Set Aside Childish Things
Disclaimer: Premise and characters borrowed from Akira Toriyama for a bit of non-profit fun.
Author's Note: This story started out as a flashback for "Choice to be Different", then it grew and took on a life of it's own. In the end I decided it was better as a stand alone story.
The story takes place five years after events in my earlier story "Prince, Warrior, Killer, Slave" and can be considered a sequel.
Chapter One: Conqueror
"I thought I was here to do business. What's with the kid?" The lumpy greyish alien who'd come to ask for Frieza's assistance demanded.
Frieza smiled. He reached out and ruffled the dark, flame-like hair of the boy who knelt silently at his knee. "My little pet? I've always been a collector of rare things. He's the Saiyan crown prince, the last of his kind."
Frieza's supplicant stared at the boy with a morbid sort of curiosity. Five years ago the Saiyans had been one of the most feared races in the Galaxy. A savage, primitive species that lived for destruction. Merciless killers too early in their evolution to begin to comprehend diplomacy. By all rights they should have remained quarantined on their own planet for at least another millennium. When their planet, Vegeta-sai, had been destroyed some said it was the work of the gods, rectifying their earlier mistake. Other rumors suggested looking closer to home for the architect of the Saiyans' fall.
The boy's appearance didn't live up to expectations. He had a small, compact frame, a high forehead covered by a ragged fringe of bangs and almost delicate features. The boy was muscular but both his frame and features were softened by lingering baby-fat. Still, if the old stories about Saiyans were true even their infants were unstoppable killing machines but it was only in the boy's eyes that one saw hints of what had made his race so terrible; his eyes were as black and cold as deep space.
The boy might have been a statue carved in stone as he knelt impassively at Frieza's side. Behind his empty eyes he was picturing himself full-grown at long last, a Super Saiyan as his father had promised. He was standing over Frieza's corpse, the lizard's still beating heart held aloft in his hand.
'No,' Vegeta decided. 'That was too quick.' He'd rip off Frieza's limbs one by one. He'd leave him alive to wriggle helplessly around on the floor like an over-grown maggot. He'd taunt Frieza and kick him around for years until it became boring. Then, slowly, he'd step on the lizard's head. Gradually he'd put more and more pressure on Frieza's skull. The lizard would beg and scream and plead for mercy but he would coldly say: "Remember Vegeta-sai?" Then he would step down and Frieza's skull would burst like a melon dropped on concrete.
Or maybe he'd cut Frieza's tongue out like they'd threatened to do to him. Then Frieza wouldn't even be able to beg. Frieza would make desperate, pathetically inarticulate little gurgles while he mercilessly slaughtered him. He wouldn't rip off Frieza's limbs, he'd use his ki to burn them off, an inch at a time...
Reluctantly Vegeta pulled himself out of his fantasies.
"So you need another planet," Frieza said. He laughed. "I swear you use them up faster with all the time. It's going to cost you."
"You're nothing but a highway bandit Frieza," the lumpy alien complained. "It's an infinite Universe, it's not as if we're ever going to run out of them!" Vegeta felt a stirring of contempt for the alien, it was obvious he had no clue as to what he was dealing with.
"But most nice, inhabitable planets are inhabited. Aren't they?" Frieza said pleasantly. "And you need me to clean a new one up for you. And you haven't even paid off the interest on the last planet the Cold Family arranged for you."
Frieza showed his teeth when he smiled. "Of course you don't have to do business with me. You could send out your own ships. Search until you found a suitable world with inhabitants weak enough for you to disinfect the planet without my help. How long do you think that would take? Fifty years? A hundred? Why, your people would have died a dozen times over by then!"
"All right! You've got us over a barrel, you bastard. We'll pay your price."
"Ahhh, so rude. Maybe I don't want to do business with you after all." Frieza sighed. "I think I'd get more pleasure out of parking my ship in orbit around your polluted little planet and watching while you suffocate from breathing your own emissions."
