"What do you mean you CAN'T FIND THEM!" The King demanded as he ran his fingers through his proud goatee. With a frustrated sigh he turned to his equally anxious advisors behind him. For hours now it had been the same answer whenever one of the scouts would return from combing the nearby terrain for any indication as to where their wayward crown prince of Vegeta-sei was. This game of cat and mouse would never do. It could go on forever at this rate. They all knew one of Vegeta's strength lay in not being detected until he declared it otherwise.
The King was at a loss to explain his son reckless behaviour. He wanted to prevent this highly embarrassing bit of information from escaping the palace walls and to anyone keen to obtain it and use it against the Royal crown. His son had put him in awkward position, and with Lady Carlene and her father Onio it could get ugly. A scandal such as this would spread like wildfire. The humiliation and the anger that he had held so tightly behind his iron mask until now was starting to seep through the cracks.
"I'm sorry M'lord, but we just haven't been able to pinpoint his location not even with our scouters on."
"I don't believe THIS!" The King roared slamming his clenched fist down hard on the desk. Suddenly his head shot up pinning the Captain in front of him. "What of the docks?"
"We did as you commanded. All vessels have been denied access into our ports until further notice. All docks have being closed and guards have been posted and doubled around the princes own private ship."
"Then where?" The King mumbled to himself. Head lowered as his mind raced on the whereabouts of his son who was quickly going to find how upset his father was with his foolish folly. He would have him brought back to him in iron Ki cuffs if that's what it takes.
It was then that Bardock entered the room looking every bit as tired as the King. The king stood tall shoulder straighten on seeing him and with a flick of a wrist everyone was dismissed. Everyone except the General who remained. If anyone was upset over this they kept it to themselves and wisely so. The King was oddly fond of his long time comrade.
"Any word?" Bardock asked hopefully. The King shook his head the negative.
"He's too good at covering up his tracks." King Vegeta complained collapsing heavy into his chair as Bardock came up behind him.
Pinching his nose the king closed his eyes with heavy sigh, "I know-I know...I'm not exactly pleased."
Bardock choked back a laugh. He knew that to be true and he could hear his friend all the way down hall barking orders. Sighing he went to move past his King when Vegeta reached out and grab his wrist. "We need to talk." He said without looking up.
Bardock frowned but nodded and allowed himself to be lead around the chair where he perched himself on the corner of the King's desk. "I think, I know what you want to talk about and I've been thinking it would be wise as well."
The king frowned but nodded in understanding. They understood each other and why the next thing he was to say had to be done. It didn't make it easy knowing how this was going to hurt his friend. It was just another order that the younger male had to be dealt for the good of his king and the Sayainjin Empire.
"I'm afraid my idiot son has done something foolish. Especially if he has marked the boy like reported. This can't be good for any of us. Not when Lady Carlene awaits for word of her soon to be mate in her private quarters. I can't keep making up excuses for my son Bardock. The empire needs a sovereign and a queen that will bare an heir. I can't have it marred with scandal. She comes from a noble enough houses that would forge a strong alliance to this empire."
"Surly you're not concerned that we need her household to strengthen the realm?" Bardock growled disgusted. He had never liked the woman and trusted her even less.
Vegeta laughed, almost insulted. "No, but she is from a fine stock and will carry my son's child well. You know as I how many heirs are lost. It's a curse laid upon us royals that we need the strongest to breed from. It's for the Empire that this union should go ahead."
Bardock stood frowning and twisted his hand from the king's grip. "You sound like your father!" He all but spat in detest.
Sighing, the king rose to his feet. "Don't you think this is getting old Bardock?"He growled with a hint of remorse.
"Not when you end up destroying your son's life the same way it was done to you those many moons ago. It's history repeating itself that what has caused this." Bardock said sighing with frustration. "I told you many months ago that this would lead to nothing but sorrow! The only thing I didn't count on was that it would involve MY family... AGAIN!" Bardock snapped. Turning and stepping away he closed his eyes tightly, breathing heavy. Unmoving in silence, his dark eyes a wash with so many feelings so many memories and regrets.
