AN: Yes, I'm updating this. No, this is not dead. No, don't expect regular updates.
I do apologize for having a transition chapter instead of one more action-filled after so long, but it is a necessary step along the journey. Expect things to pick up more in the next update.
King Cold crested over the mountains around the Northern metropolis, a disgusted snort slipping out.
'Damn incompetents couldn't even properly exterminate a city.'
The temptation to idly blast the city into nonexistence was strong, and Cold even raised a palm- no, a finger to do so. However, he could see said finger quivering, and he dropped it. Get to the ship, leave, come back later. Crush all those miserable insects.
Turning away from the oh-so-tempting city in the distance, Cold dropped down to the meadow where the two ships Juxera and Metzalblood had flown in on were parked. An idle energy blast obliterated one ship before he climbed in the other; no sense in giving the humans more spacefaring technology.
Entering the remaining ship, Cold made his way to the cockpit and ordered the ship to climb into orbit, further programming it to prepare a healing machine and then a meal. Once he was done, and he could feel the acceleration of the ship, the ruler of the North Galaxy slumped to the floor, his entire body shaking.
"Damn Saiyans…" he ground out, holding up a quivering and burned hand. He knew, knew that if he'd stayed only a minute longer he could have killed Earth's defenders, regardless of the damage he'd taken. But his damn power had burnt itself out, had been dropping with every second, and fending off that brat's attack, power to power, had only accelerated it. He might still have finished them off, or simply blown up the planet, and survived. Might. That wasn't something he wanted to bet on.
No. Better to leave, get his strength back, and then remove first this damnable weakness and then the equally damnable Saiyans. A savage grin spread over his face. Oh, yes, he'd enjoy that.
"Heheheheheh…" he chuckled. "Enjoy your peace. It'll make it all the sweeter to see your face as I crush the life from you. Ahahahahahahahaha!"
As Cold soared cackling through space, the thought of his empire didn't even cross his mind.
"Can't believe I'm reduced to a damn delivery service. Again," Yajirobe groused as his aircar sped towards Central City - or what was left of Central City, from all the explosions he'd felt shake the planet. "Though, better'n going out to fight."
Cheered up somewhat by that thought, the rotund samurai was quiet for the last fifteen minutes or so it took to get to the battlefield. The scoured-to-the-bedrock, surrounded-by-shattered-mountains battlefield. Yup. Definitely not someplace he wanted to be in a fight.
Thankfully, the fighting seemed to be long over, and he banked his aircar towards the lone spot of color on the scoured rock, landing and climbing out with bag of Senzu in hand.
The only two present were Piccolo and Goku, who glanced at him but didn't seem to have the energy for anything more. Yajirobe looked over the two, their shredded clothing and patchwork quilt of injuries and the exhaustion written all over their half-lidded eyes and slumped sitting positions.
"Good thing I'm here," he said, fishing two Senzu out of the bag. "You guys up to catching these?"
The two fighters exchanged a glance. "Best not to risk it," Piccolo answered.
Mentally shrugging, Yajirobe strode over and handed them the beans. Two mouthfuls and swallows later, Goku was grinning sunnily and Piccolo staring off into the distance, both healed up and back on their feet.
"Thanks, Yajirobe, you're a lifesaver!" Goku declared.
"Yeah, sure, no problem," the samurai grunted, despite the pleased feeling in his chest. "Anyone else need a bean?"
"Gohan's bringing Tenshinhan," Piccolo answered. "He'll need one. And… who are Krillin and Chiaotzu carrying? Did Yamcha make it after all?"
A sudden pit settled in Yajirobe's stomach. "No, he's in the Capsule Corp. infirmary, last I heard," he replied.
Gohan arriving ended that conversation, though both Goku and Piccolo had gone serious. They went even more serious when Gohan landed and carefully placed Tenshinhan on the dirt.
The triclops was unconscious, but that wasn't the worst of it. His entire torso and face looked like he'd gotten a shotgun blast of lava, a crazy patchwork of livid burns and pitted wounds.
"Yajirobe-" Goku began.
"Already on it," he replied. He knelt down, fat fingers were prying open Tenshinhan's lips. It took a bit of finagling, but the bean was dispatched down his gullet, and in an instant Tenshinhan's eyes shot open and the man himself shot to his feet.
