Gohan would not admit that he was nervous, squatting on a hard and cramped seat in the cargo hold of a retreating Human Federated Union ship.
For the fifth day straight, the saiyan captain was packed shoulder to shoulder with travel-worn humans fleeing Beta Zeta. The lucrative mining colony had just been captured by the Saiyan Empire in a brutal blitz led by Gohan's unit. Gohan had easily shed his armor in the confusion, slipping to the front of panicking throngs to be pushed roughly aboard the last emergency transport craft by a distracted human soldier. The military ship took off without ever questioning its passengers. Simple. Cunning.
I feel sick…
It had been a deviously elegant plan at the time. Now sobbing humans pressed in all around him, reeking of unwashed clothes and infected wounds, desperation and defeat. It made Gohan want to retch.
"You evah been to Earth, boi?" Nattered a wrinkled old man crammed across from the saiyan captain. His knobby knees bumped uncomfortably into Gohan's shins while leathery sun-worn skin sagged slack on twig-like arms. He glared at Gohan through milky, glazed eyes.
Such infirmity would not be tolerated on Planet Vegeta, Gohan thought. He had never seen someone so…old…in his life.
"I ain't been back fo so long, seems like I waz born on that danged death trap. Them saiyans can have it!"
A young woman with bushy hair tied back in a low bun smiled at Gohan apologetically. She put her arm on the old man. "Hush now, grandpa." She said. "You don't mean that."
"Ha!" The old man barked. "You don' know what'chu talkin' about, girl. I know you ain't nevah seen Earth. Beautiful mutheh Earth…" He turned to another refugee on the ship, a mother, and flashed her a yellow-toothed grin. The woman smiled weakly, cradling a sleeping infant in her arms. The wide-eyed child next to her shied away and clutched at her mother's tattered clothing.
"You realize that, woman?" The old man said. "We waz all gunna die on that rock. No money to get home. I bet you waz born on that rock too. Girl, you oughtta bless them bloody saiyans!" The old man spat on the grimy steel floor. Gohan shifted his leg out of the line of fire at the last second to avoid the disgusting fluid.
"Grandpa!" The fuzzy-bunned girl admonished.
A dark-skinned soldier muscled his way down their aisle. "Is everything all right here?" He asked in a deep voice, slinging a plasma rifle over his shoulder. Gohan assessed him speculatively. Androids who couldn't focus ki were beneath his notice on the battlefield. Concealed under a human costume, Gohan's tail twitched.
Apparently the other refugees saw him as a greater concern. The old man's granddaughter tightened her grip on the geezer's boney arm. "There's no problem sir." She said nervously. "We're all fine.
The old man snorted. "Fine? Fine? Don'chu pat-ro-nize me girl!" He shook of her hand. "An' you neither, you cyborg sunnova cog wheel!" He said to the soldier.
The soldier narrowed his eyes. He pushed closer to the group. Gohan could smell anxiety wafting off the other passengers.
"I tell you all somethin'." The old man announced loudly. "I waz in my prime when them first ships wen' inta outta-space. I waz a ripe old age when dey started loadin' you boys up with metal. And you ain't don' a GOD-DANGED MUTHA--"
The old man suddenly slumped in his seat, out cold. The man's granddaughter shrieked, then checked his pulse and calmed down.
"Is he alright?" The human soldier asked.
"I…I think so." The young woman said. "It looks like he fell asleep. Maybe. It's been a lot of stress for everyone."
No kidding. Gohan thought, surreptitiously wiping his hand on his trousers. Touching a worm was disgusting. His whining was hurting my ears. I should have left him with something more permanent than a short nap. Maybe he's so feeble he won't wake up.
"Good." The guard said, and stalked back to his station. Gohan resisted the urge to make a face at the back of the retreating android. Stupid human didn't even see him move. Everyone on this ship was weak, weak, weak!
Sitting back, Gohan closed his eyes and said a prayer to the full moon. How was he going to survive among these people?
No, no, no! Gohan thought the trip to Earth was bad. Earth itself was worse. He wasn't entirely sure where he was now, but it probably wasn't where he was supposed to be.