"Listen to me- Bardock?" King Vegeta stepped up behind him watching cautiously as he placed his hands on either side of the taller Sayainjin's arms. There was tension in the solid biceps that he so loved to touch. Bardock wasn't that tall that he didn't have to look too hard to see the hurt in the other's eyes. Bardock turned gradually with the kings tender coaxing. "I need your help to find him. Do you have any idea as to where he could have gone?"
Puzzled, "I don't see why you would think I would?"
"Because I still can recall even when I was lost in my grief after the death of my mate and Vegeta's younger brother, that you would keep an eye on him. You would bring him back every time he ran off. You were the only one back then that could get through to him at all."
"That was decades ago." Bardock argued.
"Maybe, but I'm grasping at straws here. I remember you telling me about a place that he would retreat to."
"What... you think he's hiding out in the caves at Razer peaks? Bardock couldn't believe what he was suggesting.
"He could be." Vegeta frowned understanding the other male's scepticism.
"But surely the scouts have already checked them?" Bardock questioned baffled.
The king sighed and clenched his fist in annoyance, "They have, but no one else knows those caves like you do."
Turning away with his mind racing, "You would have to be crazy to venture there." Bardock said turning back capturing the other's eyes.
"Yes, but you did." The King smirked while reminded him.
Bardock frowned, doubtful, "Only to retrieve the young prince. It was too dangerous for an adult let alone a child, a royal one at that." He explained defending his reasoning.
"And I'm asking as his father to do this for me once more." Vegeta fixed his eyes on the other for a moment. It was a silently plea, words unspoken with their eyes doing all the talking for them.
His frown deepened seeing so many flaws in the suggestion. He turned away breaking the king's spell. "Those caves twist for miles underground..." Turning back Bardock studied the other's face for any reaction.
"They are prone to cave-in." He hated the idea that Gohan was trapped down there with the prince. The whole area was unstable. All it would need was for a loud sound and the place would be a death-trap caving in on itself.
His dark eyes harden, impossible, "Ridiculous!" He spat, "That's ludicrous..." Bardock refused to believe it. No sane adult would venture into the sandy wormholes hidden deep in the dark beneath the lonely mountain peaks.
Impossible and disturbing thoughts flashed into his mind making his eyes narrow with each alarming thought. He turned and stared out through the large window that consumed the full length of the room with a faraway look set in his eyes. "He wouldn't?" He asked himself.
The king came up to stand beside him and stared out to the horizon where their thoughts now resided. "I recall you telling me that he went there whenever he was in turmoil. Whenever his emotions would surface and he didn't know how to handle himself. It was a place you said where he would dance with death." His eyes didn't waver, "I know my son Bardock, and I can tell you that everyone in this palace now knows after the display today that my son is unstable... If he has marked then there are strong emotions in-play here that he's never openly displayed before now."
"You know as I do that he's never fully recovered from his captivity under Frieza's hands." The King clenched his jaw swallowing the anger that knotted and nearly choked him whenever he thought about it. "He's emotionless for a better word, and if he's feeling something other than anger for your grandson? Then there's definitely more at work here than I've ever suspected. This is something that runs much deeper than just the flesh." The king gave a sideways glance to study the other's striking profile with something like concern and hint of the past. "There's definitely attraction there... affection of some sort, even love maybe."
Bardock's eyes snapped to his King's and is eyebrows knitted. "Love?" he growled sounding doubtful even a little cynical.
"I think so. I can't be certain, but whatever the case Vegeta doesn't know how to fight it..."
"Fight it?" Bradock all but growled, with his whole posture ridged with anger.
On the defensive, "You know what I mean, but he can't be allowed to proceed with this foolishness!" The king argued turning to face the other male heatedly.
