" Yelled Videl, breaking Gohan's stupor.
Shaking his head and dismissing the whole debacle, the young boy stuffed his new comic in his back pocket and sprinted over to coconspirators.