A/N: It's been a long time since I've come around…
Videl remembered standing on the edge of her own oblivion; staring death in the face.
She had first met death somewhere between the never-ending sands of the desert and the endless blue skies of earth. She remembered, and at times, still felt when her stomach had cramped in hunger and her throat had burned with thirst, her eyes had stung from sand and sun, how her skin had tore itself apart from the heat, and how her hate had raged within her chest toward the man who had left her in the desert all alone.
She knew when death was waiting for her; it was like she could almost smell it when it was near; could feel it wrap its arms around her and try and pull her down. The feeling was always the same. The struggle to win against death was always there; some battles more intense than others. There were many times she had almost lost and death had almost won.
Now, as Videl stood silently upon the dark planet with gray skies, gazing off into the foreign midst, Vegeta standing by her side, she could feel death's presence like an old memory rising to the forefront of her mind. She did not try to repress it but accepted its presence. It was simply another battle that would have to be won.
Gohan was beginning to understand how a good man did not necessarily equate to an honest one.
He watched as Hercule tossed a considerable sum of money into a beggar's bowl and continued walking as if he had done nothing at all, turning to answer a question Gohan had asked.
"I come here quite a bit. Call it a place to get away."
Gohan glanced around the overcrowded market, scrunching his nose against the smell. "It does not seem to be a place where one would find relaxation."
Hercule's blue eyes widened before he let out a booming laugh that rose above the sound of the busy market drawing a few stares. "No," he said, turning away to observe a vendor's stand, "I suppose not. But I find I never feel more alone than when I am surrounded by people."
Gohan adjusted the disguise covering his face, making sure it was still securely in place. It would not bode well to have his presence known. The tabloids would go nuts to see the Prince of the Ox Kingdom out and about in the markets of a country that was in the precarious political position of about to go to war.
Gohan was coming to find the man Hercule was in front of the public and the man he was in private were very different.
"I just find it odd," said Gohan in response to Hercule, "You could be anywhere in the world, doing anything you wanted. You have the power and resources to do so."
Hercule turned to look at the younger man, a slight smile upon his face. The red haired disguise he was wearing made it look slightly comical.
"So do you, if I remember correctly."
Gohan smiled at that. "It was your request that I might come with you today."
"And your acceptance. Besides," Hercule said as he handed Gohan an apple he had bought from one of the vendors, "they sell the best tasting fruit here."
Gohan took the apple from Hercule's hand before taking a bite of it. He looked up at the older man and smiled.
"Very good." Gohan agreed. "But not the best."
"Oh?" Hercule smiled, raising an eyebrow.
"There was a tree by my childhood home that my father and I would gather apples from every summer. And while these are good, they are hardly better."
"Tough to sell, I see. Well, you haven't tried the peaches."
Gohan frowned at the older man, unsure of what to make of him. "I was not raised to be rude, but I am not interested in peaches. Why did you really ask me to come with you today?"
Hercule furrowed his forehead, glancing briefly away from Gohan and through the crowd before looking back at him. By the time he looked back into the younger man's eyes he seemed to have decided something.
"You are far more perceptive than your advisors gave you credit for. Walk with me."
Gohan glanced around the crowd, wary of any extra ears that might hear what was about to be said before he followed after Hercule. Once he was in stride with the older man, he began to listen.
"You've been following the news between Ruse, Bulgarea, and Orange Kingdom?"
Gohan frowned at Hercule's question, but answered solemnly. "They are countries that are on the edge of war. A predicament in which the Ox Kingdom has no interest being involved in."
Hercule's bright eyes widened and then sharpened their gaze at the sound in the young man's voice. "Excellent political answer. But we are not in court, young king."
"An honest answer." Gohan replied easily. "Engaging in battle will simply result in a world war and I will not permit the Ox Kingdom to become involved."
"That is a very difficult statement protect."
"And I have every intention of doing so." Gohan asserted.
Hercule paused mid stride to turn and look at the young man. "Even when they initiate the attack against your country?"
"There is an answer for that too."
Hercule nodded before turning away and continuing to walk. "The officials of the Orange Kingdom are still demanding an explanation for the sudden disappearance of their fighter jets and for the miraculous appearance of their pilots on the their country's borders."
Gohan shrugged. "They were pilots flying in unfamiliar and protected air space above the Ox Kingdom. Who knows how they ended back up in their own country? Any thing could have happened to them."