Sarcastically Bardock couldn't but help to smirk bitterly, "No-no... I guess he couldn't, especially being YOUR son!" He shot back abruptly turning ready to leave when he was stopped once again by a strong grip and the King now standing in front of him.
"You can't GO!" Vegeta commanded eyes ablaze. Knowing what Bardock had in mind.
"No?" Bardock raised a questionable brow. He was all for seeing if the King's hunch was right and get his hands on the arrogant prince first.
Sighing, regretful even the King implored him determinately, "I know it's near the south side of the mountains edge. I remember that much, but I need you to tell me exactly which entrance. I must go. I'm the only one who can get him to see reason."
"Like every other time?" Bardock argued knowing how things had gone from bad to worse over the years.
"DAMN IT ...BARDOCK! This isn't about YOU or ME!" The King bellowed going red in the face with the effort. Bardock had that effect over him in the recent years and he was riddled with regret.
It was Badock's turn to give as good as he got. They both faced off with the same determined eyes fixed on the other. "You THINK I don't know THIS! That's my GRANDSON out there with YOUR insane BASTARD who has more than likely marked him!" He growled eyes flashing, "And you know what that MEANS... don't YOU!" Bardock bellowed his expression twisting darkly, menacing his eyes locked on the others, "I could easily... KILL HIM!" Anyone else would have been dead before completing that sentence but they both knew that it would never eventuate.
"YES," The king hissed holding back, swallowing his fury, "...and that's why I can't allow YOU to do this. Now, tell me! I'll go."
"On your own?" Barodck all but scoffed. "He's grown too strong for even you Geta."
"Yes, but I'm still his father, and his King. He'll listen to me, I'll MAKE him!" Eyes locked in desperation, "I'm the only one he comes close to obeying anymore. I don't want this to escalate any further. He's not thinking clearly it's obvious."
"He's definitely NOT thinking at ALL!" Bardock spat sarcastically. His chest rose and fell with the effort it took to prevent himself from exiting the king's office and leaving to retrieve his grandson and probably destroying them both in the process.
Eyes narrowed, "No." He understood the other all too well. He knew that the king would never back down even if it meant getting himself killed in the process of trying to retrieve his son. This was something even Bardock would do for any one of his family without a second thought.
"No, you won't help me?" Stunned that the other would deny him, "I don't understand?" Vegeta frowned confused and agitated.
Sighing, Bardock shook his head, but he was still determined. "No, I won't let you go on your own. I'll send some of my finest warriors with you. I'll give them orders not to interfere unless you order otherwise." He quickly added in seeing the king's expression twist to argue the point.
There they stood. Both determined as the other only until the King agreed did Bardock give him the location to where the young prince used to escape all those years ago.
"HEY! ...Is there ANYONE out there!" Videl screamed not for the first time during the hours they found themselves stuck in the cramped cell. It had been hours since Goku was taken.
"Give it up, all ready." Al growled. "They don't care..."
Videl swung around to give him a piece of her mind only to have Spooner grabbed her arm. He squeezed it gently but firmly shaking his head asking her not too. Sympathetic eyes, Spooner stepped from Videl who wanted nothing more than to release her frustration and anger out on the smaller boy.
Lost in her worries and in a huff she turned her back on them both. Ignoring her Spooner plonked himself beside the smaller boy. Al shifted so his back was to him, not wanting to talk to anyone. This was something the older boy understood. He closed his eyes and sat cross-legged mirroring Al with his arms folded just sitting there offering his silent support.
"I don't like it!" Videl growled passing once more. "What could it mean 'We believe so'?"
"What do you DAMN well think?" Al spat as he sprung to his feet so fast it was a blur. He advanced so quickly on her that she found herself taking a few steps back just to keep balance as he stared her down. Nose to nose they were both practically the same height. "Something happened. That bastard must have TAKEN him!" Al couldn't help the strong feelings that were rushing to the surface it was suffocating him. So many feeling, anger, guilt, even a spark of jealousy that troubled him. He loathed what could be happening not that they would be able to help anyway. His eyes narrowed as the images kept popping into his already over creative mind.
