DRAGONBALL GT: REVISED
By Sean Gallagher (Kaboom Krusader)
Chapter Seventeen – "No Coup For You"
This clear and breezy night would mark the sixth in a row that Pan and her group had spent on this beautiful world. It was hard to keep track, as time seemed to slow to a crawl in this easy-going paradise. You might get so absorbed in relaxing on the beach or partying with the natives that before you know it, it's a year later and you're expecting calls from Earth shouting that there's widespread earthquakes and everything's on fire.
Planet Koum's moon hung full, high, and bright, almost seeming proud of itself for managing to outshine the planet's rings. They still shared the same majestic arc across the stars, having little say against nature placing them together that way. These were the things Pan tended to think up at times like this. Projecting one's problems onto other objects, whether on a larger or smaller scale, could sometimes help put them into perspective.
Vegeta had once told Pan something about a full moon being a source of immense power for Saiyans. But beyond an odd tingling sensation whenever she stared at it for too long, she didn't seem to be reaping any such benefits. It certainly wasn't helping her feel at all empowered now. She was rife with conflict and uncertainty. But at the same time, she wasn't entirely unhappy about it.
"Pan!" Goku cried out upon finally spotting her. "Trunks finally fixed the oven! We can have fish sticks tonight!"
Pan and Regano made no change to their pace in approaching the ship as the former was escorted "home" by the gentlemanly latter. Pan naturally saw fit to point out Goku's inherent absurdity as they reached him.
"Grandpa," she said. "Why are you so excited about plain old fish sticks? You've spent every day we've been on this planet feasting on exotic seafood."
"That doesn't matter," Goku lectured her as if it should be common knowledge. "There's no substitute for good ol' breaded fish sticks."
"Plus, at the rate you've been going," Trunks added. "You'll end up driving every fish species on this planet to extinction." He looked at Regano. "We can't keep mooching off you guys forever."
"Yeah, Pan," Goku added. "You should figure out whether you're gonna marry Regano or not already. I mean look, he's even escortin' you back to the ship at night even though he doesn't even need to at all. Just like what Goten's out really late doin' every time he goes out with a girl."
"Stop it, Grandpa," Pan insisted, though out of little more than habit at this point.
"I'll be honest," Regano said, not wasting an opportunity to flirt. "My time spent with you these past few days has already given me a lifetime's worth of happiness. Even if you don't accept my proposal in the end," he started to turn to leave. "Then wherever your travels take you, I hope you'll remember our time together even half as fondly." He waved to them all as he began to float up into the air. "Goodnight!"
The three watched him soar away, the red evening sunlight luckily camouflaging Pan's slight blush. Once Regano was well out of earshot, Goku spoke up again.
Trunks had a curious look on his face as well, and Pan was evidently the only one of the three not to pick up on why. "What?" She asked. "What's weird?"
"That last thing he said," Trunks pointed out. "About wherever our travels take us?"
"Yeah?" Pan still didn't get it. "So what?"
"Well, he knows we can't leave without the Dragon Ball," Goku said. "Right?"
Pan couldn't stop thinking about it. She'd kept thinking about it all through the graciously-portioned fish sticks dinner, she'd kept thinking about it as she showered and prepared for bed, and even once she'd retired to her sleeping spot in the ship's domed lounge, which she had claimed by rock-paper-scissors for the night, she still could do nothing but restlessly lay there and think.
So now, in hopes of both working off some energy and distracting herself, Pan was back out in the Koumian city for a stroll. Very few natives joined her in her insomnia; she'd only seen a few night workers here and there, as well as more royal guards on patrol than usual for some reason.
Eventually, she wound up in the amphitheater that she and Regano had visited the other day. It seemed so much more expansive now that it was empty, especially from her spot in the same seats that Regano had chosen for them before. She leaned back in the simple straw-padded seat, placing her feet up on the one in front of her as she stared out at nothing in particular.
Her thoughts kept running back through all the time she'd ended up spending with Regano, and whether she liked it or not, she found herself seriously weighing the pros and cons of staying with him. Planet Koum was nothing short of a paradise. The people here, all complete strangers, were more friendly and welcoming than even some of her own friends and family. Prika already adored her, and it was hard not to adore the little princess right back. She and Silva already hit it off quite well. Regano himself was… well, he was still kind of annoying. But did Pan like him? Until tonight, she would have never thought she'd say so. But she did. Could that 'like' develop into 'love' if she were to stay? Maybe. Probably.
But what about everyone and everything back on Earth? To tell the truth, Pan didn't have too much to worry about. For one, it seems that obtaining the Dragon Ball on Koum for the sake of the Earth's safety was no longer an issue. That aside… Sure, she'd miss everyone. But what Goku had mentioned almost a week ago now was true. With their advanced space travel technology, not to mention Pan's teleporting grandfather, it wouldn't be difficult for her to visit everyone, or vice-versa. Grandma certainly wouldn't mind Pan ending up a fabulously "comfortable" princess of an entire planet. Dad would surely want to meet and interrogate Regano, but would probably be happy as long as Pan kept up with her studies, and Mom would no doubt be proud of her daughter becoming Koum's strongest inhabitant and protector.
Which was another thing… as strong as Pan was, she was nowhere near the mightiest being back on Earth. Grandpa Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Oob, her dad, and even Trunks and Uncle Goten were all ahead of her by leaps and bounds. The special technique Goku had taught her was proving far more tricky to master than expected, and the prospect of becoming a Super Saiyan seemed like breaking orbit with a pogo stick to her at this point. But would that really matter? Could she find contentment in being the strongest being on Koum instead? Surely she wouldn't need to compare to Grandpa Goku to defend Koum from anything that might threaten it.
She sighed and kicked her head back. Part of her was telling her she was crazy for thinking all this, and another part was shrugging and saying, "why not?" At this point, she wished something would just make the decision for her…
Pan jumped and squealed a bit at Gill's sudden appearance. In her self-absorbed daze, she'd already only been passively aware of most living things in the area, but Gill's lack of natural ki to sense allowed him to catch her completely by surprise.
"Gill?" She responded, turning around and looking up to see him floating in the row behind her. "What's the matter? What are you doing here?"
"Gilililil, Pan leave ship abruptly!" The little robot neurotically explained himself. "Pan is friend! Gill worried! Follow Pan!"
Pan blinked once or twice, a bit surprised at what he said. Then she smiled. "It's okay, Gill," she calmed him down. "I just went for a walk because I couldn't sleep. You can stay with me, okay?"
"Gililil…" Gill seemed relieved and content with this answer. He extended his legs from his chassis, floating down to imitate Pan by sitting in the spot next to her. In Regano's seat from the other night, coincidentally.
Pan watched him, oddly curious that even a barely artificially intelligent little robot would express such concern and affection for her. How would Gill, of all people, "feel" if she were to stay behind on Koum?
She let herself focus on the moon again. Putting aside the very different and distracting presence of Koum's rings, she imagined the view wouldn't be much different than what it used to be with Earth's moon. Regano had even pointed out how one of the few things from Freeza which his people had kept intact was a small fortified outpost on the moon, since it was invaluable for scoping out visitors and invaders coming from halfway across their solar system. He'd even subsequently joked about liking Pan enough to make her a potential security risk by telling her.
Pan frowned a bit. Again, her thoughts kept circling back to Regano…
She sighed, then briskly stood back up and stretched her arms. It seemed she was actually getting tired now, at long last. With Koum's days being a full one-and-a-half times as long as Earth's, it was bound to happen eventually no matter how much her overactive brain worked against it.
"Well, Gill," she said. "Why don't we start back towards the ship now?"
"Gilililil," her mechanical companion didn't have much to say as he hopped up onto her shoulder, almost as if to ensure he didn't lose track of her again. Pan giggled lightly at him, and began leisurely strolling up the rows of seats towards the exit. With or without her company, the moon continued with its usual tasks of reflecting sunlight, causing tides, inspiring poets, and so on and so forth. As with anything or anyone just trying to mind their own business, however, things were suddenly thrown into chaos when it received some unexpected visitors.
After what was likely only minutes but felt like hours, Orris finally brought himself to move. Whether he'd remained motionless out of playing possum, or just because of his injuries, he wasn't sure. Maybe a little of both. He placed both hands against the floor and tried to push himself up, but his fractured arm, cracked ribs, assorted lacerations, and scattered burns promptly screamed at him to stop, and not try that again anytime soon. So he settled for turning his head.
He could see them on the long-range sensor readout. A veritable swarm of small landing ships, about fifty altogether, now well past the outer limits of Koum's solar system and closing in fast. At their speed, they'd be here in a matter of minutes.
He hadn't believed what the two male Earthlings told him when they approached him the day before. Zatar, a traitor? Conspiring with alien invaders? It seemed preposterous at the time, and he only refrained from telling them off and evicting them from the planet for Regano's sake. Instead he'd thanked them for the tip, told them to keep it to themselves, and went about his day as normal. But as time went on, it began to seem more plausible. He thought back to Zatar's long-standing attitude about Koum's shift towards peace, his constant pushing for more military strength, the way he seemed distracted and indifferent as he carried out his duties…
So when he personally traveled to the moon outpost to meet Zatar, who had finally returned to Koum after a long and unscheduled trip to who-knows-where, he was hopeful that it was all a big misunderstanding. Zatar had brought along a guest. A disproportionately dwarfish alien with red hair and a tough-looking face, who was none other than one of the forthcoming invaders. Realizing the Earthling's report was correct, with a heavy heart Orris had declared them both under arrest.
To say they resisted would be a gross understatement. The alien had a lot more power than his stout body would suggest, and he had taken pleasure in flaunting his swift victory over Orris by kicking him while he was down – literally kicking him across the room and laughing as he ricocheted off the walls. All the while, Zatar had taken his time disabling every system that could potentially warn the surface of danger, making sure to even destroy the main communications console with a ki blast before he and his companion departed.