"Orange…Star…High School." Gohan read the sign slowly. He had studied the human language for as long as he could remember, among other tongues, but it still took him a moment to translate.
A school. A center of learning. The human equivalent of a Saiyan nursery?
Gohan was not in the right place at all. The saiyan captain took a moment to think back to his arrival on the planet.
His ship had touched down on the landing pad in the early morning. A soldier had tried to haul him roughly to his feet, and Gohan narrowly avoided killing him. Then he had been herded outside in a parade of fetid rags and shuffling human feet. Tall, bubble-like buildings crowded the sky He recalled thinking that Earth smelled polluted with the trash that inhabited it.
There had been a throng of people on the edge of the runway. They surged at the barricade shouting so loudly that it hurt Gohan's sensitive ears, and waved lots of posters in every direction. Most of the slogans made little sense, but many had the words 'kill' and 'Saiyan' on them. Gohan had been amused.
Then he had been lead to a small, blank room where he and the other refugees were given a stack of papers and forms, and a pen to fill them out. The old man from the ship started causing trouble again, and all semblance of organization pretty much went to hell.
Gohan hadn't been sure what to do. His contact was supposed to meet him at the spaceport, but no one had given him the sign. Gohan left the holding room to look for help. Then there had been the 'escalator' machine…
…and a 'car'…and the 'jet'… and the cat–woman…
Gohan tugged at his hair in frustration. Well, it was no use now. At least he was still in Satan City, the military capital of Earth's government. It had once been Orange Star City, but was renamed after the human's leading general Satan Hercule.
Hercule the hero, my tail. Gohan snorted. Gohan had met Hercule on the battlefield once. It was the day he killed Cell. The man had done nothing but mug for the cameras and human reporters crowding the scene. After Gohan killed the android monstrosity, 'General' Hercule had been nowhere to be seen.
Gohan surveyed the landscape. It never seemed to stop moving. The air was filled with 'jet' and 'copter' machines to help the humans fly. Gohan had already gathered from Bulma that ki training was not the norm in human society, but this was ridiculous! The patterns of traffic flow in the sky were dizzying.
Gohan swallowed back his pride. Maybe someone inside had directions back to the spaceport.
Beyond the gate with the sign was a wide, tree-lined courtyard led to a tall, blank-faced building. It looked institutional. Gohan was strongly reminded of the squat, industrial construction style that characterized Planet Vegeta although this building had a large decorative star on the front. The doors slid open automatically.
"Excuse me," He said to the first human he encountered. "I am looking for directions. Can you help me?"
The human, a stout woman with strange, stiff brown curls that looked less like hair than some kind of cemented plastic, blinked owlishly behind large, red-rimmed glasses.
Gohan wondered if the human had misheard. "Excuse me," He repeated. "I am looking for—"
"Yes, yes!" The woman cut him off. "I heard." She said. Her voice was nasally and her fussy hands had too many rings and bangles. They could only get in the way in a fight. "I'm not going to ask why you're late, or why you came to the induction tour dressed like something the cat dragged in, but the last group just left that way." She pointed down a hall.
Gohan did not think that was the way to the spaceport. "Excuse me," He tried again, "I—"
Gohan stumbled as the woman gave him a surprisingly strong shove. "Shoo! Shoo!" She said. "Videl has a temper, the dear girl. You'd better hurry up!"
Gohan feebly fended off her pudgy hands, which were now swatting at him like a stray animal. Obviously this woman was incompetent. Or insane. Perhaps 'Videl' could give better directions. He set off down the hallway at an easy jog.
"No sprinting in the hallways!" The woman yelled after him.
As he neared the end of the corridor, Gohan picked up voices coming from an open classroom. He slowed down to a crawl and peered around the door.
"Alright you maggots!" A blue-eyed girl with black pigtails was shouting at a cowering group of fifteen-year-olds. Her gloved fist was planted firmly on her hip, and an orange badge was pinned to the edge of her oversized white t-shirt. "You all know who I am, but I don't know who you are! Introductions, starting from the right!"
