Road to the Future
Chapter Seven: Hostile Space
Disclaimer: Characters and premise are the property of Akira Toriyama, I'm just borrowing them for a little non-profit fun.
Author's Note: Sorry it's been so long, I've just been going through a phase where nothing I write comes out the way I want.
Goten gritted his teeth as he struggled to complete his morning calisthenics. Even for him the gravity was much too high. And even though he knew that Vegeta was stronger in his base state; a side-effect of the fact that it was harder for a full Saiyan to ascend; the gravity was too high for Vegeta as well. Not that a little thing like that had stopped Vegeta from maxing out the generators that morning.
Bulma had constructed the ship with three gravity generators which produced over-lapping fields. In the lower deck, the large open area that could have been a cargo hold but was more commonly used as a training area, the fields overlapped constructively, increasing the gravity well past the level any single generator could have produced. On the bridge the overlap was destructive, keeping the gravity low to avoid unnecessary strain on delicate components. The crew quarters weren't in an over-lap field, the gravity there was higher than Earth-normal but no where near Goten and Vegeta's training levels.
The increased gravity woke Bra. The previous night there'd been a certain amount of comfort to be found in curling up and crying herself to sleep. At twenty times Earth's gravity the position was just uncomfortable. She rubbed at her eyes dislodging the salt crystals that formed tracks across her cheeks. She chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully. It was difficult for her to move at 20 G's but she still should be able to complete her normal work-out.
For Bra working out had always been about maintaining muscle-tone and good health. She ran with her father because she liked the togetherness time, but she'd always consciously avoided activities that could encourage muscle-bulk. It was bad enough in gym classes just to know that she could bench an order of magnitude more than what the guys did, there was no reason to look like she was abnormal. Or that had always been her opinion. Her father had never pushed her to train the way he pushed Trunks, she'd always assumed he didn't care whether she could fight or not.
Bra stared at the floor. She knew Vegeta had never really approved of Goku and Gohan leaving Pan's training largely in her Grandpa Hercule's hands after Goku started training Uub. But Vegeta phrased his disapproval along the lines of 'If she wanted to fight she should be trained properly, not by the likes of that moron Hercule Satan.' Bra had taken that to mean that he didn't care if she trained or not, as long as she didn't develop delusional notions about her prowess. She wondered if maybe she should have done something to dispel his beliefs about her fragility a long time ago.
Goten struggled through his routines for another half-hour then abruptly ascended to Super Saiyan.
"Power down and get back to work," Vegeta ordered.
"I've taken enough punishment because you made your daughter cry," Goten declared stubbornly.
"I don't have a problem with knocking your teeth out for mouthing off," Vegeta warned, his voice low and dangerous.
"Sometimes you're exactly like my dad, and not in a good way," Goten exclaimed in exasperation. "Neither of you ever talk! Dad, for all his love of fighting, would just leave over a disagreement. And you knew my dad, once he was out the door who knew what could happen. It could be years before we'd see him again. Chances were he'd have saved the Universe or at least a world while he was gone. Bringing up whatever disagreement he'd run away from would just be petty so nothing ever changed. And you're almost as bad, except you lock yourself in the GR or act scary until no one short of Auntie Bulma has the nerve to try to make you finish a conversation!"
"Are you done brat?" Vegeta asked. His tone clearly implied he thought Goten was engaging in a childish tantrum.
"No. Bra didn't do anything Pan hadn't already done-" Goten began.
"Pan is not my daughter," Vegeta interrupted. "I was not on that ship. They didn't go to the heart of the old Cold Empire. And yet they still managed to bring that abomination Baby home with them."
"Well you're treating Bra like we treated Pan and Dad while we were infected by Baby. What's your excuse?" Goten demanded. "You told her you didn't want to admit to being her father."
Vegeta looked startled. He growled something under his breath that had the sound of a curse and strode out of the room without another word.
He rapped sharply on Bra's door. A moment later she opened the door.
"The reason you're not to advertise our relationship is that we will be traveling within the former Cold Empire," Vegeta explained abruptly. "You know about my past, this is where it happened. Here there are many who would kill you for being Saiyan. Even if you manage to argue that your birth occurred well after the last purge, you would still be killed for being my daughter, and they would believe themselves fully justified in doing so. My past is not something I will allow you to suffer for."