Orris cursed his helplessness. Everyone on Koum was in danger, and only he knew it. Well, the Earthlings did as well, but there was still little that any of them could do against such an overwhelming force. All Orris could do was trust in Regano, and hope that the boy had leadership skills as beyond his years as his power. He just wished that he could be there to see how it all played out, or at least survive for that long, given how much blood he'd already lost. But it would take a miracle for that to happen at this point…
At that precise moment, a short, young, scruffy black-haired miracle in baggy pants and a dark blue tunic materialized from thin air right in front of him.
This was perfect. The easiest stealth job that Stout had ever pulled off.
All the stories about these Koumians said they were a strong and diligent people. But you wouldn't think so from the security inside their own palace. It was actually easier for Stout to slip inside on a lower level and work his way up than approach his target directly through a window or something. Of course, it helped that their inside man had provided such in-depth schematics of the place, with every little nook and cranny covered. Plus, these people were really lacking in technology, by choice no less, and weren't wearing scouters to spot him with. So yeah, easy.
Easy though it was, his task was still very time-sensitive. The boss and the rest of the crew were mere minutes away from the planet by now, and Stout had been sent ahead with the treacherous old advisor to carry out a very special setup mission. They'd need some sort of leverage to get the planet's young warrior prince to do what they wanted, and the advisor's intel had revealed a great option.
Seems the prince had a sweet little sister, and young and helpless family members made for downright spectacular hostages. Even better, once all was said in done, they'd have a promising new slave in their position. A highly valuable one, too, if they were ever stripped for cash. All stout had to do was sneak in, snatch her away from her room, and hoof it to a predetermined safe spot where she'd be guarded until the hurly-burly was done.
Rounding a final corner in the dimly-lit upper halls of the palace, Stout finally zeroed in on what the schematics said was the prince's room. Intel said the royal nursemaid was likely there as well, but orders were to just quickly and quietly kill her if that was the case. Simple enough. Stout took one more quick glance both ways before carefully opening the door and slipping inside.
The room was lit by nothing but the glow of the planet's moon and rings beaming in through the single large, cracked-open circular window. It only took Stout's eyes a moment to adjust, but quite a bit longer for his brain to make any sense of what he saw. The princess and the nursemaid were nowhere to be seen. In their place was a non-Koumian alien man with loosely-hanging light hair. He was comfortably leaning back in a rocking chair, and bore a sheathed sword strapped to his back.
Regano normally didn't mind surprises. Life on Koum was pleasant, but often boring. So having his routine unexpectedly twisted a bit now and then was welcome. But this was hardly the way he preferred it to happen.
He'd been resting in bet, finally drifting off to sleep after being up late tending to some more tedious princely duties, plus a lot of daydreaming about Pan. Gazing out his window at the rings and stars in the night sky was as relaxing as ever. At least, until a few of those stars seemed to get a lot bigger and brighter all of a sudden. Then their numbers multiplied ten times over. Then they screamed through the air and crashed down all around the area with a deafening roar.
He'd leapt from his bed immediately, and the first thing he did was dart down the hall to Prika's room. Her door was already slightly ajar, and after he burst in past it, his heart sank at what he saw. The room was empty. No sign at all of Prika or Silva, and the window was smashed.
Panicking, he jumped out the window and flew at top speed over to the military building next door, starting to see the unfolding chaos of battle begin off in all directions. The command center in the top floor was already in chaos when he entered, with soldiers rushing back and forth trying to gear up and deploy. He was immediately noticed and approached by Anise, a high-ranking female soldier. She normally assisted and answered to Orris, but seemed to be running things solo at the moment.
"Regano!" She addressed him briskly. "It's bad. We've got twenty-something small ships, landed around the island's perimeter and each carrying about a half-dozen enemy soldiers. We've got reports of the same thing in other cities across the planet, but less than here at the capitol."
"Why didn't we get any warning?" Regano asked. "How did they get past the moon outpost?"
"We don't know," Anise admitted. "The outpost is still there, but they don't respond. They must have hit it first somehow."
Regano had been glancing around while listening. "Where's Orris?"
"We… don't know that, either. Nobody's seen him since this afternoon," she reported. "But for some reason, he beefed up the patrol schedule before he disappeared."
"How fortunate that he did," said another voice all of a sudden. "Otherwise the city would most likely already be overrun."
"Zatar!" Regano exclaimed as he and Anise both turned to look. "Thank goodness you're safe. Do you have any idea what's happening here?"
"No," Zatar stoically responded. He nervously fiddled with the jeweled brooch he wore around his neck. "But perhaps Orris did if he made such preparations."
"But if he knew something was coming, why wouldn't he tell anyone?" Regano clenched his fists. "Why didn't he tell ME? I don't know what to do…"
"Prince!" Another soldier across the room called. "Some sort of audio transmission from one of the invading ships!"
Regano felt a chill. Would this be a chance for negotiation? Or merely a 'surrender or die' ultimatum? No, not likely. If these invaders were planet trade pirates like all the rest, they wouldn't be after prisoners or ransom. They'd just want to wipe the planet of its native population to increase its sale value. But this was still the first time any such group had attempted communication. Nothing to lose by seeing what it was about.
"Put it through," Regano ordered.
A hush came over the room as the signal was received, before a firm and scruffy voice rang through the room's communications console.
"Good evening. Who's listening?"
"I'm Regano, Prince of Planet Koum," Regano spoke up as bravely as he could. "Who are you, and why are you here?"
"Come on, Princey, I think that's obvious," the voice chuckled. "But my name is Quint, and I'm the man in command of all your new guests. Don't worry, they're all under orders not to track mud inside your homes."
"Why did you contact us?" Regano didn't appreciate the man's humor.
"Well, I was pretty lucky to get you personally so quickly," Quin replied. Because I'd like to propose something to you. Something that'd get this all over with much more quickly."
"See, I'm somewhat of a big name in my line of work," Quint bragged. "And I haven't gained my fame by just sitting back and dishing out orders, oh no. I get right down there in the thick of it along with my boys. In fact, I usually do them a favor by personally tackling the biggest threats in the field."
Regano felt his stomach sink. He could see where this was going.
"So I want us to have a good old fashioned duel to the death. Just you against me, in a location away from the rest of the fighting," he explained. "The winner survives to help tip the scales in his side's favor. What do you think?"
Regano didn't let it be that easy. "Why should I?" He asked. "I could just head out and help my people, and come after you with reinforcements later."
"I guess you could do that," Quint mused in obvious mock bewilderment. "Though not only would it be a lot less fun, but it could spell some really bad news for your friends and family too."
Regano's heart sank, and he gritted his teeth. That explained Prika's disappearance. He already hated this bastard.
"There's a rocky beach on the Northwestern side of your island," Quint explained. "I'll be waiting there with bells on, Princey." His voice jumped as he seemed to remember something. "Oh, that whole friends in family thing? Be sure to come alone. And be quick, too. I might get the wrong message if I'm left waiting too long."
"What the hell is going on here?"
Unfortunately, the tall and burly thug in the black and red armor was now quite unconscious and unable to answer Pan's question. Looks like she'd put a little too much oomph in that kick to his head. Letting go of his collar and letting him drop to the ground, she instead looked around for anyone else who might fill her in. It didn't take long.
A pair of Koumian soldiers, obviously younger recruits, had been cornered by a full foursome of the invaders. Seems they'd started fighting two-on-two, only for the dirtbags to get some backup and turn the tables on them. Well, time to turn them back.
An opening with a surprise face-plant slam from behind, followed by two high kicks and a palm to the face. Just like that, the four aliens were down for the count. The guards stood in awe of Pan as she turned to them and spoke.
"The heck's happening?"
The soldiers visibly calmed once they recognized her. "Oh," one said. "It's you…"
"Yeah, I'm me," Pan said, then pointed to the unconscious shmoes on the ground around her. "But who are these guys?"
"Planet trade pirates," the other explained. "I recognize the colors, too. They're a pretty infamous group."
"Planet trade?" Pan questioned. Like that Freeza guy she'd been told so much about?
"Koum's the type of planet to attract these scum," said the first soldier, now much braver and giving a slight kick to one of the slumped bodies. "We've learned to be prepared, but somehow they got the jump on us this time."
Pan grimaced. Of all the lousy things to happen. She and Gill had been most of the way back to the ship when suddenly bright lights came crashing down all over the place and everything went to hell. Before she knew it, she found herself jumping in and helping out the guards and townsfolk by beating up these space invaders at every turn.
Gill then decided to come out of hiding, just as he'd done the last three times Pan had entered combat, chirping his anxious little 'Gilililil' noises as he came to rest on Pan's shoulder. Suddenly, Pan took notice of something, and whipped her head around to stare off in that direction, knocking the neurotic little robot off-balance.
"Hey," she spoke to the guards again, who were now almost rhythmically taking turns kicking the KO'd thugs. "What's Regano doing?"
"The prince?" One blinked. "No idea. We've been out on patrol for hours already. He was probably asleep."
Pan's focus remained off to the Northwest. She'd sensed Regano take off from the vicinity of the palace at full power, and was now moving towards the opposite end of the island in a hurry. Pan had no idea why, but she would find out.
"Gill!" She called him to attention from his impromptu spot on the ground. "Keep going back to the ship. Wake up Trunks and Grandpa and get them out here to help!"
"Gilililil," he piped up, seeming to switch on his own bravery circuits in light of his mission. "Gill will go! Get help for Pan!" He quickly retracted his legs into his chassis and hovered away with as much speed as his little antigravity units could muster.
Pan, on the other hand, had no problem when it came to speed. She pushed off from the ground, kicking up dust and almost causing the two shocked guards to fall on their rears. Once above the rooftops, she angled herself to the Northwest, where she could sense Regano having just arrived to meet several other relatively strong powers. She positioned herself to blast off, and would no doubt reach him in no time flat…
When suddenly, a shriek of terror echoed from down below. Pan looked down, and despite the pale moonlight quickly traced the scream to a young woman carrying a baby. She'd been pursued to a small, dead-end alleyway, and the only thing standing between her and a full troupe of five invaders was a single, frail-looking old soldier.
