Note: things in double parentheses ((like this)) are not part of the story; they are footnotes.
It all started many years ago, on the now-extinct planet Namek. Frieza was an unstoppable killing machine: he killed Vageta, Picolo, Krillin. Then he killed Goku, and something inside of Gohan—well, it snapped. Power that he didn't even know he had was unleashed, and he ripped Frieza's head off—literally.
Using the grim trophy to intimidate Frieza's men, he ordered them to get the Nameks to safety. It was the fastest way he could think to get the job done—the planet was going to explode, and somehow, he just didn't think that appealing to their better natures was going to work. Unfortunately, they then wanted him to be their king.
At first, he refused. Then King Cold came after them. Gohan, Bulma, the refugees from Namek. Many Nameks died, but Gohan unleashed the power again. During that attack, he learned to unleash it at will, but still he refused the throne. After the Cooler incident, every bad-ass in the galaxy seemed to want to prove that they were tougher than he was. His repeated refusals of the throne did nothing but give them courage, make them believe that he wasn't as tough as all that, make them believe that they could take him, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary.
So Gohan took the throne. He was now the king of the galaxy. He made Bulma his royal advisor, because even with all the intervening years between that day and when he first stepped onto the surface of Namek, he was still a child. During his rein, he ended Frieza's colonialistic practices, created havens for aliens made refugee by…well, Frieza, and created a system of law that resembled something a civilized nation might have, basically just plagiarized from what they could piece together from their memories of Earth's legal system. They were hailing him as King Gohan the Great.
Too bad he couldn't go back home and check, but they agreed long ago that it wouldn't do to let these muscle-bound cretins know where their home planet is. As much as it hurt Gohan to know that he would never see his homeworld again, he knew it must hurt Bulma more. She was an adult woman, who should be having a family, or at least dating, cast among the monsters with no human companions but a young boy—and he was only half human!Gohan, age 12
The king of the galaxy wore no crown, carried no scepter. He wore plain clothes and while Frieza had always tried to look tough and intimidating, Gohan chose a more laid-back image. An "I'm so tough, I don't need to intimidate you," sort of thing. His people knew that there was a reason that Frieza's banner wasn't flown over the capitol any more.
The king was relaxing in his garden, watching an alien version of a butterfly pollinate an alien version of a flower. He cherished these moments of piece. They didn't happen very often. He was constantly getting petitions, and he'd have to talk them over with Bulma, and then decide whether to grant or deny them, and then no matter what he decided, people would always be reading things into them that they shouldn't be. It was exhausting work. And recently it had gotten more complicated still.
Gohan was a boy blossoming into adolescence, and Bulma was the only human female within several hundred light-years—do the math. He was developing feelings for her, that he knew that she would never return, and it was driving him crazy. He couldn't help himself.
"Hey, Gohan, we've been looking for you," Dende's voice called. Gohan had given him a job as his personal secretary. Partly to have a friend near, and partly to help the Nameks get back on their feet after the destruction of their planet.
He looked towards the source of the voice, and there he was—and so was Bulma. Gohan's heart caught in his throat. Was she really this beautiful, or was it just the complete lack of any other human contact? Both, probably. Back on earth, he'd probably just think of her like a second mother. Back on Earth, he'd have girls his own age to obsess over. Gohan forced himself to control himself.
He smiled at them. "Should I be glad, or am I going to have to get back to work?"
"The latter, I'm afraid," Dende said. "The Ra'Zirr are petitioning again."
"Again? This is the fifth time!" Gohan said. He almost said, Tell them no, but then realized that unless he did it himself, they'd refuse to leave until they had seen him. "I'd better go tell them no."
Gohan went to the throne room, features composed to act regal. He hadn't been king very long, just over two years, but he had always been a quick study. The Ra'Zirr petitioner bowed—or did the closest thing to a bow his roach-like body could accomplish. Going down on all ten limbs would have been undignified, so he folded his front four limbs close to his abdomen and bent down close to the ground, close enough that he would have been on all ten if he had stuck his arms out. That one slight difference was the difference that said that though he was a vassal, he had self-respect; he respected the king, but he was not a toady. Odd, the difference such a small thing could mean.