"You aren't mad at me?" Bra asked timidly.
"Hell no, I'm furious you're here," Vegeta stated. "But I should differentiate between your punishment and rules meant to keep you breathing while you're here."
Tentatively Bra hugged her father. "Sorry I worry you, Daddy."
Vegeta sighed, for a moment he allowed his hand to rest on her back. Then he stepped away. "You're still grounded," he stated.
"Yes Daddy," Bra replied, reasonably certain that she would be un-grounded within a week or two at most. Hopefully before they had to restock. Her whole reason for coming was to meet boys less pathetic than the ones on Earth. That wouldn't happen if she were stuck on the ship for the whole trip.
Several mornings later Bra shuffled into the galley, head down, shoulders bowed, a picture of dejection. Then she noticed that Goten was the only other person present. "Oh, it's just you," she said. A look of annoyance replaced her earlier appearance of shear misery.
"Yep, just me," Goten replied as he rolled his eyes. "No point in looking pathetic, I'm not the one that grounded you. Besides, that won't work. Trunks and I used to try it all the time, long before you were born, it doesn't work on Vegeta."
Bra smirked. "Maybe not for you or Trunks-niisan," she replied smugly.
Goten shook his head and rolled his eyes.
"It's so boring stuck in that little room all the time," Bra pouted. "Dad's being such a jerk."
Goten shrugged. "The whole ship isn't that much bigger. Or more interesting. Vegeta and I just train all day."
"I know, I'm actually doing some training myself." Bra grinned. "Concession number one: I can use the lounge for training. It's got the best compromise between space and gravity for me. Also I figured if I can show Dad that I can take care of myself he might be less inclined to lock me up for my own good."
"So you're no worse off than your dad or I," Goten replied. "It'll be another two weeks before we hit the trade route and a week after that before we get to the planet where Vegeta says we should refuel."
"So I've got three weeks to get to Dad before I miss anything," Bra declared.
"Good luck with that," Goten replied as he collected up his dishes.
"Stay and talk to me," Bra ordered. "I'm so bored! I haven't seen my friends or a mall in forever!"
"No one made you come," Goten pointed out as he left.
Bra stuck her tongue out at his back.
Goten stepped out of the ship, glanced around at the planet Vegeta had chosen for their first refueling stop and felt every bit of excitement and anticipation about visiting an alien world wither and die.
The air stuck in his throat, thick with generations of pollution. Ramshackle, grimy grey buildings stabbed up at an equally grey sky. The planet's dim red sun was looming threateningly over the horizon, smoldering through the haze rather than shining. There was nothing green or growing anywhere. Even the planet's inhabitants gave little impression of life.
While Goten had stood at the head of the loading ramp, stunned by the oppressive atmosphere of the planetary-waystation Vegeta strode down the ramp. He glared commandingly at the planet's inhabitants. "Which of you scum is the Dock Master?" he demanded.
A being with dusty yellowed skin and cold grey eyes slowly unfolded it's lankly frame. The being peered down at Vegeta. "What'd you want?"
"What are your fees for three hours docking, refueling and replacement of the ship's air and water?"
"Takes at least five hours for that," the Dock Master said lethargically.
"Hn, so your people are incompetent, lazy or both," Vegeta replied. "I trust your prices reflect your insufficiencies."
The Dock Master took a step nearer, trying to use his much greater height to intimidate. Vegeta tipped his head back slightly and laughed. Goten shivered at the sound. One of the other aliens, an older being if Goten judged by the wrinkles lining it's face, caught the Dock Master's elbow and whispered something. The Dock Master's posture caved in on itself, he took several steps back. "50 GCU's, unless you think the price too exorbitant Vegeta-sama," he offered.
"Acceptable," Vegeta stated. He collected Goten with a glance and they headed deeper into the port city, searching for supplies.
"They recognized you," Goten said.
"Their elders do," Vegeta replied. "We're well within the former Cold Empire. Frieza required me to collect tithes from worlds like this one." Vegeta's expression twisted with distaste. "It amused him to order me to run menial errands."