"Ugh!" Pan groaned as she rocketed straight towards the five thugs. "Come on!"
The Western beach of Koum's capitol island was somewhat less habitable than elsewhere. The beach was nearly as much rock as sand, and little else but some dry and spindly ferns could grow there. The scattered boulders and steep cliffs separating it from the main island's grassy hills made it difficult to carry out anything worthwhile in day-to-day life. But it made a for a great battleground.
It wasn't difficult for Regano to spot the large, elliptical landing craft resting just off the shore, and his foe waiting patiently right next to it. Quint's appearance was much what Regano had expected; he was reasonably tall and muscular, with a gruff and angular face bearing some sort of cybernetic implant atop a sizable scar on his forehead. A pair of small, triangular ears adorned the sides of his head, with a large patch of bright red, bristly hair flaring up from his crown and matching the armored jacket he wore. He stood with his arms folded in confidence, as he took notice of Regano up above him.
"So you showed up alone after all," Quint declared. "Good boy. I knew you would."
Regano landed, saying nothing in return yet. He'd come prepared, donning his personal caped battle armor and the best weighted blade in the royal armory on his back. He stoically studied his opponent, trying his best to gauge his strength. He was confident in his own power and skill, but wasn't certain it would be an easy victory. At the very least, it seemed this 'Quint' was honorable enough to keep his promise of a one-on-one fight…
"Let's get this done with," Regano insisted.
"Right, right," Quint replied. Then he suddenly put two fingers to his lips and let loose a piercing whistle. "Come on out, boys!" From within the vessel emerged two more figures, evidently waiting until now for their leader's signal, and Regano was taken aback at the sight of them.
The pair were vastly different in size and build. One was a squat and lumbering tub of what was, presumably, half-fat and half-muscle, and the other was skinny as a post and stood a full three heads taller than Quint. But those "three heads" were where the differences ended and similarities began. They both had the exact same head and face. The exact same as Quint himself.
"How's the old saying go? If you want a job right, you've got to do it yourself." Quint grinned, and gestured to the two as they reached his side. "Princey, meet Slim and Girth. My clones."
"Heeeeey kid, niiice to meet yooouuu," Slim greeted him in a frail but cocky voice, his words elongated in about the creepiest manner possible.
"Koum's prince is jus' some punk?" Girth burped a bit as he spoke. "This'll be fun."
"They cost a helluva lot to have grown, but they're worth every last Gamet," Quint explained. "Each modified to have a different specialty in battle, as you're about to find out firsthand."
"What?" Regano was unsure what to make of this, but focused on the most important part. "But, you said you would fight…"
"What, all by myself? A one-on-one battle?" Quint laughed heartily, and the other two mimicked it exactly. "No, if you'll recall, my exact words were 'you versus me.' And I just happen to have three of me."
"You," Regano gnashed his teeth. This battle just became a lot more difficult. "You monster..."
"Aw, Princey, you seem angry," Quint mocked him. "Absolutely beside yourself… No, wait, that's me." He guffawed once more, his clones following suit. "Haha…" his laughter quickly faded out. "Alright, let's kill him."
All three Quints jumped forward, with the original charging Regano head-on while Slim and Girth flanked him on each side. Regano reacted quickly, jumping backwards and shooting a ki blast where he'd been standing. The small explosion kicked up a cloud of sand, which Regano hoped would provide some momentary cover.
Unfortunately, it didn't really work. Slim's long arms gave him exceptional reach, and he got hold of Regano's ankle even from within the sand cloud. Regano was swung sideways, face-first into Girth's waiting gut. That part didn't really hurt, nor did falling onto his back after. What did hurt, a lot, was the downward punch to the gut from Quint a split second later.
"Gaaah!" Regano gritted his teeth, trying not to let the pain slow him down. He thrust out one foot, both driving a kick to one of Quint's shins while also pushing himself out of harm's way. He spun around as he slid across the sand, righting himself into a three-point crouch on solid ground.
In all honesty, that wasn't as bad as he'd expected. Starting on the defensive had paid off, and Regano had a good impression of the trio's power now. At least for Quint, judging from that blow. Hopefully the clones wouldn't be too different.
While Quint was recovering from Regano's "low blow," the two clones had taken positions much like before, seeming intent on repeating the same attack pattern should Regano try to evade them again. He wouldn't, but he'd let them think so.
He reached out and shot another ki blast into the sand. But this time he jumped forward into it, aiming at Slim. The grapple from last time was reversed as Regano took hold of Slim's ankle while passing him. Regano planted his feet and swung Slim around, not only making his head smack Quint in the chest on his way, but ending up crashing directly into the back of Girth's vulnerable knees. Regano let go of Slim, allowing his lardy counterpart to fall rear-first right on top of him.
The two clones were out of the way for now, but Quint had already recovered and jumped at Regano. But the prince saw it coming, and acted quickly. His arms still up near his shoulder from the throw, he quickly snapped loose his cape, then threw it upwards right into Quint's face. The lead thug was blinded only for a moment before tearing it away, but that was enough. His cleared line of sight was immediately filled with the blunt weighted end of Regano's weapon zeroing in on his face.
Quint flew backwards from the impact, skidding along the sand until colliding back-first against one of the many boulders dotting the beach. While he grasped his face and spewed some foul language around, Regano focused back on Slim and Girth. The latter had bounced high into the air, barreling down with arms oustretched, hoping to pin Regano under his great weight. An admirable try.
Regano leapt up, moving more quickly than Girth ever could, and vaulted himself over the fat clone's shoulders. Crouching on his back and placing a hand on the back of his head, Regano pushed down and converted Girth's body slam attempt into a brutal face plant. In that same motion, he went into a handstand, thrusting both feet upwards to kick the approaching Slim in the jaw.
Regano arced through the air, flipping once before landing a short distance from his opponents. All three took some time to recover from that last little exchange, and Quint spoke up while quelling a bloody nose.
"Not bad, Princey," he congratulated. "Your strength is as impressive as all the stories say." Satisfied with his nose, he paused to crack some joints. "But so is ours."
With that, Quint braced himself and shouted, pumping himself up and surfacing his power in full. Slim and Girth did the same, and the burst of energy from all three kicked up and then blew away a cloud of sand. A moment later, they stood ready again for battle, a fierce ki aura crackling around each of them.
Regano studied them for a moment, before cracking a smile. His weapon still gripped in one hand, he slammed the weighted end into the rock face he stood on, the ki he imbued within it causing it to embed itself rather than breaking. The two plated gloves he wore also made their own sizable cracks in the rock when he removed and dropped them.
Now free of any extra encumberment, Regano cracked his knuckles and likewise prepared to get serious. He casually reached over and retrieved his weapon, before lighting tossing it up and down with a twirl or two.
Suddenly, he threw it. Moving faster than any of his foes could react to, the weighted end streaked through the air directly at Quint and struck him square in the chest. It carried him backwards at breakneck speed and rammed him into the side of his own ship. The entire vessel lurched backwards from the impact, almost capsizing entirely before crashing back down on its landing struts.
Slim and Girth didn't even have time to comprehend what happened before Regano was on top of them. He appeared out of nowhere directly in between them, and with amazing strength he grasped Girth by one of his sausage-like arms and heaved him up over his head. Jumping upwards, he flung Girth and all his size and weight down, once again sending him crashing upon his own teammate.
Regano finished the throw just in time to turn around and catch Quint closing back in, bearing Regano's own weapon against him. Quint wielded it like a simple club, swinging it down to bear on Regano, who easily crossed his arms over his chest and absorbed most of the impact. Quint then showed some skill as he tried to twirl the bladed end upwards to slash at his prey, but Regano easily avoided it. He simply slipped to one side, grabbed the weapon firmly with both hands, then pushed out a kick into Quint's gut. Quint was knocked back and stunned, losing his grip on the weapon.
Yet again Regano remained standing and no worse for the wear, while his trio of enemies were left to momentarily lick their wounds. He floated confidently, still grasping his weapon firmly and ready to counter any further attack.
"Guh," Quint caught his breath. "You're really annoying, you know that?" He smiled. "And stronger than I thought. But I thought you might be. It won't matter before long."
"Because you'll be dead," Regano declared.
"No, not quite. See, as powerful as you are," Quint explained. "It's not by so much that we can't overcome you with strength in numbers. And I've got two more clones who'd just jump at the chance to help make that happen."
Regano winced a little. He hated to admit it, but Quint was right. Regano was trying his best and managing so far to wear these three down while preserving his own energy. But turning those three opponents into five would definitely tip the scales too far in their favor for comfort.
"Well, to be honest, one of them, my intel boy Stout, is already preoccupied guarding your precious little sister until we're done with you and ready for her," Quint said, noticing and loving Regano's intense scowl. "But we won't even need him, because the other guy, Bulk… he's special."
He broke out a devious, full-toothed grin. "He's the only one one of the four clones who's actually stronger than me." He held up two fingers in a pinching gesture. "And not just a little bit like me to these guys or you to me, oh no. He's way, WAY stronger. 'One-hit-kill' stronger."
Regano furled his brow and swallowed. True or false, last resort or bluff, that was still an unnerving claim. And it was all the more reason to wrap this up quickly.
"He's already under orders to come here," Quint finished up. "Just as soon as he finishes a very special little mission of his own…"
Quite some distance from all the pandemonium within and around the city, a small and unassuming ship sat quietly upon the sandy beach of a nearby minor island. The eight thin landing struts it was perched upon kept it out of reach of the currently receding high tide, but right now it was in danger of more than just potential rust.
A powerfully hulking figure stomped his way across the beach, eyeing this vulnerable little target. He honestly found it hard to believe that such a frail and ridiculous looking craft would carry anyone who could be a threat, but he had his orders nonetheless. The crew were said to be Saiyans, of all things, and Saiyans could be unpredictably powerful, especially on full-mooned nights. So his orders were to take them all out before they could get involved, and he was just fine with that.