Hercule glanced warily towards his companion. "So it would seem. The nations of Ruse and Bulgarea are also demanding an explanation as to the disappearance of their submarines and the strange appearance of entire submarine crews on their countries' borders as well. There are even rumors circulating that the Ox Kingdom is developing a weapon; a so called 'Golden Fighter'."
"I wouldn't know anything about that. I officially am out of any kind of politics."
"This isn't a matter of politics, Gohan. Your mother isn't an idiot. You need to be careful who you allow to see you. As low as you think the possibility is, it is very dangerous if somebody does recognize you during your… version of national defense."
"I am not overly concerned. " Gohan supplied, hiding his surprise on just how much Hercule knew.
"Perhaps you should be. In eight years you will regain your power over the throne and by that time all of those countries will undoubtedly be in the midst of war. The Ox Kingdom is one of the largest suppliers of oil in the world; critical, often times, in determining a country's victory or defeat. The only reason none of these countries have lashed back for the sudden disappearance of their jet or subs is that they need us. Countries will be vying for your favor. And whether the Ox Kingdom, your kingdom, is at war or not, it is very likely that that we will be involved whether directly or indirectly."
"You are starting to sound like my mother."
"Queen Chichi is a wise woman and a good queen. It would do you good to listen to her."
Gohan furrowed his forehead. Somehow Hercule had managed to remain the only advisor in the court that Chichi had not replaced from Gohan's brief stint as king. Something Hercule did not take for granted. He respected Chichi immensely. Gohan suspected his mother kept Hercule in her court simply for his influence as "The World's Savoir". A trait that made him nearly irreplaceable. Hercule was, much to Gohan's surprise, well-versed in the language of politics. Manipulation, it turned out, was one of Hercule's greatest strengths.
The older man continued. "Once the Orange Kingdom, Bulgarea, and Ruse all go to war, many more countries will follow. Ruse has aligned itself with the many of the nations in the south side of the planet. Orange Kingdom, to the best of our intelligence, has many connections with the North nations. Bulgarea is much the same. There are alliances between many of them and when one falls they all will."
"If you know what is going to happen," Gohan began slowly, "why can't you stop it?"
"People have been trying to stop it for the last seven years, but it has only continued to escalate. Cell's legacy is still at work."
Gohan had stopped walking to turn to look at Hercule. He barely noticed that they had left the busy city streets and were walking down a much more secluded and quiet part of the city.
"Cell is dead. He is nothing more than a memory."
"And memories are the most difficult thing to confront."
Gohan frowned. "I don't understand."
"I suppose you were too young to really notice it. But during Cell's…reign… there was a certain amount of chaos that came with it. Entire cities were wiped out during many of Cell's attacks. Many countries took advantage of that. Land that had nobody left to defend was taken over by neighboring countries. When everybody was brought back to life many of the countries did not want to give the land back up. And as simple as this problem might sound, it has done nothing more than escalate to the breaking point, which is coming very soon. This problem has had seven years to grow and it is too late to stop it. Don't think that anybody hasn't tried."
"Isn't there committees or something for things like this?"
Hercule shrugged. "Signing a paper and following through on your promise are two different things. A king can say he will give back all lands but words are not very binding. And there is nobody to enforce words written upon a treaty except for the countries that signed the paper."
"I have my own form of enforcement."
Gohan had defended his country when circumstance called for it and he would not hesitate to do so again.
Hercule shook his head. "Not only is that morally questionable, it is too late for that. In the beginning it may have been effective in making sure a king, ruler, president, whatever stayed true to their word, but things have gotten to the point where that will not work. Initially it was a battle over land, but it is becoming much more complicated. Conflicts spawn from conflict and there are too many to count. I don't pretend to understand politics as well as you or your mother. But I do understand this; there will be war. It is only a matter of time."
Gohan considered all that Hercule had told him. He breathed in deeply.
"What are you suggesting I do?"
"You're the hero, boy. Prepare yourself for anything. You never know when the battle might come to your doorstep."
Chichi ran her fingers across Goten's forehead, gazing at him as he slept. He shifted slightly but did not wake. Perhaps if she had known that he would look so much like Goku she would have never had him.
It had been a shock to see her son looking shyly up at her from behind Piccolo's cape. As he stepped out from behind his Sensei, her heart almost broke. It was like looking at a child version of her husband. It was even worse when suddenly he smiled at her; his grin large and innocent, taking up his entire face. She had started crying then, as the small boy rushed into her arms. She held him as tight as she could, unsure if her strength was meant to strangle him or love him.
Piccolo did not linger. He was gone before Chichi had a chance to look back up. She did not entirely mind. His presence could be unnerving. Goten, however, stayed.