Goten bit his tongue before he could say anything about how that sounded better than what he and Trunks had occasionally speculated. Trunks had learned about his father's past a few months after Buu's defeat and reformation. Goten noticed the way most of the Z-Fighters were on edge around Vegeta shortly after he started middle school. When Gohan refused to explain it, he'd asked Vegeta and gotten his answer. From what he and Trunks had been told they'd concluded Vegeta had spent every waking moment killing people and blowing up planets for the entire time he'd been forced to serve Frieza. Compared to what they'd imagined 'menial errands' didn't sound so bad, even if Goten could guess that Vegeta had probably accomplished 'errands' like tithe collection through intimidation and threats if not through outright violence.
It explained the looks that followed them as they walked through the market place. Word that Vegeta was back on the planet traveled faster than they did.
Goten shivered. After Baby he'd thought he'd known what it was like to be hated. But in the end Baby was just a relic, the last remains of a people who'd fallen so far that they made hate their only legacy. Whatever the real, objective truth about the Saiyan-Tuffle War, how the Tuffles had reacted to their defeat was wrong. Whatever had been done to them they had no right to make the Earth collateral damage in a war that had ended generations ago. Even Vegeta was completely innocent of whatever crimes might have been committed against the Tuffles by the simple expedient of having not been born until after that war had ended. The Tuffles had long since given up any claims to righteousness that they might have once had.
But these people... They watched Vegeta with sullen, fearful hatred. They hated him because of things he'd done, because of what Vegeta had been the last time he'd come here. Their hate spilled over to Goten because he was with Vegeta.
"They won't do anything," Vegeta stated. "Not this time, not here."
"They're too scared of you," Goten said with a grimace. "Everyone can't be this scared of you."
"There are always a few morons," Vegeta remarked with a smirk.
Goten gave Vegeta a startled glance. During his training Vegeta had frequently warned against over-confidence.
//Don't look like an idiot.//
Goten quickly erased the surprise from his expression.
//They will attack, later. Don't encourage them.//
Goten frowned in concentration as he tried to make sense of Vegeta's mental voice. Being only half-Saiyan and not as naturally sensitive to slight variations in ki, Goten was effectively 'hard of hearing' when it came to the non-verbal Saiyan language.
//They will attack, but not here. Not yet. Act confident/dangerous.//
The shop-keepers met them with sullen glares but provided them with the supplies they required.
Goten was relieved when they were finally done and free to go back to their ship and shut the door on all the hatred simmering on the planet.
Vegeta sat the crate of supplies he w carrying down. "When they eventually gather their nerve you won't get involved," he ordered.
"What?" Goten exclaimed.
"We will not bring this back to the Earth with us," Vegeta stated. "I will not allow it."
"How?" Goten demanded. "Dad couldn't."
"Kakarrot did not grow up here." Vegeta shrugged, "And hating him offers little satisfaction."
Goten winced at the reminder of Vegeta's years of animosity toward his father.
Vegeta rolled his eyes. "Kakarrot was incredibly stubborn. He would not answer hate with hate. Eventually one must either give up on it or go mad to avoid recognizing the pointlessness of it."
"The Saiyans were the fist of the Cold Empire for generations. The Colds wrung every drop of value out of the planets under their sway. They left burned-out hulks like the way-station, along with the moving detritus you saw living there, behind by the hundreds." Vegeta looked through Goten. "Vengeance can keep one alive when all else fails. It can be food, water and air, but one can't walk away from it."
"For those who hate the Saiyan race fighting Kakarrot, Son Goku, could only confront them with evidence that their time for vengeance had come and gone. No satisfaction, no resolution. You don't just walk away from the path of vengeance. Son Goku couldn't end it, because he was never a part of it. I am Vegeta no Ouji, Prince of all Saiyans. I have offered trial by combat before," he offered Goten a strained, false grin. "It was always an interesting training exercise. Not completely different from the games we play with Capsule Corp Security."
Goten looked slightly ill. "Except for the part where they're all determined to kill you."
"And the debriefings afterwards were notably shorter," Vegeta remarked.
"That's not funny," Goten said.
"You will not get involved," Vegeta repeated. "The rules here are different and your father would never forgive me for teaching them to you. But anything that comes up here will be resolved here. I won't have this following us back to the Earth."