"Your Imperial Majesty," the Ra'Zirr said, rising to his back to arms somewhat unsteadily. "I've come here to beg that you reconsider the grant you have refused my people."
"You have already received several grants, and this one did not seem like a valuable use of tax money," Gohan said.
"You simply do not understand what it means to our people. You have never walked in our streets, you have never learned our history, our lore. You do not come from our worlds," the petitioner said curtly.
Gohan had an idea. He shrugged, nonchalantly. "Let it never be said that I do not have an open mind. You say I can't understand because I have not walked your streets and do not know your lore. Very well. I shall do both. Dende, prep my personal ship for me, my advisor, and yourself. Bulma, find me someone to rule in my stead." The people were shocked. "What? Think of it as a vacation…the first one I've had in the last two years, come to think of that."
Gohan really did need a vacation. A Namek who had proven himself during the years while Gohan was still running from King Cold and other assorted bad guys was selected to rule in his stead, and Gohan left for one of the three worlds currently occupied by Ra'Zirr. The nearest being two weeks away.
Gohan still had to read up on every scrap of information that he could find on the Ra'Zirr (They were the only people in the galaxy to have ever taken on a full-scale Saiyan invasion…and survived), true, but no petitioners! No matters of state! No trying to smooth over the arguments of various factions! He was free! It was just him, and Dende…and Bulma.
Gohan sighed. They had been on this boat together several days, and just like on the trip to Namek all those years ago, she had stopped wearing pants. He hadn't cared when he was five—now, though, oh, boy, did he ever care! He wasn't sure why he was surprised. Back then there was a grown man with them, even if Krillin was short and bald. That hadn't made her keep pants on, so why should she do it now, when it was just a little boy and an alien? Dear God, I'm lucky she keeps her top on! An image of her doing the exact opposite of that came to the forefront of his brain as if summoned. Damnit, Gohan, control yourself! It was useless, however; he knew what he felt about how "lucky" he was. Gohan shook his head, trying to clear it. It wasn't fair. He was twelve years old, going through puberty knowing that he was halfway across the galaxy from any chance of not dying a virgin. Unless Bulma likes little boys, that is. Yeah, that was not going to happen. He remembered with irony when he was younger, thinking how sorry he was for Bulma, and the fact that she was alone, so far away from any chance she had of dating, marriage, children, and the like, not truly comprehending that as he grew older, that stuff would matter to him, as well. He was, if anything, more alone than she was; the object of his lust was within touching distance, which only served to emphasize how far away she was.
"Hey, Gohan, let's play," Dende said, spreading a game board onto the floor.
"Sure," Gohan said.
"I'm game," Bulma said.
The game was like Risk, but instead of a map of the earth they played on a map of the galaxy. It was an old game: the board had on it the Saiyan empire, Planet Namek, and the Ra'Zirr Republic, none of which existed anymore. The object was to conquer your enemies and declare yourself the emperor of the galaxy. Gohan won the first time, declaring himself emperor of the galaxy—the funny thing was that it was also true.
"Ah, man, I'm pooped," Bulma said. The game had taken hours. "I'm going to bed."
Gohan yawned. "Yeah, me too."
Bulma had been lying down to play, and then she got to all fours before getting up—while on all fours, she flashed cleavage generously. Dende, if he noticed, didn't care. Why should he? He was a Namek. "See ya, sport," she said, ruffling Gohan's hair, not noticing that he had frozen in place.
"You alright?" Dende asked.
"I…I've got to go to the bathroom."
The next game, Bulma won. When she declared herself empress of the galaxy, Gohan had to check himself before he blurted out You want to be? She got up fast, so he wasn't able to catch a glimpse of cleavage this time. Damn!
"Dinner time," Bulma said.
"Get me something too, please," Gohan asked.
"Me? Empresses don't cook," Bulma said.
"Aw, but I'm an emperor in real life," Gohan protested.
They looked at Dende. "What? Nameks don't eat, you know."
"And?" Gohan asked.
"Think about it. Would you want a blind man to paint you a portrait?" Dende asked.
"Just whip us up some sandwiches, nothing fancy," Bulma said. "Gohan and I have homework to do." They still weren't done reading about the Ra'Zirr.