"I gathered that MUCH!" Videl spat her face twisted with rage.
"Hang on guys!" Spooner jumped to his feet finding himself once again between them.
"I swear if YOU so as much as..." But before Al could finish he was hushed. His eyes narrowed at the taller boy as Spooner's palm turned upright in Al's face. It was dangerously finding itself close to being bitten off if Spooner didn't remove it with haste.
"Shhh...listen? Someone's coming?" Spooner turned his attention as the rest followed. All eyes on the entrance as it opened and they found themselves concerned but slightly relieved at seeing Commander Raditz enter. Their relief was short term when two other warriors also entered moving to either side of their commander, and whatever they were thinking was masked.
"Release them back to their parents."
Shocked, was that it? After all these hours and the night was nearly gone. They were to be just let out without reprimand? Their mouths were ajar as they were ceremoniously ushered out of their cell like children.
Videl frowned shrugging off the guard that had a hold of her arm. "What a second!" She turned to face Raditz, who towered over them watching as they passed him with a neutral expression. "Commander?"
"Your parents are waiting for you out in the great hall." Nothing in his expression or words gave anything away. He said nothing more and with that they were escorted out.
"Our parents?" Spooner all but gulped, suddenly paling.
Raditz glanced back at him understanding all too well what Spooner was concerned about, but he was struggling with his own emotions at the moment. The King was at this moment in a conference with his father Bardock and by the yelling things weren't going so well. That and his younger brother Kakarrot still recovering in the infirmary.
His sister in-law Chichi was causing more headaches with her demands. Just to quieten her they had to let her into the infirmary to see her mate. It troubled Raditz with the things she was threatening even now with Goku unable to respond.
In the past she had threatened to take Gohan from him and away from the planet Vegeta-sei. It was no different now with her threats, although no-one was taking her threats seriously. But the mere thought that she would do this to his brother angered him. His family needed support not a wedge that would add more complications. Her threats would undermine his brother's sanity further.
Troubled and fear for Gohan weighed heavy on all their shoulders. They knew he was alive Goku confirmed so before he was placed into the rejuvenation tank. His younger brother was clinging to the thin fleeting thread that was Gohan, that pulse that bound a Sayainjin child to their parent, or sire in this case. It became apparent that Chichi had no such connection with her son which didn't surprise Raditz. This was just another mystery when it came to human beings. He never quite understood them. He watched motionless as he fulfilled his duty to see that his nephew's friends were safely reunited with their anxious parents.
It was his father the Generalwho had obtained permission to release them from the king. His father had a huge influence over the king. He was feared by most because of it. Though at the same time there were even rumours floating about that Bardock was a spyfor Frieza's army in the past around the time of the sudden disappearance and capture of the young prince. This was squashed immediately by the King himself who threatened anyone that would imply such a thing.
Raditz put a stop to his musing and returned to the task at hand. As they moved through the underbelly of the fortress Videl had to occasionally skip a few paces to catch up with his long authoritative strides.
"Commander? Is there any news?" She asked hopefully and ignoring the fact that he wasn't slowing his pace for her as he continued herding them through the maze of corridors.
Choosing his words carefully, "He's alive, and he will be reunited with his family shortly." He hoped that last bit would prove to be right. He didn't want them to walk away fearful for his nephew. If they did they would probably just go off doing some stupid and look for him on their own. That was something he couldn't allow to happen. Better to stretch the truth to keep them safe as Gohan would have wished it.
Not wishing to add anymore he quickened their pace, very aware of the two warriors behind him looking at him with a perplexed expression and probably wondering what information he hadn't shared with them. Videl on the other hand was too immersed with her own thoughts before glancing back at the two boys behind her and seeing the same hopeful expression that she was certain was plastered on her face.
