Chapter 23: Monkey business
Piccolo and Pikkon had found they shared more similarities than just green skin. After the fight's unforeseen conclusion, they had located a comfortable enough tree branch and were meditating next to each other, or at least trying to.
The Earth-raised Namekian opened a single eye and glared at the immense outdoor celebration taking place a bit further away. "They fit right in," he observed.
Pikkon nodded. "Not surprising."
Olibu, Goku, Bardock and Trunks were at the heart of the impromptu party. Many of the Saiyans were still unconscious, sleeping off the exhaustion of their prolonged Oozaru transformations, but those awake had already started eating and drinking.
Piccolo closed his eyes. "Do you think it will be okay? Leaving that thing alive?"
The other alien smiled wryly. "I don't think it's up to us. You felt its power. Only Gohan had any chance at beating it and if he says it's alright…"
Below them, Bardock and Rasok had started a drinking contest that could only end in tears-and vomit, Spea was flirting with a hesitant Olibu and an oblivious Goku, and Celutte was leaning entirely too close to a very awkward Trunks.
Tzz held its power under tight control, mirroring Gohan, who was standing in midair just next to him. Very carefully, they telekinetically lifted the part of Sutric's trunk that had split from his main body, bringing it back to position.
Gohan hadn't been sure it would work, but he started feeding some of his power to the wounded tree guardian, nodding encouragingly at Tzz when the humanoid insect eagerly followed his lead.
He watched in anticipation as Sutric stirred mentally, groaned, then returned to the waking world. A green light covered his trunk, mending the grievous injury until only a scar was left. The hybrid cheered at their success, while Tzz gave a very cheesy thumbs-up.
Sutric's avatar appeared next to them, regarding the ascended bug carefully, then nodding. "I owe you a debt that can never be repaid, master Gohan. Not only have you saved my planet, my charges and my life, but you have also resolved this mess peacefully."
The demi-Saiyan laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. "I couldn't have done it alone, Sutric. 'Talking' to Tzz has been very enlightening. He's nothing like the other Esprag."
The green avatar smiled. "I think that's obvious." With a small burst of power, a vine shot from the ground, stopping before the three, bearing fruit that seemed like fist-sized grapes. Gohan and Tzz were only too glad to partake. "I tried many times to communicate with the swarm, you know. I couldn't even establish a connection and I had lost hope of ever succeeding."
Gohan sighed. "It's… complicated. Tzz told me that the noise of the hive mind was too loud for anything else to reach them. When he remained alone and regained control of himself, making a connection was easy." He shook his head. "He's something of a mental chatterbox actually. I've never had to answer so many questions."
Tzz raised a brow, then opened its mouth and mandibles and blew him a raspberry with a tentacle-like tongue.
Sutric chuckled as Gohan glared at the bug. "I'm sure he still has much to learn," he mused.
The demi-Saiyan rolled his eyes. "The first thing I taught him was that the 'tasty things' as he called us were actual individuals with brains and names. It was a novel, groundbreaking revelation for him… Or it, I guess. I still haven't been able to explain the gender thing and I'm not too eager to try," he added, reddening a bit.
The tree guardian patted him on the back. "Does he have any plans at all?"
Gohan scratched his head. "Actually, I was hoping you'd take care of him, at least for a while. He's like a very eager, very powerful toddler and I don't think taking him with me would work. He likes Gaspar Sau and he can be helpful."
Sutric considered that. "It would be a great burden, of course. If he went out of control, I wouldn't be able to do much, but… I've always wanted an apprentice. I accept the responsibility, master Gohan," he declared.
Tzz buzzed happily. It had found another smart friend and couldn't wait to learn more.
Standing at a high balcony of his castle, Norc gazed at his domain, his mind light-years away. Gaspar Sau was never completely peaceful, but after the swarm's attack, the many natural hazards of the planet seemed almost tranquil.
A person joined him without his permission. He frowned in disdain, but held his tongue, recognizing the white uniform at the edge of his vision.