While still some distance away, Bulk could see little more than a dim light emanating from the main hull's round windows. He reached up with his left hand and activated the scouter he wore over his left eye and ear. A few seconds of beeps later, and he had power readings. Four in total, and the strongest one was only at around 5000.
He snorted at the pathetic levels. Oddly, the intel only reported three Saiyans and a robot, but the fourth was probably just a slave that never left the ship or something. Didn't matter; they were all about to die anyway. Bulk raised up an enormous arm, aiming his palm at the big round body of the ship, and easily let loose a single large ki blast. It lit up the entire beach as it streaked forward with enough power to reduce the ship to smoking scrap.
But all of a sudden, only a few meters away, it was knocked off course. Something or someone seemed to appear out of thin air and redirect the blast, sending it out towards the open ocean. The flash of the distant explosion quickly gave way to the moonlight, but allowed the gigantic attack to get a good glimpse of the interloper.
He was obviously one of the Saiyans, judging from his fit build and jet-black hair and eyes. But he was just a small boy. Yet in spite of his youth and being small enough to stand on Bulk's palm, he seemed incredibly poised as he smiled and spoke.
"Please don't' blow up our ship," Goku said. "Bulma would kill me." Then his own eyes adjusted, and he got a good look at his visitor's face. "Hey," he noted as he looked up and down. "Ain't I seen you before? You got a lot bigger, though."
"I see," the large on chuckled, then spoke with a surprising amount of class despite his brutish appearance. "You must have glimpsed one of the other clones. No, I'm quite different. You see, I've been engineered to stand far above the others, and even the original, in power and ability."
"Clones?" Goku folded his arms and tilted his head. "Huh… I don't really get it."
"Well, young one, you don't have too. I'm in a hurry to dispatch you so I may lend assistance to my progenitor in battle. So what you don't understand won't matter when you're dead."
Goku's confidence quickly returned. "Nah," he disagreed. "I'll beat you without even moving."
Bulk broke out in a hearty laugh. "You are a feisty one, aren't you? Seems like whatever trick you pulled to deflect my earlier attack has gotten to your head." He walked over to Goku, whose crazy hair didn't even reach the knees of the behemoth looming over him. "But I'll still humor you, by sending you to the next world with my full power!"
Shouting those last words, he lurched forward, a bright ki aura bursting into view around him as he brought a single gigantic fist crashing down towards Goku's head. He channeled all his power into it, intending to simply squash the tiny Saiyan where he stood.
His smile never fading and his arms remaining folded, Goku simply looked up, and momentarily widened his eyes into a glare. From those eyes shot forth a focused shockwave of ki, invisible but incredibly powerful. It struck Bulk's jaw with ten times more force than his own in-progress blow, and a second later the oversized hunk of muscle was out cold on the ground.
That done, Goku walked over a few paces and grasped the sleeping giant by one of his monstrous calves. Again summoning some extra power, he bodily lifted up and swung Bulk around a few times, before letting go and heaving him off into the distance. At that angle, he'd land on one of the main island's beaches. Probably.
Dusting off his hands, Goku took steady flight, hovering around to the back of the ship and entering normally through the main hatch instead of teleporting out like a minute before. As he entered the upper deck's main room, he was energetically greeted by one of his more welcome guests.
"Heeey!" Prika ran up to him more excited than she'd ever been, and that was saying something. She stood eye-to-eye with him, her own peepers glimmering with awe. "That was cool!"
"Ah, you saw that, huh?" Goku answered, smiling.
She nodded. "We were watching out the window!" She paused, and pointed over to elsewhere in the room. "Well, not Orris, 'cause he's stuck on the floor."
Indeed Orris was 'stuck on the floor,' resting and blanketed upon one of the Earthling crew's extra futons. Silva was seated by his side, having spent much of the last few hours treating his injuries and doting on him. They both likewise perked up when Goku entered the room.
"That was amazing," Silva echoed Prika's praise. "just how strong was that guy?"
"Uh, I dunno," Goku scratched his temple. "I wasn't payin' that much attention." He glanced at Orris. "Sorry again I didn't get to you earlier. I didn't realize somethin' was happening until all these guys were already pretty close to the planet. How're you holdin' up?"
"I'll be fine, don't worry," Orris replied, and managed a sincere smile towards his pint-sized rescuer. "Getting out of there alive was already more than I expected." The smile quickly faded and was replaced with a look of concern. "I should be out helping my men, though. I wish I at least knew how the defense was progressing…"
"It seems to be going okay," said a new voice. Trunks suddenly entered through the same door as Goku a moment before. "It looks like your putting those extra troops on duty is really paying off, especially with Pan as their unexpected backup." He looked at Silva. "Sorry about the window."
"Gilililil!" Last but not least, Gill dashed into the room from behind, expectedly freaking the hell out for no reason. "Goku! Trunks! Pan sent Gill! Danger! Danger!"
"Look who I met on the way back," Trunks said. Prika immediately took a liking to Gill and began chasing him around the room while giggling, upsetting his anxious little processors even more.
"I can't believe Zatar would go to such an extreme," Orris spoke up with a sigh. "I should have seen it coming myself, too. He's never been too fond of the way things have changed from the old days under Freeza. We always wrote it off as just being stubborn, since he still served so dutifully in spite of it, but…" He turned his head to look at Goku and Trunks. "I'm sorry for doubting you. Even now, you're still doing so much for us."
"Don't worry about it," Trunks consoled him. "Some things you just can't see coming." He glanced at Goku. "Like when you almost collide with some gigantic unconscious freak in mid-air."
"What about Pan?" Silva inquired, noting who was missing. "Is she out there fighting? Will she be alright on her own?"
"Ah, she can handle herself just fine," Goku said, staring off into space. "I'm just glad you guys are both okay." He looked at Silva. "Especially you."
She blinked a bit. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well," Goku mused. "I ain't never teleported a pregnant lady before. I hoped it wouldn't hurt your baby or nothing."
Quint's protest did little to improve things for him. The battle was not unfolding nearly as well as he'd planned, according to the last ten minutes of beating he and his clone compatriots received. The prince remained one step ahead of them all the while, remaining silent and serious as his underestimated strength let him wear down all three of them at once.
Finally, just now, Regano had singled out and delivered the coup de grace to Slim – easily side-stepping one of the wiry clone's punches, he'd snatched Slim's arm and brought his own knee and his weapon's weight against it. Slim wailed in agony as his arm was snapped like a twig in two places, but it didn't stop there. Regano twisted the arm and its two new joints like a whip as he threw Slim down against the ground. From the looks of it, Slim was decidedly out of the fight.
Enraged, Quint and Girth both charged headfirst at the prince, but he charged right back. Quint was faster and closer, and so he received a fist smashed directly into his face. He heard a low and stern "you wait" as he was sent careening backwards. Regano turned around, and before anyone could realize what he was doing, he held and spun the bladed end of his weapon around. The next moment, that blade was lodged firmly within Girth's chest. The pudgy copy didn't have opportunity to go into shock or anything, as Regano immediately sent him tumbling yet again onto his long-limbed partner.
Neither Girth nor Slim were allowed much time to suffer, for no sooner had Girth made his graceless face-first landing than Regano took action again. He quickly re-attached his weapon to its holding place on his back, and raised both his free hands up above his head. For the first time in the battle, a bright ki aura flashed into view around him, and was focused into his hands.
Regano then cut loose, and with a shout he began to repeatedly throw blast after blast down on the beach, directly upon and around the crippled forms of Slim and Girth. Both they and the landscape were torn to pieces by the merciless volley, and Quint could do little but duck and cover from the deafening series of explosions.
A few small seconds later, and the chaos subsided. There was no sign of Slim or Girth any more, only a large compounded series of holes in the ground where they had once lay. Seawater began to noisily flow in and fill them up, while doing little to extinguish most of the scattered brush that was now on fire. The flames cast a dim red glow over the area, and illuminated Regano's form as he walked through the smoke towards Quint at a menacingly confident pace.
"Now it really is just you and me," he proclaimed.
Quint tried his best to work through the first genuine fear he'd felt in years, and jumped forward to attack Regano again. Regano easily swayed and caught Quint's punched, grabbed his other arm to hold him, and then slammed a knee up into the pirate captain's gut.
"Don't be so eager to join them," Reegano ordered, giving Quint a brief moment to stop gagging. "I need some answers from you first."
He let go of Quint's punching arm, and pulled him up into the air by the other before delivering a solid punch to the jaw. "How did you get past our moon outpost?!" He yelled as Quint went tumbling backwards. Quint landed in a kneel after a few rolls, and threw an overhead ki blast at his newound interrogator. But Regano simply smacked it away in mid-flight then closed in and drove a knee into Quint's face. While Quint was stunned, Regano grasped him by one arm, and pulled it up high while twisting him around, pinning him face-down in the sand with a foot pressed against his back.
"Start talking," Regano demanded. "Did you have someone helping you? Or did you sabotage it from a distance somehow?"
"Rrrngh," Quint protested. "Go to hell!"
Regano was silent for a moment. Then while not loosening his grip, he reached his free hand around behind him. He suddenly unleashed a powerful beam of ki, which streaked out and struck Quint's ship still resting by the water line. The vessel exploded in a giant fireball, scattering melted slag across the beach. Quint couldn't see it from his spot on the ground, but he still knew well enough what had just happened.
"I'd considered letting you flee the planet once you answered me," Regano offered obviously false sympathy. "But I see no reason to now." He pressed a little harder on Quint's back with his foot, and reached up with his free hand to grasp his weapon.
"Alright, alright!" Quint seemed to give in. "You… you were right," he explained. "I had a connection here on your planet. Someone who shut down the equipment on the moon for us!"
"It was those alien visitors of yours!" He insisted, sounding so sure of himself that you'd think he'd practiced the confession. "They said they needed something here, but you were being stingy about it. Said they wanted to just take it instead."
For a fraction of a moment, Regano feared that his telling Pan about the moon base had actually brought this about. But he shoved those thoughts clear out of his head by the time Quint resumed his babbling.
