Disclaimer: I do not own anything DBZ, except the Final Atonement DVD.
Warnings: Angst, Humor, Language and Violence. (as if you didn't already realize that, and if not, what have you been reading?)
Archive: Hell Yeah!
Special thanks go to Stormy, Maria and Stacey, for not letting me give up on this. And most of all to the reviewers. Thanks so much. Each of them has been wonderful and an inspiration to keep going. Please note, though. I have many, many interests, not to mention that work has been insane lately, and that means that updates for fics are going to be sporadic at best.
A Killer In Me
The bright blackness of space surrounded the Capsule Corp. ship as it rocketed towards its destination. It made no sound, as sound cannot travel in a vacuum despite assurances by most filmmakers that explosions can indeed be heard. Its passengers were five Saiyans and one Nameckian. Or, to be accurate, two full Saiyans, and three half-Saiyans.
It was rather quiet on board as well. In the room that the boys claimed as their own, the silence was…expectant, waiting for something to fill it. The three occupants, Vegeta, Trunks and Goten, were indeed, waiting. Waiting for Vegeta to come to a decision in fact.
Vegeta eyed the two half-Saiyans sitting facing him on the bed, which, in turn eyed him back while sporting identical, disconcerting grins. Well, disconcerting only if you weren't the prince of all Saiyans. He sensed Piccolo watching them from the doorway with lazy interest, but ignored the Nameckian with practiced ease. Piccolo was no threat to him, but the two in front of him…well that might be a different story.
"C'mon, Father! It'll be fun!" Trunks encouraged, finally breaking the silence. Beside him, Goten nodded vigorously, his eyes blazing with excitement.
"That depends on your version of fun," Vegeta growled, doubt filling his voice. He knew they wanted this, and so did he, sort of. Well, no one could accuse the Saiyan prince of dithering. Shaking his head, he decided to go for it and fixed them with a firm glare. "Very well."
"YES!" The two demi-Saiyans exchanged high-fives with glee.
"Settle down, both of you," Vegeta snapped, his tail swishing back and forth over the bed they had shared. Earlier, unbeknownst to the three of them, Gohan had strolled by and peeked in on them while they, tired from roughhousing, had caught a nap. They were all piled together like a litter of puppies, and Gohan couldn't resist getting a camera and snapping a few pictures. He planned on using them for blackmail material if given the chance.
They had been on the ship for over a day now, and were now nearing their objective: Planet Freiza number 34. During that time, they had rested, ate, sparred, ate, sparred, and ate. Trunks and Goten offered to fuse again to demonstrate the technique to Vegeta, but Vegeta declined. He had no interest in fusing with anybody, even though they had assured him that he had, in the past, fused with Goku twice. This had earned them a skeptical stare and a derisive sniff. He still refused, though, saying that he had had enough of Gotenks, calling him a twit and even the Nameck had better fashion sense.
To Piccolo's immense relief, the younger Saiyans had kept their attention fixed on the prince, rather than himself. He also noticed that Gohan and Goku seemed to be just as intrigued. Vegeta had no time to himself, constantly being surrounded by curious friends and family. He might have sympathized with Vegeta, but the young prince bore it with practiced ease. He was raised to be the center of any Saiyan's attention.
It was interesting, Piccolo mused as he watched their interaction. Young Vegeta seemed to almost enjoy the attention, despite his trademark sarcastic comments. Older Vegeta would have lost his patience much sooner and told them all to get lost. Or threatened to get them lost. Piccolo found himself constantly comparing the two versions of the prince. Ruefully, he realized that the complex boy that would become the enigmatic man held a fascination to them all.
Now, the kids were sitting in their room on their bed, seemingly planning more mischief. So Piccolo decided to appoint himself to keep an eye on them, just in case what they were planning involved him.
"What do we do?" Goten asked, nearly quivering with anticipation.
"Nothing," Vegeta replied shortly. "Just sit still and close your eyes. I will do everything."
Both demi-Saiyans obediently closed their eyes, trying not to fidget with excitement. Taking one of their hands in each of his, Vegeta gave them one last look before he too closed his eyes. Focusing inward, he dove down, past the conscious and the subconscious, into the deepest part of his brain. Briefly, he felt Kakarrot, and pushed the thread away with brisk efficiency. He had never done this before, although he knew it was theoretically possible to do. He began to imagine two threads, picturing their shape and texture. He was sweating as he bent his will, adding a purple hue to one and a cheerful, determined personality to the other. At last, he thought he had enough of a hold on them, and gathering his indomitable will, he 'threw' the threads at the boys in front of him.