Vegeta watched understanding bloom in the aliens' eyes. Some species went for generations without direct dealings with the Cold Imperial Family. They lived on their little planets, paid their annual tithes and pretended that their planet had never belonged to someone else. After a generation it was easy to pretend that your soul hadn't been sold to the devil.
" Perhaps if you got down on your knees and begged I might be inclined to consider forgiving your tone and naming a price for your new planet," Frieza suggested.
The lumpy alien's shoulders slumped in utter defeat. He knelt. "Please, please my lord Frieza. We have been your devoted subjects for five thousand years. Please save us from our fate once again. It would be our honor to pay you twice the going rate for a new planet."
"Three times," Frieza said.
"As you wish my lord," the lumpy alien sighed. He knew he was condemning his children's children's children to a life of indentured servitude to the Cold family, but what other choice did he have?
"It will be done," Frieza said magnanimously.
Once the lumpy creature had removed himself from the throne room Frieza casually kicked the boy who knelt at his feet. "Well? What are you waiting for?" he snapped.
Vegeta's teeth gritted audibly. "May I ask who that was?" he asked quietly. He didn't even blink when Frieza's tail cracked like a whip raising a welt on his cheek.
"Such a stupid little monkey. The Vixy have been subjects of the Cold Empire for generations. You should know them on sight. I can't imagine how the Saiyans managed to pull themselves from the muck of their planet if you're supposed to be the best they could produce."
Vegeta imagined using Frieza's severed head as a kickball while he bowed politely and backed out of the throne room.
As soon as Vegeta was out of Frieza's sight he scowled darkly. When an unfortunate technician scurried past him Vegeta struck out at the man viciously. The wet sound of the tech's body breaking against the wall relieved a part of rage Vegeta felt over Frieza's treatment of him. He continued on his way, leaving the critically injured tech to bleed out in the middle of the hallway.
When Vegeta walked into the Records Office the tech managing the room took one look at the welt on the boy's face then quickly dropped his eyes. His voice shook as he asked, "How may we serve you Vegeta-ouji?"
"Find me a planet suitable for the Vixy. Make sure you pick one that can put up a decent fight," Vegeta ordered. His mood was slightly mollified by the man's obvious fear of him.
"It will be as you ask Vegeta-ouji. You will have the co-ordinates within the hour!"
"I will hold you responsible for seeing that my team is accompanied by a properly stocked supply pod for the mission," Vegeta said. He noted the look of despair in the man's eyes and made a mental note to have Nappa double check that they had the absolute necessities.
That done Vegeta headed back toward his quarters.
Nappa glanced up when Vegeta walked in. "You were broadcasting your thoughts again," the hulking Elite fighter reprimanded. "There are true psychics in Frieza's forces. Just because no one's been able to eves drop on this team-bond thing yet doesn't mean you can afford to get sloppy."
"Nag," Vegeta muttered.
"I liked the one where you were cutting steaks out of Frieza and making him watch while you cooked and ate them," Raditz contributed. The wild-looking eighteen-year-old laughed. "I've always liked a good lizard-fricassee."
"Yuck!" Raditz's girlfriend said. Appura flicked a raspberry-colored plait over her shoulder. "I've eaten some pretty disgusting things in my time, but Frieza? Really Vegeta-ouji, it's a wonder you don't get food poisoning just thinking about eating something that rotten."
Raditz leaned over Appura's shoulder and kissed her cheek. "Silly girl, enemies are always good eating."
"We've got a mission coming up," Vegeta said. "I think Kiwi's going to try to screw us on supplies again." He glanced at Nappa. "Make sure we don't starve en route at the least."
"I'll see to it Vegeta-ouji," Nappa replied.
Raditz's grip tightened on Appura's shoulders.