"Quite the colony you have here, King Norc. Or have you perhaps taken a different, more traditional name for a Saiyan monarch?" asked the newcomer sardonically.
Norc turned to face him enraged, but he gasped and took a step back when he saw the other's face, a face every Saiyan alive was taught to recognize. "King Vegeta!" he exclaimed, dropping to one knee immediately.
Vegeta, his CapsuleCorpMan mask secured at his belt, looked down contemptuously. "I was never crowned. But yes, that's the name I was talking about. It's only proper, isn't it?"
"My lord, I would never take that name without your consent!"
The Saiyan prince smiled dangerously, pointing a finger and forming a small ball of ki. Norc only had a slight understanding of ki sensing, but even he couldn't miss its harsh heat and its blinding radiance. "You are kneeling," observed Vegeta, as if it had been a critical revelation. "I wonder, what would you do if I tried to claim this planet? Would you try to kill me? Would you try to have me killed? Or would you simply give it up? All of your power? All of your efforts?"
Norc took a deep breath and simply looked Vegeta in the eyes, valiantly ignoring his trembling body. "You need but to ask, my lord, and it's all yours."
Vegeta held his ki ball for another moment, then smirked and reabsorbed the power. "Not today. I have… tasks elsewhere. Someday I might just will, though. Then we will see where your loyalties lie. Until then, keep our people safe, King Norc." Turning around, he left the balcony and slowly descended the stairs, his face an expressionless mask.
Vegeta had every intention to ignore the person waiting for him at the bottom, but Spea really hated being ignored. "Did you really have to scare him out of his boots, Lil' Veggie?" she asked, following right behind him.
The other Saiyan grunted. "I told you I hate that name. Brat just needed to be reminded of his place. I'm actually surprised. Super-Saiyans are usually more difficult to deal with."
He walked down the corridor slowly, Spea on his heels. "Gohan has softened him up," she explained wryly. "He taught him and my niece how to control the transformation." She frowned a bit. "Well, somewhat control," she amended.
Vegeta chuckled humorlessly. "The universe is filling with super-Saiyans. Next thing you know, we'll need a super-Saiyan kindergarten. You should apply, runt. You have the experience."
Spea frowned. "Just because I played caretaker and bodyguard to you when you were a kid doesn't mean I liked it." They walked in silence for a while, until she talked again. "I'm sorry, Vegeta," she blurted out, causing him to stop in his tracks.
The Saiyan prince didn't talk, his face stony, his eyes staring at the past rather than the corridor ahead.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there," she continued. "When your father sent me away, to establish this colony in the back end of nowhere, I thought he was testing my loyalty. Everyone knew I was stronger than the King; some expected a power play." She let something between a grunt and a sigh. "If I had known he intended to give you away to Frieza as collateral, then change his mind and invade his flagship…"
Vegeta stilled the slight tremble of his body and forced his fists to unclench. "I blamed you for many years, you know," he replied, his voice raw with barely restrained emotion. "At the same time, I kept hoping you'd come. You had saved my life from assassins six times before, after all. Foolish notions of a foolish child."
Spea bit her lip. "Vegeta, I…"
He interrupted her. "In fact, I kept blaming you until the day I fought Frieza, a few years ago. Now I'm glad you weren't there. Your power, so grand in my mind, wouldn't have made a lick of a difference. This place needed you more."
She swallowed a sob and asked a question, with almost desperate intensity. "If I had come for you while you were working for Frieza… If I had tried to bring you here… Would you have been happy? Would you have led us against him? Or would you have betrayed us to him?"
The reply came in a whisper. "Another thing to be glad about: Not knowing the answer to that question."
Vegeta walked away and Spea did not follow, sitting with her back against the wall, hugging her knees and feeling smaller than ever.
Glacia glared at yet another boulder, trying to keep her shoulders from sagging despite the hyper-dense training armor she was wearing. "Kaioken," she whispered, just before said boulder was reduced to dust.
The small Icean fell to her knees in exhaustion, completely out of breath. She tried to rise, stumbled and only because someone caught her arm did she avoid kissing the ground.