'Trunks! Goten!' he thought clearly.
Trunks gasped and opened his eyes as he felt the connection flare to life. "I heard you!" He grinned in amazement. Beside him, Goten still had his eyes closed. Trunks turned to his best friend. "Did you hear it?"
His eyes wide, Piccolo understood. After Trunks and Goten found out how Goku and the others had tracked them, they had decided that they too wanted to share an active bond with Vegeta. If they had been full-blooded Saiyans, this would not have been a problem. Trunks and Goten, by the simple virtue of being Saiyan, would have already shared a bond with their prince, much like the one between Vegeta and Goku. But, being a half-breed, Goten didn't have that inherent privilege, and unless Vegeta consciously opened his mind to him and established the link, it would not exist. It appeared that Trunks' being Vegeta's son had given him the potential, but Vegeta himself had to establish the link.
Now, all three of the young Saiyans shared a telepathic bond. Again, Piccolo wasn't sure whether this was a good thing or not. If asked, the grown-up version of Vegeta might not have allowed it, for various reasons. But as a child, he considered the request and found it not unreasonable. Or maybe Vegeta had just gotten tired of being pestered constantly about it, Piccolo mused.
Frowning, Goten cocked his head to one side. "Be quiet, Trunks. I'm trying to hear Vegeta," he told him impatiently.
Realizing that Vegeta had been speaking, he shut up and tried to apologize to his father. Not being familiar with thought-speech, he thought 'Sorry father!' as loud as he could.
"Gah!" Vegeta shook his head in a vain attempt to escape the shouting in his head. 'You needn't shout,' he thought irritably. 'Think clearly, like normal. I can hear you quite well. And don't mumble.' This was in response to Trunks' whispered apology for his apology. The prince opened his eyes and released Trunks and Goten's hands. Both boys' eyes opened wide. "Wow!" was all Goten could think to say. Trunks nodded in wholehearted agreement. "Can we talk to you anytime?" he asked.
Rolling his eyes, Vegeta hopped down from the bed and stretched, his tail fluffed behind him. "No, you can only talk to me when I want you to. It would drive me insane to have you two constantly chattered in my head."
Looking thoughtful, Trunks and Goten jumped off the bed and went into the galley, Vegeta trailing after them as he fixed his scouter back over his eye. Goku and Gohan were already there, eating with gusto.
"Hey guys!" Goku greeted them with his usual cheer. "Hungry?" He pointed to the heaps of various foodstuffs spread out on the table in front of them.
"Yeah!" Goten jumped into a chair and began to help himself.
"Trunks, Vegeta?" Gohan inquired, though he needn't have bothered. They were Saiyans, of course they would eat.
As the Saiyans inhaled their food along with the available oxygen, Goten suddenly bust out laughing, nearly choking on a mouthful of food. As Gohan and Goku turned to the youngest Son, Trunks too started giggling. Vegeta just kept eating, looking unbearably smug.
"What's so funny?" Gohan asked, wanting to share the joke.
Goten clapped his hands over his mouth, to keep from laughing too hard. Trunks made no such effort. He was laughing so hard; he fell off his chair with a thump. Vegeta just kept eating, glancing at them with that same air of knowing something that the others did not.
"Care to share the joke?" Goku asked, smiling with puzzlement.
Struggling to catch his breath, all Goten could gasp was, "(pant)…Vegeta…(gasp)…said," and dissolved into giggles again.
"Vegeta? He didn't say a word," Gohan said, bewildered.
Trunks climbed back up from under the table, took one look at Goten and send them both back into peals of laughter. Both Goku and Gohan looked at the prince. Suddenly they understood.
"All right Vegeta. What did you say to them?" Gohan demanded. He knew it had been something to do with either Goku or himself as the butt of the joke. He hoped it had been about his father, so he too could share in the laughter.
Before Vegeta could decide whether to answer, Piccolo interrupted them. "We are here," he rumbled. They all looked at him, and got to their feet, eager to see this strange planet.
"So this is Planet Freiza number 34," Piccolo said with a definite lack of enthusiasm as he looked out the port window. They were orbiting the planet. "Not exactly what I pictured it to be."
The planet they were above was very, well, strange to say the least. It was roughly the size of Earth, maybe a little bigger, which meant a slight increase in gravity, but not enough for the Z fighters to notice. It had the usual carbon dioxide/oxygen atmosphere mixture, but heavier on the oxygen. The sky was a sickly green, of all things, almost reminding Piccolo of Nameck. But the main difference was that there was no water or deserts or mountains. The whole planet was covered from pole to pole with a thick forest of trees that were metal and easily as big as skyscrapers.