"We were supposed to be a distraction while they stole whatever they were after," he said. "They're probably going after it right now. I could help you stop them, if you-"
"Enough," Regano barked, twisting Quint's arm to provoke instant silence. Regano then calmly took his weapon from his back, and had his turn to speak.
"You might not know this, but my people have quite a brutal and violent history," he lectured. "In my studies, I've learned that a common practice in war was to cut off one of your fallen enemy's ears and take it home as a trophy." He slowly brought the blade down to the back of Quint's head. "Larger ears were once considered a sign of virility, you see. So even if your foe lived, his lost ear would be a sign of his defeat and shame."
With that last line, he ever-so-slightly touched the blade's tip to Quint's left ear. "If you're not going to be honest with me, and I'll have to fight more people like you from now on, then perhaps I should start a collection myself…"
"N-nooo! Wait! I'm sorry!" Quint shouted in protest. "I'll tell you the truth."
"I hope so, for your sake," Regano said, deciding to be merciful. He let go of Quint and stepped back. "You've only got two ears and one head, so you get three tries."
"Okay, I get it," Quint pleaded. "It… it was one of your people. Someone pretty close to you, too." He took a moment to catch his breath. "It was th-URGHK!"
With no warning, there was a quick flash of light as a thin ki beam shot right through Quint's chest, piercing his heart. His eyes were wide open in shock, and he could only silently mouth two short final words as he lurched forward and fell face-first towards the ground. Regano reached out and caught him, but it was too late to do anything. He was dead.
Regano rapidly looked back and forth, trying to deduce where the beam had come from. He couldn't tell the exact direction since Quint had fallen over, but from the way he'd been standing, it had to have come from the East behind him, above the cliffs and toward the mainland of the island. Regano frowned. It was obvious what had happened. Quint's contact was keeping tabs on the battle somehow, and decided to abruptly end their partnership before he was exposed.
Still glancing around and moving carefully, Regano walked a short distance South along the beach, going around a jutting cliff face and leaning against a large rock. Thus he was sufficiently shielded from the assassin's sight, and allowed himself a few minutes to cool down and think. Quint hadn't managed to drop a name, but he'd still said more than enough. If the conspirator was really listening, then he'd know that, too. That meant he'd have to come after Regano as well.
So Regano waited for him.
Pan dusted her hands off, standing tall and looking at the quartet of alien pirates in a crumpled and battered heap before her, and turned around to the shaky old Koumian woman they'd so bravely cornered and attempted to turn into a hostage. Once affirming that she would be okay now and seeing a Koumian guardsman heading this way, Pan finally took off again. She'd steadily made her way across the island's city, but having to constantly stop and help citizens and soldiers in distress had slowed her down considerably. Yet at long last, that little exchange had been on the outskirts of the city, and was the last sign of any life between Pan and the Western beach where she could still sense Regano. She kicked her flight speed up a notch, heading straight in that direction.
The three ki which Regano was fighting before had now all disappeared, most likely meaning that he'd won the fight. Not surprising, since she could tell that his power was quite a bit greater than any of theirs. But what concerned her now was the new fourth ki signal, which had reached the area halfway through the fight. It had kept its distance until the action was over, but was now bearing down on Regano… and it was much stronger than him.
"Zatar!" Regano exclaimed.
Regano had sat and waited patiently, hiding from sight while listening and watching for signs of the assassin, or of anyone else. A moment ago, his fine-tuned Koumian ears heard steady footprints approaching the nook in the cliffside in which he was hidden. His weapon re-drawn and at the ready, he'd identified the visitor just in time to avoid attacking.
Zatar showed little reaction beyond simply looking Regano over. "So," he surmised. "It seems you won your duel with Quint."
"It was… more complicated than expected," Regano nodded. "But it could have been worse."
"Indeed it could have," Zatar confirmed, looking away from Regano and out towards the still-smoking battleground. "I'm surprised you fared so well on your own against such an infamously powerful foe. You must be stronger than I gave you credit for."
Zatar turned back around. Regano had not disarmed himself, and he now glared at his elder with confident and reproachful eyes.
"Only an experience Koumian warrior could both hear and kill from such a distance. But you weren't quick enough," Regano explained. "Quint's breath was cut off before he could give me a name, but I could still read his lips." He frowned. "He said 'old man.'"
Zatar stared at him pensively. "I see…"
"Why did you do it, Zatar?" Regano demanded, becoming visibly flustered. "You've faithfully served my family all your life, and have done so much good for our people and world! Why would you betray us all like this?"
Zatar didn't respond, and instead just stared off into space, seeming lost in thought.
"I'm sorry, Zatar," Regano declared, still clutching and extending his weapon. "But such treason must be answered for. I'm taking you back to the palace so you can be dealt with."
There was naught but more silence for a few more seconds, before Zatar finally spoke up.
"Frankly, I'm disappointed," he stated. "Not just in Quint. But in you even more."
"That strength of yours is a testament to your heritage. If things were different, I'd be proud of you." He turned around. "But it's wasted on you, just like it was on your father. Squandered defending a status quo of weakness and mediocrity."
"Wasted? What are you talking about?" Regano protested. "Zatar, are you really this stuck on the old ways? After all this time, why would you throw away everything, just to go backwards to-"
"Backwards?!" Zatar suddenly lashed out, leaping with surprising strength and speed to grasp Regano by the neck and lift him off the ground. Regano was taken aback by the alarming amount of power the old man possessed, and dropped his weapon as he futilely tried to wrest himself free from Zatar's grip.
"You know nothing! You weren't even alive back then. You were never witness to Lord Freeza's awe-inspiring majesty and power. The authority he commanded, the hundreds of planets which bowed to his rule!" Zatar glared at Regano, who was struggling to breathe. "Your grandfather and I were kindred spirits. We once dreamed of expanding Koum's influence to even a tenth of Lord Freeza's brilliance, but with him gone, it was all up to me."
He flung Regano off to one side, sending him skipping across the sand and tumbling to a stop on the beach. As Regano tried to return to his feet, Zatar walked over and continued to berate him. "I've tried to use my position to steer this world back to glory. But your father was too much of a worthless pacifist to realize our potential. Even after I dealt with him, the seeds of weakness he planted in you took root too deeply. I finally realized I had to be more direct." He reached Regano, and glanced towards the smoking remains of Quint's ship in the distance. "Those imbeciles thought I was giving them a planet, but in reality, they were giving me the opportunity to take it for myself."
You," Regano sputtered. "You're insane!"
"No, I merely have ambition, something I must re-teach this world." Zatar's aged and spindly frame somehow managed to loom over the prince. "The people will believe that you fell in battle, and that your sister was snatched away in the night. Then I'll be next in line to rule." He paused for a moment. "But then again… Prika is still very young and impressionable. If you will not turn to my side, perhaps she will."
"No!" Regano leapt up, and with both hands instantly formed and threw a large ki blast directly at Zatar, point-blank. A single large explosion blew away another entire mass of the sand below them, and kicked up a huge cloud of smoke and sand.
Regano paused for a moment, breathing heavily. He suspected he couldn't kill Zatar with such an attack, not with such a difference in strength between them. But if he'd managed to at least wound him, then perhaps now in the aftermath…
No good. Zatar burst forth from the cloud of smoke, all but unscathed by the blast, and delivered a powerful right hook to Regano's head which knocked him down. The prince groaned in pain and desperately tried to right himself, but he just fell back down onto his side, dizzy from the blow. Zatar took advantage, planting a foot on Regano's chest to pin him to the ground.
"Only now, in your last moments, have you seen what true power is like," Zatar lectured him. "Power forged over a true warrior's lifetime, and suitable for nothing less than a conqueror." He extended an arm, aiming his palm directly at Regano's face. "And soon, I'll have a whole new lifetime to grow even stronger…"
Regano continued to struggle fruitlessly against Zatar's grip, failing to even budge the old man's deceptively skinny leg. He clenched his eyes shut, wincing in mental preparation for the ki blast certainly about to engulf his head and end his life. He didn't expect things to end like this, and all he could think of is how he wished he could see Pan one last time.
Suddenly, he did.
In the blink of an already-closed eye, Regano felt a sharp jolt, and then Zatar's weight upon him was swiftly gone. He opened his eyes to see Pan, standing aside him and dressed in loose-fitting pajamas. Regano was simultaneously glad and dismayed to see her. For as much as she was a sight for sore eyes, she was now in every bit as much danger as he was.
"Pan!" He exclaimed. He pushed himself up to his feet, and glanced around. Zatar was somehow a dozen meters away and on his back. From the looks of it, Pan had somehow caught him off-guard and knocked him away. But it wouldn't last, Regano knew. He had to get them both away.
"Hey," Pan asked. "What's going on here? I felt you fighting three other guys, and once I finally get here, Zatar's attacking you?"
"You felt it?" Regano was puzzled, but quickly snapped out of it. "Listen, we have to get out of here! Zatar is-"
"Even more disappointed," the old man cut in. He had regained his footing, and started walking calmly back to the two of them, addressing Pan. "You're supposed to be dead, brat. Quint's failures continue to pile up."
"Say what?" Pan folded her arms and raised an eyebrow.
"Zatar's a traitor," Regano hastily explained. "He organized this whole invasion." He grabbed Pan's hand, and tried to pull her in the opposite direction. "Listen, I'll try to hold him off as long as I can," he pleaded. "You need to run back to the city, and report everything so that-"
He stopped when he noticed that Pan was already looking that way, and Zatar was no longer behind her. Regano faced forward to see Zatar in their path, evidently thanks to speed which matched his incredible strength.
"You'll report nothing," he declared. "The people will be no more suspicious of both of you falling in battle together." He glanced at Pan. "A pity about your planet's fate, but at least I'll make sure those Dragon Balls are still put to good use."
"For real? That's your deal, to screw over your own people, take over the planet, and steal our Dragon Balls?" Pan seemed more annoyed at him than threatened. "Wow, you suck."