"Don't worry!"she exclaimed. "We've got enough food stockpiled in here to last me a month. I won't even stick my nose out of the door. Our rooms are rigged like a fortress and if someone does get in I'll escape into the maintenance shafts. It's beneath Frieza's dignity to follow me in there. Dodoria's too fat to fit. Zarbon would be slowed down trying not to get his clothes dirty and I run faster than Kiwi. I'll be fine. Trust me love, I'm not worth the trouble it would take for them to get me."
Raditz didn't look reassured.
"Oh come on! I was born on one of Frieza's planets! I know how to take care of myself!" Appura exclaimed.
"You weren't with me then," Raditz argued. "You know Frieza's got it out for us."
Appura leaned back to kiss him. "It could be worse. I could be sleeping with Vegeta-ouji."
"Like I'd want you," Vegeta muttered sulkily. But he didn't disagree that out of the three of them he was the most dangerous to get close to.
"I'll be careful, I swear," Appura promised. "When will you be leaving?"
"The pods are being prepped now," Vegeta said. "We'll take off as soon as they're ready."
Twenty-eight hours later the Saiyan pods entered their target's solar system.
**Communication Incoming** flashed across Vegeta's scouter. "Acknowledged," he said.
Kiwi's oily voice assaulted Vegeta's ears. "It seems we can't spare a clean-up crew. I'm afraid you'll just have to take care of it yourself. I hope that it isn't a problem. Oh and the Vixy expect to move into their new planet in eight days." His revenge for his failure to short them on supplies, Vegeta was certain.
"Fine," Vegeta said flatly and terminated the link. He felt the planet's gravity well take hold of his ship and braced himself for impact.
The three pods plummeted toward the surface of the peaceful planet. They landed with all the finesse of a bullet tearing into a body. Life in the alien city came to a crashing halt as all eyes fixed on the Saiyan ships.
The pods cracked open and the Saiyans stepped out to survey their latest battlefield. Raditz and Nappa moved to flank their young prince. Vegeta surveyed the crowd coldly. "We have come to destroy you," he stated. "Summon your champions. Let them try to stop us."
The first to answer Vegeta's challenge was a unit of the planet's peacekeepers. Raditz blew them away with a single ki-blast. Several more units followed. Vegeta crossed his arms over his chest and watched with bored disinterest as Raditz dealt with each in turn.
When a lone fighter, a tall masked man wearing close fitting clothes that displayed clearly defined muscles arrived Vegeta tapped his scouter. He studied the read out for a moment then waved Nappa forward.
"I could have taken him," Raditz complained.
"You got your turn kid. Now shut it and watch how an Elite takes care of business," Nappa said.
"Why do you attack us?" the masked man asked as he squared off against Nappa.
"Hey Vegeta, is there any particular reason we're here?" Nappa called over his shoulder.
"We're evicting you from the planet," Vegeta answered the masked man coolly. "A bunch of morons who can't figure out how to stop polluting their planet decided that they wanted a fresh start on yours."
"You have no right!" the masked man protested as he and Nappa clashed.
Nappa snapped the hero's back over his knee and cast the dying man aside. "Haven't you heard? Might makes right."
The next hero to arrive was smaller than the first but he carried himself with a calm certainty in his own ability.
"Mine," Vegeta stated after checking his scouter.
Nappa shrugged and quit the field.
"I do not fight children," the newest challenger declared.
Vegeta shrugged. "Fight me and die or stand there and die. It doesn't make a difference to me." Vegeta attacked the hero with a flurry of punches. Despite what he'd said both Nappa and Raditz could see that Vegeta was holding back, waiting for the other fighter to realize that he was a threat.
At first the man just blocked but after a few seconds he retaliated. He couldn't deny the power and skill that were hidden by Vegeta's childish form.
Vegeta was impatiently waiting for puberty for two reasons: First, most importantly, he was certain that once he grew into his full strength he would achieve the level of Super Saiyan and would finally have the power to destroy Frieza. Second, he was sick and tired of constantly being under-estimated. He was Vegeta-ouji of the Saiyans. He was a fearsome warrior, it had been more than twelve years since he'd been blooded. He was NOT A CUTE CHILD!!!!!