As he gazed expectantly up at her, she did not know what to do with him. In another lifetime perhaps she would have been a housewife and a devoted mother. But she was queen. And, as she gazed down upon her son, she realized that he was a prince with no education outside of knowing how to fight.
Chichi had left her son then, lingering no longer than necessary to arrange his care for the next week, leaving him under the watch of her ladies-in-waiting.
As she watched him sleep, this was the first time in nearly three weeks that she had seen her son so close. She had seen him several times from a distance; a bright orange figure with wild hair racing down the hallways, his laughter reverberating off the walls as some mentor or nanny chased after him.
Gohan, when he was home (seeing her eldest son was becoming an increasingly rare occurrence), seemed to be the only one capable of keeping Goten still for more than ten minutes. He would often steal Goten away for the day, without anybody's permission or knowledge, and bring him back completely worn out and almost complacent.
Chichi smiled down at her son. "Hello, sweetie."
Goten looked at his mother with tired eyes through the darkened room. "Did the sun not come up today?"
Chichi let out a soft laugh. "The sun is still sleeping, baby. Go back to sleep."
Goten shifted, letting out a low sigh. "Why aren't you sleeping then too?"
It was a fair question. But Chichi was not so inclined to answer it. It was nearly three in the morning and she had just gotten back from the Nation of Ruse nearly a half an hour before. She had been trying to negotiate peace treaties that had failed horribly. The meeting was exhausting and Chichi doubted she would be getting any sleep tonight because of it.
"I'm about to go to sleep."
Goten squinted at her. "Your face is still painted though."
She looked at her son with confusion before laughing once again, bringing her fingertips briefly to her face. Chichi had rarely worn make-up before she had entered the public eye. Now as queen, she found the benefits of manipulating her features extremely useful.
She leaned down to kiss Goten's forehead. "So it is. Go to sleep."
He nodded. "Are you going to be here tomorrow?"
Chichi stiffened. She knew her duties as queen and mother. She also knew that in this instance she would have to choose between the two. "I don't know, sweetie."
Goten nodded, yawning, his drowsiness taking over his concern.
Chichi moved away from her son's bed. "Good night, Goten."
He gave mumbled sigh that Chichi could not decipher as she silently left his room.
"This is my son – Broly."
Videl glanced dispassionately up at the man before her, finding she could hold his gaze for no more than a moment before she had to look away. His eyes were penetrating. She found his gaze much too invasive.
Vegeta gave a grunt of acknowledgement but offered no other reaction to Paragus's introduction.
"Where is this so called Super Saiyan?"
Paragus blinked, surprised, before offering a gracious smile. "You're journey to my planet must have been a long one. Wouldn't you like something to eat first?"
The line of Paragus's mouth faltered but he quickly recovered.
"Well," Paragus began, "his power comes and goes. One second our scouters pick up an unbelievable power level, the next the power completely disappears. We can hardly keep track of his movements."
"Given that there are no ki sources on this planet I doubt that it keeping track of a power as large as a super saiyan should be especially difficult." Vegeta responded dryly.
Paragus merely laughed. "No ki sources indeed but the residents of this planet don't have any ki signature to speak of."
Paragus nodded, seemly pleased to have caught some fraction of Vegeta's interest.
"No ki. Or at least not any ki that scouters can pick up."
"Where are all of the natives of this planet?" Vegeta asked without any apparent interest.
"My son and I have enslaved them. They don't seem strong, but they put up one hell of a fight. We finally managed to defeat them after extensive effort. The mineral resources on this planet are plentiful. We have killed the majority of the population already. There are about 2000 or so left. We keep the remaining natives to mine the resources. When they have outlived their purpose, we will kill the rest of them and move on to another planet."
Videl felt a vague sense of disgust.
Vegeta turned to leave. Videl acted in kind.
"Where are you going?" Paragus asked with a slight edge of panic in his voice.
"To find the Super Saiyan." Vegeta said before blasting off into the air.
She stood shivering and unsure as she stared at the front door of Yamcha's apartment. She could see the lights were on and could here the high pitch squeak of Puar's voice occasionally broken by the lower pitch of Yamacha's. Bulma sighed, gaining her courage and pushing down her shame as she walked up to the front step and knocked upon his door.
Even as the door opened, revealing a confused looking Yamacha, the dread did not drain from her stomach.
"Oh hey, Bulma," Yamacha greeted brightly, concern furrowing his forehead, "what brings you to these parts of the woods?"