"What-" he breathed, wild-eyed, head on a swivel. "Did we win?"
"Yup!" Goku said, grinning.
"Kinda," Gohan hedged.
"For now," Piccolo finished.
Tenshinhan sighed. "Figures." Straightening up, he turned his eyes to Krillin and Chiaotzu as they came in for a landing, the latter holding a body in a telekinetic grip. "And who's that?"
"Um…" Goku shaded his eyes for a better view, and promptly started in surprise. "That's the guy who planted the giant tree!"
"Look, unless you guys wanna give him a Senzu, I should get to West City," Yajirobe interjected.
"Ah, stay a bit. Gotta decide what to do with this guy, whoever he is."
"Oh, good, I was hoping you were gonna say that," Krillin said, right as Chiaotzu dumped the figure he was carrying on the ground back-first.
To the shock of all but Goku, Gohan, and Piccolo, the man looked almost like Goku. And the "almost" part was extremely subtle; a few lines of the face here, some divergent bone structure there. The resemblance was otherwise uncanny.
"'Cause I got no idea how to handle this."
For a long moment, the gathered Z fighters stared at Turles' unmoving body. Unseen to the others, Gohan stepped back, shuffling back and forth on his feet, the fruit of the Tree of Might still hidden under his armor an uncomfortable pressure. Mention this, don't mention this? What to do?
"Right, I say we kill him."
Oh, hey, a distraction!
Krillin turned a pained look Piccolo's way. "Harsh, man. I mean, he's, like, a negative threat to us, so is that really necessary?"
"He's a Sai- one of Cold's men," Tenshinhan pointed out. "Who knows how many people he's killed, but it's got to be a lot. We'd be doing the universe a favor by putting him in front of Enma." Chiaotzu nodded in agreement.
"We're talking about killing him here!"
"Also, he might know something useful!" Gohan chimed in.
"Like what?" Tenshinhan countered.
The young demi-saiyan flinched back, unwilling to answer that.
"Uh, guys?" Yajirobe cut in, pointing at something in the distance. "Might wanna make a decision soon-ish."
Everyone followed his pointed finger, where military transports could be seen cresting the mountains.
"Alright, we're not killing him," Goku decided. "But we're also not healing him up. Yajirobe, can you get him to Bulma? She can keep him contained until I get an uninhabited planet out of King Kai. Hopefully."
Piccolo grimaced, but also nodded. "Not a bad plan," he admitted. "But Yajirobe's right, we should go."
Nodding, the gathered fighters all took to the air and soared away, faster than the incoming soldiers could track. Yajirobe, after dumping Turles' unconscious body into his aircar, followed suit, the aftermarket engines propelling it away.
And so it was that the King's army arrived to find an empty battlefield.
Yamcha yawned, standing out of bed and pressing his hands against his lower back, getting a series of satisfying pops. The Capsule Corp. doctors had told him it would be months before he could do something like this, and then one Senzu had shut them up. That had been nice. Padding over to the nearest window, he threw open the curtains and beheld a massive crowd of people and quite a few flashing camera bulbs.
Carefully closing the blinds, he grabbed a reasonably clean pair of pants off the floor and then bounded down the stairs, finding Dr. Briefs and his wife in the kitchen, seemingly oblivious to the press outside.
"What's with the paparazzi?" he asked, trepidation coloring his voice.
"You, probably," Dr. Briefs bluntly stated. "Haven't seen a crowd this big at my doors since I announced the capsule!"
"Don't worry too much, Yamcha dear," Mrs. Briefs added. "They're harmless! And if they try to get on the property, it's perfectly legal for you to punch them until they stop!"
That did make Yamcha feel better, though he spent a second blinking at the nonchalant delivery. Still, he ambled over to the phone and dialled a specific number. Once it picked up…
"If this is about coming to the Kame House to get away from the reporters, not happening."
Yamcha blinked. "Uh… how'd you know about the reporters?"
"500 meters! 500 meters, you damn bloodsuckers!"
Krillin sighed. "Wild guess."
Silence. "You guys have reporters, too."