They read together in silence as they ate Dende's sandwhiches. He had seen them preparing these things for themselves not to mess up. Too badly. Gohan made a mental note of the fact that he did not particularly fancy the taste of peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Bulma was eating a ham and jelly one, which was probably better than what he had. Getting a blind man to paint his portrait, Dende had said, or something like it. It was an apt comparison. Dende played solitaire (which he had been taught by Gohan and Bulma, by the way) as the other two read. Then it was time for sleep, and Gohan went to bed.
That night, he dreamed of Bulma. In his dream they on Earth, but they were alone. They were in the Capsule Corp building, which he only vaguely remembered.
"It's time," Bulma said in his dream.
"You mean it?"
"I want you."
"I love you, Bulma," Gohan said.
She hugged him close and kissed him ferociously. "Now's not the time for talk." They were both suddenly naked, it was time to do it…and Gohan didn't know what to do! "Oh, I see. You're still just a boy, Gohan, I'm sorry. This was a mistake."
"No, Bulma, wait!" Gohan cried. "You can teach me! Just tell me what to do, and I can do it, I swear!"
Bulma shook her head, smiling. "Bye, Gohan," and she fazed out into thin air.
Gohan went outside, and he was well and truly alone now. He walked down the street, the sound of winds like the howling wail of ghosts, but he felt nothing. He heard a crunching sound, and he looked down. There were little ten-legged roaches scurrying around a miniature glass city, and he had just stepped on city hall. The little roaches were shacking fists at him, cursing at him. "You damn Saiyan, first you destroy our world, then you destroy this one?" one of the roaches' tiny voices carried.
"What do you mean?"
"Look around," the roach said. The city was destroyed, and the surrounding forrest and fields turned to desert and ash. Vegeta came walking up, a hole through his body where Frieza had blasted him when he died, and he was holding a severed head.
"Hey, look what I found," Vageta said, lifting it for inspection. Gohan gasped. It was his mother's head. "Pretty neat prize, ain't it, sir?"
Gohan woke up in a cold sweat. Man, how did such a promising dream turn into that nightmare? He went back to sleep, but it wasn't easy. When he did, his dreams were…more pleasant.
"You have the hots for Bulma," Dende said.
"What? What gives you that idea?"
"I may be an asexual being, but I've hung around you guys enough to pick up a thing or two. You were saying her name in your sleep and you—lets just say that you weren't having a nightmare," Dende said.
"How did you—how could you—" and then he looked at Dende's ears. I suppose those aren't just for decoration, are they? ((Picolo says something along these lines in the canon, but not until the appearance of Trunks.)) "You aren't going to tell Bulma, are you?"
"Why not?" Dende asked.
"Because I'm a thirteen-year-old boy and she's an adult woman, that's why," Gohan said. (He was using the Galactic Standard Years, which were a little bit shorter than Earth's years.) "That just isn't done!"
Dende shrugged. "Okay, but I just don't get it."
"Blind man painting a portrait, remember?"
Gohan, Bulma, and Dende walked down the crystal-paved streets of the crystalline city. With any other people, this would have been a sure sine of wealth, but the Ra'Zirr had to be surrounded by crystal most of the time for their entire lives, they were metaphysically dependent on it. The principle was similar to why Gohan turned into a giant ape when he saw the full moon. This need was the only thing that held the Ra'Zirr back from total galactic conquest…until the Saiyans came, that is.
The monarch and his party were greeted with as much fanfare as the Ra'Zirr could muster. There had been parades—well, the Ra'Zirr equivalent of them, anyway—for three days, but now, thankfully, it had died down.
"This city was built on the model the old capitol city on your home world," Gohan said.
"You have been studying our history, I see, sire," their guide said. He had been, but this tidbit had actually come from a brochure. "Yes, we had. This city is identical to the old capitol in every way. Except for one, that is."
"The Orb of Tornam," Gohan said. This was why he was here in the first place. "A giant sphere of crystal, big enough to have been building materials for one and a half cities this size."
"It was a testament to the power of the Ra'Zirr," the guide said.
The question is, thought Gohan, do I want a potentially volatile element of my kingdom to remember that they were once a superpower in their own right?