Bulma smiled up at him, raising her finger to tap playfully at his nose. "Can't I drop by to see an old friend?"
Yamacha blinked. "Yeah, I suppose so." He appraised Bulma once more, taking note of what she was wearing. "Jeez Bulma, where is your jacket? It is freezing outside. Come in."
Bulma followed him into his apartment as Yamacha went to the kitchen to make Bulma some tea.
The apartment looked very much the same as the last time she had entered it nearly seven years ago. His baseball trophies adored the walls along with a very few select pieces of expensive art. It was still very much the bachelor pad she was use to seeing.
"It's been awhile." Yamacha spoke from the kitchen. "I wasn't expecting to see you around here."
"I was in the neighborhood." Bulma answered lamely. "Thought I would stop by and see you."
This was, of course, a lie. Yamacha lived far away from anything that would be in the area of Bulma's normal dealings. While he lived in a far from modest part of West City, it was not was not as expensive as the places Bulma frequented.
Yamacha appeared a moment later, carrying two cups of tea with a concerned look on his face. Yamacha was one of Bulma's oldest friends and knew her well enough to know when she was lying.
"You weren't in the neighborhood, Bulma. Why are you really here?"
"Yes I w…"
"No, you weren't."
Yamacha set the tea down, looking seriously into Bulma's face.
The guilt that gripped Bulma's gut when she first stood at his front door was tightening even more while she stood in front of him.
It was not Bulma's nature to become flustered and unsure. She lowered her head and looked down to the ground like a small schoolgirl. She felt foolish but she was not about to stop herself from doing what she came to Yamacha's house to do. Once her mind was set on something, wrong or right, she would carry it out.
She felt the warmth and reassuring weight Yamacha's large hand rest upon her shoulder.
Bulma felt tears begin to run down her face as her entire body shook.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
Despite herself, a choked sob ripped from Bulma's chest and before Yamacha could say or do anything else, Bulma launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her lips to his.
Yamacha froze. His entire body tensed before he realized what was happening. Becoming aware, he tried to pry the blue haired woman off of him. His voice came out muffled with Bulma's lips against his mouth.
"Bulma, what are you doing?"
As he gently pushed her away she was still trying to kiss him.
"Bulma," he said more firmly, "you need to stop."
Yamacha was holding her back and was too strong for her to fight. She struggled fiercely for a moment before her entire body went limp almost falling to the floor. Yamacha caught her. Before she knew what she was doing she was leaning into Yamacha's chest crying. His arms wrapped around her body. She could feel the low vibration of chest as he spoke to Puar. She held onto him tighter and could smell his sweet musk. The one that reminded her of nights in the desert from a life that seemed so long ago.
Yamacha moved both of them over the couch and sat down.
Yamacha waited patiently for Bulma to collect herself. When the last of her tears had finally ceased, he spoke.
"What's going on?"
She hunched forward and turned looked away from him.
"Don't pull this on me, Bulma."
She let out a low shaky breath before raising her tear stained face to look at Yamacha.
"I'm sorry that I put you in a compromising situation, Yamacha."
Yamacha frowned. "It was not me who would be compromised by this."
Bulma lowered her gaze once more, ashamed.
Bulma Briefs was a proud woman. She controlled her emotions, she hid her feelings, and she did not, under any circumstances, burden her problems onto anybody else. For the first time in a long time, however, Bulma Briefs felt herself crack.
"I hate him!" She screeched suddenly. "I have never hated anybody more in my entire life!"
Suddenly she felt possessed and she was not about to stop the fever that had taken over her body.
"He left me alone. He left his son. He had my son taken away from me. He said he would be back. He fucking promised me! He hasn't come back! He is a lair! A cheat! I hate him!"
Bulma did not realize that she was standing and it took her a moment to register Yamacha's bewildered face looking up at her.
She was breathing heavily. Her fists clenched dangerously at her sides and she wanted nothing more than to destroy something.
Yamacha chanced a slow breath before speaking. "You don't hate him, Bulma."
Bulma opened her mouth to retort, but Yamacha cut her off.
"It's the people we love who hurt us the most. If you did not love him, you would not feel the way you do now."
Bulma's voice was caught as she looked desperately into Yamacha's face.
Yamacha gazed calmly back at her. "Go home to your son, Bulma. He needs you."
Bulma's face twisted. Such was the pain she could not stand to be where she was much longer. She nodded a silent thanks to Yamacha before leaving his house quickly.