"Got it in one. Master Roshi's island is apparently outside the jurisdiction of any country, though, which means the reporters can't get within 500 meters. Still a pain."
"I said no telephoto lenses!"
"Especially since Master Roshi's enjoying this a little more than he should."
A sigh blew over the line. "Great. Y'think Goku's got the media breaking down his door?"
"Probably not," Krillin replied, thinking 'Lucky bastard'. "He lives in the middle of nowhere; Tenshinhan's probably clear, too."
"Plus, knowing Goku, he'd invite the reporters in for dinner."
Picturing that, Krillin snickered. Yeah, that did sound like Goku.
"This is surprisingly good."
"You said it!" Goku said, thumping the other speaker on their back and nearly pitching them into the fried rice and dumplings they were eating.
This person, a nondescript man in a decent but unspectacular suit, had showed up at the door of the Son household about five minutes prior, saying that he had to talk. Goku had immediately invited him in to join them for dinner, and with how much Chi-Chi normally cooked just for Goku and Gohan, cooking a little extra was no problem.
"So, what brings you to Mount Paozu, mister…?" Chi-Chi asked.
"Smith. John Smith," the man said, reaching into his jacket. "And I was asked to deliver this."
He pulled out a sealed letter, delicately placing it on the table and sliding it towards Goku. The Saiyan paused eating his bowl of noodles, grabbing the envelope and easily tearing it open. As he scanned over it, he frowned in a look of intense concentration. Five minutes passed, broken only by the clatter of chopsticks on the china, until John Smith spoke up.
"Don't worry, Dad's just a slow reader," Gohan said. "Give him a few more minutes."
Indeed, a few minutes later, Goku nodded and placed down the letter. "So, there were a lot of big words I didn't understand, but I've been invited to talk to the King of the World in a week? And we apparently have a King of the World."
Ignoring his mother's outburst, Gohan raised an eyebrow. "Master Roshi didn't cover civics while you were training with him?"
"Nah, he wanted to get my reading and writing up to snuff first."
Though too well-trained for any of the usual tells, John Smith's eyes were ever so slightly wide. This was the hero who'd saved the planet at least twice? Granted, he hadn't expected some steely-eyed action hero badass like most of the general public, but he'd expected at least a high school education and the knowledge that came with it.
Then again, education wasn't everything, John Smith reminded himself. The man likely didn't need it.
"Anyway, I'd love to talk to him!" Goku said.
John Smith blinked, chasing away the mental tangent and berating himself for it. "You'll come to the meeting?" he asked in clarification.
"Sure!" Goku nodded. "Just need to know where it is and I can let everyone else know."
Wait a minute. "How did you know we were approaching the other martial artists?"
"Well, we're friends," Goku said simply. "And we were all fighting the other day. Of course you'd want to talk to us!"
Hmm. Maybe he'd underestimated this seemingly simple man. Another thing to remember.
"More fried rice?" Chi-Chi prompted.
A smile spread across John Smith's face, more genuine than anything he'd presented since arriving at the Son house. "Yes, please."
The King of the World sighed and resisted, for the umpteenth time, the urge to adjust his tie. It was centered. Fiddling with it would only make things worse. And besides, he wasn't about to talk to career politicians or high-powered CEOs or just plain old money. These were just simple martial artists.
Martial artists that could level cities without even trying.
Ah, there was the urge again.
Thankfully, one of his guards chose this moment to poke his head in. "Your majesty, your guests are here," he announced.
"Thank you," the King said, and meant it. "Send them in."
The soldier nodded, and pulled back. Shortly after, four people filed in, the King mentally attaching names to them. Son Goku. Tenshinhan. Krillin. And Yamcha. The former were definitely the ones who'd fought Piccolo; the triclops was distinctive, naturally, and Son Goku too strongly resembled the young boy who'd defeated the demon for him to be anyone else. The other two had been in West City during last week's invasion, and the many cell phones had plastered their faces in every corner of the internet.
"Thank you for coming," he said, indicating four comfortable chairs that had been dug out of storage. As they sat, he remarked, "Not to be rude, but I was under the impression there were seven of you."
"Chiaotzu trusts me to speak for him," Tenshinhan said.