"That rock certainly won't hurt anyone ever again," quipped Krillin after steadying her.
"Thanks," she replied embarrassed, taking off most of the weights. The human noted the straps had left purplish bruises behind.
"You were missed at the feast."
Glacia didn't look him in the eyes, her tail drooping behind her. "I was busy," she replied vaguely.
Krillin sighed. "You've earned some rest," he tried, not surprised when she gritted her teeth and glared at something only she could see.
"Have I?" she spat. "We have fought together and won together, but you know nothing about me," she added, already walking away towards the town.
"Then talk to someone that does," said Krillin gently. She stiffened but didn't respond.
Celutte landed at the clearing with unneeded flair, eagerly approaching its other occupant. "I was afraid you'd left," she chirped, confidently strutting towards him, her brown tail raised behind her.
Trunks blinked, then absently caught a thrown object. He regarded his sword with a critical eye, noticing the new scratches, then nodded and returned it to its sheath. "I trust it was useful?" he replied, smiling awkwardly.
The Saiyan redhead had never learned to be subtle. "You're nervous around me because you think I'm too young for you," she stated with the bluntness of a plane crash.
The purple-haired time traveller raised a brow at that, but said nothing. Cellute nodded to herself and started circling him, like a tiger on the prowl.
"I've asked around about you. Learned your name. Trunks Briefs."
The demi-Saiyan in question squirmed a bit but remained silent. Her prominent smirk widened, eyes shining with excitement.
"They didn't want to tell me, but I also learned you are a time-traveller!"
Trunks sighed, finally responding. "I'm twenty-one standard years old; You're twelve. And it's not just time-travel, it's alternate universe, too. My alternate self in this reality is a toddler."
Cellute shook her head condescendingly. "Tsk, tsk. So serious and so caught up in useless, backwater morality. Age difference means nothing to Saiyans and we can invite your other self when he's a bit older," she suggested, wiggling her eyebrows.
The Saiyan prince groaned. "I asked around after you tried to feel me up at the feast. You ARE too young to act like that."
The girl pouted. "Just trying to get a headstart," she defended. "We can start as friends!"
Trunks felt the beginnings of a raging headache. His mother had warned him about this, but he hadn't taken it seriously while in his android-ravaged world.
Now he knew better.
Goku burped and patted his full belly. "Well, it's time to go now. I'm already feeling this temporary body breaking apart and I have to return you guys to Earth first," he said to Krillin, CapsuleCorpMan, who was wearing his mask again, Trunks and Piccolo.
The masked warrior snorted. "I was hoping we could have a long overdue rematch."
The other Saiyan laughed at that. "Sorry, but I doubt I could throw a single good punch without dissolving."
"I might have a way, but first I'm going to need help, from both of you."
The two Saiyans turned to face Gohan, both puzzled. The hybrid was still wearing his goggles, his new tail wrapped around his waist, though twitching restlessly.
"What help could you possibly need?" asked CapsuleCorpMan gruffly.
Gohan indicated his tail. "I should get rid of it, but I'd rather not. You are the strongest Saiyan that knows how to train the Oozaru form. I've asked Grand Kai. He'll give us a pocket dimension in the Otherworld to use and after we are done, you could fight as long as you want."
Goku seemed elated at the offer, but the other Saiyan seemed pensive. "You do realize that the training usually happens at a much younger age, right? And we don't even know how the super-Saiyan transformation will interact with it."
The hybrid nodded. "That's why I want you there. The other strong fighters will join us, but you will have both the knowledge and the power if something goes wrong."
"You will teleport me to the Otherworld more than just once," demanded CapsuleCorpMan, pressing a finger on Gohan's chest. "Kakarot and I have something of a quota to fill."
He shrugged and nodded, while Goku behind them cheered loudly.
Glacia entered one of Gaspar Sau's entertainment centers, feeling very angry, with the world in general but mostly with herself. The other Saiyans eyed her wearily, correctly assessed her mood, and gave her a wide berth.
Ordering an energy drink from the counter, she sat on a stool and tried to calm down. Her eyes fell on a holovision screen and she blinked, then almost choked on her drink.