Gohan figured this was Videl. Dear girl with a temper indeed. "Excuse me." The saiyan captain interrupted. "I am looking for—"
Videl whirled to glare at Gohan. "Aha! A straggler. There's one every year." She eyed Gohan critically. "Aren't you a little old for a freshman?"
Gohan had no idea what a freshman was. "I think you are mistaken. I'm—"
"A transfer student," Videl snorted. "Obviously. Take a seat."
Gohan was at a loss. He had never been ordered around by a civilian female like this before. No one would ever dare! Well…except maybe Bulma, but she was of a comparably high rank among the slaves, and one of Gohan's tutors. He forgot about returning to the spaceport and took a seat.
"Alright then." Videl said, satisfied. "Names. We'll start with you." Gohan realized she was pointing at him. Making an example, he supposed.
"Gohan." The young captain said. Videl looked like she was waiting for more. Gohan remembered that humans used last names.
"Son Gohan." He amended.
Videl cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. "You know," she said, "You seem really familiar. Have we met before?"
Gohan chuckled. This was his first day on Earth, let alone Orange Star High School. "No, I am sure we have not." He said.
Videl's gaze lingered on him dubiously, before focusing on the pale boy cowering in the seat next to Gohan. "Next." She ordered.
The introductions went quickly. There were about thirty kids in the room, edgy and flustered, but Videl had them organized and ready to go in ten minutes. They marched down the halls in double-file as she pointed out features of interest. When a kid tried to spit his gum on the sidewalk while the group paused outside the gymnasium for questions, Videl literally had him hung by his ear and peeling off the sticky mess with his fingers.
"I told Chiku Ret he couldn't blow a bubble with ten pieces at once." A boy in front of Gohan stage whispered to his partner. "Idiot never listens." His partner, a thin girl in tall metallic heels that Gohan speculated could double as some kind of weapon, giggled.
Three seconds later they were both down on their knees helping Ret scrape gum.
Gohan had to work to contain his laughter. "She seems more like a saiyan than a human." He murmured in amusement. Her whole manner reminded him strongly of the old biddies who ran the saiyan nurseries.
"Eh," said the short boy paired with Gohan. Videl had put them together just to emphasize Gohan's towering height compared to the other, younger students. "She's General Satan's daughter, what do you expect?" The boy shrugged.
Gohan hadn't realized he'd spoken out loud. But that was irrelevant. He focused on the brusque girl marshalling over the three kids scraping gum with new appraisal. That was General Satan's beloved daughter?
Captain Gohan-- pride of the Saiyan Royal Forces, terror to the Human Federated Union, strongest being in the universe-- was within five steps of the daughter of one of Earth's most powerful military and political figures. Unguarded. Gohan wondered if there was some way he could make use of this. The ransom would be incredible. Should he just knock her out here, hide her, and send for one of his men to pick her up? Would that jeopardize his main objective?
"Are you two plotting something?" Videl snapped in their direction. Both boys mutely shook their heads.
Eventually the tour moved on to the science wing. It had been rebuilt last year with a grant from General Satan's personal fortune, and was completely state of the art. Gohan found himself in a researcher's dream.
"You have a full genome sequencing device!" He exclaimed. "And a multi-material rapid prototyping printer for every computer!" Even Bulma and Dr. Am had to share the prototyping machine on their floor.
"Yes, well." Gohan's partner shifted his glasses, looking up at the young saiyan like he was insane. "Orange Star High School actually has a partnership program with the city's military research facility. A Red Ribbon Army contractor usually comes to lecture at least once a month. Didn't you know?"
"Jock." The boy mumbled under his breath.
"Miss Videl, Miss Videl!" Exclaimed a girl near the front of the tour. She was jumping up and down while waving her hand even though she was practically under Videl's nose.
"Yes, what is it?" Videl sighed, trying not to get smacked.
"Is it true that the students sometimes get invited to participate in test studies with companies like the Red Ribbon Army?" The girl asked. "Is it? Because I would so love to help test top-secret weapons."
Videl narrowed her blue eyes at the girl. "Sometimes. For publicity." She muttered before turning away.