After a few moments Vegeta and his opponent took their battle to the skies.
Nappa watched them speculatively. The other fighter had an edge over Vegeta in terms of raw power. He was obviously a highly skilled warrior but Nappa didn't think he really had anything on Vegeta there. Vegeta was young but he'd been engaged in near constant warfare since he'd been five years old. Despite his age, Vegeta was no novice. The other fighter was aiming to disable rather than kill. Nappa wasn't sure if it was Vegeta's appearance; the Prince looked closer to eight than to his actual fifteen years; or just some odd hang-up of the other fighter's that kept him from using lethal strikes but it was going to cost him the fight. Vegeta never hesitated to go for the kill when he fought.
Vegeta fired a ki blast then flew after it. The other fighter batted the ki blast aside. The movement left him open when Vegeta slammed into him like a cannonball. The other fighter coughed up blood, his sternum cracked, his ribs broken. Vegeta crushed the man's throat and finished him off.
The city watched in horror as their favored son crashed to the ground, murdered by an alien child, the youngest and notably smallest of the three invaders.
"Do it," Vegeta said. The three Saiyans systematically leveled the city. They cut down everything over an inch tall then slaughtered everyone they found hiding in basements.
"They'll be mobilizing their armies and readying WMD," Vegeta said. "Raditz, start whittling down the armies. Don't get in over your head."
"Do I ever?"
"Do you honestly want me to answer that?" Vegeta replied.
"I would have gotten out of that," Raditz argued.
Vegeta rolled his eyes. "Nappa, the WMD's are your problem. I don't want even one to go off. They make a mess and-"
"I know what I'm doing. I was doing this long before you were even born," Nappa snapped.
"Then don't screw up," Vegeta returned. "I'll move on to another city and keep on taking challengers."
It took four days for the Saiyans to quell all organized resistance to their invasion and to crush the planet's spirit.
"Your champions are dead. You're armies have been crushed," Vegeta stated bluntly in a planetary broadcast. "If you wish to live you must prove your value to Frieza and the Cold Empire. Wait for us with a hundred bodies in front of your city and your miserable life will be spared. You have one solar day."
"Vegeta, we haven't taken care of the space ports yet," Nappa pointed out.
"Leave them," Vegeta replied. "There's no fun in killing the ones who'd run."
"They're more fun than the ones who've lost the will to do even that much," Raditz commented.
"Vegeta!" Nappa protested.
"There's no clean-up crew coming, we've got four days left to clear the planet," Vegeta stated.
"He'll know. Frieza will see the ion trails leaving the planet and he'll know you let them escape," Nappa argued.
"There's no other way!" Vegeta yelled. "What do you care anyway? I'm the one who gets punished!"
Nappa punched the boy. Slowly Vegeta stood back up. He wiped a thin trail of blood from the corner of his mouth. "Either we miss our deadline and I get punished or we leave them an escape and I get punished. It's my choice. I control what it's for. Understood?"
Vegeta glared fiercely at Nappa and it was the older Saiyan who glanced away first. Nappa let the subject drop, he couldn't take what little control Vegeta managed to assert away from the boy.
That night the Saiyans set up camp near their pods.
"Wanna bet they try attacking us in our sleep?" Raditz asked.
Vegeta lobed a rock at the teenager. "Stop being an idiot. When have any of them ever not tried attacking us as soon as they think our guard is down?"
Raditz retaliated with a loosely packed ball of muck. Vegeta contemptuously batted the missile away. Then he blinked in shock when it disintegrated on contact to cover him with a spray of muddy water.
"I dare you to do that again!" Vegeta shouted.
Raditz grinned, shrugged and reached down for another handful of muck.