"We don't want to spend the galaxy's tax money on something so frivolous as this," Bulma said, "and yet, this is important to the Ra'Zirr. It's a part of their history, nay, their life story. I've got it. We do not give them the money, but we do give them priority mining on any world once inhabited by the Ra'Zirr. After all, why pay for a new one, when we may well find the authentic Orb of Tornam? Besides which, this lets them take part in it's reconstruction. Symbols of power are kind of hollow when you have to ask for a hand out in order to build them, you know?"
"Genius, Bulma," Gohan said enthusiastically. Of course, he probably would have said that, even if it was the dumbest idea ever. He hoped that he wasn't that blinded by his besottedment, but probably.
"Yeah, I am," she said. "Now let me find a way to put that into law-speak and spin it a way that will make everybody cheer."
The Ra'Zirr stood on their hindmost limbs so that they could clap with four pairs of hands each. The Ra'Zirr didn't really have arms or legs to speak of, any of their limbs could function as either arm or leg. They often went down onto then legs for speed, and they could stand on just their front two legs and act as though their ass were their head, but that would be uncomfortable. And probably embarrassing, especially if nobody noticed.
There was a loud noise, and Gohan looked up. Part of the building crumbled, and several thousand pounds of crystal was aiming to land on their head. Gohan blasted it efficiently, turning it into dust, and flew off with Bulma in his arms. Dende followed.
He felt her body against his, and it sent electric chills through him. Yeah, he had just been attacked, but it wasn't a very good assassination attempt, and besides, two years ago, everyone was trying to kill him. He had learned to shrug that kind of thing off. This kind of thing, however, this he did not know how to shrug off. Think about baseball. He didn't know a damn thing about baseball. He hadn't even been to the Earth itself since he was five. He looked up at the night sky, trying to find out which star was Sol, Earth's sun. The universe was an ocean, and all the worlds were but islands. Somewhere on those distant shores was a barely remembered life, a life that had nothing to do with fighting or battles or ruling an empire. He wished he were there. He wished that his father had lived, and had killed Frieza. He wished, but you know what they say about wishes; you might as well wish for a kingdom—oh, wait, he already had one of those.
"Too damn long," Bulma murmured. They landed outside of the ship and went inside. "I hope I didn't breathe any of that crystal dust."
Maybe the attack had made him more anxious than he realized, or maybe pressing her body against his was too much for him, or maybe he just temporarily lost control of his senses, but he floated up to be at eye level with her and he kissed her. To his surprise, she kissed back. When he pulled back, she was staring at him, as if she was as surprised as he was that she had kissed back. "Like I said, too damn long. I've been away from men for too damn long if you are starting to look good to me. And feel good…" she blushed. "I don't think that this is a good idea."
Bulma opened her mouth to speak, thought, and then closed it. "To tell the truth, most of the stock answers don't seem to hold a lot of weight. It will screw you up for life. More than being hunted for five years? More than seeing your father and friends murdered before your eyes? You won't be able to have a normal sex life after this. The nearest person you could have a normal sex life with is eleven hundred light-years away, more if we're talking Galactic Standard Years. Even if they weren't we can't go there, for fear of leading some powerful bad guys to our quaint little home world. I'm not into that sort of thing. Well, I'm not, but it has been seven years since I have even seen another human being. Hell, some of the more humanoid aliens are beginning to look good to me—and this after that whole thing with the one guy (did he have blue skin and green hair or green hair and blue skin?). The only chance we have is each other."
Gohan was perfectly content to let her talk herself into seeing him as a love interest, but then one of the Ra'Zirr knocked on the door. "Excuse me, sire, but we have apprehended the assassins responsible for that incident…sort of."
"They're resisting arrest, and they are pretty strong. They've been flying about shooting energy at anyone who gets too close. I thought that maybe you could…take care of it, your highness?"
Gohan made an exasperated sound and flew off, the Ra'Zirr followed. "So, who is it?"
"Some Ra'Zirr who rose very high in Freeza's ranks; they liked the way things were run before, and resent the change. Xenophobic reactionary bullies, sire."
"I know the type," Gohan said. They cropped up from time to time.
There were three Ra'Zirr flying above the crowd, fending off a dozen others with red-and-blue body paint that marked them as police officers, and the assassins seemed to have the upper hand.
"I shall take care of these," Gohan said. The constables backed off floating down to the planet.