An Icean boy, about her age, appeared behind an intricate podium, framed with Royal Icean family banners. His body colours were the same as hers, only inversed, green shells and red highlights on white skin, and he was dressed regally.
There was also an 'M' shaped tattoo right on his forehead.
"People of the galaxy," he started, his voice steady. "Enough time has passed to sadly confirm that both my father, my uncle and my grandfather are lost to us." He paused respectfully, then continued. "We need a new ruler; someone to guide the Icean civilization and the Planet Trade Organization to a new age of expansion and prosperity. In one standard month's time, I, Prince Arctus, rightful son and heir of the great Frieza, will take the Crown Trials, as per custom." His eyes hardened. "Anyone foolhardy enough to challenge my right must be there as well, or forfeit any and all claims in the eyes of our ancestors."
The Saiyans around the room started talking all at once, but none of them noticed that the small Icean princess was now missing, her drink forgotten.
After dropping off Piccolo, Trunks and Krillin, Gohan and Goku teleported the rest to a specially prepared sub-dimension in the Otherworld. The four Kais were waiting for them, along with Grand Kai who seemed to be in the groove, dancing as he walked, boom-box at max volume.
"Everything's ready, kid," he said to Gohan. "It'll be, like, totally awesome. I even have healers on standby if anything goes wrong."
Vegeta got rid of his mask by means of ki incineration, then looked around critically. "You!" he exclaimed walking up to Bardock. "You know at least as much about this as I do. Have you explained to your brat's brat what's involved?"
The older Saiyan seemed amused. "Not really, my prince. This was decided in a hurry." He turned to Gohan, who was watching eagerly. "The long and short is this: You transform, we beat you to submission until you start thinking clearly again."
Gohan blinked incredulously. "That's it?" he exclaimed. "That's the way to learn control?"
Bardock chuckled. "Did you expect a ritual or some kind of dance or a magic spell? This is something all Saiyans go through when they are about four. It's not very complicated."
Vegeta sneered. "The only complication might be the 'beat to submission' part," he added, assessing the other warriors one by one. "If you retain control of your full power, we are all screwed."
Goku laughed and patted his rival on the back. "Come now Vegeta, we'll manage it somehow."
The Saiyan prince frowned, then nodded to Bardock. Gohan's grandfather concentrated briefly, then formed a false moon in his hands, sending it high above the large planetoid they were standing on.
Gohan eyed it intently, then slowly brought his hands to his face and removed his goggles.
Seban, the overseer of the tiny Saiyan spaceport, was busy updating the stock numbers on his terminal, while idly fingering his bandaged head, courtesy of the Esprag battle. He was not prepared for hurricane Glacia, who rushed into his office at barely subsonic speeds and almost threw him off his chair.
"I need a ship," she demanded, her eyes glowing. "I can pay," she added as an afterthought.
The Saiyan would have normally asked for explanations, but having seen the small Icean fight, he had both respect and fear for her. "We have freighters and attack pods," he blurted.
Glacia frowned. "How fast are the pods?"
Seban gave her a small, proud smile. "They are much faster than the junk the Planet Trade Organization uses. We have improved…"
The overseer gulped, then passed her the requested item, barely catching a small bag full of very precious gems. By the time he looked towards his door, Glacia was already by the space pods, plotting her trajectory.
As Bardock and the Kais teleported to safety, Gohan looked at the false moon mesmerized. He could feel his heart resounding like a gong, while his body started expanding. A red film covered his eyes and soon afterwards he only knew rage; hot, unbridled, primal.
Goku, Vegeta, Pikkon and Olibu couldn't help put gulp at the sight of the great ape that used to be the demi-Saiyan. The enormous beast roared, looking around very confused.
"The sooner we end this, the better," said Vegeta loudly, ascending and rushing towards his oversized target. Gohan saw him and tried to snatch him off the air, but wasn't nearly fast enough. Vegeta's double-fisted, flying uppercut sent him flying through the air at breakneck speeds and his follow-up kick resulted in a huge crater on the planetoid's surface.