Vegeta jumped on his shoulders. The sudden attack left Raditz sprawled face first in the mud with Vegeta kneeling on his back. With grunt of effort Raditz forced his face up long enough to gasp for breath. Vegeta promptly smacked him in the back of the head.
"Would you two stop screwing around like a couple of idiot kids?" Nappa snapped.
"Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed," Raditz whispered as he and Vegeta broke apart.
In the distance they saw black clouds of smoke billowing up from the planet's cities. "They've started," Raditz commented. His voice was thick with disgust at the thought of how the planet's inhabitants were turning against each other in an attempt to preserve their own lives.
The next day the Saiyans flew out to survey the damage Frieza's newest recruits had done to their world. Nearly every city was in flames and bodies were stacked up like cord-wood around them.
Vegeta's eyes were filled with contempt as he looked at the turncoats and their grisly trophies.
"All right scum, you've proven that you'll kill on command. Wait for pick up at 46.8, 80.9."
"So you're not making them wait on a polar ice-cap this time?" Raditz commented quietly to Vegeta.
Vegeta shrugged. "Why waste a good dessert? If they're too dumb to survive we don't want them anyway."
"Lets go to work." Nappa said. He focused for a moment then spat out a powerful ki bolt. It leveled everything in it's path for miles.
Vegeta grimaced then followed suit with a barrage of blasts. Raditz stood back and watched while the two Elite powerhouses reduced the once prosperous city to scorched earth. He joined in when it was time to hunt for survivors.
Now it was Vegeta who hung back. Nappa glared at his young prince. "Stop being finicky Vegeta. We're on the clock."
Vegeta made a face and reluctantly joined in.
"I don't know why you have to make a fuss," Nappa complained. "It's no different from killing techs and you do that more often than any of us."
"Poor impulse control," Raditz muttered as an aside.
Vegeta kicked a lump of debris in Raditz's direction. "It is different," he insisted. To himself he added. 'I'm not mad right now, and the ones that hide aren't scum like the ones who take Frieza's offer.'
They'd just given the new recruits their marching orders at the fiftieth city when a woman ran out and prostrated herself at their feet. She'd been hiding among the corpses. "Please spare me," she begged. "I'll do anything, just don't kill me."
Vegeta and Raditz refused to even look at her. Nappa grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to her feet so that he could get a better look at her. "So you want to be my little whore?" he asked with a nasty laugh.
The girl bit her lip the nodded.
"If you're going to screw around you can finish this city on your own," Vegeta declared and took to the sky. Raditz followed him a second later.
"Other side of the planet?" Raditz asked quietly. Vegeta nodded.
The distance didn't really help. The psychic bond between the three Saiyans still reverberated with Nappa's lust and the girl's agonized screams.
Raditz watched Vegeta out of the corner of his eye as they systematically leveled another city. Among the third class Saiyan soldiers the older team members had always looked out for the younger ones like older siblings. Raditz was only three years older than Vegeta but looking across the gulf of the Saiyan primary growth phase he was an adult and Vegeta was still a child. He felt responsible for his young prince.
"You know Nappa's got something broken in his head, don't you?" Raditz asked Vegeta. "Liking it like that is not normal."
Vegeta blasted several people who had been fleeing in terror and pretended not to hear Raditz.
"Vegeta?" Raditz pressed.
Vegeta rolled his eyes. "Nappa's not the only one who broadcasts," he said quickly. "And you're supposed to be the one who's got experience with this damn telepathy crap! As if I didn't already had incentive to figure out how to screen you two out... Sex, gross."
Raditz was torn between embarrassment and relief that the kid had something for a healthy standard of comparison when it came to relationships.
They finished clearing the planet then assisted the Vixy in their migration. After that was done Frieza broke six of Vegeta's ribs and gave him a severe concussion for allowing so many to escape. Vegeta spent the night in a Regen Tank but in the morning his left eye was still puffy and swollen.