"And we all agreed that having Piccolo be here wasn't the best idea," Goku added. "Also, Gohan's five, so…"
The King nodded. All good reasons, especially the Piccolo one. Seeing the Demon King, the boogeyman for years, in the city they'd relocated the government to would be… panic-inducing, to say the least.
"So, what did you want to talk to us about?" Yamcha asked. The King frowned slightly, and was gratified to see the martial artist shift uncomfortably - though that may have been from the look his bald companion, Krillin, had sent his way.
"Well, ideally, I'd get you all on stage in front of the press, publicly hand you a set of medals, and then declare you defenders of Earth," the King answered. "But I get the feeling you wouldn't go for that."
"Maybe…" Krillin hedged. Yamcha looked interested, too.
"Sounds like a lot of unnecessary ceremony to me," Tenshinhan evenly stated.
"Oh, it would very much be a PR stunt, but the public could use some reassurance right now," the King answered. "That said, feelings will calm, especially with all the footage circulating right now, so it's not completely necessary. No, what I want to know is who you were fighting last week and if they'll come back."
"That was King Cold," Goku answered. "He's…" He trailed off, frowning in thought.
"An interstellar real estate mogul," Tenshinhan picked up. "Of the mafia kind."
The King blinked. "Real estate?" he repeated incredulously.
"The dude sells planets," Krillin replied. "And he doesn't really care much about who's living on it."
Oh. Oh dear. "And… he wanted to sell Earth?"
"Actually Piccolo killed his son," Goku answered. "And then I killed his other son! But don't worry, they were trying to kill us first."
For a moment, the King was very tempted to groan aloud and pinch the bridge of his nose. Of course it would be something like this. "He'll be back, I take it?"
"Yes," Yamcha stated, voice hard and flat. "And no offense, but stay out of our way."
"Yamcha!" Krillin snapped.
"It's the truth," the martial artist countered. "Throwing the army at even one of Cold's weakest soldiers would simply get them all killed."
"We gathered that, thank you," the King dryly stated. "We know we'll have to rely on you. And pursuant to that, we need some way to contact-"
"Actually, we can sense ki and Cold isn't very subtle," Goku interrupted. "We'd see him coming long before anyone else. Er, no offense."
"Can I at least pay you all a retainer, so I can at least say I'm doing something?" the King all but demanded. To his relief, both Krillin and Goku perked up at that. "It will be substantial, I assure you. We just need an address to mail the checks to."
That set off a small flurry of activity as the martial artists all moved to write down the necessary information. Though Tenshinhan put in a bank account. Odd. But not a problem, either.
After that, the King quickly ushered them out, and then slumped back in his chair to relax a little. The press conference suggestion had been a longshot, but at least they knew more about this threat and had a little more assurance that the martial artists would try and stop it. Now for the real meat of his day.
Right on time, his door opened, admitting another of his guards, who sat down in front of him with a briefcase in his lap.
"Do we have a preliminary report on the two spaceships near West City?" the King asked.
"Here it is, your majesty," the guard said, reaching into his briefcase before pulling out a massive stack of bound papers that was promptly thumped on his desk. "I assume you want the short version right now?"
"Please," the King replied, warily eyeing the full report.
"Alright, so, the scientists are basically going nuts. Faster-than-light travel, artificial gravity, some sort of healing system, and a thousand different other things they're sure will revolutionize… well, everything. They want funding, and lots of it; they want people, and lots of them; they want to be able to compare notes with Capsule Corp; and I've heard from a reliable source that they could appreciate some direction lest they spend the rest of their careers deciphering everything."
"Thank goodness we got to the ships before Capsule Corp, or the company would be doing exactly that," the King sighed. "Alright, have them focus on developing something that will let us at least match this King Cold's foot soldiers."
The guard suddenly perked up. "Ah, on that front, the scientists have found racks of some sort of energy blaster."
"Good. That's exactly the sort of thing we need." Taking the full report, he leaned back. "Now, let me read their recommendations, and tell them I'll get back to them with more specific instructions in a few days."
"Yes, your majesty."
Just as the guard turned to leave, the King paused, the first page of the report still held in his fingers. "Ah, one more thing. Tell them to work on reverse-engineering the spaceship systems, too. Best to have a backup plan to our backup plan."
"Yes, your majesty."