As the great ape groaned in pain, Goku rolled his eyes. "Try not to kill my son, Vegeta."
The prince raised a brow. "This is not the time for sentimentalities, Kakarot. We have to hit hard and fast…" He casually blocked a building-sized fist from the recovered were-ape, then grabbed him from the tail and started spinning him around furiously. Gohan's second crater appeared soon afterwards.
Olibu chuckled. "It seems the prince was worried without reason," he said.
Pikkon on the other hand was watching carefully. "I can sense it," he muttered. "The great beast has little control, but the power is there, just below the surface."
Beside him, Goku's eyes went wide. He also transformed, rushing towards the one-sided battle. "Vegeta, look out!" he shouted.
Gohan roared once more, charging a ki breath and trying to hit his smaller but much stronger opponent. Vegeta considered tanking the attack. It would deliver a message of dominance even to the Oozaru's addled brain.
Three things happened at the same time. Goku rushed towards the Saiyan prince and tried to tackle him out of the way; Olibu and Pikkon both released their strongest ki blasts, right in the path of the ki breath; more importantly, Gohan's head fur turned golden and his power increased fiftyfold.
The ki blasts had no hope of stopping the highly lethal attack, but slowed it down just enough for Goku to teleport out of harm's way, along with his bewildered passenger.
Gohan, having lost sight of his prey, started destroying the planetoid piece by piece instead.
Vegeta shook his head to clear the stars, then gazed at the great ape almost hungrily. "We are done," he declared. "None of us can even hope to touch him at his current level."
Pikkon scratched his head. "Perhaps we should bring that esprag thing here and have it help us."
Goku shook his head. "I asked Gohan about that. Tzz might be able to help, but we'll be hard-pressed to explain what's going on. Plus the kais don't want it up here until we're sure it's safe." He eyed his transformed son carefully, then nodded resolutely. "I didn't want to use this anywhere near the living world yet, but up here I think I can risk it."
The Saiyan prince regarded his rival inquisitively. "What, another new trick up your sleeve?"
The other Saiyan smiled widely. "Nah, just an old trick, revised." He concentrated deeply, two fingers on his forehead. "Kaioken…!" he shouted, just as he used Instant Transmission. "…times ten!"
His body complained acutely at using that technique while a super-Saiyan, but the hit he delivered on Gohan was worth it. The great ape was smashed on the planetoid and shattered it to car-sized fragments that scattered all over the pocket dimension. Goku did not relent. Using the Kaioken for a tenth of a second each time, he slammed into his son again and again, until the Oozaru curled into a ball in an attempt to protect himself.
"Just a little more," muttered Vegeta, watching the spectacle in awe, even though he'd never admit the fact.
"Good," gasped Goku as he materialized next to the other fighters. Pikkon and Olibu rushed to him as he wheezed and coughed blood.
"Goku, you're tearing yourself apart," commented Olibu, making the hand-sign for help. Two healers teleported in and started working their magic on the Earth-raised Saiyan, hidden behind one of the many floating rocks to avoid attracting Gohan's attention.
"I'll be fine," he replied as his many internal wounds were mended. "You guys should get out of here. Leave it to me."
Pikkon and Olibu nodded reluctantly, knowing how futile it would be to try and fight Gohan at his current state. Vegeta seemed enraged at the prospect initially, then sighed, grumbled and nodded once firmly.
Alone with his transformed son, Goku resumed the beat down, hoping there would be no more complications. His hopes were dashed when Gohan let another roar and started glowing, an enormous aura expanding from his body and filling the whole dimension. The last thing Goku saw was Gohan's body fur turning golden, except for his tail that remained brown.
Spea eyed Seban like a particularly odious species of bug. "And you just gave her the key card?" she asked levelly.
The other Saiyan, more than two times her stature, wilted under her glare. "Well, she paid...more than three times the pod's value, actually," he tried weakly.
