Divergent Paths

Disclaimer: Premise and characters are the property of Akira Toriyama, I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit fun.

Author's Note: This story is a direct sequel to "Choice to be Different" and takes place in the AU set up by that story. So in some ways the main characters are intentionally OOC. Vegeta is the lynch pin of the differences. In this reality he's been in Goku's company, rather than Freiza's since he was fifteen.

As a mental reminder that Vegeta isn't the same character I'm continuing to use the nickname 'Geta. I don't think the cannon Vegeta would have any fondness for nicknames, but this Vegeta has learned to tolerate it because it was necessary to distinguish him from his older counterpart in "Choice" and convincing Goku to stop using it after more than a year... But that's the internal logic of the story, the external logic is simply that he's no more Vegeta than Mirai-Trunks and GT-Trunks are the same character.

Prelude: Long Ago and Far Away

Eighteen Years Ago

Raditz paced back and forth across the quarters he shared with the other surviving Saiyans like a caged animal.

Two weeks ago Prince Vegeta had disappeared into thin air. Since then there had been no trace of the young prince. Since that day Vegeta's mental presence had been as silent as those of Raditz's former squad-mates, all of whom had died in the week Frieza turned on the Saiyan people and slaughtered all but the barest of handfuls.

One week ago, Frieza had called for Nappa to come explain his young sovereign's absence. Two hours later Nappa had begun screaming. His agony reverberated through Raditz's mental awareness like a buzz-saw going through bone. Raditz suspected that Nappa would continue screaming right up to the moment of his death. And then, then Raditz feared that it would be his turn to face Frieza's questions.

Raditz laughed harshly, he didn't even have the option of betraying his prince. He honestly had no clue as to what had become of Vegeta. He doubted that Vegeta had any control over his disappearance and if he and Nappa had known where to find the younger boy they would have gladly gone after him themselves. The truth, the simple, unvarnished truth was that they didn't know what had become of Vegeta. Frieza apparently did not find that truth palatable. And so they would both die, screaming in agony as Frieza searched pointlessly for an answer they couldn't give.

Raditz caught a flash of motion out of the corner of his eye. He spun and saw Appura, the dark eyed, raspberry-haired girl whom he'd fallen in love with three years ago. His gaze softened as it lingered on her.

"What are we going to do?" Appura asked quietly.

"I always believed that Vegeta would save us one day," Raditz said. "That he'd grow-up and be stronger than even Frieza. I've just been waiting for that day, waiting for Vegeta to defeat Frieza. Then we would gather up the remains of the Saiyan race, find a nice planet, conquer it and settle down."

"Vegeta-sama's gone," Appura said. There was a hint of sadness in her voice that called an echoing grief to the surface in Raditz. Once again his team was being stripped away from him and Raditz found himself utterly helpless to prevent it.

Vegeta and Nappa had been hard to get to know, hard to form a true squad with. The two Elite warriors had prided themselves on a degree of independence that struck the third-class Raditz as unnatural, but with time and persistence they'd both become teammates. Now Vegeta was gone and Nappa was dying inch by torturous inch.

"I don't eve know who to go after to avenge him," Raditz said to himself.

"Avenge him? How are we going to survive at all?" Appura asked.

Raditz reached out and touched Appura's cheek gently. "We are still alive, I'd forgotten," he said. "We have to keep on surviving before we do anything else."

Appura sighed in relief. For the past two weeks Raditz had been sinking into a mire of despair and hopelessness that terrified her.

Vegeta and Nappa had been her allies, possibly even her friends, but Appura had been born to the lowest caste of the Cold Empire. Survival came before anything else for her. Survival always came first, but since she'd let Raditz into her heart and her life she didn't know if she could survive without him anymore. Seeing him losing the will to live had been like watching the world end.

"I have to find out were we are and what ships are prepped for launch," Raditz said. "Stay here, I'll be right back."

"I can help," Appura said.

"Okay," Raditz replied. "You get our co-ordinates, I'll check the ships. We'll meet back here."

"What about Nappa?" Appura asked.

Raditz allowed his awareness of Nappa to rise again. He shuddered. "He doesn't even know who's torturing him now. He's... he's so far gone."

"I'll meet you back here in half an hour," Appura said.

Raditz nodded shortly and they split up. Raditz walked purposefully toward the hanger-bay. Appura slipped into the vents and made her way toward navigation.

The hanger-bay was busy, it was always busy. The galaxy was an infinite place and the Colds were always looking to expand their influence. There were always new planets to clear, new customers to turn into indentured servants, and in their wake the Colds left a swath of dead, used up planets.

Raditz saw several clean-up crews loading their ships and sighed with relief. He watched and waited until he caught a pair of them alone then quickly and quietly broke their necks. He stripped them of their uniforms and helmets then stuffed the bodies in a trash chute and headed back to his quarters to wait for Appura.

She made it back twenty minutes later. Triumphantly she held up a data chip. "All the local star charts," Appura said. "And planet data."

Raditz kissed her and handed her the spoils of his mission. "Get dressed. We'll make planet fall with the clean-up crew then take one of the ships on the planet. Hopefully we'll be days gone before Frieza even realizes it."

"If we get enough of a head start maybe he'll decide that we're not worth the bother," Appura said hopefully.

Raditz hesitated. "After we make planet-fall we should split up," he said. "We know Frieza won't come after you..."

"Oh no," Appura said. Her eyes flashed. "I'm yours, we're in this together."

"Together," Raditz agreed.