"He's alive." She gushed but their new found happiness turned bleak as they entered the great hall. Spooner and his friends came face to face with their parents and suddenly felt very small. Radtiz with a few guards posted about the room at various doors and opening watched on with vague interest at the commotion in the large antechamber.
Raditz was waiting composed until they left and then he would see if anyone has heard anything of Gohan whereabouts. The king didn't want it to become common knowledge that his wayward son has lost his senses like some common teenager running on hormones. The royal family were beyond that and seen as Gods by others.
He didn't doubt that the King would have a good many things to say on the prince return. Things were going to get very ugly before they get any better, and with the amount of armed guards posted in the infirmary surrounding his brother tank it seems everyone in the palace thought the same.
Raditz was drawn away from his musing with the sound of tempers rising.
"Don't you DARE! ...Not a single word Alvis!" Da'son warned. Al's shoulders quickly sunk with each syllable that shot from his furious papa's lips. This was an anger Al had not seen in a long time.
An amused smile tugged upon Spooner's lips. "Alivis?"
Al's shot him a murderous glare before being manhandled away. He'll never hear the end of it as both his parents fussed over him. Though Spooner had his own worries as his cocky grin quickly faded when his sights turned to the great stairwell.
"Crap!" His heart sunk watching as a tall standoffish male dressed as one of the high dignitaries of Vegeta-sei courts advanced.
Raditz nodded to the advisor as he passed. Knowing just how unpleased Aeres was over his son's involvement in all of this mess. "Dulais!"
Spooner took a deep breath waiting for the inevitable. He was sure he was about to be dragged over scorching lava by his furious father. His tail nervously tightened around his waist. This was going to be a long night. He sighed and bit his bottom lip. As his father approached he quickly straightened his shoulder as he was sure to be scolded, dressed-down and humiliated in front of everyone.
Videl wasn't faring much better with a tall attractive female warrior in full armour. Her thick auburn mane in a single braid and with her hands on her hips. She was not looking any more impressed than anyone else there and burning her disapproval as her fiery eyes fell onto her only child.
"I can explain..." Videl rushed defensively knowing her mother must have been pulled away from her patrol, and that wasn't an encouraging sign. Videl doubted she would be able to get a single word in anytime soon.
Raditz eyes turned to the stairs and spotted his father with another guard emerging swiftly down them. He watched as the guard raced off and disappeared through one of the many doors, no doubt to do his father's bidding from the looks of things.
Something BIG was in progress. He could feel it in his bones.
Everyone who was military came to attention and saluted while others bowed their heads out of respect. Without slowing his pace Bardock ignored them all and waved his hand signalling his son to follow leaving the parents to deal with the mess their children found themselves in.
They both ignored the inquisitive stares that now followed them as they quickly moved past them all and through the great doors. They stepped out onto an open paved area above the spacious courtyard with its uninterrupted view of the evening sky that lay out before them. They were greeted with striking reddish and orange hue off in the far distance. The light was just now beginning to fade around them. "What is it?"
"We think we have their whereabouts. We have to work quickly. I need you to do something for me." They moved swiftly with long strides as they quickly descended down the solid wide stone stairs that dominated the entrance to the palace.
"I need you to gather what supplies you think you might need for a long journey. Also clothes for yourself and Gohan's belongs. The King has granted you one of his fastest ships. It's being prepared as we speak."
"What is going on? What journey?" Raditz frowned reaching out bringing them to standstill. His face was suddenly stern with his father's expression being twisted and unreadable, but he could sense the turmoil that was there. "Is the King exiling Gohan?"
"Our King wants this problem resolved quickly. It would be best for Gohan to leave and the sooner the better." Bardock frowned averting his eyes to the sunset before turning back to his eldest. "Take him as far away as you can. Go to one of our remote outposts until you hear from us. The less contact for a while the better. We don't want anyone..."