"I hope your childish insults gave you some comfort in your last moments," Zatar grunted. Then with a burst of power, he pushed forward to deal out a powerful punch. Regano panicked, and tried to push himself around to get between Pan and the crippling blow careening straight for her.
Imagine his surprise when Pan effortlessly caught Zatar's fist, used it to pull him in close, and then socked him in the jaw.
Zatar was sent spinning through the air like a deflating balloon. His feet were first to make contact on the sand, but he by no means stuck his landing and continued tumbling backwards. He eventually splashed face-first into the waist-deep water, which finally brought him to a halt.
As the elderly would-be usurper sputtered and coughed, Regano was rendered speechless. Pan turned around and noticed his bewildered look. Then she noticed his array of light burns, bruises, and cuts as well, and became concerned.
"Hey, are you okay?" She asked him rather casually given the situation.
"Am I… what?" Regano was still slack-jawed. "Pan, what was that?"
"Me saving your butt," Pan smirked. "Don't worry about it."
"Enough!" Zatar, having waded out of the water, made his opinion on this change of pace known by thrusting out a single arm and launching a fierce and focused beam of ki directly at the two teenage interlopers. The blast kicked up profuse amounts of both water and sand as it streaked towards them at high speed.
"Look out!" Since Pan's back was turned, Regano saw the blast coming first. But despite his panic, she seemed unworried. She turned partially back around, and with one arm she seemed to merely push the blast off-course. It bolted off at a new angle over the water, and made contact with a small island which was off in the distance. Emphasis on 'was.'
"Oops," Pan remarked. "I hope that island wasn't important." She looked at Regano again. "So the old guy was behind all this? He let these invader guys in to attack?"
"Y-yes…" Regano answered her. "They tried to pin the blame on you and your family, too."
"Are you kidding?" Pan faced Zatar again. "You REALLY suck."
Zatar was angered even further now, and he rushed forward again, putting much more effort into his attacks now as he tried to blitz Pan. He threw a maddened flurry of both kicks and punches, demonstrating an impressive amount of martial arts skill fitting for a lifelong war veteran. But against Pan's far superior power and speed, it didn't matter, and she effortlessly blocked or parried every single one while jumping circles around him.
After only a few seconds, she turned things around. She vaulted herself over one of his punches, cartwheeling in the air and landing behind him. By the time he turned around, she was already on top of him and launching an assault of her own. While still holding back an immense percentage of her full power, she landed half a dozen quick punches on his face and torso, before knocking him in the chin with an upwards kick. He went rolling backwards yet again, and lay there on the sand for a moment before struggling back to his feet.
"This… this is impossible," Zatar was having an episode over this unforeseen turn of events, grunting through blood-tainted teeth. "No Saiyan is supposed to be this strong. This power even far eclipses Lord Freeza's!" Suddenly his eyes opened wide. "Unless… no, it can't be. You're too young to have been the one rumored to have defeated him. The Super Saiyan!"
"Pfft," Pan crossed her arms and kicked some sand in depressed self- frustration. "No…"
"Whatever you are, you haven't won. Not yet," Zatar proclaimed. He reached down the collar of his now-damp upper robe, and from within it produced the glass amulet he habitually wore around his neck. He held it up with two fingers for his young opponents to view. "Do you see this, young prince?" He inquired. "This amulet is a relic from our planet's glorious past, a gift from your grandfather when he became king and took me as his trusted adviser."
He then crushed it in his hand.
"It… is a container for its holder's power," he explained, his voice beginning to tremble. "For decades, it has been storing away my power, by small portions at a time." He began to breath heavily, and his limbs started to shake. "I never thought… I would have to unleash it… against children…"
Regano watched in horror, as before his eyes, Zatar's frail and thin frame began to grow impressively substantial muscles upon it, and a faint deep purple glow enveloped his entire body.
Regano spoke to Pan again. "He's getting even stronger, isn't he?" He made an obvious guess, then turned to look at her. "Do you think you can still handle him?"
For the first time since she'd arrived, Pan's expression was every bit as worried as Regano's.
"Uh-oh," she said.
Meanwhile, quite some distance from the battle, peace and quiet had returned to the Earthling ship, in a tense and anxious sort of way. Prika had finally fallen asleep, and Orris was trying to resist doing the same despite Silva's insistence. Goku was still seated while Trunks got comfortable leaning against a wall, and the two of them were creeping Silva and Orris out a bit as they simply stayed still and kept track of Pan's ki. Just now, Trunks had suddenly turned to Goku with a look of concern.
"Whoa," he said. "Where did the old guy get all that from?"
"I dunno," Goku commented. "His ki always felt pretty dirty, but it never seems like he was holding his power back any."
"It feels like his ki has topped off now," Trunks observed. He addressed Goku again. "Hey, I think he might actually be stronger than Pan, now. Should we go, and…?"
"No," Goku said with unusual firmness. "Pan's still got a shot at this. Let's let her handle it."
"Well, alright," Trunks said, blinking once or twice. "I hope you're right."
Me too, Goku thought to himself. Alright Pan, it's now or never…
Pan had never been hit that hard before in her life. Sure, she'd taken plenty of high-speed, low-power blows during training sessions with Grandpa and Oob, in her match with Vegeta at the tournament, and all that. But to receive an actual full force, nothing held back, punch from an angered enemy in a potentially life-or-death battle was something entirely new to her, and it sucked.
She rubbed her face where Zatar's blow had landed while picking herself up as quickly as she could. She shook some sand out of her hair, and in the process, barely glimpsed Zatar approaching in time to avoid him. From down on all fours she vaulted herself upwards, narrowly dodging Zatar's hammer-like downward punch. It made impact against the ground with unusually little sound, but kicking up a burst of sand and creating a sizable shockwave.
The shaking ground knocked the still weakened Regano off his feet, and he landed on his rear against the sand. As he likewise tried to recover, he couldn't help but continue to gaze in horror at Zatar's new appearance. The almost deceptively frail-looking old man he'd grown up with had been twisted into a horrendous and monstrous figure by all the power he'd forced upon himself.
The newly manifested dark purple aura embodying his power was wrapped around and seemed to ooze from him almost as though it were a sludgy liquid. His thin build was still at all evident in only a few spots, otherwise now lined with an unnatural amount of muscle along his torso and extremities. The added bulk had caused his upper robes to tear off, leaving the scrapped ends to blow around in both the seaside breeze. His beard and the ring of hair encircling his bald scalp were energized and stood on end, and his eyes were wide open and narrow-pupiled. Not once since he'd transformed had Regano seen him blink, and now, for the first time, he also spoke.
"Decades' worth of power stored away," he stated demeaningly to Pan, his voice strained and gravelly, almost seeming to echo. "Being wasted on a mere child. The mere notion is infuriating."
He rushed forward, charging at Pan with most of his body high up and both arms reeled back, posed as though to tackle her. She predictably jumped off to one side to avoid him, but that's exactly what Zatar wanted. He reached out with his right hand as he nearly passed by her, and managed to catch her by the ankle. He didn't give her time to react before he stopped, planted his own footing, and slammed her bodily against the ground. Zatar easily swung her back and forth like a rag doll a few times, beating her against the sand, before spinning around once and heaving her away.
She streaked through the air just above the ground, displacing air, sand, and then water before she collided head-first with a small cluster of boulders just off the shoreline. The rocks shattered apart as her momentum was firmly and decisively canceled out from the impact, and most of the debris from them fell down upon and around her. Zatar watched for a moment to make sure she wasn't getting back up, before turning around and once again focusing on Regano.
"You!" Regano did the closest thing he could to screaming at him. "You killed her!"
"What of it?" Zatar growled. "You'll be joining her momentarily. Besides, in a way, this is better for you now," he clenched a fist as he walked. "Your death will be mercifully quick. I have so much power at the moment, that I doubt I could hold back enough to torture you even if I tried."
Regano began to back away, but Zatar wanted him right where he was. The overpowered old man pushed out a single palm, and a wave of invisible ki made impact with the young prince. Regano was knocked back down to the ground, as the wind was knocked out of him and he was rendered helpless again.
"And despite your fears to the contrary, you'll be leaving Planet Koum in good hands," he continued to preach as he stood over Regano. "Once I've used the Earthling's Dragon Balls to restore my youth and vitality, I'll be perfectly suited to rule. I'll lead Koum into its rightful place as a galactic power, escaping the bonds of our own world and bursting outwards like a-"
Before he could even wonder that that word meant, Zatar was suddenly further interrupted. A fierce blue stream of energy slammed into him from behind, pushing him away from Regano and driving him into the cliff face opposite of the beach. He was momentarily dazed, but easily recovered after a moment, pushing away a few rocks as he stood up. The unexpected blast had dealt him only a few minor scrapes, and his senses were still more than effective enough to easily track its source.
Pan was evidently back in the fight, standing a bit lop-sided atop the debris which had abruptly blanketed her only a minute before, her hands still cupped together from launching the attack. She was obviously much worse off for the wear compared to Zatar, with her clothes now somewhat tattered around the edges and a noticeably bleeding wound visible on her forehead where she'd collided with the rock. She was panting and wobbling, still dizzy from both the attack as well as her own quick and desperate effort to keep Regano safe.
"You're certainly tenacious," Zatar observed. "Something else Saiyans are known for. Apparently I won't be allowed to continue until you're firmly dealt with."
With that, he suddenly burst forward, kicking up even more sand and water as he closed the distance between himself and Pan at an alarming rate. She tried to get out of dodge, but was still too woozy to move quickly enough. Zatar swung and connected a powerful uppercut blow to Pan's stomach. She gasped in pain as she lost her breath, and didn't get to recover it before Zatar's unyielding assault continued. He began a violent flurry of blows, driving her backwards as he landed an assortment of punches on her from all angles. It only lasted a moment, but Pan felt like she'd been fighting for a week straight when he finally relented. She was still barely on her feet when Zatar reached out and grasped her face, picked her up, and threw her to one side again.