"Well, there is no point in hanging around up here all day," Goku said. "Lets go say hello."
Gohan piloted the ship down, trying to find someplace suitable for landing. But there was no clearing big enough to set down in. The teenager had just decided to take it back up again when Trunks, who had been watching the scanners, shouted, "A city!"
"What?" Gohan jerked his head to look at Trunks. Vegeta's son was pointing out of the large side portal to what could be described as a jumble of buildings, if the person describing them had indulged in a leave of his or her senses. Gohan was so distracted by the utter alien-ness of the city that he momentarily forgot that he was piloting the ship.
"Look out!" Piccolo shouted.
Gohan looked up to see a burnished silver tree seem to rise up right in front of them. All he had time for was a single un-Gohanlike, "Shit!" before the spaceship and all its occupants crashed directly into the solid trunk. Since the spaceship was hardly unstoppable, and the tree was, for all intents and purposes, very immovable, the spaceship lost that round. One thing that should be noted was that though the tree stopped the forward movement of the latest innovation of Capsule Corp technology, it did not stop the downward movement, so the spaceship and all its occupants slid down the trunk of the tree, bouncing off thick branches, and jarring the Saiyans and the Namekian like so much popcorn until they couldn't tell which way was up.
After this went on for what seemed to be far too long, what was left of the spaceship came to rest on the ground. Inside, the occupants started the painful task of sorting themselves out and assessing their injuries. Luckily, the Z fighters were practically indestructible, but that didn't mean that they were impervious.
"Oww," Trunks commented from underneath Gohan.
"Ugh," Goten agreed from on top of Piccolo who was trying to sit up.
"Everyone alright?" Goku asked, sitting up and rubbing his head.
"I think so," Gohan answered as he climbed to his feet and held a hand out to Trunks, helping him up too.
"Excellent piloting Gohan. Where did you learn, the Flight School for the Blind?" Vegeta asked sarcastically, from a dented corner. He was examining his tail inch by inch, making sure it wasn't broken.
"Bite me, Vegeta," Gohan growled.
"I would if I wasn't afraid of contracting the same disease that robbed you of your sight," Vegeta snarled back. Satisfied that it was still in working order, he stood up and seeing a long gash in the side of the ship, used it as an exit. Still rubbing their sore parts, the others followed him.
The silvery sun shone down on them, making the Z fighters' eyes water against the glare. They had 'landed' against the base of the tree, which was closely surrounded by others. The trees towered out of sight above them. They had no leaves and were utterly still. The air was bitterly cold, and inhumanly still.
Piccolo emerged from the crash last, scowling with annoyance as his cape caught on a jagged shard of metal plating. With a practiced jerk, he freed himself then looked around at the surrounding forest as his caped once again settled around his body, billowing gently. Goten, who was standing nearby, felt the cape brush his arm and he looked over at Piccolo. For the first time, he seemed to notice the strange behavior of the garment.
"Piccolo," he asked, "Why does your cape move like that if there is no wind?"
Antenna raised in mild surprise, Piccolo looked down at the youngest Saiyan. He had never figured Goten to ask simply because most times Goten was as clueless as his father. But then…Goku had asked that question too recently. Lips twitching slightly, he answered with the same explanation that Gohan had used. "It is a prerequisite for wearing a cape."
"Actually, its because he's so full of hot air," Vegeta commented from a few yards away.
Piccolo glared and Goten looked blank. Gohan snorted, trying to cover up a laugh. He quickly swallowed it when Piccolo turned his glare on him. Clearing his throat, Gohan did his best to look innocent and decided to concentrate on their surroundings.
The whole planet was eerily silent. There was no life to be sensed in any direction. No little creatures made noises, no insects, and no reptiles. There were only the monstrous trees. And yet, the Z fighters felt like they were being watched.
Vegeta walked up to one of the trees that towered out of sight and craned his neck to peer up at the shiny leafless branches. He adjusted his scouter at scan the tree. "The tree is actually growing, pulling the metals deep from underground. How can metal be alive?" he wondered. His tail curled from side to side. "No wonder Freiza wanted this planet. The heavy metals in the core of one of these trees could power a single stardrive for years."