The crimson-headed Saiyan rubbed her temples wearily. "Glacia was troubled, still recovering from saving our behinds and, by your own assessment, unstable. You should have stalled and called me sooner, before she could leave!" she explained, her angry voice gradually increasing in volume, to the point where she finished her sentence shouting.
The spaceport overseer licked his suddenly dry lips. "She was a force of nature!" he argued.
"She was a panicked child!" she snapped back. "She obviously learned something that forced her to action, prematurely and without plan or backup." The Saiyan general shook her head. "Gohan is going to be furious," she decided, causing her subordinate to blanch like a skeleton on a desert world.
Goku came to very slowly. His body was in mint condition, but even magical healing could not completely erase the residual phantom pain. He was resting on a comfortable cot, under a large tree, with a trio of healers keeping an eye on him. Extending his senses, he located both his son and Vegeta, both focused on him while keeping their distance.
"What happened?" he asked idly, slowly rising to his feet. The healers knew better than to try and stop him, making way for North Kai, who seemed quite upset.
"In the few years I've known you, you've done many dumb things, Goku. This last one just won the first prize!"
"It wasn't that bad," replied the Saiyan, trying to laugh it off.
King Kai's still serious face stopped him. "Goku, you don't seem to understand," said the godling resolutely.
Gohan had fled without a word as soon as Goku rose, but the Saiyan prince did the opposite. "I'll tell you what this fool is afraid to, Kakarot," he spat, ignoring the Kai's indignant reaction. "You almost died. And I'm not talking about this vacation you dare call death. I'm talking about complete and total eradication!"
Goku blinked, then stared at the two grave faces. "It can't have been..."
Vegeta snarled, grabbing the other Saiyan's arm and showing him the new addition around his wrist.
It was an intricate tattoo of a dragon, with vibrant colours, encircling his limb like a bracelet. The most striking feature, however, was a break on the dragon's body, an area where the magical beast seemed shattered.
"This," explained the prince, "Is evidence that you almost died. Do you remember your brat's first wish? Protection for allies? This tattoo is a symbol. It means the protection was needed and its power was used up."
King Kai sighed. "At the last possible moment, before you were disintegrated, the Eternal Dragon's magic teleported you away from the killing blast. The mark is depleted for now and it will recharge with time, probably a few weeks. As long as you can see the tattoo, you are not protected.
Goku scratched his head, studying its shape. "At least it looks cool," he allowed, trying to find a silver lining. Then the realization hit him like the Halley comet. Ignoring the other two, he hastily flew after his son, whose ki seemed to be very subdued.
Planet Frieza #346 was a remote, little-known world. Situated away from the main galactic trade lanes, it had a small population, half of which were Iceans.
Glacia's pod landed a bit further than the main -and only- city, its jamming systems keeping her presence obscured. She took a few seconds to hide the craft under a slim cover of snow, before donning her armor with the press of a button.
She refrained from flying, pushing her power signature down to zero and trudging resolutely through the snow. The planet's recently promoted governor was someone she used to know very well, or at least one she thought she had known.
The Icean princess needed answers and was certainly prepared to force them out of unwilling, traitorous lips.
End of chapter 23.
Gohan: 19,000,000(base) – 190,000,000 (Oozaru) – 9,500,000,000 (Oozaru, raw ssj1) - 38,000,000,000 (Oozaru, raw ssj2)
Sutric: 800,000,000 (resting)
Goku: 1,100,000,000 (mastered ssj1) – 11,000,000,000 (ssj1, Kaioken x 10)
Olibu: 600,100,000 (max)
Pikkon: 900,200,000 (max)
Vegeta: 810,000,000 (mastered ssj1)
F. Trunks: 5,7000,000
A/N: Thank you all for your reviews!
It seems a lot of people liked last chapter's ending. I wanted to do something different than just play 'punt the baddie'. Don't worry, we'll return to that soon enough.
This was a transitory chapter, though I want to believe the foreshadowing was interesting. Gohan needed to do something about his tail and he still does, while Goku tried to go beyond his limits and, for once, failed.
Anyway, old loose ends tied, new loose ends deployed. Stay tuned for more, whenever that might be!