Vegeta flew at a steady pace through the alien planet's atmosphere. He felt, though he did not acknowledge the feeling, at least not completely, a distant kind of heartbreak radiating from the direction of Earth. He glanced in the direction he knew Earth to be and could make out the star that he knew the planet to orbit. The bite mark at the base of his neck ached more than he was comfortable to admit, even to himself.
Vegeta focused on the planet he was on, blocking out all thoughts of Earth and what it contained. Looking down he could see that most of the alien planet's surface was scarred with ki attacks.
Vegeta had sincerely doubted that there was any Super Saiyan on the planet at all after hearing the blubbering fool Paragus talk. However, seeing the damage inflicted to the surface of the planet Vegeta knew that only the most powerful of beings could have made them. Paragus's base power was pathetic and his son… Vegeta sensed out Broly's ki and found it to be pathetically low. Lower than even the fool Paragus's ki.
Vegeta glanced at the girl. She was flying to his right, gazing down at the earth. Her bright blue eyes were very wide. It was a rare show of emotion and Vegeta wondering briefly what bothered her so much. Vegeta abandoned the thought once he got sight of the first mines he had yet seen on the planet's surface.
He flew lower to investigate. About 2 kilometers above the ground he was able to make out figures moving into and out of the mines. Vegeta floated closer.
The natives were humanoid in appearance. So much so it would have been easy to mistake them for earthlings.
The girl seemed have a similar line of thought, for she remarked, "They look like me."
"Are you able to get a ki reading on them?" Vegeta asked her.
She shook her head without looking at him. "No. It's almost like they are not there at all. It's… disorientating."
Vegeta let out a curt chuckle. "Now you know what it is like dealing with you."
She looked sharply over at him.
"But I have a ki signature." She said.
"Yes." Vegeta conceded. "But it is pathetically small."
"But I at least have one."
Vegeta began to fly down to the natives below. When he was about 50 meters above their heads, one of the miners caught sight of them and began to scream in terror at the approaching figures.
When Vegeta and Videl landed on a bluff overlooking the entire mining operation, the majority of the natives began to disappear into the mines. However, one man stayed. There was fear on his face but a kind of brave resolution in the lines of his mouth as he stared at them.
"Stay here." Vegeta ordered Videl. "I will speak with the man. Keep your eyes open for any possible attack."
Vegeta flew down from the outlook to land lightly in front of the man as Videl stood gazing towards the mines that now held the majority of the natives. The man watched Vegeta warily.
"You're not…" the man said in a language Vegeta knew.
"No." Vegeta supplied curtly, answering back in the man's tongue. "We are not your enslavers."
"Have you come to help us?"
"Have you come to kill us?"
"Then why are you here?"
"I'm looking for a golden haired warrior."
The man's eyes widened at this.
"Do you intend on fighting this warrior?"
"I do not think you can win against him. He has destroyed every defense my people could throw at him."
"So he exists then?"
The man nodded once more. "And he will kill you if he has half the chance."
"Not if I kill him first." Vegeta responded. "Where is he?"
"I do not know."
"How often does he come here?"
"Not often. Every twenty days or so."
"When was the last time he was here?"
"I would estimate around six days."
Vegeta let a low frustrated growl.
"If he is not here, who forces you to work."
The man nodded toward the mines. "We are monitored through cameras there. If we stop working, he comes."
Vegeta stared momentarily at the man before speaking. "Inform your people to cease all work. If they do not do so, I will personally kill each and every one of you."
The man opened his mouth to speak but Vegeta interrupted him.
"If you do not listen," he said, raising his hand, "I will start with you."
The man closed his mouth, nodded at Vegeta with wide eyes, and turned and began running toward the cave.
Vegeta then turned, flying up to the bluff were Videl had observed the exchange.
"Girl, help with the evacuation of the locals. Do it now and do it quickly.
Videl nodded before flying down to the mines.
Videl had never seen such misery. The people she helped move from the deepest parts of the caves, while sinewy and lean, were thin and horribly weak. And although she tried not to feel anything, her stomach twisted with sickness and sadness.
Many of the people were evacuating on their own but some simply could not. Even though she knew Vegeta would scoff if he knew of it, she began helping move these people out.
The people could not move as quickly as she could and she found herself picking people up and flying them out. There were mostly men, but in the smallest parts of the cave, children were working. Small and completely darkened to the color of the mine, their eyes shined brightly against their skin.
As she held the people in her arms, they would stare up at her, their eyes completely fixated on her face. The behavior, if she allowed herself time to thick of it, was completely unnerving.
A/N: I'm back. Review.