Pan tumbled against the water once or twice this time, before she was abruptly halted as her back slammed into a single large boulder sitting some distance out upon the water-blanketed sandbars. She bounced off of it and was in mid air only for a split second before Zatar was on her again. He slammed a hand against her throat, violently pressing her against the rock.
"Since you're too hardy to be finished in a single blow," he stated. "I'll have to take the time to choke the life out of you, bit by bit. I'm willing, if it means you'll stay down this time."
"No!" Regano's voice suddenly rang out, and he appeared behind Zatar. He had regained his weapon from the battle with Quint, and jumped up with it in the air over his head. With all the strength he could muster, he brought the axe-like bladed end down to bear against Zatar's head. It broke.
Regano somewhat clumsily landed on the ground, and glanced back and forth between his busted weapon and its attempted target in shock. Zatar decided to turn and give him a look at the front of his head, which wore an annoyed glare. With a small grunt, Zatar released a small outward shockwave of ki. It made impact with both Pan and Regano, only further intensifying their suffering. Regano was knocked silly and thrown backwards, and Pan was pressed even harder against the rock.
She gripped and clawed at Zatar's hand as he maintained his solid grip, but she had neither the leverage or raw power to escape it. New cracks started to form along the boulder's surface as the crazed and doped-up elderly warrior pushed against her throat, and if it weren't for her naturally tougher demi-Saiyan body, she'd likely have succumbed to one or the other already. As it stood, she could already feel herself slipping into unconsciousness, which she would likely not wake up from anytime soon.
Regano was still knocked for a loop after Zatar's retaliation for his attempt to assist her. Worst of all, Trunks and Grandpa Goku were nowhere to be seen or sensed. Did they not realize she was in trouble? Were they still asleep, with the powers at play being so miniscule compared to theirs that her peril simply flew under their radar? Did poor Gill even make it back to the ship to wake them?
Her mind flashed back to earlier that night, when she was resting in the theater. Was it alright like this? She'd tried her best, after all, and even if she lost and… well, died, Goku and Trunks would be able to easily step in and beat this old creep instead. Plus, this would be her first time dying, as morbid as it was to keep a mental checklist for that sort of thing. A simple chat with Shenlong back on Earth is all it would take to restore her to life, and in the end it wouldn't really matter.
At that moment, through squinted and strained eyes, she glanced outward past Zatar's hulking form. She glimpsed Regano, who had managed to regain some amount of consciousness. He likewise looked upward, and their eyes met. His face was plastered with despair and helplessness, as he again struggled to pick himself back up.
"Pan," he groaned, before falling over again. "No…"
"Pests, both of you," Zatar grumbled. He reached his free arm out behind him, and pointed a palm towards Regano. His hand began to glow as energy charged up within it, preparing a ki blast that would unquestionably kill Regano on the spot.
No, this wasn't good enough. None of it was. She couldn't just settle down and let things happen to her. Whether that meant facing imminent death of herself or her loved ones, or just settling for a boring and lazy life, it made no difference. There was only one option, and that was to get stronger. To get as strong as she could, as quickly as she could. But that wasn't something that she could just sit around and expect to happen on its own, either. She had to make it happen.
That was it. That was her motivation. Something, somehow, within that moment of emotional epiphany combined with her fading outer senses drawing her focus inward, caused things to "click" for Pan. Just like that, as if by instinct, she could finally pull it off. She could finally execute the precious special technique that her grandfather had spent the last month imparting to her.
She drew as deep a breath as she could muster, and let out a shout.
It was about eight in the morning, and with the crew now nearly a full day's trip away from Imegga, Goku and Pan were finally beginning to settle back into routine. Here in the ship's gravity room, Goku had not even opted to turn up the Gs yet, instead deciding to start by filling Pan in on their next training objective.
"The Kaio-Ken," Goku reiterated. "It's an old technique I used to use a lot, back before I was a Super Saiyan myself. It's tricky to learn and pull off, but with enough practice I think you can do it." He pointed at her. "Plus, I think usin' it might help prepare you better for being a Super Saiyan."
"What does it do?" Pan asked, glancing at her hand. "Let me punch planets in half?"
"Naw," he said. "It's really useful though. Here, I'll show you." He moved a few paces away from Pan and gave a slight grunt. Pan's senses were jolted as Goku released the entirety of his power in his normal state. A trace white aura began to fluctuate around him.
"Okay, it's been a while since I used this, but you never really forget." He grinned at her. "Now, pay attention and feel what happens to my power…"
She felt it. In the span of a heartbeat, her power instantly doubled. It was an amazing feeling, seeming to both tire and energize her at the same time, much to her surprise. Zatar was likewise startled by the sudden outburst when his seemingly helpless prey was suddenly enveloped in a violent bright red aura. The expanding force from its burst into existence was overwhelming, causing the accursed boulder of pain to outright shatter and the calf-deep tide around it to be pushed up and away in a veritable explosion of water and wet sand.
Before this torrent could even fall back down, there was a sudden thunderous sound of impact, and Zatar came flying out backwards from within it. He bore a brand-new forming bruise on his chin, the result of Pan utilizing her moment of drastically boosted raw power to deliver an upward kick to his chin at speeds too fast for him to react to. The power-bloated old punching bag now had his turn to make a hard landing, face-first for the second time into the water, which decided to insult him by throwing a small wave from Pan's burst across him.
He sputtered and groaned as he pushed up and turned around to look back at Pan. She was now standing again, her fighting spirit regained as she looked down at her hand and clenched a fist in confidence. She looked back over at Zatar and practically spat at him.
"Like I said," she proclaimed. "You suck."
Zatar yelled in utmost frustration, and in one powerful motion he generated and threw a ki blast at her. But just as quickly as he did, Pan reacted. She whipped out the visibly powerful aura of the Kaio-Ken again, this time easily as though it were now instinct. But she actually darted forward through the air, facing the blast head-on before sharply angling around it. Before it even reached the spot she'd been standing on, she was right in front of Zatar, and he actually felt the crippling punch to his stomach before he even saw her there.
He crouched and leaned over in pain, gritting his teeth and murmuring curses of pain. Even further enraged, he recovered somewhat and raised both hands over his head. He brought both muscle-bound fists arcing down in a twin-hammered blow straight at Pan, but not nearly quickly enough. With another Kaio-Ken burst, she met his arms halfway, parrying them both with her own before driving both of her best feet forward for a double kick to his face.
"You know why you suck?!" She yelled at him as she delivered another quick flurry of Kaio-Ken-powered blows to his torso. "Because you're greedy and selfish. You only value your strength so you can hurt and control people! Just like that Freeza jerk you worshiped so much!"
Angered at the slur of his former liege just as much as by his own rebounded powerlessness, Zatar's eyes were wide and blank in rage as he swung wildly trying to catch her. But it was no use, as Pan used the Kaio-Ken again to burst around his hulking frame in a full upwards spiral and then slam an airborne roundhouse kick against his head.
"Real warriors train to improve themselves, not because they think they're already better than everyone else!" She landed on the ground some way from Zatar, and cupped both her hands off to her right side, preparing to launch another Kamehameha attack like before.
"Little ingrate!" Zatar practically screamed as he backed up to create more distance. He then readied himself to preempt Pan's attack, crouching and holding both his hands close in front of his forehead as he rapidly charged up ki. "You're a waste! A weakling! You know nothing of true strength!"
"I know something you don't," Pan said, as a mass of blue ki began to form between her hands. "I know that you're never stronger than when protecting someone you love!"
This last insult to his ideas just cheesed off Zatar even more. With a guttural scream, he threw his arms forward and launched his attack. A single wide, yellow mass of ki barreled straight towards Pan, threatening to engulf her and take out half the island with her if it hit its mark.
But that wasn't going to happen. As strong as the attack was, Pan could tell that a Kamehameha boosted by the Kaio-Ken would be enough to counter it. But there was another option, one that both did and didn't "play it safe." She could feel something more, begging to be tapped into, like when a runner finds a second wind for a final sprint to the finish line. It would be risky to try, especially after only just pulling off the technique to begin with, but… what the hell.
"Kaio-Ken times THREE!"
The now-familiar crimson energy again burst into form around her, though manifesting even larger as her energy was this time tripled instead of doubled. A not entirely unexpected wave of pain from the stress of such an unpracticed extreme washed over her, but she pushed herself through it and didn't waste her chance.
She drove both her hands forward, and let loose the wave. It streaked forward, the sheer force of unleashing it actually pushing Pan back a few meters and tearing up the ground around her. It encountered Zatar's blast halfway between them, and the meeting of attacks went exactly as one would expect. The Kamehameha pierced through Zatar's attack as if it weren't even there, completely canceling out its energy in the process. It rocketed forward completely unopposed, and hit its unlucky target dead-on.
Zatar barely had time to even comprehend what had happened before the blue blast of boom made impact. It both engulfed and pushed against him, burning at his skin and inflicting severe concussive force upon every inch of his body. Because of the difference in his and Pan's heights, Zatar was carried back into the air by the attack, far off into the sky beyond the boundaries of the island. The volatile but short-lived energy of the Kamehameha fizzled out after a few seconds, letting him drop into the ocean off to the South.
Regano and Pan both remained still for a short time. The former out of shock and awe, and the latter from a combination of making sure her opponent was truly out of the picture and being too sore to move. But after a few uncomfortably silent moments, she took a deep sigh of relief and allowed herself to move. That is, she plopped backwards onto the sand. Regano rose to his feet and hobbled over to her as quickly as he could.
"Pan," he exclaimed. "That was incredible!"
"Heheh," she chuckled weakly in response. "Sorry, I'm a bit stronger than I let on when we sparred before…"
"You just saved my planet," Regano assured her. "My pride is a small price to pay for that." He then looked her over and noticed her sorry state. "Are you seriously hurt?"
"Eh," Pan would have shrugged, but, you know. "I hurt myself more than Zatar did. Took that technique to boost my power a little too far, and now I can't move…"
"Well, I guess it's my turn to help, then."