Clenching his fist, "You mean that arrogant lizards breath!" Raditz went to say more but was stopped with one warning look from his father.
"Raditz!" Bardock warned. "Just promise me you will never leave his side and help him. Stay low for a while."
Frustrated, exhaling, "You know I will, but what of you and Kakarrot?"
A sad smile tugged at his lips. "I'll be taking Kakarrot with me until things cool down."
"That might be forever." Raditz chuckled, but there was no real humour more frustration over the whole mess. "What about his troublesome mate?"
"I don't know." Bardock sighed pinching the bridge of his nose looking exhausted, and not for the first time that day. "Maybe I could send her back home on the next ship just until things settle."
"She would LOVE that. She hates it here. I've heard the arguments Kakarrot thinks he can hide from us."
"I know." Badrock eyes didn't hide any of the anguish he felt. "She is causing a racket in the infirmary as we speak. The doctors are threatened to have her thrown out."
"I wish they would. She was threatening to smash the tank while Kakarrot was still in there." They both shook their heads unable to understand the woman. "I don't know what I'll do with her yet. Our priority is to get Gohan out of here, and fast!"
Raditz inquired, "Who's being assigned to handle retrieve Gohan?" silently annoyed that it wasn't him.
Bardock smiled, "The King thought it would be best to keep our family away, and the way I feel it would be wise. I don't think any of us could hold back from doing something we would regret later."
"Who said anything about regretting? I would blast the bastard out of the sky as soon as I lay eyes on him. Who's to say what Kakarrot would do once he's out of rehab?"
"My point exactly, plus you know the prince is stronger than you. And with the crazy affair it could make thing ten times more dangerous than any normal day. He's already killed enough of his own warriors."
Raditz's eyes lowered they both felt the loss of comrades. "I know. I wished Kakarrot had gotten the bastard! He was close they say."
"So I heard. It was lucky in many ways that he didn't. All we would've had the whole of Vegeta-sei on us this very minute."
He shrugged his shoulder unsure if he cared at this point and looked up to meet his father's eyes, "So who's going after the prince?"
"The King himself."
Raditz' eyes nearly popped out of his head in amazement. "You're kidding me? Alone?"
"No... Of course not!" Bardock frowned taking offence that he would support such a thing. "I wouldn't have permitted such an act. No. I assigned Rogue and some of his warriors to guard him, but they have had strict instructions to keep back. I'm sure Geta will be able to handle this. He's a force to be reckoned with when he puts his mind to something." Bardock said with a faraway look about him.
Raditz shifted nervously he wasn't too comfortable with how informal his father was with the king sometimes. He would never ask either but he dare to say that they were lovers at some point and the King still held a soft spot for his father.
He clasped his father's arm getting his attention, "Trust me. I will do all I can for the brat." Bardock nodded clasped his hands on his son's forearm in warrior's gesture of good faith.
"I know you will. Now go and prepare yourself. The King will deliver Gohan to me and I'll bring him down to you. It would be best that we wait until nightfall. The fewer spectators the better." He said with a serious look. Looking very much the general he was.
Stepping back saluting Raditz rushed to do his father bidding leaving Bardock turning to the fading sky facing west. He was locked onto the King's Ki sensing his power beginning to spike.
"Don't disappoint me Geta. I want my grandson back... alive." Bardock whispered turning back to go inside and wait. He prayed he and his grandson would be reunited and soon. He didn't want to dwell on what the boy might have gone through. He can only hope Raditz will keep a sharp eye on him until he can start to regain his life as it was meant to be. One thing was for certain. He would never be able to return to the easy going boy he was before prince Vegeta laid eyes upon him. No, he would be in a world of his own. Alone and lost in his troubles for some time hurting no doubt. Bardock could only hope he will be strong and sane enough to return to them one day in the not too distant future.
He will be missed ...
A/N: A BIG thanks goes to my editor Vegeta-sire ;)
Thanks for reading ;)