"Ooooh!" The girl squealed. "I knew it! I told you my brother got to fire the new M-396 plasma rifle four months before it was issued. But you said I was lying!"
The other girl she was shrieking at scoffed and turned up her nose.
"Okay, maggots!" Videl shouted to the group. "That's enough of the science wing! Next up is the theatre!" A few people groaned, including Gohan's partner, but they shuffled out after Videl anyway. They didn't want to imagine the alternative.
Gohan, meanwhile, was mulling over this latest information. A human educational facility not only attended by General Satan's daughter, but supported by the leading human military technology companies. Unbelievable. Could it be used as a starting point to gather information on that Saiyan he'd met on the moon of X5-39?
Probably not, Gohan snorted. Whatever the relationship between Orange Star High School and the Red Ribbon Army, these were just kids. As if they'd have clearance for a project so high-level even King Vegeta's spies couldn't get accurate information on it.
At the very least, the knowledge was useful if Gohan ever had to plan a raid of the city.
"Okay, that's it for the tour." Videl said, clapping her hands twice. Gohan looked around and realized he was back outside the classroom he had started at. "Anyone have anymore questions? No? Good. Go home and come back by 7 a.m. Monday next week. Dismissed!"
Half the tour group breathed out a visible sigh of relief. The other half swarmed Videl and started asking her a multitude of things that seemed to have nothing to do with the school at all. To Gohan's bewilderment, they kept shoving pens and pieces of paper in her face, having her sign her name on each scrap. One kid bent over double so Videl could write on his back.
"What are they doing?" Gohan asked the short boy with glasses who was still standing next to him. "Is this some kind of Earth ritual?"
"You're kidding, right?" The boy replied, incredulity written across his face. "They're getting her autograph. Where are you from?"
"A long way away." Gohan replied. Which reminded him, he was supposed to be trying to get back to the spaceport. Earth was so distracting! "Could you tell me how to find the spaceport?"
The boy shook his head in disgust. "You jocks all think you're so funny. The entrance standards for this place get lower and lower every year." He wandered off.
Gohan was beginning to get very annoyed. Communicating with humans was impossible. Or maybe just civilians. How hard was it to get directions to a spaceport? Perhaps Gohan should just blow his cover and fly over the city until he spotted it.
Gohan fumed for a few minutes while he decided where to try next, when suddenly he noticed that he and Videl were the only ones left in the room. The human girl had her back to him, erasing the tour agenda from the classroom white board. No witnesses in sight.
Gohan sighed. It seemed there was only one way to get information from a human. Intimidation. It worked well enough with their prisoners of war.
Gohan strode silently up to the girl from behind. Her messy black pigtails fanned over her shoulders, looking so smooth and silky in a way stiff saiyan hair never would. Gohan was tempted to touch it, to see what it felt like.
Focus. The saiyan captain shook his head. If he hadn't allowed himself to be so distracted by all of the bizarre and incredible things he'd encountered today, he wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place. Compared to the fabulous high technology employed in mundane use on this planet, human hair should rank fairly low on his list of the wonders of Earth.
Gohan laid a heavy hand on Videl's shoulder. "Girl," he growled.
The world slipped out from underneath Gohan. "Ooof!" he cried, shocked. The saiyan captain found himself on the linoleum floor, blinking up at fluorescent track lights. What in the Bluntz Wave was that?
"Oh my gosh!" Videl gushed. Her crystalline, human-blue eyes came into view above
Gohan. "I'm so sorry! It was reflex! Are you okay?"
Gohan blinked some more. Had he just been tossed by a human civilian female? He ran the moment over in his mind. It was a beautiful, flawless move.
"GOHAN!" Boomed a second voice.
Gohan's head whipped to the door. A wrinkled old man in a ludicrously tall black hat was standing in the hallway. Gohan could not miss the Red Ribbon logo emblazoned boldly on the front of his headgear.
"Dr. Gero!" Videl cried. Gohan's eyes widened. That was the Doctor Gero, founding member of the Red Ribbon Army? Creator of Cell?
Another head peered around the door. Gohan could not mistake that bushy afro anywhere.