"Ah, so you have decided to face us like a man, your majesty," one of them sneered.
"Excuse me? Refresh my memory, but who tried to kill who with a dirty backhanded trick?" Gohan reminded them.
The Ra'Zirr trembled in the air—a sure sign that he was losing his concentration—and then regained his composure. "What do you expect? You've created a fuzzy, soft, touchy-feely galaxy. You've turned an empire of mighty warriors into an empire of bleeding hearts! Mighty Frieza knew what strength was. He knew what it meant!"
"You've forgotten something about Frieza," Gohan said. "I killed him."
He was facing three warriors of the Ra'Zirr, which meant they had thirty fists they could hit him with. Gohan summoned the power hidden within him, the power that had allowed him to defeat Frieza, even though for his father, even becoming a Super Saiyan hadn't been enough. With this power, He killed King Cold. With this power, he defeated Cooler. He might be able to defeat them without it, after all, he had been training his body all these years, but even if he did, it would be nearer than he could afford. Even though Gohan didn't threaten his subjects, his power rested on his strength, just as much as Frieza's power had. More so, in fact, because he didn't want to have to spend all of his time fighting, and in the empire Frieza made, that meant he had to appear to be invincible. If these people even suspected weakness, they would attack him like sharks in a feeding frenzy.
Powered up as he was, they stood no chance. Moving faster than they could react to, he flew in close and punched one to the ground. One tried to punch him, but Gohan grabbed him by the fist (third limb from the bottom on the right), spun and tossed him into the third. Both went flying into a building, which shattered. Gohan quickly vaporized the falling pieces of crystal before they could harm any innocent bystanders.
"Have them sent to the prison planet," Gohan ordered the constables. One of them nodded—or did the Ra'Zirr equivalent of a nod, which looked like the striking motion of a poisonous snake. He made hand gestures to the others, and Gohan flew back to his ship, a Ra'Zirr official offering his deepest apologies for the incident.
Gohan entered the ship, "Affairs of state," he said. It said something about the nation he ruled that that was true. "So, uh, Bulma…"
"I want to give it some time," Bulma said.
"We could, like, date and stuff," Gohan said.
"Sounds good," Bulma said.
That's what they said. In point of fact, when the king of the galaxy got out of his personal ship and set foot on the capitol two weeks later, he was virgin only in technicality.
Feeling good, Gohan thought.
"Your majesty, we've got this report from the Ra'Zirr," a Namek counselor said as soon as he got off the ship/
"They found their Orb already? Wow, that was fast."
"I'm afraid that that is not it, sire," the Namek said. "One of their worlds has been decimated."
"What?" Gohan demanded. "By who? How many?"
"We're not sure who, but as for how many, there were three."
"Three what, three battalions?"
"No, three individuals."
"Just three people destroyed a world of Ra'Zirr?" Gohan demanded. The Ra'Zirr, who lost to the Saiyans, but not by much.
"I'm afraid so. We have their descriptions right here," He handed his king the drawings.
"This is them?" Gohan asked.
"According to the handful of survivors."
Gohan looked at the pictures. One was a large man with a green coat and a big Mohawk. Another was a dark-haired boy wearing an ascot. The third was a pretty blonde girl. Under each picture was written #16, #17, #18, respectively. "What do these numbers mean?" he asked.
"Those appear to be their names, sire."
"These three took out an entire planet?" Gohan asked.
"Well, two of them did. The one called sixteen doesn't fight, or talk very much, either. When he does talk, he's usually asking about someone named Goku."
"Goku?" Gohan asked.
"I've never heard of him, either, sire."
Gohan looked at these people. Who were they? What was the deal with their names? How was it that they were powerful enough to off a planet that even the whole of the Saiyan army would have had a struggle with? How did they know his father? Why did they sack a planet? There were too many questions, and not enough answers. Gohan looked up at the night sky—this world had no moon—and looked at the stars. The universe was an ocean, and somewhere out there was a little island called Earth. He had been born on those distant shores, and had thought he'd never see his native people again. Now they had sailed out into his kingdom, and he would find them—and punish them for what they had done. But if they had done what he had been told that they had done, they were very powerful. He might have to train.
That is the conclusion of Part One. Stay tuned for Part Two.