"Eeek!" Pan was slightly startled as Regano reached down and hoisted her up, pulling one arm up over his shoulder. She blushed a bit from the proximity and contact as Regano started hobbling his way down the beach.
"I could fly, but I'm pretty shaky myself, and I'm afraid I'd drop you." Regano stated this, but he immediately dropped her anyway. Goku, Trunks, and Gill hadn't meant to alarm him when they materialized out of thin air right next to the victorious pair, but they did nonetheless.
"What? Huh?" Regano panicked momentarily, thinking Zatar had returned for a second before he recognized these newcomers.
"Grandpa," Pan exclaimed from her rediscovered spot on the ground. "I did it!"
"You sure did," Goku happily addressed her. "That was pretty touch and go for a while, but I knew you could pull it off."
"Gililil!" Gill cheered. "Pan, safe! Gill glad!"
"Sorry for the wait," Trunks explained. "We had some other passengers to dart around with once things had cooled down."
"Now it's you guys' turn," Goku said, extending a hand. "All aboard!"
Pan blinked and scrunched up her face as she resisted the warm and bright dawn sunlight's best attempts to rouse her from sleep. Her attention was only fully won when she realized she wasn't in her usual bed. Or even in her spaceship-usual bed.
She sat up and glanced around, trying to figure out where she was. The first thing she noticed was that, despite still being a little sore, she could at least move again thanks to a decent night's rest. So that was good. Her surroundings were that of a spacious and rustic bedroom, simply but comfortably furnished with little else in the way of luxury besides the appropriately king-size bed she sat upon. The wide and open door out to a hallway was to Pan's left, and off to her right was an even wider portal leading to a small balcony outside, from where the morning sunlight permeated into the room. Sitting at a large wooden desk between Pan and the outside was Regano, backlit by the dawn as he evidently worked with some papers. But now he had noticed Pan's rise from sleep, and his attention instantly focused upon her.
"You're awake!" He stated the obvious, shifting his chair some to face her. Pan immediately noticed that he was bandaged up in key areas, then that she was the same way, and she recalled some foggy memories of Koumian medics patching them both up after the battle the prior night.
"Where am I?" She inquired, still glancing around.
"My bedroom, back at the palace," he answered, then noticed the suspicious look she promptly gave in return. "Don't worry," he chuckled. "While you've spent the night sleeping, I've been far too busy running around taking care of business to even get near my bed."
"If you say so," Pan teased, then cocked her head. "What business?"
"Cleanup after the battle, of course," Regano said. "It's mostly been about rounding up Quint's defeated forces. We don't have enough prisons to hold them all, so for the most part the ones that survived are simply being stuffed back onto their ships and kicked off the planet." He smiled. "With three out of five versions of their leader dead, and the other two missing, they're being quite cooperative."
"What about the old guy?"
"Zatar is…still alive," Regano told her. "He was recovered, unconscious, from the shore of another small island after you defeated him." He leaned back in his chair a bit, his face appearing pensive and a little sad. "But he's entirely crippled. On the surface his injuries seem minor, but all that power he forced upon himself has burned him out. His body's been left as barely anything more than a shell with a heartbeat."
He sighed. "A part of me is relieved that any more uprising attempts are out of the question for him now," he explained, his voice somber. "But another part is still having a hard time swallowing it all. To think that the man who helped raise me would turn out to be a traitor. I wish I'd have seen it coming sooner. Things wouldn't have had to come this far."
"It's not your fault," Pan said as she scooted over to sit on the edge of the bed. "Not everyone ends up being what they look like on the surface, you know?"
"Speak for yourself," Regano's smile returned as he praised her. "I wish I'd known I had a handful of secret weapons at my disposal all along. I have Trunks and your grandfather to thank for my family's safety, and the capitol's guards won't stop giving glowing reports of how you helped them."
"Well, it's not like we'd just sit by and do nothing," Pan said, blushing a bit.
"You don't need to be so humble," Regano insisted. "There's no doubt Koum would have succumbed to the invasion if not for your presence." He stood from his chair, faced Pan, and actually bowed to her. "I can't truly express how grateful I am, to all of you."
"Hey, come on," Pan said. "You're a prince, aren't you"
"Right now, my position as prince is nothing more than to represent the people," Regano assured her. "But, as an individual here and now, there's a special way I want to personally thank you, Pan." With that, he walked the short distance from his desk and leaned down towards the bed.
Pan blushed even more. "What are you…"
"Pardon me," he said, as rather than initiate any sort of implied hanky-panky, he grasped the underside of his mattress. Pan was displaced slightly as he lifted it upwards and reached underneath. He just as quickly laid it back down, and presented her with what he had rummaged for. Within his hand sat the coveted Dragon Ball, its two internal black stars circling around each other within its core.
"For you," Regano said, sitting down on the bed beside her. "After all you've done, it's the least I can do in return."
Pan smiled as she reached out and took the ball, then carefully examined it. She sighed, the smile momentarily fading as she spoke to Regano.
"You know, I've really enjoyed my time here," she said. "Part of why I came out into space with Trunks and Grandpa was just to get away from home and have a vacation, and spending a week on a beautiful planet like this was the perfect getaway."
She kept idly gazing at the Dragon Ball, though not really paying much attention to it. "But another part of why I came was to train. Not just for its own sake, but to help clear my head and… I dunno, find myself, I guess." She looked at Regano and smiled again. "What I did when I fought Zatar was a really big breakthrough for me. It's just one step on the way to something bigger, but before now I thought it all seemed hopeless.
"I wasn't just talking big when I said that to Zatar, either. About being strong when protecting someone you love? So… you know, there's that too," her blush returned as she somewhat eloquently dodged the direct confession. "But after all this, I want to get even stronger. To take what I've done and see just how much further I can push myself. That's not something I can do here, so," she finally dropped the bomb. "I'm sorry, but I can't stay with you."
Both of them were silent for a moment as Regano let it soak in. But then he smiled in return.
"I understand," Regano told her. He leaned over and granted her a small peck on the cheek. "I wish you luck, and like I said before, I hope you won't forget about me."
A surprised and red-faced Pan rubbed the point of impact. "Uh… But I guess a visit now and then wouldn't be out of the question…"
"It certainly wouldn't," Regano agreed. He then gently pushed at her arm as he crawled past her onto his bed. "Now if you'll excuse me, sleeping beauty, it's finally my turn for some rest."
After quite a few hours, the golden light of Koum's dawn had super-transformed itself by means of planetary rotation into normal daylight, and ultimately again into the warm pink-orangey glow of the late afternoon. A landscape which less than a day ago had been the site of panicked battle found itself returned to peace, and it now bid its farewells to the visiting unlikely heroes who had landed upon it and kept its peace from being snuffed out.
"So long, and thanks for all the fish!" Goku called out from the ship's entrance hatch, ruining the touching setting with a corny line. "Oh, and the Dragon Ball. That's pretty important too, I guess."
"I'll get the pre-launch procedures started," Trunk called down in turn as he also floated up towards the open hatch. "Don't take too long, Pan."
"I won't," she responded from the ground as both of her peers disappeared into the ship. She turned back around to where a small group of their gracious hosts had gathered to say goodbye. Orris had limped his way out with some assistance from the noticeably less irritable Silva. Regano obviously stood among them, but little Prika was front and foremost, running up and hugging Pan.
"Big sister, do you really have to leave?"
"Yeah," Pan knelt down to her level and smiled at her. "I'm sorry, but I'll come back and play with you someday soon. So take care of Regano until I do, okay?"
"Alright…" Prika still seemed disappointed, but accepted it and trudged her way back over to her brother's side. Pan likewise addressed them all.
"Thanks for everything, guys," she said.
"Thank US?" Silva almost seemed insulted. "After all you've done? We had a combination uprising and invasion brewing right under our noses."
"And they would have gotten away with it, too, if not for you meddling kids," Orris finished his wife's thought. "Seriously, thank you. Regano may not have gotten a wife like he wanted, but I think the safety of our home is a pretty good substitute."
"I wouldn't count us out yet," Regano joked. He turned straight to Pan and turned on his trademark charm one last time. "My dear Pan, if your admiration for me ever becomes even a tenth of mine for you, then I hope you'll return to me someday."
Pan gave off a nervous giggle, and waved him off rather nonchalantly. She said goodbye to the group one last time as she flew up and over to the ship's hatch, within which she likewise vanished. Only a minute later, the awkward-looking craft powered up and blasted off into the sky.
Regano and his entourage remained where they were, somberly watching their precious guests arc up into the sky until they vanished from sight altogether. It was still another moment or two before they started walking away.
"So," Regano piped up. "I hope you're not going to be as much of a pain about the whole marriage tradition thing as Zatar was," he said to Orris.
"I've got my own family in the works to worry about," Orris chipperly responded. "You keep on doing whatever you want."
"It'll be hard to top Pan, though," Silva remarked. "In more ways than one."
"Obviously," Regano agreed. "I do have to admit, though, I'm a bit freaked out by how much stronger than me she really is…"
Thankfully far from its passengers' earshot by now, the small Earth vessel streaked past Planet Koum's moon, making its way off to the stars and soon to continue its spiraling flight plan through the North Galaxy. Goku and Trunks were still in the cockpit, chatting between themselves about the past week, but Pan had taken off on her own once the initial takeoff was over. She found herself in the observation lounge up top, where she'd idly watched the brilliant view of Koum grow steadily smaller as the ship sped away from it. Glancing down through the portal to the main deck below, she noticed that Gill had departed the cockpit as well, and was aimlessly hopping around.
"Psst," she subdued her voice as she called out to him. "Gill! C'mere!"
"Gilililil…" He happily complied, retracting his legs and floating up to meet her. "Hello, Pan! Gill glad Pan stay with Gill!"
She beamed at the little 'bot's affection. "Of course," she said. But she then became more serious for a moment, glancing back down below to make sure nobody was watching them before she spoke to Gill again. "Say… could you print out a picture for me?"