"Daddy!" Videl exclaimed.
General Satan. Gohan's jaw worked silently. What was this, a gathering of the Saiyan Empire's top assassination list? Gohan's ki began rising for battle and he had to struggle to shove it down. 'Clear your center…' Piccolo's infuriatingly composed voice instructed in his mind.
"Videl!" General Satan yelled. His booming, ringmaster voice did not help Gohan's attempt at spiritual tranquility. "Did you knock out another classmate again?" He said with a hint of admonishment.
"Well…" Videl hedged, still kneeling over Gohan.
"Atta girl!" General Satan whooped, storming into the room and sweeping up his daughter in a bone-crushing hug. He almost stepped on Gohan's face as he swung the petite girl in a circle. "You crush any boy who tries to touch you." General Satan looked down at Gohan. "You here that, boy? I won't allow my little girl to date anyone who can't beat her in battle."
Gohan eyed the girl's small human frame. Are you kidding me? Gohan mentally gaped at the absurdity. He tried to ignore the fact that he was looking up at her from his back on the floor.
General Satan blinked. He bent closer to Gohan and rubbed a hand on his stubbled chin.
"Have I seen you before, boy?" He asked thoughtfully. "That jaw line…almost like one of those saiyan monkeys, no offense. You remind me of someone. Can't put my finger on it, though."
Gohan stiffened. Was his cover blown? It suddenly struck Gohan just what a dangerous position he was in. The saiyan captain could kill the General in the blink of an eye, but could he get off the planet afterwards? How many guards would he have to kill outside? The thin human clothes he wore over his saiyan tail was a flimsy disguise. Threats on this mission could not be assessed in terms of the battlefield. Thinking back, silencing the old man in front of a human soldier had been incredibly stupid.
"No…sir. I don't think we've met." Gohan ground out, sitting up.
"Hah." The general said. "That's right. Where would I meet such a weak-looking little boy. Look at those scrawny arms."
"Daddy!" Videl swatted her father.
Gohan scowled. I'll show you scrawny arms, you human trash. He thought.
"Ah-hem." Dr. Gero cleared his voice behind the odd group. Three heads swiveled to look at him. "As amusing as this exchange has been, I must interrupt. Gohan has lots of paperwork to fill out to complete his transfer for next week."
As he was speaking, Dr. Gero's fingers flashed in the traditional sign code of the Saiyan Royal Forces. Silent. Plan to begin. Come with me.
Gohan's eyes widened. It was a good thing he was already on the floor. Dr. Gero was his contact!? The old scientist's moustache twitched over the ghost of a smile.
"Ahhhh!" General Satan abruptly bellowed in recognition. Gohan found himself swamped by Satan Hercule's grasp, pulled roughly to his feet. "Gohan! The war orphan you were going on about!" The general started carelessly brushing down Gohan's worn and ki-scorred jacket, his camouflage as a refugee from Beta Zeta. Gohan fought down the instinct to side-step the man's attentions.
"Say." The general paused. "Shouldn't you still be at the spaceport going through customs and debriefing?"
Gohan's mind raced. "I…"
"I pulled a few strings to get him here on time for the induction tour." Dr. Gero cut in smoothly. "You know how tedious paperwork can be. All that red tape. It's so stressful for a poor refugee who just lost his entire family."
General Satan weighed Dr. Gero's words, and laughed. "Yeah, I don't blame you. Those bureaucrats can be real heartless. Welcome to Earth, kid." He thumped Gohan on the back. The saiyan resisted the urge to spit in Hercule's face.
Dr. Gero laughed along with the general. "Wouldn't want him to miss the tour and get lost on his first day, would we?"
General Satan laughed harder. "No, I suppose not!"
Gohan did not see what was so funny. He glanced at Videl, who looked like she'd missed the humor too. Their eyes met, and Gohan had a strange feeling. It was almost like camaraderie. The saiyan looked away.
"Well!" General Satan boomed, his hysteria dying down. "I won't hold you any longer. Get going, boy. If you have any problems at school, just ask my sweet pea here! But don't you dare put any moves on her, or you'll end up on your back again, got it?" He added menacingly. "And I'll do worse."