Trunks walked over to stand by his father. The prince hadn't spoken much after the incident in the control room. He had seemed embarrassed by the whole thing and refused to talk about it afterwards. It puzzled Trunks as to why, though. Vegeta never really showed him much affection, except for that one time right before he died trying to kill Buu. He had hugged Trunks. But the lack of demonstration never really bothered the demi-Saiyan much because he knew deep inside that Vegeta loved him and would go to any length to protect him. He had even walked through the innards of Buu himself to rescue Trunks when the unstoppable pink monster had absorbed him and Goten.
"Are you sure this is the right planet?" Goku asked, looking around as he scratched the back of his head. From what Vegeta had said, there should have been someone there to greet them if nothing else. But the planet seemed devoid of life altogether. Just the huge metal trees.
Frowning, Vegeta accessed his scouter again. "Yes, I'm sure this is the place," he snapped, but he too was puzzled. From what he remembered, and what the records on the scouter had indicated, there should have been a large population of 'something' here.
"I can't sense anyone," Trunks commented. Of course all of them had tried, but each had come up with nothing, except for a vague uneasy feeling of being watched.
"Well, we could go check out Trunks' city," Gohan suggested. They had come all that way, and maybe they could find something that would justify their trip, to Chi-Chi if nothing else.
Still looking up, Vegeta launched himself into the air, flying parallel to the enormous tree trunk that had been intimately introduced to their ship. He flew until he reached the topmost branches of the tree and landed on a slender branch that easily supported his slight weight. Trunks and the others followed immediately.
"Wow! What a view!" Goku commented as he lighted on a lower branch. Following the Saiyans' example, they all picked a branch and gazed out over the forest. Stretching out as far as they could see in all directions, metallic trees reflected the sunlight, dazzling the Z fighters with their sheer brilliance. Like frozen fireworks they gleamed luminous colors.
Piccolo had the sharpest eyes and he noticed something a bit different off to the west. "There is something over there," he said, pointing. "I think it is Trunks' city."
"Let's take a look," Gohan said. Without further comment, the Z fighters launched themselves into the air. By some unspoken agreement, they took their time, flying almost leisurely in the direction Piccolo had indicated. As they drew closer, they could make out large buildings spread out over a cleared section of the landscape. It was indeed an alien city.
"See, I told you that there was someone here," Vegeta gloated, secretly relieved.
Grinning with excitement, Trunks and Goten started flying faster, eager to get to the city and explore. But clawed hands on the backs of their collars stopped them abruptly. "I think we should be on guard here," Piccolo growled at the two boys. "Something doesn't feel right."
"Ah, lighten up, Piccolo. There is no one here," Trunks whined. Goten nodded in agreement.
"I'm not so sure," the Namekian said doubtfully.
His face scrunched up in thought, Gohan glanced at Piccolo. "I have to agree with Piccolo, guys. There is something not right here, so let's be careful." They started forward once again, heading to the single city on the planet. Soon it came into full view and some unspoken agreement made them drop to the ground well outside the city and look at it.
The immense buildings seemed to glower back. Gohan shifted uneasily as he studied the city. There was no rhyme or reason to the structure of the buildings. Asymmetrical shapes with distorted windows and doors that were too alien for his mind to accept kept him scanning the city, trying to find something familiar, something that made sense, but there was nothing.
Beside him, Piccolo stirred uneasily. "I don't think that whoever made this city was a native to this planet," he said in a low voice as if he were trying not to attract attention to them.
"Why do you think that?" Goku asked.
"Because only one city seems to indicate that a group settled here instead of scattered villages if whatever lived here evolved naturally." Piccolo frowned. "Whomever built this city seems to have left as well."
Trunks caught a movement out of the corner of his eyes and turned, but there was nothing, just the forest. Goten saw him turn and asked him what was wrong. Shrugging, Trunks replied, "I thought I saw something."
Vegeta was scanning the city with his scouter. His scowl deepened. "Whomever built this city used materials from the forest. The whole city is made from metals found in those trees. But they added something and my scouter can't penetrate any of the buildings."
"So we are going in blind?" Gohan asked.
"Should be normal for you," Vegeta sniped.
"Vegeta, shut up," Piccolo said absently not taking his eyes from the alien buildings. He ignored the glare the Saiyan prince shot at him.
"Can we go now?" Trunks asked impatiently. The adults exchanged glances but there was no obvious reason to not go on. Again, by some unspoken agreement, they walked to the city rather than flew. They had no idea what was in store for them, but they were determined to find out.
Note: Sorry it took so long to get this out. I've been…busy.