Videl rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure dad." She muttered.
"Not a problem at all, sir." Gohan said. As if he'd touch a human like that anyway!
"Good!" General Satan said. He gave Gohan one last whack on the back. "Now get gone!"
Gohan stumbled forward. Making a show of rubbing his back, he allowed Dr. Gero to escort him from the room. The old man's grip tightened crushingly on Gohan's arm once they were outside.
"What in Dende's name are you doing here, boy!" The scientist hissed. "How did you get out of the spaceport? Why did you leave the spaceport?"
Gohan scowled. "Me?" He scoffed in hushed tones. "Where were you? I had no idea what was going on. Of course I left. No one briefed me on any of this."
The scientist sighed exasperatedly. "You damn fool saiyans. Can't think anything through."
"You can't just show up on a planet and wander off as you please. There are customs and naturalization, procedures to track arrivals and departures. You could have compromised your false identity. You have no idea what I'm going to have to do to correct this."
Oh I'm so sorry. Gohan thought. He sneered. "Well then fix it, Dr. Gero. I won't apologize for you not being there on time."
Dr. Gero spared the young captain a withering glare.
"I don't know how you managed it," the scientist said after a moment, "but at least you ended up in the right place."
Gohan looked down at the man. It was true. The scientist had said something to General Satan about enrollment.
"Am I really going to attend this facility?" Gohan asked.
Dr. Gero smirked. "What did you think of their science wing, Captain?"
Gohan let himself drift off in pleasant memory. "It was incredible. The equipment was most impressive. Far ahead of what we have available even in the Royal Research Department."
"Can you use any of it?"
Gohan scoffed. "Of course I can." He said.
Dr. Gero twitched his mustache. "I'll believe that when I see it. But you must know by now that my Red Ribbon Army lectures and funds the program."
Gohan nodded. "Yes. That does not directly help me get access to the files in the military research complex, though." Come to think of it, if Dr. Gero was Vegeta's spy, why couldn't he steal proper information on the project?
Dr. Gero smirked. "You are absolutely correct, boy. It doesn't help you all that much. That's why you've got this." Dr. Gero handed Gohan a small plastic card with a magnetic strip, reflective seal, and terrible picture of the saiyan captain. When was that taken? Gohan wondered.
"You are now officially a participant in the Orange Star High School internship program. They only give out two of these a year, so count yourself lucky I've still got some influence in the Army. That little card cost me a fortune in favors, and I haven't got many left these days."
Gohan raised an eyebrow. Is that what this was about? He wondered just what the backroom politics were that caused Dr. Gero to turn traitor.
"Who's the other intern?" Gohan asked.
Dr. Gero's smirk deepened. "Satan Videl." He replied.
It's Aloha Fri-day, no work 'till Mon-day~ Hey!
Okay, that was harsh, but I busted butt to completely revise the first 700 words of this chapter in time for posting this evening. 'Cause I promised lol. When I re-read it this morning I almost thought I'd have to delay until tomorrow it was so terrible. I hope it wasn't too much filler…this chapter is twice as long as my goal per update, but I think it's fun.
On chapter five. Errrrrr. I've done nothing. I'm seriously blocked. I mean, come on, how many times has Gohan's first day at school been done before? I don't want to just rehash cannon and fanon. I have some ideas, but what do you guys envision happening? I kind of want to have a baseball game, like in the anime, but Gohan needs to end up in the infirmary. Bleeeeeeeeeeh…
(Thanks for the reviews last chapter! Aozora: I'm so glad I saw your review before I updated. I was surprised no one else commented. I mean, come on? Two-Four-Six-Oh-OOOOOONE!
Yeah. I've decided to let Gohan be light when he wants to be, and dark when it counts. If you think his attitude is kind of nasty, remember how Vegeta was when he first came to Earth. It's kinda like that. He's got a lot of the same prejudices, which will eventually get corrected. At the same time he's also young, easily distracted, and on a mission kind of outside his range of experience. Hilarity is bound to happen.)